The launch team that dispatched NASA’s Cassini probe to Saturn almost 20 years ago aboard a Titan IVB rocket often recalls the months of work that went into preparing the massive, uncrewed spacecraft and its launch vehicle for the unprecedented survey of one of the solar system’s most intriguing planets. Cassini entered Saturn’s orbit on June 30, 2004, seven years after liftoff from Florida. Ray Lugo, Cassini’s launch director, never forgot the many careers formed around the Cassini mission from its inception to the spacecraft assembly and its ultimate success orbiting Saturn and studying its rings and moons. Read more of the launch team’s recollections about the mission as the Cassini spacecraft prepares for its Grand Finale in September: https://go.nasa.gov/2tq0YfY
The company’s Mariner cargo ship delivered the rocket’s first stage and Centaur upper stage to the Army Wharf at Port Canaveral on Monday afternoon. After unloading Tuesday morning, the components were transported by truck to their respective processing areas on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where they’ll be readied for launch. The first stage now is inside the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center and the Centaur is in the Delta Operations Center.
The TDRS-M spacecraft arrived in Florida on Friday, June 23 and is going through its prelaunch paces at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville. Launch of TDRS-M aboard the Atlas V is slated for August 3 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.
Photo at right: At Port Canaveral in Florida, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage booster and Centaur upper stage are about to be transported from the company’s Mariner ship to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The next addition to NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) System has arrived in Florida to begin processing for its August launch. The TDRS-M satellite, secured in a shipping container, was delivered Friday aboard a cargo aircraft that touched down at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft then was transported to the Astrotech Space Operations facility to begin preparations for launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
TDRS-M will expand the capabilities of NASA’s Space Network to support space communication for an additional 15 years. The network consists of TDRS satellites that transmit data to and from ground stations on Earth for NASA missions and expendable launch vehicles. The Space Network allows scientists, engineers and control room staff to readily access data from missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.
Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, California, built TDRS-M. NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Program, a part of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, is responsible for the TDRS network. Launch management of the Atlas V launch service for TDRS-M is the responsibility of the mission directorate’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Digital Learning Network and Speakers’ Bureau received the Women Engineering Pro-Active Network (WEPAN)/DiscoverE Girl Day Award for 2017 for their “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” Program. The award was announced June 13 during WEPAN’s annual Change Leader Forum in Westminster, Colorado.
“I am very proud of the Kennedy team for receiving this award,” said Lesley Fletcher, Ph.D., deputy division chief, Education Projects and Youth Engagement. “One of our primary goals is to reach girls and inspire them to pursue science, technology, engineering and math careers.”
The eight-hour, interactive web live-streaming event was selected for the prestigious award “for empowering girls with information about opportunities in engineering.”
The program was viewed by more than 12,000 people on Feb. 23 during National Engineering Week.
“This was the first year we hosted an ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’ event. The flexible schedule allowed groups to join in at a time that was convenient. It was a well-organized and widely attended event that provided girls with role models and information about opportunities in engineering,” Fletcher said.
The program featured female NASA subject-matter experts inspiring viewers with details about their careers, the challenges and rewards.
WEPAN and the DiscoverE Foundation work together to recognize organizations and individuals whose participation excelled in the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” initiative.
It looks like something out of this world, but that’s exactly where it would work. A futuristic Mars rover concept vehicle was recently unveiled at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with a goal of inspiration and education as NASA continues developing plans for its journey to the Red Planet.
The visitor complex kicked off its “Summer of Mars” promotion with a June 5 ceremony which included former astronaut Scott Kelly. During his appearance, Kelly shared some of his experiences during a one-year stay aboard the International Space Station from March 27, 2015 to Feb. 3, 2016.
According to Rebecca Shireman, assistant manager of public relations for the Kennedy visitor complex, the “Summer of Mars” program will provide a survey of NASA’s studies of the Red Planet.
“It’s an all-encompassing effort to review the history of our efforts to explore Mars and look ahead to what is being planned,” she said. “We hope this will encourage young people to want to learn more about being a part of the effort to go to Mars.”
NASA’s next robotic Mars rover is set to land on the Red Planet in 2020. The Mars 2020 rover will search for signs of past microbial life and collect core samples for a potentially future return to Earth.
The builders of the scientifically-themed Mars rover concept vehicle, Parker Brothers Concepts of Port Canaveral, Florida, incorporated input into its design from NASA subject matter experts. Construction of the Mars rover was commissioned by the Kennedy visitor complex without use of taxpayer dollars.
The rover operates on an electric motor, powered by solar panels and a 700-volt battery. The rover separates in the middle with the front area designed for scouting and equipped with a radio and navigation provided by the Global Positioning System. The back section serves as a laboratory which can disconnect for autonomous research. While this exact rover is not expected to operate on Mars, one or more of its elements could make its way into a rover astronauts will drive on the Red Planet.
Following several weeks on display at Kennedy’s visitor complex, the Mars rover concept vehicle will be displayed at several locations. From July through August, it will be displayed at several locations during a tour along the East Coast.
Shireman explained that the Mars rover concept vehicle will return to the visitor complex to be part of the new Astronaut Training Experience attraction opening in the fall of this year.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
NASA and SpaceX engineers are working together at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to build a full-scale Crew Dragon model, or Recovery Trainer, that will be used by the U.S. Air Force to perform flight-like rescue and recovery training exercises in the open ocean later this year.
The model, shown above with astronauts Dan Burbank and Victor Glover inside, is built to mimic the Crew Dragon spacecraft that SpaceX is developing with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. In certain unusual recovery situations, SpaceX may need to work with the U.S. Air Force to send parajumpers to recover astronauts from the capsule. The Recovery Trainer will be used by the Air Force to prepare procedures and train for this contingency scenario. The trainer also has two working hatches and other simulated components similar to the ones astronauts and support teams will encounter in real missions.
Scott Colloredo, deputy director of Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate, said the engineers adapted SpaceX designs of internal elements to be compatible with the trainer and worked with Kennedy’s Prototype Development Lab to produce the parts quickly and install them inside the trainer. The Prototype Development Lab designs, fabricates and tests prototypes, test articles and test support equipment. The lab has a long history of providing fast solutions to complex operations problems. The lab’s teams of engineers use specialized equipment to produce exacting, one-of-a-kind items made from a range of materials depending on the design.
“We perform things that complement what the partners and programs provide,” Colloredo said. “The team delivered right to the minute.”
SpaceX is now finalizing modifications to the trainer to ensure it floats in water in the same way as the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Following those modifications, the trainer will enter service as the primary training vehicle for Crew Dragon astronaut recovery operations.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 5:07 p.m. EDT on Saturday, June 3, and the Dragon spacecraft has begun its journey to the International Space Station with an arrival scheduled for June 5. Dragon separated from Falcon 9 about 10 minutes after launch, and solar arrays successfully deployed shortly after separation from the second stage.
Before Dragon arrives at the space station, the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft will depart the station Sunday, June 4. Expedition 52 Flight Engineers Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson of NASA will be at the controls of the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus at 9:10 a.m. NASA TV coverage of the spacecraft’s departure will begin at 8:30 a.m.
Launch day has arrived for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft bound for the International Space Station. The company’s eleventh commercial resupply mission to the station is slated for liftoff today at 5:55 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Monitor NASA’s SpaceX Launch Blog for updates throughout the countdown, with live coverage beginning at 5:15 p.m.