Targeting Aug. 3 for Orbital Flight Test-2 Launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft onboard is seen near the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Photo by NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance now are targeting 1:20 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 3, for launch of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) with the International Space Station ready for the arrival of the Starliner spacecraft. NASA’s live launch coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. Docking is targeted for 1:37 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4.

OFT-2, Boeing’s second uncrewed flight, is designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new system for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Learn more about NASA’s commercial crew program by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

 

Earliest Launch Opportunity for NASA’s Boeing OFT-2 Mission is Aug. 3

Atlas V rocket with Starliner at Pad
On July 29, 2021, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

NASA and Boeing have elected to stand down from Friday’s launch attempt of the agency’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) mission. Currently, the earliest available launch opportunity is 1:20 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 3. The International Space Station team will use the time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos Nauka multipurpose laboratory module (MLM) and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival.

Launch preparations will resume following a final decision from the International Space Station and Commercial Crew Program teams for the next opportunity to send Starliner on its way to complete the OFT-2 mission, which will set the stage for the first Crew Flight Test.

Earlier Thursday, Starliner atop its United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket was moved to its seaside launch pad for standard launch preparations. Teams are assessing moving the vehicle back to its Vehicle Integration Facility to protect it from weather until launch preparations resume. Starliner and Atlas V are in a safe, flight-ready configuration and do not require any near-term servicing.

The Atlas V was assembled throughout July, which included the transfer of Starliner from Boeing’s spacecraft processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Launch Complex 41 for mating atop the rocket.

ELaNa 20 CubeSats Deployed

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system undergoes final preparations on a taxiway at Mojave Air and Space Port ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. Taken in late December 2020. Photo: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system undergoes final preparations on a taxiway at Mojave Air and Space Port ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. Taken in late December 2020. Photo: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.

Today at approximately 3:35 p.m. ET (12:35 p.m. PT), 10 CubeSats began deploying from Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Rocket into low-Earth Orbit as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) 20 mission. Virgin Orbit’s 747-00 carrier, Cosmic Girl, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 1:38 p.m. ET (10:38 a.m. PT) today carrying the LauncherOne Rocket and the 10 small research satellites.

CubeSats are a cornerstone in the development of cutting-edge technologies like laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications, and autonomous movement. The nine CubeSat missions in this launch were developed by the following universities and one NASA center:

  • CACTUS-1 – Capitol Technology University, Laurel, Md.
  • CAPE-3 – University of Louisiana at Lafayette
  • EXOCUBE – California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • MiTEE – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • PICS (two CubeSats) – Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
  • PolarCube – University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Q-PACE – University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla.
  • RadFXSat-2 – Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
  • TechEdSat-7 – NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

CSLI is an initiative created by NASA to attract and retain students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Missions are selected through the CubeSat Launch Initiative and managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Visit our website to learn more and follow us on Twitter at NASA_LSP and Facebook at NASA LSP.

Takeoff! ELaNa 20 Mission on Its Way to Space

Ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission, Virgin Orbit’s carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl is staged on a taxiway with LauncherOne underwing at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. November 10, 2020.
Ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission, Virgin Orbit’s carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl is staged on a taxiway with LauncherOne underwing at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. November 10, 2020. Credit: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.

Marking the first payload carried by the LauncherOne rocket, Virgin Orbit’s 747-00 carrier, Cosmic Girl, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 1:38 p.m. ET today. The LauncherOne rocket, attached to the underside of Cosmic Girl’s left wing, is the carrying CubeSats for the encapsulated Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) 20 mission.

Once the aircraft reaches a specified altitude, the rocket will be released from the wing for a controlled drop over the Pacific Ocean. After dropping, LauncherOne’s NewtonThree first-stage engine will ignite, starting the launch sequence that will send the nine satellite missions into low-Earth orbit.

This is the first time Virgin Orbit has launched NASA payloads. In 2020, Virgin Orbit completed their first launch demo, validating that LauncherOne could be successfully air-launched from the company’s “Cosmic Girl” carrier aircraft.

A low-cost platform for agency missions, CubeSats and other small satellites are beginning to play a larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research, and educational investigations at NASA. Previously only available through pre-existing launch opportunities, dedicated launch opportunities are now available for CubeSats and other small payloads through the contracts managed by NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Services Program (LSP) in Florida.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by tagging these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA,  @NASA_LSP, @Virgin_Orbit

Facebook:  NASA, NASA LSP, Virgin Orbit

Instagram:  @NASA, @virgin.orbit

Launch Window Opens for ELaNa 20 Mission

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system undergoes final preparations on a taxiway at Mojave Air and Space Port ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. Taken in late December 2020. Photo: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system undergoes final preparations on a taxiway at Mojave Air and Space Port ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. Taken in late December 2020. Photo: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl aircraft and LauncherOne rocket are positioned for takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, in preparation to launch 10 small NASA-sponsored research satellites, or CubeSats, as part of the agency’s 20th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission.

Cosmic Girl carries the LauncherOne rocket on the underside of the 747-aircraft’s left wing. When Cosmic Girl reaches its specified altitude over the Pacific Ocean, LauncherOne will be released for a controlled drop until the rocket’s NewtonThree first stage engine ignites to start the launch sequence that will send the satellites into low-Earth orbit. The mission has a three-hour launch window from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT).

Virgin Orbit was one of three companies selected as Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) providers through a contract NASA first awarded in October 2015. This mission, called Launch Demo 2, will be the first time Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket will carry customer payloads. ELaNa missions are managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The 10 CubeSats set to launch on this mission were designed and built by eight different universities in the United States, as well as one NASA center. These include:

  • CACTUS-1 – Capitol Technology University, Laurel, Md.
  • CAPE-3 – University of Louisiana at Lafayette
  • EXOCUBE – California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • MiTEE – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • PICS (two CubeSats) – Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
  • PolarCube – University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Q-PACE – University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla.
  • RadFXSat-2 – Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
  • TechEdSat-7 – NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

NASA selected and sponsored these providers through the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). By offering CubeSat developers a relatively low-cost avenue to conduct science investigations and technology demonstrations in space, NASA gives K-12 schools, universities, and non-profit organizations hands-on flight hardware development experience.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by tagging these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA,  @NASA_LSP, @Virgin_Orbit

Facebook:  NASA, NASA LSP, Virgin Orbit

Instagram:  @NASA, @virgin.orbit

Kennedy Space Center Closed Friday

Kennedy Space Center will remain closed on Friday, Sept. 15.

The center’s damage assessment and recovery team has completed a 90 percent review of the center and continues to recover key systems throughout Kennedy.

Based on the initial analysis provided by the Patrick Air Force Base 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron, wind speeds at the center varied from 67-94 mph (59-82 knots) at the 54-foot level to 90-116 mph (79-101 knots) at the 458-foot level during the storm.

The center currently is without potable water service, which is used for drinking, food preparation and cleaning.

The center and surrounding community remain under a boil water restriction.

The center’s chillers rely on industrial water and are unaffected by the water restriction.  The center will re-open following restoration of full water service.

Hurricane Irma’s Eye Approaches KSC

9:45 p.m. EDT–During today’s 6 o’clock hour, Irma packed sustained winds of 35 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 64 m.p.h. The storm’s eye is forecast to come within 116 miles of KSC, its closest proximity to the center, at 2 a.m. Monday, producing maximum sustained winds of 60 m.p.h. for approximately 3 hours. Gusts as high as 74 m.p.h. are possible. Rainfall of 8 – 12” rain is expected, with 15 to 18” possible in isolated areas. A 1- to 3-foot storm surge remains forecast. Irma is expected to exit our immediate area by mid-day Monday, Sept. 11.

Final decisions from the Damage Assessment and Recovery Team, and the center’s return to work, are expected to be made during a 9 a.m. briefing Monday, Sept. 11.

Advanced Plant Habitat Verification Test Complete

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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Advanced Plant Habitat Readied for Science

Advanced Plant HabitatThe Advanced Plant Habitat Flight Unit No. 1 that will be used for ground testing the agency’s newest plant habitat arrived at Kennedy Space Center on July 17. Over the past couple of weeks, the unit has undergone numerous inspections and checkout procedures and is now undergoing an Experiment Verification Test. This test, started on July 27, will allow the ground team at Kennedy to run through the procedures of the future Plant Habitat 01 Mission, or PH-01, that will grow aboard the International Space Station later this year. Both the test and the actual mission will grow Arabidopsis seeds, which are small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard.

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. Once it is set up, it will be a fully automated facility that will be used to conduct plant bioscience research. The Advanced Plant Habitat 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. The habitat is scheduled to be activated aboard the orbiting laboratory this fall, with PH-01 beginning in late October.

NASA’s 8th Annual Robotic Mining Competition Comes to an End

Team members from Purdue University prepare their robot miner in the RoboPit at NASA's 8th Annual Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
Team members from Purdue University prepare their robot miner in the RoboPit at NASA’s 8th Annual Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

The eighth annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition wrapped up Friday. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students from more than 40 colleges and universities across the nation showed off their excavating prowess during the three-day competition, May 24-26. The teams had to design and build either remote-controlled or autonomous excavator robots that traversed a simulated Martian terrain, scoop up the dirt and return it to a hopper within 10 minutes.

The competition is a NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate project designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM fields by expanding opportunities for student research and design. The project provides a competitive environment to foster innovative ideas and solutions that could potentially be used on NASA’s journey to Mars.

The University of Alabama was this year’s top winner. See the full list of awards

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