Final Work Platform Arrives for NASA’s Space Launch System

Work platform A north arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13.The final work platform for NASA’s Space Launch System arrived Dec. 13 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The second half of the A-level platforms, A north, was transported to the center by heavy-lift truck from Tillett Heavy Hauling in Titusville, Florida, and delivered to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) staging area.

The platform will remain in the staging area for prep work before it is moved into the transfer aisle of the VAB. The first half of the A-level platforms, A south, arrived at the center Nov. 28. The south platform will be installed in High Bay 3 on Dec. 22. The north platform will be installed in late January 2017.

The A-level platforms are the topmost platforms for High Bay 3. The two halves will provide access to the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS) for Orion Lifting Sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. Testing of the Launch Abort System Antenna also is performed on this level.

A total of 10 levels of new platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft and provide access for testing and processing. NASA is preparing for the launch of Orion atop the SLS rocket from Launch Pad 39B in 2018.

Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Mobile Launcher will Receive first Umbilicals for NASA’s Deep Space Missions

A vehicle support post is moved to the Mobile Launcher Yard at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A vehicle support post for NASA’s Space Launch System is moved from the Launch Equipment Test Facility to the Mobile Launcher Yard at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Several of the umbilicals that will support the launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket atop the mobile launcher were transported from the Launch Equipment Test Facility to the Mobile Launcher Yard and staging area at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They will be prepped for installation on the mobile launcher.

The mobile launcher tower will be equipped with several launch umbilicals, which connect to the SLS core stage and twin solid rocket boosters, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the Orion spacecraft. They will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel. Several other accessories will provide access and stabilization to the rocket and spacecraft.

The two aft skirt electrical umbilicals and one vehicle support post were transported by flatbed truck from the test facility. The two aft skirt umbilicals will be prepped and installed on the deck of the mobile launcher in the coming weeks. Work will begin to prep the first vehicle support post while the remaining seven posts undergo testing at the Launch Equipment Test Facility before being shipped to the mobile launcher. The installation work will be performed by the construction contractor JP Donovan Construction.

The two umbilicals will connect to the SLS rocket at the bottom outer edge of each booster and provide electrical power and data connections to the SLS rocket until it lifts off from the launch pad. The umbilicals will act like a telephone line and carry a signal to another subsystem on the mobile launcher called the launch release system. This system will distribute the launch signal to the rest of the launch accessories and the SLS boosters will actually initiate the launch release command.

There are a total of eight posts that will support the load of the solid rocket boosters, with four posts for each of the boosters. The support posts are five feet tall and weigh about 10,000 pounds each. They will be located on the deck of the mobile launcher and will be instrumented with strain gages to measure loads during vehicle stacking, integration, rollout and launch. The posts will structurally support the SLS rocket through countdown and liftoff.

NASA’s SLS rocket is scheduled to launch with the Orion spacecraft atop from Launch Pad 39B in late 2018. The mission will send Orion on a path thousands of miles beyond the moon over a course of three weeks before the spacecraft returns to Earth and safely splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will be the first in a series of the proving ground as NASA prepares for the Journey to Mars.

CYGNSS Launches Aboard Pegasus XL Rocket

NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission launched Thursday, Dec. 15 at 8:37 a.m. EST aboard an Orbital ATK air-launched Pegasus XL launch vehicle. The rocket was dropped and launched from Orbital’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, which took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida.

CYGNSS Given a GO for Thursday Launch

At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Skid Strip the Orbital ATK L-1011 Stargazer aircraft is being prepared to launch NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS, spacecraft. The eight micro satellites are aboard an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket strapped to the underside of the Stargazer. CYGNSS is scheduled for its airborne launch aboard the Pegasus XL rocket from the Skid Strip on Dec. 12. CYGNSS will make frequent and accurate measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the life cycle of tropical storms and hurricanes. The data that CYGNSS provides will enable scientists to probe key air-sea interaction processes that take place near the core of storms, which are rapidly changing and play a critical role in the beginning and intensification of hurricanes.

NASA managers have given a GO for the next attempt to launch of the agency’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission now scheduled for Thursday at 8:26 a.m. EST.

Mission personnel uploaded new flight parameter data to the CYGNSS spacecraft this morning, correcting an issue discovered during routine testing on Tuesday. There is no change in status of the Pegasus XL rocket and the Orbital ATK L-1011 Stargazer carrier aircraft. Both also are ready to fly.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for the launch.

The CYGNSS spacecraft will ride into orbit aboard an Orbital ATK air-launched Pegasus XL rocket. Orbital ATK’s modified L-1011 aircraft will deploy the Pegasus XL and its CYGNSS payload from an altitude of approximately 39,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean 110 nautical miles east southeast of Daytona Beach.

During the two-year mission, the eight CYGNSS microsatellites will fly in formation about 316 miles above Earth’s surface, focusing on the tropics and studying wind speeds and intensification of tropical cyclones such as hurricanes.

Live updates from the countdown will begin at 7 a.m. here on the blog and on NASA Television. NASA EDGE will provide prelaunch coverage beginning at 6 a.m.

Photo credit: Bill White

CYGNSS Wednesday Launch Attempt Delayed

The CYGNSS launch planned for Wednesday, Dec. 14 is being delayed due to an issue with flight parameter data used by spacecraft software. The issue was discovered during routine testing Tuesday. The new flight parameter data have undergone verification testing on the engineering model, and will be uploaded to the spacecraft on Wednesday. The uploading of new flight data is a very routine procedure, and is expected correct the issue. The next launch attempt will be determined pending the results of ongoing tests.

Team Celebrates Success of Orion Underway Recovery Test 5

The Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 team gathered to celebrate the successful completion of the test during an event at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 team gathered to celebrate the successful completion of the test during an event at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At far left is Melissa Jones, Orion Landing and Recovery director. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 (URT-5) team recently celebrated the completion of the test during a gathering hosted by the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) and the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

URT-5 team members included NASA’s GSDO, Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate, contractors with the Test and Operations Support Contract and Engineering Services Contract, Orion representatives, the team from the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and U.S. Air Force Detachment 3 from the 45th Space Wing at nearby Patrick Air Force Base.

During URT-5 in October, the team practiced recovering a test version of the Orion crew module in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California, and guiding it into the well deck of the USS San Diego. Over several days, the team demonstrated and evaluated new recovery processes, procedures, hardware and personnel that will be necessary to recover Orion after its first flight test on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

“URT-5 proved to be a really valuable test for us as we evolve our ground support equipment and recovery procedures to one day safely recover our astronauts and crew module from deep space,” said Mike Bolger, GSDO Program manager. “It is a complex procedure and the conditions on the Pacific Ocean can be daunting. But this team performed flawlessly.”

Landing and Recovery Director Melissa Jones, with GSDO, thanked the team for countless hours of hard work and hundreds of newly developed parts that contributed to the success of the test.

“This test was the first time the Landing and Recovery Team has been able to consistently demonstrate control of the test capsule in the well deck of the ship,” Jones said.

The team will fine-tune their strategy, make some equipment adjustments and return to the open water for another test late next year.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop the SLS on Exploration Mission 1 in late 2018. EM-1 will send Orion on a path thousands of miles beyond the moon over a course of three weeks, farther into space than human spaceflight has ever traveled before. The spacecraft will return to Earth and safely splash down in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will advance and validate capabilities required for the Journey to Mars.

‘Hidden Figures’ Key Players Share Thoughts with Media

From left are John Zarella, Ted Melfi, Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, Pharrell Williams and Bill Barry.
From left: former CNN space correspondent John Zarrella, serving as moderator; Ted Melfi, writer and director of “Hidden Figures”; Octavia Spencer, who portrays Dorothy Vaughan; Taraji P. Henson, who portrays Katherine Johnson in the film; Janelle Monáe, who portrays Mary Jackson; Pharrell Williams, musician and one of the film’s producers; and Bill Barry, NASA’s chief historian. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Frank Ochoa-Gonzales,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Many moons ago growing up, actress Taraji P. Henson thought math and science were for boys only. In her role as NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson in the upcoming feature film “Hidden Figures,” she said she dreams and hopes that not one girl will ever feel like she did.

Henson joined writer and director of “Hidden Figures,” Ted Melfi; actresses Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe; musician Pharrell Williams; and Bill Barry, NASA’s chief historian at NASA Headquarters, as they met members of the media in a news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 12.

“I can’t believe that through all the obstacles women faced in the ’50 and ’60s, they were still able to change the way of history,” Henson said. “We couldn’t keep this story quiet forever. It was bound to be told because the work they did was that amazing.”

The movie is based on the book of the same title, by Margot Lee Shetterly. It chronicles the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three African-American women who worked for NASA as human “computers.” Their mathematical calculations were crucial to the success of Project Mercury missions, including John Glenn’s orbital flight aboard Friendship 7 in 1962. The movie unveils the struggles of women who were essential to the success of early spaceflight. It also shows how victories for racial and gender rights were not achieved easily or quickly, and that work remains.

In the 1960’s, NASA was on an ambitious journey to the moon, and the human computers portrayed in “Hidden Figures” helped get America there.

“I would like to credit NASA for being progressive in their approach,” said Janelle Monáe, who portrays Mary Jackson in the film. “They didn’t have to open the door to minorities in the ’60s, but they did. They didn’t have to allow women in positions of power . . . but they did.”

Today, NASA is on an even more ambitious Journey to Mars.

NASA is participating under a Space Act Agreement with 20th Century Fox on the film, which is due in theaters in January 2017.


Kennedy Community Remembers Astronaut John Glenn

Former astronauts, employees and local news media gathered Friday afternoon at the Heroes and Legends exhibit hall at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to honor the life and legacy of astronaut John Glenn who passed away Thursday at age 95 in his home state of Ohio.

A fighter pilot in the Marine Corps, Glenn was one of NASA’s first seven astronauts and gained worldwide acclaim in 1962 by becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. He is seen above before making his Mercury flight he named Friendship 7. After a long career as a U.S. senator, Glenn flew in space again in 1998 as part of the STS-95 crew. Both of his missions launched from Florida’s Space Coast.

Bob Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and a former space shuttle commander, spoke to the audience beneath a relief sculpture of the original seven astronauts.

Astronauts Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper and Deke Slayton, all of whom previously passed, completed the sculpture showing the team as they appeared soon after being announced to the world in 1959.

“John Glenn was one of the finest individuals I ever got to know,” Cabana said. “We got him inside space shuttle Discovery one last time and just sitting in the cockpit with him, talking about the experiences in space, you can’t describe what a fine gentleman he was and what his passion for space exploration was. He was the last of the Mercury Seven and we’re going to sincerely miss him.”

Glenn’s experience, combined with his Midwestern calm and demeanor, inspired many who watched his flight on television at the beginning of the Space Age, including former shuttle astronaut Jon McBride.

“As a young man back in West Virginia, I idolized John Glenn and Wally Schirra and all those first seven guys and little did I know I would get to meet them,” McBride told the audience of Kennedy employees and visitors.

After the ceremony, which included a memorial wreath, the astronauts shared a bit about Glenn’s legacy on today’s NASA.

“His legacy is, he started it,” Cabana told reporters. “He was showing that you can fly in space when you’re 77 years old and that’s what he expected of us: to continue on, to keep going. We’ve got to get out there, get those boots on Mars. He said it’s important, that you’ve got to move on.”

Former astronauts Bob Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, from left, Jon McBride, Al Worden and Winston Scott pose outside the Heroes and Legends exhibit hall at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex following a ceremony remembering astronaut Sen. John Glenn, who passed away Dec. 8, 2016 at age 95. Glenn, one of the first seven astronauts NASA chose to fly the first missions of the Space Age, gained worldwide acclaim during his Mercury mission that made him the first American to orbit the Earth. He flew again in 1998 aboard space shuttle Discovery at age 77. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

John H. Glenn Jr. — The Quintessential American Hero

STS-95 Payload Specialist John H. Glenn Jr., senator from Ohio, gives a thumbs up on his arrival at Kennedy
Above: STS-95 Payload Specialist John H. Glenn Jr., senator from Ohio, gives a thumbs up on his arrival at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility aboard a T-38 jet. Glenn and his STS-95 crewmates were preparing for their Oct. 29, 1998 liftoff aboard space shuttle Discovery. Middle right: Glenn in his Mercury spacesuit prior to Mercury-Atlas 6. Lower right: Glenn in his space shuttle launch and entry suit prior to STS-95. Photo credits: NASA

John H. Glenn Jr. was the quintessential American hero. He died Dec. 8, 2016, at the age of 95.

As a member of the Original Seven Mercury astronauts, he was a frequent visitor to Florida’s Space Coast, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. After serving more than 24 years in the U.S. Senate, Glenn returned to space a member of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery.

Born in Cambridge, Ohio, Glenn served in the U.S. Marine Corps, flying 59 combat missions in World War II. During the Korean conflict, he few another 90. In the last nine days of fighting in Korea, Glenn downed three MIGs fighters in combat along the Yalu River.

When NASA was formed in 1958, one of its first tasks was to select pilots to serve as the nation’s first astronauts. During the April 9, 1959, news conference that introduced the Mercury astronauts, the seven military pilots discussed their views on the fledgling space program.

Responding to a reporter’s question, Glenn compared Project Mercury to the Wright Brothers’ first powered aircraft flight in North Carolina in 1903.

“My feelings are that this whole project with regard to space is like the Wright Brothers standing at Kitty Hawk about fifty years ago, with Orville and Wilbur pitching a coin to see who was going to shove the other one off the hill,” he said. “I think we stand on the verge of something as big and as expansive as that.”

Astronaut John Glenn in his Mercury spacesuitOn Feb. 20. 1962, millions of Americans watched as Glenn was strapped into the couch of the spacecraft he named Friendship 7. As the sun rose over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 14, flight controllers worked through last-minute problems leading to lift off of the Mercury Atlas-6 mission.

During the four-hour, 55-minute mission, Glenn orbited the Earth three times, splashing down in the Atlantic before sundown. His comments aboard the recovery ship typically understated the historic event.

“I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunrises and sunsets,” he said.

Three days later, Glenn returned to a hero’s welcome at the Cape. Ceremonies included President John F. Kennedy presenting him NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal.

Glenn resigned from NASA on Jan. 16, 1964. A decade later he was elected to the U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio. Glenn’s time in the Senate included a bid for the presidency in 1984.

Astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn's official portrait for space shuttle mission STS-95.Glenn announced that he would not seek re-election in the 1998 fall campaign. Instead, he was given an opportunity to return to orbit as a payload specialist with the STS-95 crew of the shuttle Discovery.

On Oct. 29, 1998, Glenn launched as part of a seven-person crew including astronauts from the United States, Japan and Spain. At the age of 77, he was the oldest person to date to fly in space.

Glenn’s flight provided NASA with an opportunity to gain valuable data on the effects of weightlessness on a person 36 years apart. It easily was the longest length of time between flights by the same person. Medical data was also gathered on the effects of spaceflight and weightlessness on the elderly.

Over the years, Glenn collected many awards and accolades. In May 1990, he and the other six Mercury astronauts became the charter class of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. During a ceremony at the White House on May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Glenn the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Glenn’s last visit to the Space Coast took place in February 2012. He was joined by fellow Mercury astronaut, Scott Carpenter, the second American in orbit. They came to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nation’s first orbital spaceflights.

Looking back on the early days of human spaceflight, Glenn explained that preparation was the key to success.

“You became the best-trained person you could be and that’s what we did,” he said.

Glenn noted that the challenge of spaceflight continues to depend on today’s designers and engineers to keep making strides along with the thousands of individuals working as a team in America’s space program.

“These things depend on people,” Glenn said. “Nothing’s going to happen unless you have the people to do it.”

To view a collection of photographs of John Glenn during his career as an astronaut, see: