Monthly Archives: August 2017

Advanced Plant Habitat Verification Test Complete

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John "JC" Carver, a payload integration engineer with NASA Kennedy Space Center's Test and Operations Support Contract, uses a FluorPen to measure the chlorophyll fluorescence of Arabidopsis thaliana plants inside the growth chamber of the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) Flight Unit No. 1.

John “JC” Carver, a payload integration engineer with NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Test and Operations Support Contract, uses a FluorPen to measure the chlorophyll fluorescence of Arabidopsis thaliana plants inside the growth chamber of the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) Flight Unit No. 1. Half the plants were then harvested. Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

After a month of growing plants in the Advanced Plant Habitat Flight Unit No. 1, the chamber was opened and half of the yield was harvested by Kennedy Space Center payload engineers and scientists. The Arabidopsis thaliana seeds that were grown during the test are small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard that have a short lifecycle and small genome, making it an ideal plant model for research.

The harvest involved measuring pigment molecules of some of the plants with an instrument called a FluorPen, which will give the principal investigators empirical data on the health of the plants. Following those measurements, the stems and the rosettes (circular arrangement of leaves) of the plants were harvested separately, placed inside a foil packet, and then placed inside a MiniCold Bag that quickly freezes the plants. The plants will be shipped to a team at Washington State University who will examine the plants, with the goal to comprehensively understand how these plants adapt to spaceflight during the PH-01 experiment on the International Space Station later this year.

The Advanced Plant Habitat was sent to the space station in two shipments on the Orbital ATK OA-7 and SpaceX CRS-11 resupply missions. The Advanced Plant Habitat will be set up on the space station this fall and is an enclosed, closed-loop system with an environmentally controlled chamber. The habitat will use red, blue, green and broad-spectrum white LED lights and have 180 sensors to relay information back to the team at Kennedy.

Support and funding for the Advanced Plant Habitat are provided by the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division.

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Preparing for Takeoff

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A NASA F-18 jet is prepared for takeoff from the agency's Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Several flights a day have been taking place the week of Aug. 21, 2017 to measure the effects of sonic booms. It is part of NASA's Sonic Booms in Atmospheric Turbulence, or SonicBAT II Program.

A NASA F-18 jet is prepared for takeoff from the agency’s Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Several flights a day have been taking place at the spaceport in order to measure the effects of sonic booms. The testing is part of NASA’s Sonic Booms in Atmospheric Turbulence, or SonicBAT II Program. NASA at Kennedy is partnering with the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, Langley Research Center in Virginia, and Space Florida for a program in which F-18 jets will take off from the Shuttle Landing Facility and fly at supersonic speeds while agency researchers measure the effects of low-altitude turbulence caused by sonic booms.

Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Middle School Students’ Programming Skills Tested in Orbit

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Students and their sponsors gather for a commemorative photo in the Center for Space Education at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after participating in the finals of the Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program national championship.

Students and their sponsors gather for a commemorative photo in the Center for Space Education at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after participating in the finals of the Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program national championship. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Teams of middle school-aged students from across the state of Florida gathered at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Friday, Aug. 11, to see their robot-programming skills put to the test aboard the International Space Station. The occasion: the finals of the Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program national championship.

Students and sponsors hear from astronauts aboard the International Space Station on a big screen in the Center for Space Education at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.The five-week program allows rising sixth- through ninth-graders to write programs for small satellites called SPHERES (Synchronized, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites). Finalists saw their code tested using SPHERES on the space station, with the assistance of astronauts living and working aboard the orbiting observatory.

A middle-school student high-fives a Star Wars character from the 501st Legion in the Center for Space Education at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.Adding to the fun were Sphero off-the-shelf programmable robots available for practice, a quantum levitation demonstration and a visit from Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion.

A total of 13 teams representing two countries and 12 states took part in the competition, with the winners hailing from West Virginia and Idaho.

Photos at right: Students and sponsors hear from astronauts aboard the International Space Station, shown on a big screen (top); a student high-fives a Star Wars character from the 501st Legion (bottom). Photo credits: NASA/Cory Huston

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NASA’s Newest Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Arrives in Orbit

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A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph

The constellation of satellites charged with maintaining critical communications between NASA’s Space Network and Earth-orbiting spacecraft is about to be expanded by one.

Joining the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) System is TDRS-M, the third and final in a series of third-generation TDRS spacecraft that have taken their places in orbit in recent years. TDRS-M launched this morning aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with a liftoff at 8:29 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. (Read NASA’s Launch Blog)

With light winds, few clouds and temperatures in the low 80s, weather posed no threat to launch. The countdown proceeded smoothly throughout the early morning hours and into propellant-loading operations, when engineers noted an issue with the Centaur upper stage’s liquid oxygen (LOX) chilldown system.

“As we were chilling the Centaur engine down, we noticed one of the chilldown parameters on the thermal conditioning for the LOX side was not quite getting cold enough” in time to permit liftoff at 8:03 a.m., when the 40-minute launch window opened, NASA Launch Manager Tim Dunn explained.

Just before sunrise at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket vents liquid oxygen propellant vapors during fueling for the lift off of NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M. The team methodically worked to resolve the issue while maximizing that window of opportunity, and the issue was resolved in time for launch officials to set up for a successful liftoff at 8:29 a.m.

Photo at right: Just before sunrise at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket vents liquid oxygen propellant vapors during fueling for the lift off of NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M. Photo credit: NASA/Kenneth Allen

TDRS-M’s predecessors, TDRS-K and TDRS-L, also launched on Atlas V rockets from the same launch complex in January 2013 and January 2014, respectively. Today’s launch marked the 72nd liftoff of an Atlas V.

More than an hour and a half after launch, the TDRS-M spacecraft separated from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage, heralding the end of the launch effort and the mission’s beginning. Following several months of calibration and testing, TDRS-M will be renamed TDRS-13, and it will be eligible to begin supporting NASA’s Space Network.

“Spacecraft separation is the best part of the launch campaign,” Dunn said. “So many hours are put into getting to this exact point when you know you have a healthy satellite that just separated from the launch vehicle, about to go do its intended mission.”

For further updates, visit http://www.nasa.gov/tdrs.

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Launch Day Arrives for Atlas V, TDRS-M

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's TDRS-M spacecraft is lit by the rising sun at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41 on Thursday, Aug. 17.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s TDRS-M spacecraft is lit by the rising sun at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 on Thursday, Aug. 17. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

The countdown is underway for today’s planned liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M). Launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 is scheduled for 8:03 a.m. EDT at the opening of a 40-minute launch window.

Launch coverage will begin at 7:30 a.m. on NASA’s Launch Blog and on NASA TV.

TDRS-M Prelaunch Programs Today; Weather 80 Percent ‘Go’ for Friday Launch

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket rolled out to the pad Wednesday, Aug. 16.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket rolled out to the pad Wednesday, Aug. 16. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA TV will broadcast two programs today from Kennedy Space Center in support of the launch of NASA’s next Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) mission atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The programs will be carried live on NASA TV.

A prelaunch news conference will air live on NASA TV at 9 a.m. EDT Launch and mission managers will provide the current status of liftoff preparations and the launch weather forecast, as well as a look ahead at the satellite’s mission to come. This will be followed at 2 p.m. by a prelaunch Social Live briefing at 2 p.m. featuring some of the speakers, as well as NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Nicole Mann, among other guests.

Launch coverage will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Friday with commentary leading up to the 8:03 a.m. start of a 40-minute launch window. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron are expecting good weather conditions tomorrow morning, with thick clouds the primary concern. The probability of favorable conditions has been upgraded to 80 percent.

Atlas V Rocket with TDRS-M In Place at Launch Pad

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) is in place on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) is in place on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.

TDRS-M is the newest in a series of spacecraft to join the agency’s constellation of communications satellites that allows nearly continuous contact with orbiting spacecraft, including the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope and more. Liftoff is scheduled for Friday at 8:03 a.m. EDT.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

TDRS-M Launch Weather Remains Favorable for Friday; Atlas V Moves to Pad

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A sign at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida notes that a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch in two days. Liftoff of the Atlas V carrying Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) is slated for Friday morning at 8:03 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A sign at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida notes that a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch in two days. Liftoff of the Atlas V carrying Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) is slated for Friday morning at 8:03 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Only two days remain until the scheduled launch of NASA’s newest addition to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. The TDRS-M satellite is in place atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and final prelaunch milestones are being checked off in preparation for liftoff Friday morning at 8:03 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron has issued today’s launch weather forecast. Meteorologists continue to predict a 70 percent chance of “go” weather at liftoff time, with thick clouds and cumulus clouds the primary concerns.

The Atlas V rocket is on the move this morning, making the short trek from the launch complex’s Vertical Integration Facility, where it was stacked and tested ahead of the flight, to the launch pad. The rollout is the final preflight move for the rocket and spacecraft, which will finish out the day in position for launch on Friday morning.

First Nations Launch Winners Visit Kennedy Space Center

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First Nations Launch Competition Winners tour the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A group of 15 college students recently visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as winners of the First Nations Launch competition in Wisconsin. They were part of teams that successfully flew high-powered rockets, earning them an opportunity to visit the Florida spaceport.

The competition is supported by NASA and the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium. It provides an opportunity for students attending tribal colleges and universities or who are members of a campus American Indian Science and Engineering Society, or AISES, chapter to design, build and launch a rocket at a competition in Kansasville, Wisconsin.

“The project has been ongoing for nine years,” said Rob Cannon, a project specialist in Kennedy’s Education Office who serves as activity manager for the visit of the First Nations Launch Competition. “NASA began supporting it starting with the second year.”

During the students’ visit to Kennedy, they toured the Vehicle Assembly Building, Launch Control Center, Swamp Works, Kennedy Prototype Shop, Cryogenics Lab and the visitor complex. They also were given the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on career opportunities with NASA, contractors or other areas of the aerospace industry.

Christian Cultee participated as a student at Northwest Indian College established by the Lummi Nation in Bellingham, Washington. He noted that his visit was one he would not soon forget.

“Every stop of our tour made me even more eager to see where they would bring us next,” he said. “We extend our appreciation to the employees who took time out of their busy schedules to share with us their experience at Kennedy. We would like them to know that their impact on us was much larger than they’ll ever know.”

While competitors usually are majoring in engineering disciplines, Cannon noted that that’s not always the case.

“There was one team that was made up entirely of nursing students,” he said. “While it may help to be majoring in a technical field, the competition is open to any student interested in building a rocket and is attending a tribal college or a member of an AISES chapter.”

There are two annual challenges students may choose to enter. In this year’s Tribal Challenge, a rocket is launched and is judged on its stability using a small onboard camera. In the AISES Challenge, student teams from AISES chapters design, build and launch a rocket that will be able to provide an active drag system integrated into the rocket by means of a mechanical device. The goal is to attain an altitude of exactly 75 percent of the nondeployed drag system to the altitude of the first launch.

Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

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