Wrapping Up The Future

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

One of the former processing bays for the space shuttles at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is getting a facelift this week as Boeing wraps the building that will be the production and processing home of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft. The interior of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, better known as the C3PF, is being outfitted for the precision demanded in assembling human-rated spacecraft and then processing the craft for flight.  The wrap, which will cover the front of the processing bay, will showcase the future Boeing intends to pursue with the CST-100 line. It is expected to take more than a week to complete the detailed illustration. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and Boeing have been working together to develop the spacecraft that would provide transportation for up to four astronauts at a time to the International Space Station. The company can also use the CST-100 to carry equipment and supplies to the orbiting laboratory. The payoff for NASA is an American-made and operated vehicle that will launch from Florida and allow crew research time on the station to double.

First Look at Modified Mobile Launcher

ML-1ML-2The modified Mobile Launcher that will host NASA’s Space Launch System rocket was shown this morning to the news media following the completion of a series of modifications which strengthened the platform and tower to the demands of the booster that will be tasked with sending astronauts on a journey to Mars in the future.

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Mobile Launcher Mods Will Support NASA’s Next-Generation Rocket and Spacecraft

Somber Procession Delivers Piece of American History to Kennedy

World Trade Center I-beam is visible after the top of its container is removed.A section of I-beam that once strengthened the World Trade Center in New York has made its way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will serve as a memorial to the 343 fire/rescue personnel who gave their lives to save others on Sept. 11, 2001.

Kennedy Space Center Fire Department officials traveled to New York to escort the artifact to Florida. Weighing in at about one ton, the 7-foot-long, 16-by-16-inch steel beam was flown from New York to Miami in a specially built wooden container manufactured by American Airlines.

Flag removed from container carrying World Trade Center I-beam.After its arrival in Miami, the American flag-draped container was loaded onto a truck for the  drive north to Kennedy. Current and former firefighters from across Florida took part in the procession. Along the way, local residents, veterans and emergency responders lined roadways and overpasses to pay tribute to those lost in the attacks.

Kennedy firefighters removed the top of the container just outside the Kennedy gates, revealing the beam for the first time on its journey.

The beam is slated to become the centerpiece of a permanent memorial at Fire Station No. 1, located in the heart of Kennedy Space Center’s industrial complex. The memorial features scaled replicas of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, which will be topped by the newly arrived beam. A formal dedication is planned for Sept. 11.

Veggie Success Benefits Journey to Mars – and Eaters on Earth

Veggie plant growth system containing cabbage at Kennedy Space CenterThe future for space gardening is bright. And while the ability to grow food in microgravity is an important step on the path to Mars, it also has big implications for farmers – and eaters – here on Earth.

Astronauts Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui got the first taste of space-grown food Aug. 10 when they harvested and then sampled lettuce leaves grown on the International Space Station. The “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce was cultivated in orbit inside the Veggie plant growth system. This morning, the Veggie team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center harvested lettuce from a ground-based system that otherwise was identical to the small crop grown on the station.

“Veggie has shown us we can grow plants in space pretty darn similarly to how we do on Earth,” Dr. Gioia Massa, the Veggie lead scientist for NASA at Kennedy, said at an employee briefing that included several members of the Veggie team.

“NASA has a huge heritage and legacy of innovation; we have a culture of innovation,” said the center’s deputy director, Janet Petro. “We know the ISS is a great research platform in low-Earth orbit. As we move out to Mars we’re going to have to be ‘Earth-independent.’”

In addition to the benefit to future space explorers, there are clear benefits on Earth, too. As the global population increases, the capability to grow more food crops in tighter spaces becomes more and more important.

“NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working hand-in-hand, connected with the research aboard ISS and the agency’s efforts to take humans to Mars,” said Lisa Colloredo, associate director of the program. She pointed out that once commercial spacecraft are flying people to the station, the four-person crews will extend the amount time astronauts will be able to spend on research.

Veggie’s success up to this point has provided a lot of confidence that it is possible for space crews to grow their own food, Massa added. Future crews on the International Space Station and on an eventual journey to Mars will be able to rely on freshly grown produce to enhance their diet and provide the psychological boost that comes from tending to a small crop in the otherwise sterile environment of a spacecraft.

“It’s off the Earth, for the Earth – and for the future,” Massa said.

Cygnus Pressurized Module Arrives for Launch Processing

ORB-4The pressurized cargo module of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday at 7:20 p.m. to begin processing ahead of a launch slated for Dec. 3 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Teams of Orbital ATK and NASA engineers will inspect the module in the coming days and then ready it for loading.

The cylindrical cargo module, which will carry about four tons of research materials and supplies for the International Space Station, will be joined in October to the Cygnus’ service module. The service module houses a pair of power-generating solar arrays along with a maneuvering thruster and instrumentation for the automated spacecraft. The spacecraft will guide itself to within reach of the station’s 57-foot-long robotic arm. The arm will pull the Cygnus to a connecting point on the station so astronauts can unload the spacecraft. At the end of the mission, the Cygnus will be released from the station to safely burn up in the atmosphere.

Astronauts Sample Freshly Grown Lettuce

That’s one small bite for a man, one giant leaf for mankind: Astronauts Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of Japan sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce from the Veggie plant growth system on the International Space Station.

Learn more about Veggie and its implications for future spaceflight at: