NASA’s Kennedy Space Center racked up a year of achievements in exploration – even in the midst of a pandemic. The Florida spaceport launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 and Crew-1 missions; sent robotic explorers to study the Sun, Mars, and our home planet’s oceans; made significant strides toward Artemis I in 2021, the first flight of the program slated to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024; and much more.
A team of researchers and engineers harvested radishes from the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) ground unit as part of the Plant Habitat-02 experiment, or PH-02, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 14, 2020. This crop was a ground control for a similar crop of radishes grown aboard the International Space Station, which Astronaut Kate Rubins harvested on Nov. 30, 2020. Knowledge gained from the PH-02 experiment will enable astronauts to grow crops that will help sustain crews on long-duration space exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.
Scientists will compare the results of the ground control experiment to the plants grown in space. The nearly identical growing conditions for both crops will make it possible to identify the effects of the space environment by measuring a range of properties including chlorophyll quantities, enzyme activity, mineral uptake, and several other traits. The major difference is the crops grown on the space station experienced microgravity, an environment vastly different from Earth’s. In microgravity, everything from fluids to flames behave differently.
The space station is a unique laboratory enabling long-duration microgravity experiments that lead to a better understanding of fundamental properties of everything from plants to physics. In space, a second crop of radishes is already growing in the APH on station for the second part of PH-02. Astronauts plan to harvest that crop on Dec. 30, 2020, and send samples back to Earth in 2021 on a SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services mission return flight.
The APH is NASA’s largest and most sophisticated growth chamber designed for plant and bioscience research aboard the space station. It has control systems and more than 180 sensors to deliver precise amounts of water while regulating and monitoring moisture levels, temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, and oxygen content. The APH provides high-intensity red, blue, green, broad spectrum white, and far-red LED light to plants in the chamber. APH’s highly automated data and photo interfaces allow researchers on the ground to access photos and real-time data telemetry while also sending remote commands to the chamber.
NASA and Boeing now are targeting March 29 for the launch of Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path toward flying crew missions for NASA.
For the OFT-2 mission, the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, dock to the International Space Station and return to land in the western United States about a week later as part of an end-to-end test to prove the system is ready to fly crew.
The OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft is nearing final assembly inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vehicle’s reusable crew module has been powered up and final checkouts of the avionics, power and propulsion systems are nearing completion. The spacecraft’s parachutes, landing airbags, base heat shield, and its back shells are installed signifying the completion of the vehicle build phase. In the coming weeks, teams will load the crew module with cargo, including Rosie the Rocketeer, and weigh the vehicle before mating it to its service module, which is already complete.
In parallel, Boeing technicians continue to refurbish the crew module flown on Starliner’s first Orbital Flight Test while also building a brand-new service module for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), which is now targeting launch in summer 2021, following a successful OFT-2 mission.
NASA and Boeing have completed Starliner’s last parachute balloon drop test ending a reliability campaign that will help strengthen the spacecraft’s landing system ahead of crewed flights to and from the International Space Station.
The campaign, developed by both Boeing and NASA, used six balloon drop tests of a Starliner test article to gather supplemental performance data on the spacecraft’s parachutes and landing system. Each drop test focused on a different set of adverse conditions and used pre-flown parachutes to evaluate reusability margins for future missions.
Starliner is the first American-made orbital crew capsule to land on land. The spacecraft uses a series of parachutes and airbags that deploy at specific altitudes allowing Starliner to touch down gently in the desert of the western United States. NASA also will use the data gathered from the parachute testing to model Starliner parachute performance in different mission scenarios.
For the final test, a high-altitude balloon provided by Near Space Corporation lifted the Starliner test article 35,000 feet above the New Mexico desert. Equipped with reused parachutes, Starliner’s landing system successfully executed an unlikely re-entry scenario simulating two separate faults.
SpaceX’s upgraded cargo Dragon spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station after launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff occurred at 11:17 a.m. EST.
Included in this delivery is the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock, the first commercially owned and operated airlock that, once installed, will provide a variety of capabilities to the space station, such as payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment. It also will serve as an outside toolbox for crew members conducting spacewalks.
Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the space station tomorrow, Dec. 7. At approximately 1:30 p.m. EST, the spacecraft will autonomously dock to the station’s Harmony module – the first automated docking for a SpaceX cargo resupply mission. Live coverage will begin at 11:30 a.m. EST on NASA TV and the agency’s website. NASA astronauts and Expedition 64 Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover will monitor docking operations.
Cargo Dragon’s arrival at the space station will mark the first time two Dragon spacecraft will be docked to the orbiting laboratory at the same time. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, that brought the Crew-1 astronauts has been docked since its arrival on Nov. 16.
The cargo Dragon spacecraft will remain attached to the space station for about one month, after which it will return to Earth with 5,200 pounds of research and return cargo, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
Hello, and good morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida! Live countdown coverage for the launch of SpaceX’s 21st resupply services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station has begun – watch now on NASA TV or the agency’s website.
The uncrewed cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are scheduled to lift off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A in just about 30 minutes, at 11:17 a.m. EST. The mission will deliver more than 6,400 pounds of supplies, equipment, and critical materials to support dozens of science and research experiments that will take place during Expeditions 64 and 65.
About 12 minutes after today’s launch, Dragon will separate from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, beginning a series of carefully choreographed thruster firings to reach the orbiting laboratory. Here’s a full look at today’s countdown and ascent milestones. All times are approximate:
Hour/Min/Sec – Events -00:38:00 – SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
-00:35:00 – RP-1 (rocket-grade kerosene) loading begins
-00:35:00 – 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
-00:16:00 – 2nd stage LOX loading begins
-00:07:00 – Falcon 9 begins pre-launch engine chill
-00:05:00 – Dragon transitions to internal power
-00:01:00 – Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
-00:01:00 – Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
-00:00:45 – SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
-00:00:03 – Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
-00:00:00 – Falcon 9 liftoff
LAUNCH, LANDING AND DRAGON DEPLOYMENT
Hour/Min/Sec – Event 00:01:18 – Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:30 – 1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:34 – 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:41 – 2nd stage engine starts
00:06:37 – 1st stage entry burn begins
00:08:38 – 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:08:38 – 1st stage landing
00:11:49 – Dragon separates from 2nd stage
00:12:35 – Dragon nosecone open sequence begins
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida for the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for today, Dec. 6, at 11:17 a.m. EST.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting a 60% chance of favorable weather conditions for today’s launch, with the primary concern revolving around the thick cloud layer rule.
Some of the science that will be delivered on this mission includes 3D engineered heart tissues for a study that will examine how prolonged exposure to microgravity affects the human heart, meteorite samples and microbes to research the formation and biomining of asteroid material in space, and a study that will observe how brain organoids respond to microgravity. More information on these and additional payloads can be found at: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/spacex-21-research-highlights
Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website at 10:45 a.m. EST for live launch countdown coverage or follow along right here on the blog.
Because of poor weather conditions in the recovery area for today’s planned launch of SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX and NASA are now targeting lift off for Sunday, Dec. 6, at 11:17 a.m. EST. Launch coverage will begin at 10:45 a.m. on NASA TV and the agency’s website.
A launch Sunday would lead to docking Monday, Dec. 7, for the Dragon to deliver about 6,400 pounds of important science and research, cargo supplies, and the first privately funded commercial airlock to the Expedition 64 crew aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Following a prelaunch news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA and SpaceX remain “go” for tomorrow’s launch of SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station.
“This morning, we did a mission management team meeting, and we had a unanimous go for this launch and docking,” said Kenny Todd, deputy program manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program Office. “We’re excited to get on with it; we’ll see how things play out over the next couple of days, but hopefully by the middle of the week, we’ll have a Dragon on the way, if not already attached (to station).”
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the upgraded cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, stands poised for launch at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, and weather officials are now predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff. While that’s a slight increase over previous launch forecasts, a cold front moving across the state of Florida will have teams keeping a close eye on the weather.
“Previously, it looked like that cold front would be passing right during the launch window, but the trend is now our friend – the models are now bringing that cold front through prior to the launch window,” said Melody Lovin, U.S. Space Force launch and weather officer for the 45th Space Wing.
“Because of that, we’re expecting most of the rain associated with the cold front to be pretty much done before the launch window opens up. We’re not exactly sure when the clouds are going to clear out of the way for us. We’re hoping the earlier the cold front will pass, the more clearing we’ll get.”
The first mission for SpaceX under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract, CRS-21 will deliver more than 6,400 pounds of supplies, equipment, and critical materials needed to support a variety of science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 64 and 65. With SpaceX’s Crew Dragon carrying a crew of four to the orbiting laboratory last month, the mission will also mark the first time two Dragon spacecraft will be attached to the space station simultaneously.
“It really ushers in a season of continuous Dragon presence for the near future,” said Sarah Walker, director of SpaceX Dragon Mission Management. “We’re excited about all of the missions that we’ll be flying for NASA and the International Space Station program, both cargo and crew, and it’s really just an honor to be a part of that.”
Dragon will spend about one month attached to the orbiting laboratory before autonomously undocking and returning to Earth with 5,200 pounds research and return cargo. The spacecraft is slated to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean upon its arrival.
The launch readiness review for SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station has concluded, and the prelaunch news conference is set for 4 p.m. EST today, Dec. 4, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Watch live on NASA TV or the agency’s website.
Kenny Todd, deputy program manager, International Space Station Program Office
Kirt Costello, chief scientist, International Space Station Program Office
Sarah Walker, director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX
Melody Lovin, launch weather officer, U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing
Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. EST tomorrow, Dec. 5, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. Primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule and the thick layer cloud rule.