ICON Launch Now Targeted for Oct. 9

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft lands on Oct. 19, 2018 at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A Pegasus XL rocket is attached to the underside of the aircraft with NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft lands on Oct. 19, 2018 at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A Pegasus XL rocket is attached to the underside of the aircraft with NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Northrop Grumman coordinated with the U.S. Air Force Eastern Range for an earlier launch date for the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. ICON is now targeted for launch on Oct. 9, 2019, aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carried by the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft.

ICON Launch Targeted for Oct. 10

Technicians extend the solar array on NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) during a deployment test inside Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 10, 2019.
Technicians extend the solar array on NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) during a deployment test inside Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 10, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

NASA and Northrop Grumman currently are preparing the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON spacecraft, and the Pegasus XL rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for ferry to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida by the L-1011 Stargazer aircraft on Oct. 1, 2019. The launch has been rescheduled to Oct. 10, 2019, following the completion of a joint NASA/Northrop Grumman investigation into a Pegasus sensor reading that was not within normal limits during previous ferry and launch attempt flights. The cause of the issue is understood, and the flight hardware has been modified to address the issue. Two L-1011 flights with Pegasus were conducted to verify the effectiveness of the modification with no issues. Functional tests are being performed on NASA’s ICON spacecraft, which utilizes Northrop Grumman’s LEOStar-2 platform, to ensure that the ICON spacecraft is ready for the upcoming integration activity, ferry flight and launch. As always, mission success for Pegasus and ICON is the top priority.

Kennedy Space Center and Visitor Complex Reopen After Hurricane Dorian

An aerial survey of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida was conducted after Hurricane Dorian skirted the Space Coast area.
An aerial survey of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida was conducted after Hurricane Dorian skirted the Space Coast area. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The workforce is returning to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a close brush with Hurricane Dorian earlier in the week. After the storm passed to the east of the spaceport overnight between Tuesday, Sept. 3, and Wednesday, Sept. 4, Kennedy’s Damage Assessment and Recovery Team checked out the center’s facilities and infrastructure. Officials determined the center received some isolated damage and limited water intrusion, along with some beach erosion, although the storm surge was less than expected.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also reopens today, Friday, Sept. 6.

Kennedy Space Center Prepares for Approach of Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian, right, as viewed from the GOES-East satellite on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019.
Hurricane Dorian, right, as viewed from the GOES-East satellite on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/GOES-East

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida continues to monitor the approach of Hurricane Dorian. The storm is expected to make its closest approach to the Kennedy/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station area early next week. Essential personnel are making their final preparations to secure center facilities and infrastructure.

Once the storm has passed, the center’s Damage Assessment and Recovery Team will check out spaceport facilities and infrastructure. After that assessment, the center will make plans to reopen once officials determine employees can safely return.

Kennedy Monitoring Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian, right, as viewed from the GOES-East satellite on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.
Hurricane Dorian, right, as viewed from the GOES-East satellite on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/GOES-East

As Hurricane Dorian continues its trek toward the southeastern U.S., Kennedy Space Center has entered HURCON IV status, kicking off hurricane preparedness activities at the spaceport.

What impacts could be expected from Dorian? Visit .

Northrop Grumman Becomes First Commercial Partner to Use VAB

A model of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA launch vehicle is flanked by the U.S. flag and a flag bearing the OmegA logo during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 16 in High Bay 2 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

After spending more than 50 years supporting NASA’s human spaceflight programs, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a landmark at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is getting its first commercial tenant.

Northrop Grumman will assemble and test its new OmegA rocket inside the massive facility’s High Bay 2, one of four high bays in the building. Officials with NASA, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force gathered in High Bay 2 on Aug. 16 to celebrate the partnership with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by legislative representatives and spaceport employees.

From left to right, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Northrop Grumman Vice President and OmegA Capture Lead Kent Rominger, and Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, cut the ribbon in High Bay 2.

The company also is modifying mobile launcher platform-3 (MLP-3) to serve as the launch vehicle’s assembly and launch platform. Both the VAB and MLP-3 were originally built for the Apollo Program and went on to enable the three-decade Space Shuttle Program. The VAB also will be the assembly site for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, which will carry the Orion spacecraft on Artemis missions to the Moon.

“With OmegA, we truly are standing on the shoulders of the giants of space history,” said Kent Rominger, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and capture lead for the OmegA launch system, as well as a veteran of five space shuttle flights. “This event marks that partnership with [Kennedy] at this phenomenal spaceport.”

Northrop Grumman signed a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA for use of the facilities. The company is developing the OmegA rocket, an intermediate/heavy-class launch vehicle, as a part of a launch services agreement with the U.S. Air Force.

A model of the Northrop Grumman OmegA rocket, an intermediate/heavy-class launch vehicle, stands in High Bay 2.

Kennedy has transformed from a government-only space launch complex to the nation’s premier multi-user spaceport. Today, the space center has more than 90 active agreements with private-sector partners, sharing its array of unique facilities and resources through partnerships with government and commercial organizations.

This latest agreement brings Northrop Grumman into the fold.

“We have a great partnership with Northrop Grumman; we have a great partnership with all our partners,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “It’s a great pleasure to be able to be here today and cut the ribbon after signing this historic agreement to utilize this awesome facility to support our nation’s space program.”

The addition of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket to the stable of vehicles processed and launched from the spaceport continues a long legacy that defines the local community.

“This whole area has been home to innovation and the drive to be bolder,” said Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. “These efforts, government and contractor, have fueled the economies and the imagination and, really, the spirit of this community that we like to call the Space Coast.”

Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility Ready for Artemis 1

The Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Technicians watch as a crane and special mechanism begin breakover, or flipping, of the mated Thrust Resistance Structure and the Guidance Control Assembly for the Orion Program’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test during practice, or pathfinder activities, June 22, 2018, inside Exploration Ground Systems’ Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility high at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Many pathfinding tests were completed on the flight hardware in preparation for the flight test. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will receive the solid rocket booster segments for final assembly of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The agency’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team successfully completed the system acceptance review and operational readiness review for the facility on July 25, 2019. This review evaluated the RPSF’s readiness to receive, process, integrate and launch flight hardware for Artemis 1 and beyond.

“The RPSF is the first processing facility at Kennedy to reach operational readiness status, and our team is looking forward to the arrival of the flight hardware so we can get to work preparing for the Artemis 1 launch,” said Mike Chappell, EGS associate program manager with lead contractor, Jacobs.

When the booster segments arrive at Kennedy, the pieces are inspected before two 200-ton cranes are positioned to lift the segments from a horizontal position to a vertical position. The RPSF also will receive the booster aft skirt from the Booster Fabrication Facility. During processing, the aft segment is attached to the aft skirt and aft exit cone.

All of the SLS solid rocket components processed in the RPSF will be transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building for final assembly with the SLS core stage and Orion spacecraft on top of the mobile launcher for the agency’s Artemis missions.

The RPSF is part of the infrastructure at Kennedy that will help NASA launch the Artemis missions and send the first woman and next man back to the Moon by 2024.

Liftoff: SpaceX Dragon en Route to Space Station

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the company's 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 25, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

At 6:01 p.m. EDT on July 25, 2019, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission.

Due to arrive at the International Space Station on July 27, the Dragon spacecraft contains multiple supplies, equipment and material critical for supporting science and research investigations at the space station.

Emergency Location Markers Aid Kennedy Visitors

Innovation Without Boundaries Award leads to Emergency Location Markers at Kennedy Space Center.
Emergency Location Markers (ELMs) were installed on Kennedy Space Center property as a result of an Innovation Without Boundaries award. Photo credit: NASA

Emergency Location Markers (ELMs) have been installed on Kennedy Space Center federal property at Playalinda Beach, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and at both KARS Parks to provide the emergency phone number and geolocation information to Kennedy visitors or employees.

Innovation Without Boundaries Award leads to Emergency Location Markers at Kennedy Space Center.
ELMs provide the emergency phone number and geolocation information to Kennedy visitors or employees. Photo credit: NASA

The ELMs are national standardized signs that display U.S. National Grid (USNG) coordinates and were installed as a result of an Innovation without Boundaries award by the Chief Technology Office in 2018. Fifty-nine ELMs and 25 information signs that explain the system were installed in areas where members of the public may have difficulty describing their location in an emergency.

Additionally, free web applications FindMeSAR.com and USNGAPP.org allow any user to determine their location anywhere via USNG, known as the “language of location.” These apps may be used routinely to geolocate infrastructure, such as hydrants or culverts, as another example.

Kennedy’s emergency personnel have been trained on USNG map-reading, geolocation, navigation and position reporting. Additionally, mutual-aid responder agencies surrounding the spaceport were advised of the Kennedy ELM program and were provided mapping tools to plot USNG coordinates easily.

CRS-18 Launch Scrubbed Due to Weather

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station – scheduled for this evening – has scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Launch is now scheduled for Thursday, July 25, at 6:01 p.m. EDT. Launch coverage will begin at 5:45 p.m. on NASA TV and the agency’s website. A launch on Thursday would result in the Dragon spacecraft arriving to the space station Saturday, July 27.