NASA will host a series of televised briefings on Friday, May 1, to preview the upcoming Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Demo-2 will mark the first launch of American astronauts aboard an American spacecraft from American soil since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly to the station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Liftoff is slated for May 27.
Originating from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, all three briefings will be broadcast live on NASA Television and online at www.nasa.gov/live. Times are provided in Eastern.
11 a.m.: The Commercial Crew and International Space Station overview news conference will include NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Kathy Lueders, program manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program; Kirk Shireman, program manager, International Space Station Program; and Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer, SpaceX.
12:30 p.m.: The mission overview news conference will include Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program deputy manager; Zeb Scoville, NASA Demo-2 flight director, Flight Operations Directorate at Johnson; and Benji Reed, SpaceX director of crew mission management.
2 p.m.: The crew news conference will include both crew members for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission: astronaut Robert Behnken, joint operations commander, and astronaut Douglas Hurley, spacecraft commander.
The Demo-2 mission will serve as an end-to-end flight test to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, from launch to docking to splashdown at the mission’s end. It is the final flight test for the system to be certified for regular, crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
NTDs within the Exploration Ground Systems program are in charge of flight and ground hardware testing in Kennedy’s Launch Control Center firing rooms 1 and 2, where activities involved with preparing rockets, spacecraft and payloads for space can be controlled from computer terminals. They are responsible for emergency management actions, helping lead the launch team during all facets of testing, launch and recovery.
NASA’s Artemis missions will land American astronauts on the Moon by 2024, beginning with Artemis I, the uncrewed flight test of SLS and Orion.
“It’s certainly an amazing feeling to be responsible for setting up the building blocks of a new program which will eventually take us to the Moon, Mars and beyond,” said Senior NASA Test Director Danny Zeno.
Zeno is leading the development of test plans and procedures that are essential to flight and ground hardware for the Artemis missions. This includes proving the functionality of flight and ground systems for the assembled launch vehicle configuration, verifying the mobile launcher arms and umbilicals operate as expected at launch, and performing a simulated launch countdown with the integrated vehicle in the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The 14-year NTD veteran relishes his hands-on role in successfully testing and launching SLS — the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built.
“It’s very fulfilling,” Zeno said. “What excites me about the future is that the work I’m doing today is contributing to someday having humans living and working on other planets.”
There are 18 people in the NTD office — all of whom must undergo rigorous certification training in the management and leadership of test operations, systems engineering and emergency response. They are in charge of the people, hardware and schedule during active firing room testing.
“The NTD office is at the center of testing operations, which will ensure that we are ready to fly the Artemis missions,” said Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson. “As we lay the foundation for exploring our solar system, the NASA test directors are on the front lines of making it happen.”
An NTD works from a console in the firing room during integrated or hazardous testing, guiding the team through any contingency or emergency operations. They lead critical testing on Launch Pad 39B and the mobile launcher, the 370-foot-tall, 11 million-pound steel structure that will launch the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft on Artemis missions to the Moon and on to Mars. This includes sound suppression, fire suppression and cryogenic fluid flow tests, as well as testing the crew access arm and umbilicals — connections that will provide communications, coolant and fuel up until launch.
While the majority of work for the ground and flight systems is pre-liftoff, the job certainly doesn’t end there.
“It culminates in a two-day launch countdown in which all of the groups, teams and assets are required to function together in an almost flawless performance to get us to launch,” said Senior NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding.
Spaulding has nearly three decades of experience in the Test, Launch and Recovery Office. For Artemis I, he is leading the launch control team and support teams during the launch countdown for Blackwell-Thompson, who will oversee the countdown and liftoff of SLS.
Just over three miles from the launch pad, on launch day, Spaulding will be in the firing room running the final portion of cryogenic loading through launch. During this time, supercool propellants — called cryogenics — are loaded into the vehicle’s tanks. He will perform the same tasks for the wet dress rehearsal, which is a full practice countdown about two months before launch that includes fueling the tanks and replicating everything done for launch prior to main engine start.
At the end of the mission, part of the team will lead the recovery efforts aboard a Navy vessel after Orion splashdown. The NASA recovery director and supporting NTDs are responsible for planning and carrying out all operations to recover the Orion capsule onto a U.S. Navy ship. This includes working closely with the Department of Defense to ensure that teams coordinate recovery plans, meet requirements, and follow timelines and procedures to bring our heroes and spacecraft home quickly and safely.
“We are supported by numerous teams at Kennedy and elsewhere around the country that are helping us with our historic first flight as we blaze a path toward landing astronauts on the Moon in 2024,” Spaulding said.
The majority of the Kennedy Space Center workforce has spent the past month working from home – and the reduction in people and vehicles at the Florida spaceport has led some of the resident wildlife to venture out into the open more often. Every day is Earth Day at Kennedy, but this temporary change is providing some additional freedom to the local fauna.
These photos, taken during the week of April 13-17, capture the movements of these local critters out and about at the space center. Above, a gopher tortoise seems to stop traffic as it strolls across a street in front of a security vehicle; at right, an American alligator cruises through one of Kennedy’s many waterways; and below, an adult osprey and two young offspring peer out of their nest, constructed atop a facility sign.
Kennedy shares boundaries with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s Atlantic coast. The refuge covers approximately 144,000 acres and is home to more than 315 native and migratory bird species, 25 mammal species, and 65 amphibian and reptile species. Visit https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/sustainability/ to find out more about sustainability at Kennedy.
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 p.m. EDT on May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission. The specific duration of the mission is to be determined.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars with the agency’s Artemis program.
NASA is holding a competition for participants to design an improved bucket drum for RASSOR, a robotic platform designed to dig on the Moon. RASSOR’s current design has counter-rotating bucket drums mounted on moveable arms positioned on either end of the robot. As the bucket drums rotate and start to dig, the forces balance out. This means RASSOR is well suited for excavating in low gravity, because it does not have to rely on its weight or traction to dig.
To enter the competition, go to the GrabCAD website that hosts the challenge and submit an original design with CAD files and a short description of how the design works. The competition is open to eligible individuals.
Kennedy Space Center has received a critical piece of hardware in support of the Artemis II crewed mission. The launch abort motor for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) arrived in Florida April 13 from Northrop Grumman in Promontory, Utah, and was transported to the Launch Abort System Facility where it will undergo testing in preparation for use on the second Artemis mission.
The launch abort motor is one of three motors on the LAS and is capable of producing about 400,000 pounds of thrust to steer and pull the crew module away from the rocket. The attitude control motor and the jettison motor complete the trio of motors responsible for controlling the LAS.
The LAS weighs about 16,000 pounds and is installed on top of the Orion crew module. It is designed to protect astronauts in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch or ascent. The system pulls the spacecraft away from a falling rocket and reorients the crew module to provide a safe landing for the crew.
Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon. Orion will launch atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket to carry astronauts to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. NASA will develop a sustainable presence at the Moon and apply knowledge gained to pave the way for human exploration of Mars.
NASA’s Mars Helicopter will make history in about 10 months when it becomes the first aircraft to fly on another world.
Now it has its ride to the Red Planet.
On April 6, 2020, the helicopter was attached to the belly of the agency’s Mars Perseverance rover. The installation took place inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the rover has remained since its Feb. 9, 2020, arrival from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter weighs less than 4 pounds; the total length of its rotors is about 4 feet, tip to tip. Its main purpose is a technology demonstration. After Perseverance safely lands on Mars, the helicopter will be released to perform the first in a series of flight tests that will take place during 30 Martian days (a day on Mars is about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth).
For history’s first flight experimental flight test in the thin Martian atmosphere (less than 1% the density of Earth’s), the helicopter is tasked with hovering in the air a few feet off the ground for 20 to 30 seconds before landing. It is designed to fly on its own, without human control, using minimal commands from Earth sent in advance.
With the helicopter safely tucked away and covered by a shield to protect it during descent and landing, Perseverance will touch down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket is targeted between July 17 and Aug. 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Safety is a top priority as NASA and SpaceX prepare for liftoff of the company’s second demonstration flight test (Demo-2), the first flight to carry astronauts to the International Space Station onboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The teams conducted an emergency egress exercise at Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 3. The end-to-end demonstration is the latest in a series of similar exercises to ensure the crew and support teams can quickly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency prior to liftoff.
NASA and SpaceX personnel, including the Kennedy pad rescue team, participated in the exercise. The primary objective was to demonstrate the teams’ ability to safely evacuate crew members from the launch pad during an emergency situation. Teams rehearsed locating injured personnel on the 265-foot-level of the launch tower, loading them into the pad’s slidewire baskets and safely descending the tower, then successfully loading the injured participants into Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles staged at the pad perimeter.
Scheduled for launch no earlier than May 2020, Demo-2 will be the first launch of NASA astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station since the space shuttle era. It also is the final flight test for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft system to be certified for regular flights to the station with crew onboard.
The assembly, test and launch operations team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, making significant strides in preparing the agency’s Mars Perseverance rover for its planned July 2020 launch. Final assembly and testing of the rover continue at Kennedy, including the recent installation of its wheels and parachute.
The rover received its six flight wheels on March 30. The wheels are re-engineered versions of the ones NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has been using on the Red Planet.
Augmented reality, also known as AR, is a powerful tool that engineers are using to enable NASA to send humans to the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program. Lockheed Martin, lead contractor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, is currently using AR to increase efficiency in building the spacecraft for Artemis II, the first crewed mission aboard Orion.
Mary Lakaszcyck, a technician with ASRC Federal Data Solutions, a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin, wears a pair of AR goggles as she places tape in locations where technicians will install parts on Orion’s crew module adapter. The work is taking place in the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The goggle technology provides a unique function for understanding the dynamic work environment of assembling complex hardware, such as a spacecraft that will fly humans to deep space. Instead of interpreting the work procedure from text or models on a 2-D screen, the instructions appear overlaid in 3-dimensional space onto the physical spacecraft while wearing the goggles.
“I honestly cannot express how helpful, time-saving, and fun, the AR goggles are to use,” Lakaszcyck said. “For something we are used to doing in at least a week’s time, or eight to 12 shifts, we were able to complete in one shift.”
Lakaszcyck said looking through the goggles and seeing exactly where to place items on the spacecraft, what orientation to place them, and the reference number that accompanies them, makes the process more efficient than ever.
The goggles are not a passing fad. They are one of the specialized tools in Lockheed Martin’s repertoire used by the processing team to prepare the Orion spacecraft for its flight. The company started using the technology in 2017.
“We used the goggles on manufacturing activities for the Orion that will fly on Artemis I,” said Shelley Peterson, who specializes in augmented and mixed reality with Lockheed Martin. “Augmented reality is helping us push the boundaries to perform activities much more rapidly than with traditional methods.”
Carlos Garcia, NASA crew module adapter assembly, integration and test lead for Orion production operations, is pleased with the time-saving results from using AR technology for click bonds. Click bonds are fasteners that secure the miles of wiring harnesses to the spacecraft structure.
“For the crew module adapter effort, using this technology for locating click bonds for securing harnesses equated to up to a three week savings,” said Garcia.
AR goggle-wearers will place several critical spaceflight components on the Orion hardware, including the crew module and heat shield for Artemis II. They also will use augmented reality work instructions to assemble the crew seats for the spacecraft.
“Across four sites, we use augmented reality to complete spacecraft manufacturing activities in 90% less time than with traditional methods. For example, an activity that normally takes 8 hours could be completed in 45 minutes,” Peterson said. “If we look just at fasteners, one Orion space vehicle has more than 57,000 cable harness fasteners. Saving time per fastener adds up quickly!”
Peterson says using augmented reality work instructions removes almost all of the interpretation, and workers understand the task at hand immediately.
Manufactured by Microsoft, the HoloLens 2 is the second iteration of the goggles used by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed builds the content for the goggles in-house using WorkLink, an augmented reality software platform developed by Scope AR.
“Looking back even four years ago, I never would have pictured myself working hands-on with a spacecraft going into deep space,” Lakaszcyck said. “I’ve worked on three different vehicles, including the current one for Artemis II that will take humans into space. Now that I am a part of the Artemis generation, it is an irreplaceable feeling of not just excitement, but responsibility.”
Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon. Orion will launch on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket to carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. NASA will develop a sustainable presence at the Moon and apply knowledge gained to send astronauts to Mars.