NASA’s crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2) began its trek March 22 from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Pad 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to test recently completed upgrades and modifications to support NASA’s journey to Mars. CT-2 moved along the crawlerway at no more than one mile per hour and will complete its journey to the pad after numerous scheduled stops along the way to verify the operation of the completed upgrades.
The crawler will depart the pad and travel along the crawlerway to the mobile launcher yard west park sight, where it will pick up a shuttle-era launch platform (MLP-1) to simulate how it would carry the new mobile launcher, and return to Pad 39B in order to verify the vehicle’s capabilities.
The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program oversaw upgrades to the crawler in the VAB. CT-2 received 16 new jacking, equalization and leveling (JEL) cylinders that will lift the mobile launcher, with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft atop, and keep them level during transport to the pad; 88 new traction roller bearing assemblies; refurbishment of 16 gear boxes that contain bearings ranging in weight from 10 to 150 pounds each; new generators; and upgrades to the fluid and electrical systems.
The crawler will carry the mobile launcher with Orion atop the SLS rocket to Pad 39B for Exploration Mission-1.
CT-2 is one of two crawlers built in 1965 for the Apollo program, and also carried space shuttles for 30 years. CT-1 and CT-2 have travelled more than 5,000 miles during their 50-plus years in service for NASA’s space programs.
Engineers and technicians gathered at dusk recently at a construction site near Kennedy Space Center in Florida to test systems that will support Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The Crew Access Arm and White Room saw some of the most dynamic testing thus far, when hundreds of gallons of water were sprayed along the arm and beneath it for an evaluation of its water deluge system. The system is a key safety feature for future launches on the Starliner, one of two commercial spacecraft in development to carry astronauts to the station.
In the unlikely event of an emergency, astronauts ready to launch on future missions aboard the Starliner would need a clear, safe path to exit. The arm and attached white room will provide a bridge between the Crew Access Tower and the spacecraft, as it prepares to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Two rounds of testing in different lighting conditions checked whether the water system could cover the arm adequately and the LED lights were up to the task of helping guide astronauts to safety.
The test mimicked what the system would need to do at the launch pad in case of an emergency. The tower’s main structure is already standing at Space Launch Complex 41, the launch site for the Starliner. After more testing on other systems, the arm will be moved to the launch pad later this summer before being lifted into place on the tower.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight capabilities to the U.S. on commercial spacecraft. Boeing and SpaceX are developing separate spacecraft and launch systems along with a network of mission and ground support capabilities. Commercial crew flights will add an additional crew member to the station, effectively doubling the amount of time dedicated to research aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Tonight’s launch of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V went smoothly from countdown through liftoff and ascent. Now the spacecraft and its 7,500 pounds of important scientific equipment and supplies for the crew is speeding toward the International Space Station and a rendezvous early Saturday morning. Read what this mission means for the research aboard the station and other factors at http://go.nasa.gov/1pHzRaE. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
We will cover the countdown and launch of the Orbital ATK CRS-6 mission on NASA’s OrbitalATK blog and on NASA TV. Continuous coverage begins at 10 p.m. for the liftoff at 11:05 p.m. of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft. We’ll detail the milestones throughout the evening and offer details on the experiments and cargo loaded inside Cygnus and destined for the crew of the International Space Station. Photo credit: Ben Smegelsky
Good afternoon from Florida where the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft “S.S. Rick Husband” and a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket are poised to launch tonight on a mission carrying close to 7,500 pounds of experiments and equipment to the International Space Station, along with supplies the crew living on the orbiting laboratory needs. Liftoff is scheduled for 11:05 p.m. EDT from here in Florida. There is a 30-minute launch window tonight and the weather forecast continues to call for a 90 percent chance of acceptable conditions at launch time.
This is the company’s fifth scheduled cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. It is the second flight of Orbital ATK’s enhanced Cygnus featuring a larger pressurized cargo model with increased capacity and an optimized service module design including lightweight UltraFlex solar arrays.
A launch today will result in the Cygnus spacecraft arriving at the space station on Saturday, March 26. Space station crew members Tim Kopra of NASA and Tim Peake of the European Space Agency will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus at about 6:40 a.m. NASA TV coverage of Cygnus capture will begin at 5:30 a.m. Installation operations are expected to begin at 9:25 a.m. NASA TV coverage resumes at 9:15 a.m.
If the launch does not occur on today, the next launch opportunity would be at 10:40 p.m. tomorrow. Rendezvous, grapple and berthing of Cygnus would remain on Saturday, March 26. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft stack has been rolled to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ahead of tomorrow’s liftoff. Launch time is 11:05 p.m. EDT at the start of a 30-minute window. The mission calls for the Cygnus to deliver more than 3 1/2 tons of experiments and supplies to the International Space Station where astronauts will help conduct research to improve life on Earth and prep NASA for a journey to Mars by future astronauts. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky
Meteorologists with the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing offered an improved forecast for Tuesday night’s launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft and more than 3 1/2 tons of experiments and supplies to the International Space Station. Launch time is 11:05 p.m. EDT, the start of a 3-minute window. For continuing updates, you can subscribe to this blog, log on to www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk, and read NASA and NASAKennedy’s Social Media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
Our continuous countdown coverage will begin here on the Launch Blog and on NASA TV tomorrow at 10 p.m. We will follow all the milestones as the launch team executes their meticulous steps leading up to liftoff, then the climb into orbit and culminating with the separation of the Cygnus and the unfurling of its twin solar arrays. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitrios Gerondidakis
Forecasters are calling for an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions at launch time for the launch of Orbital ATK’s CRS-6 mission to carry experiments and supplies to the International Space Station. The primary concern is cumulus clouds during the 30-minute launch window that opens at 11:05 p.m. EDT. The Launch Readiness Review found no issues and gave a go for rollout of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft on Monday. We have a couple of new features on this mission and its scientific payloads. For details on the scientific research carried on this mission, go tohttp://go.nasa.gov/1YWYrQv. You also can read the pre-launch feature at http://go.nasa.gov/1R4e4Tc
Before anything is visible to even the most discerning eye surveying the launch vehicle, computers and multitudes of sensors on the rocket can pick up minuscule problems and correct for them. Making sure they do so correctly is part of the work of Ian Kappes, lead of the launch vehicle avionics systems team for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
“The avionics systems and its software are the brain and central nervous system of the entire launch vehicle,” Kappes said. “It is really just like our body’s nervous system – avionics tells you all sorts of information about the vehicle. It’s making the decisions necessary to fly. The avionics is telling you when equipment is within its parameters or when something will fail. It is also cross-communicating between the booster stages and the spacecraft, because the spacecraft and its crew need to know what’s going on with the vehicle.”
Kappes’ team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida works in tandem with engineers at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Armstrong Flight Research Center in Mojave, California, to certify the systems Boeing and SpaceX plan to use for commercial crew flights to the station. That means many hours poring over avionics architecture designs, working directly with both partners to identify and control hazards, followed by avionics component and software integrated testing. Read the full story at http://go.nasa.gov/1pyBsQ2
Encapsulated inside its payload fairing, the Cygnus spacecraft for the upcoming Orbital ATK Commercial Resupply Services-6 has been mated atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in the Vertical Integration Facility at Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22 to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station.