Kennedy Team Briefed on Juno Mission Progress

NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this view as it closed in on Jupiter's north pole, about two hours before closest approach on Aug. 27, 2016. Since its arrival in orbit around Jupiter nearly three months ago, the Juno spacecraft already is impressing scientists with its observations of the gas giant. Employees at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida were briefed Sept. 20 on the status and the scientific promise of a mission many audience members helped launch a little more than five years ago.

NASA's Juno planetary probe, enclosed in its payload fairing, launches atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.“Of course, what we’re really after is to learn about Jupiter — which is helping us to learn about ourselves,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator for Juno at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

Kennedy’s Launch Services Program led the successful launch of Juno aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After some deep-space maneuvers in 2012 and an Earth flyby that provided a gravity assist in October 2013, Juno arrived at the largest planet in our solar system on July 4, 2016.

Jupiter was the first planet to form after the sun, Bolton explained. A better understanding of Jupiter’s makeup could help provide the “recipe” for a solar system.

“The stuff that Jupiter has more of than the sun — that’s what we are made of,” he explained.

Juno took 53 days to go around on the first orbit and it passed by Jupiter on Aug. 27 — this time for the first time with the science instruments on. The photo above was taken as Juno closed in on Jupiter’s north pole. Read more: Jupiter’s North Pole Unlike Anything Encountered in Solar System

After another 53 days, around Oct. 19, the spacecraft will perform its final burn to place Juno into a 14-day “science orbit” from which it will begin regularly mapping the gas giant.

Juno has come a long way since its departure from Earth.

“On Aug. 5, 2011, we launched from here. I’m so indebted to all of you, and everybody here at Kennedy who worked with you, because I realized when I got that close to it and was responsible for Juno just how difficult the launch was,” Bolton said.

“It is an immense amount of work and engineering challenge. What you do here is incredible.”

Juno will continue to orbit and study Jupiter until the spacecraft’s scheduled deorbit into the planet in February 2018.

Photo credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS (top), NASA/Tony Gray and Don Kight (right)

Navy Divers Rehearse Orion Underway Recovery at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Divers train for Orion recovery in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at Johnson Space Center in Houston.A group of U.S. Navy divers, Air Force pararescuemen and Coast Guard rescue swimmers are practicing Orion underway recovery techniques this week in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to prepare for the first test flight of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft with the agency’s Space Launch System rocket during Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1).

Training in the NBL began Sept. 20 and will wrap up by Sept. 22.

A test version of the Orion spacecraft was lowered into the water in the NBL. Divers wearing scuba gear used ground support equipment and zodiac boats to swim or steer to the test spacecraft. They placed a flotation collar around Orion and practiced using the new tow cleat modifications that will allow the tether lines to be connected to the capsule. The tether lines are being used to simulate towing Orion into the well deck of a Navy recovery ship.

Training at the NBL will help the team prepare for Underway Recovery Test 5 (URT-5), which will be the first major integrated test in a series of tests to prepare the recovery team, hardware and operations to support EM-1 recovery.

The recovery team, engineers with NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations program and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin, are preparing for URT-5, which will take place in San Diego and aboard the USS San Diego in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California in October.

During EM-1, Orion will travel about 40,000 miles beyond the moon and return to Earth after a three-week mission to test the spacecraft’s systems and heat shield. Orion will travel through the radiation of the Van Allen Belts, descend through Earth’s atmosphere and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Photo credit: NASA/James Blair

Paschen Project

UCF Wind Tunnel SetupKennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs is collaborating with the University of Central Florida in Orlando on the Dynamic Paschen project, designed to evaluate how Paschen’s Law is affected if fluid is moving. Paschen’s Law describes the voltage necessary to create an arc through various gasses. The Dynamic Paschen project could play a role in the design of future planetary missions.

NASA researchers Dr. Michael Hogue and Rachel Cox are working with UCF graduate student Jaysen Mulligan on Dynamic Paschen. Initial data collection began last week, and the team now is collecting full data sets for the project. The team is varying both the speed of the air (ranging from Mach 3 to 4) and the gap distance between the electrodes (from 0.5 to 2.0 cm).

Experimental data from the Dynamic Paschen project will be used to validate theoretical models of changes to Paschen’s Law that take into account the flow of gas past charged surfaces. The team’s findings could provide insights into how breakdown voltage is affected by fast-moving air, and could help scientists better understand how static electricity in the air behaves when an aerospace vehicle moves through planetary atmospheres.

Photo credit: NASA

Second Half of D Platforms Installed for NASA’s Space Launch System

Second half of D-level platforms is installed in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building.A heavy-lift crane lowers the second half of the D-level work platforms, D north, for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, into position Sept. 9 for installation in High Bay 3 in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The platform will be installed on the north side of the high bay. The D platforms are the seventh of 10 levels of work platforms that will surround and provide access to the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to VAB High Bay 3, including installation of the new work platforms, to prepare for NASA’s journey to Mars.

Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

OSIRIS-REx Interview with Ellen Stofan

Did you miss the OSIRIS-REx launch broadcast?Finch

Catch up by watching this interview with NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan. Stofan shared the significance of OSIRIS-REx and the data it will gather on a near-Earth asteroid, called Bennu with Joshua Finch, NASA Office of Communications, during Thursday’s launch broadcast. In addition to a status on the asteroid retrieval mission, Stofan offered the role OSIRIS-REx plays in NASA’s overall goals of exploration.

Launch Day at Kennedy for OSIRIS-REx

OSIRIS-REx rollout to the Pad 41 for the upcoming launch.

Everything remains on track today for the launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission at 7:05 p.m. EDT, the opening of a 2-hour window. The weather forecast continues to call for an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions.

Bolted to the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 41, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be sent on a course to rendezvous with an asteroid called Bennu. Once there in August 2018, the spacecraft will take unprecedented surveys of the asteroid and then reach out a mechanical arm to grab a pristine sample of it. Then the spacecraft will head back to Earth, releasing the sample inside a specialized, heat shield-equipped capsule that will parachute the sample safely to Earth where researchers will collect it for study. The mission will take seven years to complete. Our webcast on the launch and mission is below.

Analysis of the sample will reveal the earliest stages of the solar system’s evolution and the history of Bennu over the past 4.5 billion years.  Scientists expect Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth.

For tonight though, all eyes are on the launch. Our continuous countdown coverage will begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT on the OSIRIS-REx blog. NASA TV’s coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. with an episode of NASA Edge, then will shift at 4:30 p.m. to live views of the Atlas V rocket and OSIRIS-REx spacecraft accompanied by countdown net audio. The launch broadcast will begin at 5:30 p.m. and continue through spacecraft separation, solar array deployment and positive communication with the spacecraft by NASA’s Deep Space Network. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

On the Pad at Space Launch Complex 41

OSIRIS-REx rollout to the Pad 41 for the upcoming launch.The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket made the trek from the Vertical Integration Facility to Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Wednesday. Atop the rocket, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is sealed in the protective payload fairing. Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7:05 p.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

If you’re in the central Florida area and wondering how to view the launch, check out this page for a list of popular launch viewing locations.

How Were OSIRIS-REx and Atlas V Prepped for Flight?

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be boosted into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. The U.S.’s first mission to sample an asteroid, OSIRIS-REx will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

Learn how this pioneering spacecraft and the Atlas V were readied for flight:

OSIRIS-REx NASA Social, Asteroid Briefing to be Televised

The forecast for launch of the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft remains 80 percent “go” atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 7:05 p.m. EDT Thursday from Space Launch Complex 41 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Today, NASA will air two OSIRIS-REx events on NASA TV. Social media followers may ask questions during both using #askNASA.

Noon to 1 p.m. – OSIRIS-REx NASA Social

NASA will host a discussion with representatives from the mission’s science and engineering teams that includes an overview of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and the science behind the mission. This event will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

1 to 2 p.m. – Uncovering the Secrets of Asteroids Briefing

During this panel at OSB II, NASA scientists will discuss asteroids, how they relate to the origins of our solar system, and the search for life beyond Earth. Panelists are:

  • Ellen Stofan, NASA chief scientist
  • Michelle Thaller, deputy director of science communications for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
  • Lindley Johnson, director of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
  • Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at Goddard