SpaceX Crew Dragon Splashes Down After In-Flight Abort Test

In this image captured from NASA TV, the SpaceX Crew Dragon descends toward the Atlantic Ocean under parachutes during a test of the spacecraft's launch escape capabilities.
In this image captured from NASA TV, the SpaceX Crew Dragon descends toward the Atlantic Ocean under parachutes during a test of the spacecraft’s launch escape capabilities. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down offshore in the Atlantic Ocean at 10:39 a.m. EST after a launch on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft launch from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A at the start of the test.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A at the start of the test. Image credit: NASA TV

Teams of personnel from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Operations Groups Detachment-3 out of Patrick Air Force Base will recover the spacecraft for return to SpaceX facilities in Florida, and a dedicated team will begin the recovery effort of the Falcon 9, which broke apart as planned.

 

NASA Prepares for Deep Space Exploration by Growing Tomato Plants from Irradiated Seeds

Lashelle Spencer, plant scientist with the Laboratory Support Services and Operations (LASSO) contract at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, takes measurements on ‘Red Robin’ dwarf tomato plants, Jan. 10, 2019, inside a laboratory in the spaceport’s Space Station Processing Facility.
Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Lashelle Spencer, plant scientist with the Laboratory Support Services and Operations (LASSO) contract at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, takes measurements on ‘Red Robin’ dwarf tomato plants on Jan. 10, 2019, inside the Plant Processing Area in the spaceport’s Space Station Processing Facility.

The tomatoes are growing from seeds that have been exposed to simulated solar particle radiation. The plants’ edible mass and nutrients will be measured and compared to those of control plants, grown from non-irradiated seeds.

The project was designed to confirm that nutritious, high-quality produce can be reliably grown in deep space, or to provide a baseline to guide development of countermeasures to protect future crop foods from radiation during missions beyond low-Earth orbit. The investigation on space radiation impact on seeds and crop production also will be carried on the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) platform outside the station, supported NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Space Biology Program, and potentially on future beyond-low-Earth-orbit platforms.

Atlas V Rocket to Launch New Sun Mission Takes Shape at Cape Canaveral

The booster of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is lifted into the vertical position at the Vertical Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Jan. 6, 2020.
The booster of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is lifted into the vertical position at the Vertical Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Jan. 6, 2020. Photo credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The booster of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is lifted into the vertical position at the Vertical Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Jan. 6, 2020.The rocket that will launch a new spacecraft to study the Sun is beginning to take shape at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first-stage booster for the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is “on stand,” meaning it has been raised to a vertical position inside the complex’s Vertical Integration Facility. In the coming days, the one solid rocket booster needed for the mission will be added to the booster, followed by the single-engine Centaur upper stage.

Solar Orbiter is an international cooperative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA. The mission aims to study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar wind. The spacecraft will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is managing the launch. Liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2020.

NASA, Boeing Complete Successful Landing of Starliner Flight Test

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands in White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands in White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. The landing completes an abbreviated Orbital Flight Test for the company that still meets several mission objectives for NASA’s Commercial Crew program. The Starliner spacecraft launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 6:36 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed the first land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history Sunday at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, wrapping up the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Starliner settled gently onto its airbags at 7:58 a.m. EST (5:58 a.m. MST) in a pre-dawn landing that helps set the stage for future crewed landings at the same site. The landing followed a deorbit burn at 7:23 a.m., separation of the spacecraft’s service module, and successful deployment of its three main parachutes and six airbags.

More details: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-boeing-complete-successful-landing-of-starliner-flight-test

Boeing Starliner Update

Despite launching successfully at 6:36 a.m. EST Friday on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is not in its planned orbit. The spacecraft currently is in a stable configuration while flight controllers are troubleshooting.

Atlas V Fueled in Dress Rehearsal for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing's Orbital Flight Test.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is poised atop a fueled United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s (CCAFS) Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida for the program’s first ever Integrated Day of Launch Test, or IDOLT. Today’s rehearsal is practice for Boeing’s upcoming uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) to the International Space Station. The rocket’s booster has been filled with liquid oxygen and a form of rocket-grade kerosene called RP-1, and its Centaur upper stage loaded with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for today’s full run-through of the launch countdown.

Boeing, ULA and NASA teams are participating from several locations, including the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) at CCAFS; Boeing’s Mission Control Center (BMCC) at nearby Kennedy Space Center; and the flight control room supporting Starliner missions inside the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, slated to fly to the station on Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, monitored the rehearsal from consoles in the ASOC and BMCC.

Although OFT is uncrewed, rehearsals like today’s are standard for human spaceflight missions and similar rehearsals were a regular part of space shuttle missions. They provide a final opportunity for all teams to work through dynamic launch preparations in real time.

The Atlas V rocket will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA is working with its commercial partners to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

Solar Orbiter Spacecraft Unboxed; Atlas V Launch Vehicle Arrives

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft has been removed from its shipping container inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida.
The Solar Orbiter spacecraft has been removed from its shipping container inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster that will launch the Solar Orbiter on its upcoming mission to study the Sun has arrived at the Florida spaceport, while the spacecraft is beginning launch preparations of its own.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is delivered by truck to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is delivered by truck to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The company’s cargo vessel, Rocketship – formerly known as Mariner – delivered the Atlas V first stage and Centaur upper stage to Port Canaveral on Nov. 20, 2019, after traveling from the booster’s manufacturing facility at Decatur, Alabama. Upon arrival at the port, the launch hardware was trucked to separate facilities at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station: the booster to ULA’s Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) and the Centaur to a separate facility. Both stages will undergo preflight checkouts before the components are stacked for launch at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility closer to liftoff.

Meanwhile, the Solar Orbiter spacecraft has been removed from its shipping container for the start of its own prelaunch preparations at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility in Titusville, Florida. The spacecraft was uncrated Nov. 15 and rotated to vertical on Nov. 18, paving the way for upcoming processing and checkouts, including tests of the spacecraft and its suite of science instruments, as well as its propellant pressurization system.

Solar Orbiter is a European Space Agency mission with strong NASA participation. The mission aims to study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar winds. The spacecraft will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch. Liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 aboard the ULA Atlas V launch vehicle.

Solar Orbiter Arrives at Kennedy from Europe

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is placed on a truck for transportation from the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville on Nov. 1, 2019.
The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is placed on a truck for transportation from the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville on Nov. 1, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrived at the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly known as the Shuttle Landing Facility, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard an Antonov cargo plane from Munich, Germany, on Nov. 1. Upon arrival at the Florida spaceport, the spacecraft was offloaded and transported to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville, where it will spend the next few months undergoing final preparations, tests and checkouts for liftoff.

Solar Orbiter is an ESA mission that will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar winds. Using high spatial resolution telescopes, the spacecraft will observe the Sun’s atmosphere up close and compare these observations with measurements taken around the spacecraft. Due to its unique orbit, Solar Orbiter will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

Although developed independently, ESA’s Solar Orbiter and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which launched Aug. 12, 2018, are natural teammates. Solar Orbiter’s comprehensive science instruments and unique orbit will help scientists place NASA’s Parker Solar Probe’s measurements in context. By working together in this way, the two spacecraft will collect complementary data sets allowing more science to be gathered from the two missions than either could manage on its own.

The spacecraft’s mission to the Sun is planned for launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-411 rocket from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 5, 2020, at 11:15 p.m. EST.

Core Stage Pathfinder Departs Kennedy

Backdropped by clouds lit by sunrise, NASA’s Pegasus barge departs the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf.
Backdropped by clouds lit with sunrise, NASA’s Pegasus barge departs the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf. Photo credit: Cory Huston

NASA’s Pegasus barge, with the 212-foot-long Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage pathfinder secured inside, departed the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 31, 2019.

The 212-foot-long Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage pathfinder is moved inside the Pegasus barge on Oct. 28, 2019, in preparation for departure.
The 212-foot-long Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage pathfinder is moved inside the Pegasus barge on Oct. 28, 2019, in preparation for departure. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The pathfinder is a full-scale mock-up of the rocket’s core stage. It was used by the Exploration Ground Systems Program and its contractor, Jacobs, to practice offloading, moving and stacking maneuvers inside the Vehicle Assembly Building using ground support equipment to train employees and certify all the equipment works properly. The pathfinder was at Kennedy for about a month.

The barge is carrying the pathfinder back to the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.