NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 7:49 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 14, for the launch of the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
Managers of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will hold a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 28, to discuss the upcoming launch, including results from recent testing of the Falcon 9 Merlin engines following unexpected data SpaceX noted during a recent non-NASA launch. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website.
The first commercially funded airlock for the International Space Station is ready for its journey to space. On Saturday, Oct. 10, teams moved the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock to SpaceX’s processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two days later, it was packed in the Dragon spacecraft’s trunk for its ride to the orbiting laboratory.
The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, and also will serve as an outside toolbox for crew members conducting spacewalks.
The Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission to the space station. This will be the first flight of SpaceX’s upgraded cargo version of Dragon, which can carry more science payloads to and from the space station.
The pressurized capsule will carry a variety of research including studies on the effects of microgravity on cardiovascular cells, how space conditions affect the interaction between microbes and minerals, and a technology demonstration of a blood analysis tool in space. CRS-21 is scheduled to launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Teams are targeting late November or early December for liftoff.
Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station is now targeted for no sooner than early-to-mid November, providing additional time for SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt. Through the agency’s Commercial Crew and Launch Services Programs partnership with SpaceX, NASA has full insight into the company’s launch and testing data.
“We have a strong working relationship with our SpaceX partner,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “With the high cadence of missions SpaceX performs, it really gives us incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions. The teams are actively working this finding on the engines, and we should be a lot smarter within the coming week.”
Additional upcoming NASA missions rely on the Falcon 9 for launch. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch still is targeted for Tuesday, Nov. 10, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and NASA’s SpaceX CRS-21, is targeted for launch in late November or early December, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA and SpaceX will use the data from the company’s hardware testing and reviews to ensure these critical missions are carried out with the highest level of safety.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will launch NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience by the Crew-1 astronauts, was secured to its unpressurized trunk on Friday, Oct. 2, at the company’s processing facility on Cape Canaveral.
After launch, Crew Dragon will perform a series of maneuvers culminating with rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station. That milestone will mark the Crew-1 astronauts’ integration with the Expedition 64 astronauts Kate Rubins, as well as Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
During their stay on the orbiting laboratory, astronauts of Crew-1 will see a range of unpiloted spacecraft including the Northrop Grumman Cygnus, the next generation of SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft, and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner on its uncrewed flight test to the station. They also will conduct a variety of spacewalks and welcome crews of the Russian Soyuz vehicle and the next SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2021.
At the conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the four astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. After splashdown just off Florida’s coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by a SpaceX recovery vessel and will be brought to shore to board a plane for return to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The Crew-1 mission is a major step for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Operational, long duration commercial crew rotation missions will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station. Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and to the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.
The safety and security of the world-class workforce and unique facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is critical to the agency’s missions. This week, Kennedy took delivery of two new, state-of-the-art helicopters to upgrade the center’s fleet and provide improved capabilities to protect the spaceport from the air.
The two Airbus H135 (T3) helicopters arrived at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility runway on Sept. 30, after traveling from the company’s helicopter production center near Columbus, Mississippi.
Kennedy’s Flight Operations team maintains three security helicopters in its fleet and is in the process of replacing its trio of Bell Huey 2 aircraft. These new aircraft provide several technological and safety advancements, including a twin-engine system that provides a backup in the event of the loss of one engine, as well as more lifting power and expanded medical capabilities, such as better patient transportation and additional equipment and personnel in the event of a medical evacuation. It also offers increased stability when hovering at any altitude, which aids in aerial photography and other observation efforts.
The helicopters serve a variety of important uses at Kennedy. The center’s security forces use the aircraft to patrol the sky and provide protection from above during launch operations, ensuring the area is clear. Additionally, Kennedy’s environmental experts benefit from the ability to monitor wildlife and view and access difficult-to-reach locations across the 144,000-acre spaceport, which shares boundaries with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The team expects to be fully transitioned to flying these first two new helicopters later this year. A third new H135 is expected to arrive at the spaceport in early 2021, completing the fleet’s upgrade.
A versatile instrument designed to help analyze the chemical makeup of lunar landing sites and study water on the Moon as part of the Artemis program has completed an important step in its final assembly.
Teams working on the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations, or MSolo, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida installed the radiator – a critical component that will keep the instrument’s temperature stable in the extreme heat and cold it will encounter on the Moon.
MSolo is a commercial off-the-shelf mass spectrometer modified to work in space. NASA will use MSolo to identify molecules on the surface of the Moon. Multiple MSolo instruments are destined for the Moon via the help of NASA’s commercial partners, landing scientific instruments and technology demonstrations on the lunar surface as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
NASA has scheduled MSolo instruments to launch on future robotic missions starting in 2021 at Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the Moon. MSolo is a key component of the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment, or PRIME-1, instrument suite that will use a drill to harvest ice just below the lunar surface in 2022. Later, the technology will be one of three instruments on board NASA’s water-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, VIPER, scheduled to launch to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023.
On VIPER, the MSolo instrument will help evaluate subsurface soil cuttings brought up by a 3-foot drill in search of water ice and other volatiles that future missions could use as resources. The mission will create the most detailed view of the Moon’s water to date – helping to pave the way for the lunar surface missions with crew beginning in 2024.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, secured inside a shipping container, arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday, Sept. 24, aboard an Antonov cargo aircraft. It was offloaded from the aircraft and moved to the SpaceX Payload Processing Facility for checkout and preflight processing.
The mission is an international partnership and the first launch of a constellation of two satellites that will observe changes in Earth’s sea levels for at least the next decade. Launching atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is targeted to lift off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4 on Nov. 10, 2020.