Cygnus Spacecraft Moves to PHSF, Begins Early Preps for Propellant Loading

The Cygnus spacecraft that will carry nearly 6,000 pounds of cargo on the next U.S. resupply flight to the International Space Station moved late yesterday from the Space Station Processing Facility to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Today it moves into the building’s high bay, where it will be uncovered, removed from atop its transporter, and placed into a work stand to begin preparations for propellant loading next week.

Developed and built by Orbital ATK, the Cygnus comprises the pressurized cargo module and attached service module, which houses the solar arrays and propulsion system. The spacecraft is set to deliver equipment, supplies and research to the station on the company’s fourth Commercial Resupply Services flight.

Launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V is scheduled for Dec. 3 from Space Launch Complex 41 at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Centaur Upper Stage Arrives Ahead of Next Station Commercial Resupply Flight

A truck delivers the United Launch Alliance Centaur upper stage to the Horizontal Integration FacilityThe Centaur upper stage slated to help deliver the next U.S. cargo delivery to the International Space Station is on site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The upper stage will top the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket set to launch Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft on a flight to carry equipment, supplies and research to the orbiting laboratory in December.

Following its Tuesday afternoon arrival, the single-engine Centaur was transported into the Horizontal Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 37 to begin prelaunch processing.

The uncrewed flight will be Orbital’s fourth commercial resupply mission to the station. It is targeted for liftoff Dec. 3 from Space Launch Complex 41.

Cygnus Joined to Service Module


Engineers completed connecting the Pressurized Cargo Module with the Service Module to form the Cygnus spacecraft that will ferry more than 7,000 pounds of supplies, equipment and experiments to the International Space Station during its December mission.

Working inside the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, crews lifted the cargo module off its work stand and lowered it precisely onto the service module before completing the connections of fasteners and systems. The service module contains the power-producing solar arrays, propulsion system and instrumentation to steer the spacecraft once it reaches orbit.

Not carrying any crew, the Cygnus will fly autonomously to the station where astronauts there will use the robotic arm to latch onto the spacecraft and berth it to a port for unloading. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V will lift the Cygnus into space from Space Launch Complex 41.



Cygnus Loaded, Readied for Service Module

OA4cygnusforblogORB-4The next cargo module slated to deliver supplies to the International Space Station crew is loaded and is being connected to its propulsion and service module today at Kennedy.

Called Cygnus and built by Orbital ATK, the module is a two-piece spacecraft that when finished will be launched Dec. 3 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V to take a host of scientific gear, supplies and other equipment needed aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Engineers and technicians spent the last several days packing the pressurized portion of the spacecraft before rotating the cylindrical module upright so it can be lifted to join the service module. The service module holds the solar arrays and propulsion unit plus other instrumentation that will allow the Cygnus to fly to the station safely without a crew onboard. Ground controllers and astronauts will use the robotic arm on the station to grab the Cygnus and berth it to a port where its supplies can be unloaded and put to their prescribed uses. After about three weeks in space, Cygnus will be released and will fly itself into Earth’s atmosphere to burn up.


KickStart Focuses on Creativity of Kennedy’s Workforce

Innovation Expo LogoThroughout its history, NASA innovation has produced tangible benefits. New ideas have been and continue to be a key element in converting NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida into a 21st century multi-user space launch complex. Many employees also are devising ways to do their jobs better and more efficiently.

The agency’s innovations include developing, testing and deploying new capabilities and transportation systems for astronauts to explore an asteroid, Mars and other deep-space destinations. NASA also is growing a commercial spaceflight industry to transport astronauts to the International Space Station from American soil.

On Oct. 15, Kennedy employees pitched 21 innovative ideas for improving the center at the annual Kennedy KickStart competition. The event was part of a center wide three-day Innovation Expo designed to increase exposure for novel ideas and encourage their implementation.

NASA astronaut Cady Coleman began the event with a keynote addressing her current role in encouraging NASA employees to keep developing new ideas.

“I’m now working at NASA Headquarters in the Office of the Chief Technologist,” she said. “One of our challenges is helping people think outside the box. What I get to see is fascinating.”
Coleman noted that she feels that the Kennedy Space Center is a special place.

“This is where I feel anything can happen,” she said. “There is an atmosphere here that helps you do things that are extraordinary.”

Coleman is a veteran of two space shuttle missions. During 2010 and 2011, she logged 159 days in orbit aboard the International Space Station and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“I would have gladly spent another six months on the space station,” she said. “If I could take my family with me, I don’t see any reason to come home. It’s amazing up there — flying around the lab, working upside down when you need to — it’s a magical place.”

Employees’ concepts were submitted through the Kennedy KickStart website and pre-screened earlier in October by the Research and Technology Board. Ideas were offered by employee “innovators” in 90-second presentations, explaining their concepts to an eight-member Kick-Start selection panel. The selection committee included Coleman and Kennedy senior leaders representing diverse organizations at Kennedy.

As was the case last year, audience members had an opportunity to cast their votes using iClickers. An iClicker is an interactive response system allowing program leaders to poll the audience and view the results immediately.

A total of 12 proposals were selected to receive up to $5,000 to fund equipment needed to implement each recommended project. Projects selected ran the gamut from new ways of predicting lightning to proposals for catching foreign object debris.

The projects selected were;

  •  Cryogenic Liquid Air Quantity Sensor
    Innovator: Rolando Valdez, NASA KSC Aero Medicine and Occupational Branch
  •  Regolith Vibro-compaction with Surface Sintering
    Innovators: Mike Dupuis, NASA KSC Testing and Design Branch and Evan Bell, along with  NASA KSC Environmental and Life Support Systems Branch
  • FOD “CATCH” (Collect-and-Tether Containment Holders) Devices and Training
    Innovators: Mark Smith, Katrine Stelges and Martin Wilson of Jacobs Technology, along with Damon Stambolian, NASA KSC Technical Processes and Tools Branch
  • LPAWS — Lightning Prediction and Warning System
    Innovators: Nathan Miles, Red Canyon Software, Inc., and Hector Pagan, NASA KSC Information Technology and Communications Services Project Management Office
  • Ice House: 3-D Construction using H2O Ice
    Innovator: Rob Mueller, NASA Spaceport Systems Branch
  • Structural Health Monitoring and the Beginning of the “Digital Twin”
    Innovator: Matthew Breault, URS Federal Services Inc.
  • Cryo-Fluid Capacitor
    Innovator: Adam Swanger, NASA KSC Cryogenic Propulsion Systems Branch
  • Expand Balance Initiative with Mini Balance Zones
    Innovator: Mary Kirkland, InoMedic Health Applications Inc., and Darcy Miller, NASA KSC Safety and Mission Assurance
  • Robotic Mining Competition Regolith Bin Rainproof Lid and Dryer System
    Innovators: Gabor Tamasy, NASA KSC Structures and Launch Accessories Branch, and Greg Galloway, NASA KSC Flight Technology Branch
  •  Virtual Tablet
    Innovator: Bill Little, NASA KSC Computational Sciences Branch
  • Planetary Lander Egg-Drop Competition
    Innovators: Samantha Thorstensen, NASA KSC Education, along with Alex Greutman, Ryan Elliot and Mike Hull, Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts
  • UV Cured 3-D Printing using Regolith
    Innovators: Tom Lippitt and Rob Mueller, NASA KSC Spaceport Systems Branch

The KickStart competition was part of the spaceport’s annual Innovation Expo taking place Oct. 15-18, 2015. The annual event is designed to encourage NASA and contractor employees to continue to present proposals for advanced technologies.

This year’s Innovation Expo theme, “From Earth to Mars,” included exhibits and presentations for both the public and center employees by astronauts, a planetary physicist and innovation experts. Subjects included innovations in technology, aeronautics, the International Space Station, as well as plans to explore Mars, the solar system and beyond.

NASA Awards Three Contracts to Launch CubeSats

Venture Class Launch Services graphicThe burgeoning field of CubeSats will have new growth potential for researchers, engineers and students after NASA awarded three companies contracts to launch missions dedicated to lofting the tiny spacecraft into the best orbit to achieve the science results of the researchers or test new technological advances. Until these launches, CubeSats, which are each based on modular designs that fit inside a 4-inch cube, were limited to riding along with other payloads that may or may not have been going to an orbit that would work for the nano-sized craft. The move to dedicated launchers is justified by the quick pace of CubeSat development and the opportunity it offers to test innovations and get successful ones into the pipeline for use on major missions.

There is much more to the CubeSat story and the people behind it here:

Safety Demonstration Focuses on Fire Protection Systems


NASA Kennedy Space Center employees observed a fire safety demonstration Oct. 8  presented by the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association during the National Fire Protection Association's Fire Prevention Week. Kennedy Space Center firefighters were on hand to extinguish the fire. Photo credit: NASA/Greg Harland
NASA Kennedy Space Center employees observed a fire safety demonstration Oct. 8 presented by the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association during the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week. Kennedy Space Center firefighters were on hand to extinguish the fire. Photo credit: NASA/Greg Harland

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 4-10. NASA Kennedy Space Center takes the safety of each employee seriously.

Just how quickly can a fire spread? NASA and contractor employees saw firsthand as Kennedy Space Center Fire Safety personnel illustrated the importance of having fire protection systems in buildings and homes during a live demonstration conducted Oct. 8 in the Launch Complex 39 area.

Two small trailers containing typical home furnishings for one room were staged for viewing by Kennedy workers. One trailer was equipped with a smoke alarm and sprinkler system, while the other was not. Fires were set in each trailer to show the difference between having a sprinkler system and just how quickly an unchecked fire can spread in a structure that does not have fire sprinklers. The room without sprinklers was engulfed in flames and smoke in under three minutes, while the sprinkler system in the other room extinguished the fire in about one-and-a-half minutes.

Kennedy Firefighters used Fire Engine No. 2 to extinguish the fire in the trailer lacking a fire sprinkler system. The demonstration also showed how having working fire sprinklers in a building allows the needed time to escape a burning building alive.

According to Lorrell Bush, executive director for the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association, it can take anywhere from six to nine minutes for the Fire Department to arrive at your home, and that’s after the call for assistance has been received.

At home, nearly half of fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are asleep. The key message of the NFPA 2015 Fire Prevention week is to “hear the beep where you sleep.”

“People need to make sure that they not only have smoke alarms, but that they are working,” said Jenni Ginsburg, a mechanical engineer in the Project Integration Office on the Institutional Services Contract at Kennedy. “We hope this live fire demonstration will help people realize just how important it is to have a working fire protection system in their homes and at the office.

New Data Center Streamlines IT Infrastructure at Kennedy

Participating in the Kennedy Data Center ribbon-cutting are, from left, Ronnie Jones, Vice President of Operations, Sauer Incorporated; Nancy Bray, Director, Spaceport Integration and Services; Kelvin Manning, Associate Director of KSC; Vanessa Stromer, Director, IT and Communication Services; and Steve Belflower, Vice President, HuntonBrady Architects
Participating in the Kennedy Data Center ribbon-cutting are, from left, Ronnie Jones, Vice President of Operations, Sauer Incorporated; Nancy Bray, Director, Spaceport Integration and Services; Kelvin Manning, Associate Director of KSC; Vanessa Stromer, Director, IT and Communication Services; and Steve Belflower, Vice President, HuntonBrady Architects

Kennedy Space Center’s new data center is open for business.

Located in Kennedy’s Industrial Area, the facility officially was opened Thursday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by space center leaders and employees. The new data center marks another major milestone for Kennedy and is a key component in the spaceport’s capability to support multiple users, Kennedy Space Center Associate Director Kelvin Manning told the audience.

“The data center will support multiple activities – and we have a lot going on,” Manning said, citing the efforts of the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, the Commercial Crew Program, the Launch Services Program, and Kennedy’s research and technology projects.

At only 16,000 square feet, the data center will replace approximately 45,000 square feet previously dedicated to five “legacy” data centers and IT support areas. Once the facility is fully operational, it will be three times more efficient than the legacy data centers, positioning the spaceport to take on even more work, according to Vanessa Stromer, director of IT and Communications Services at Kennedy.

Consolidating the data centers into a single new one provides streamlined IT operations, improved efficiency and round-the-clock support.

Nancy Bray, director of Spaceport Integration and Services at Kennedy, pointed out yet another benefit: reducing the Kennedy footprint enables the removal of aging buildings such as the 136,000-square-foot Central Instrumentation Facility, an Apollo-era building that for decades was the hub of instrumentation and data processing operations.

“Completion of the data center allows us to demolish older facilities,” said Bray, whose organization oversees the operations and maintenance of the spaceport’s infrastructure.

The new Kennedy data center is part of the first phase of construction on the spaceport’s new central campus and is on target to receive Silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system.

Event Oct. 14 to Introduce CubeSat Launch Providers


NASA will host a news conference at 1 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to announce the outcome of the Venture Class Launch Service competition. The news conference will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

The participants are:
Garrett Skrobot, Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission lead for theLaunch Services Program at Kennedy
Eric Ianson, associate director of NASA’s Earth Sciences Division in the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington
Mark Wiese, flight projects office chief, NASA Launch Services Program, Kennedy Space Center
Representatives from the selected launch service providers

The event will include a question-and-answer session with media. Media may participate in the briefing by calling the Kennedy news center at 321-867-2468 within 15 minutes prior to the start of the news conference to obtain a passcode for voice access. Social media also may ask questions using #askNASA.

The vehicles expected to meet the VCLS requirement represent an emerging class of commercial launch services for small satellites — often called CubeSats or nanosatellites — and science missions that are currently limited to ride-share arrangements, flying only when space is available on NASA and other launches. This new class of launch services is intended to help open the door for future dedicated opportunities for CubeSat launches and science missions, so that a single rocket would be able to send dozens of the tiny spacecraft into orbit at once and on paths that best suit their scientific goals. The services acquired through such a contract will constitute the smallest class of launch services used by NASA. Read more details here.

‘The Martian’ Cast Visits Kennedy

Martianevent for blog
From left, former shuttle commander Bob Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division; Mackenzie Davis, who plays Mindy Park in “The Martian”; former astronaut Nicole Stott and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Vincent Kapoor in “The Martian” pose for photos at Kennedy near the Vehicle Assembly Building on Thursday.
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Cast members from the film “The Martian” met with real NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts Thursday to discuss NASA’s Journey to Mars with students during a Digital Learning Network at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, launch site of America’s missions to send astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. Actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mackenzie Davis took the stage during panel discussions with middle and high school students in the room and from across the nation via the Web. The students heard from NASA’s Jim Green about the changes that took place on Mars that make it the surface we see today while other engineers and scientists detailed steps already underway to develop technologies astronauts will need to make the mission a success. Afterward, the group toured Kennedy’s launch pads and other facilities.

Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett