ICON Launch Targeted for Oct. 10

Technicians extend the solar array on NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) during a deployment test inside Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 10, 2019.
Technicians extend the solar array on NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) during a deployment test inside Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 10, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

NASA and Northrop Grumman currently are preparing the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON spacecraft, and the Pegasus XL rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for ferry to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida by the L-1011 Stargazer aircraft on Oct. 1, 2019. The launch has been rescheduled to Oct. 10, 2019, following the completion of a joint NASA/Northrop Grumman investigation into a Pegasus sensor reading that was not within normal limits during previous ferry and launch attempt flights. The cause of the issue is understood, and the flight hardware has been modified to address the issue. Two L-1011 flights with Pegasus were conducted to verify the effectiveness of the modification with no issues. Functional tests are being performed on NASA’s ICON spacecraft, which utilizes Northrop Grumman’s LEOStar-2 platform, to ensure that the ICON spacecraft is ready for the upcoming integration activity, ferry flight and launch. As always, mission success for Pegasus and ICON is the top priority.

Kennedy Space Center and Visitor Complex Reopen After Hurricane Dorian

An aerial survey of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida was conducted after Hurricane Dorian skirted the Space Coast area.
An aerial survey of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida was conducted after Hurricane Dorian skirted the Space Coast area. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The workforce is returning to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a close brush with Hurricane Dorian earlier in the week. After the storm passed to the east of the spaceport overnight between Tuesday, Sept. 3, and Wednesday, Sept. 4, Kennedy’s Damage Assessment and Recovery Team checked out the center’s facilities and infrastructure. Officials determined the center received some isolated damage and limited water intrusion, along with some beach erosion, although the storm surge was less than expected.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also reopens today, Friday, Sept. 6.

Kennedy Space Center Prepares for Approach of Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian, right, as viewed from the GOES-East satellite on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019.
Hurricane Dorian, right, as viewed from the GOES-East satellite on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/GOES-East

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida continues to monitor the approach of Hurricane Dorian. The storm is expected to make its closest approach to the Kennedy/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station area early next week. Essential personnel are making their final preparations to secure center facilities and infrastructure.

Once the storm has passed, the center’s Damage Assessment and Recovery Team will check out spaceport facilities and infrastructure. After that assessment, the center will make plans to reopen once officials determine employees can safely return.

Kennedy Monitoring Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian, right, as viewed from the GOES-East satellite on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.
Hurricane Dorian, right, as viewed from the GOES-East satellite on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/GOES-East

As Hurricane Dorian continues its trek toward the southeastern U.S., Kennedy Space Center has entered HURCON IV status, kicking off hurricane preparedness activities at the spaceport.

What impacts could be expected from Dorian? Visit .

Northrop Grumman Becomes First Commercial Partner to Use VAB

A model of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA launch vehicle is flanked by the U.S. flag and a flag bearing the OmegA logo during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 16 in High Bay 2 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

After spending more than 50 years supporting NASA’s human spaceflight programs, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a landmark at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is getting its first commercial tenant.

Northrop Grumman will assemble and test its new OmegA rocket inside the massive facility’s High Bay 2, one of four high bays in the building. Officials with NASA, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force gathered in High Bay 2 on Aug. 16 to celebrate the partnership with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by legislative representatives and spaceport employees.

From left to right, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Northrop Grumman Vice President and OmegA Capture Lead Kent Rominger, and Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, cut the ribbon in High Bay 2.

The company also is modifying mobile launcher platform-3 (MLP-3) to serve as the launch vehicle’s assembly and launch platform. Both the VAB and MLP-3 were originally built for the Apollo Program and went on to enable the three-decade Space Shuttle Program. The VAB also will be the assembly site for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, which will carry the Orion spacecraft on Artemis missions to the Moon.

“With OmegA, we truly are standing on the shoulders of the giants of space history,” said Kent Rominger, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and capture lead for the OmegA launch system, as well as a veteran of five space shuttle flights. “This event marks that partnership with [Kennedy] at this phenomenal spaceport.”

Northrop Grumman signed a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA for use of the facilities. The company is developing the OmegA rocket, an intermediate/heavy-class launch vehicle, as a part of a launch services agreement with the U.S. Air Force.

A model of the Northrop Grumman OmegA rocket, an intermediate/heavy-class launch vehicle, stands in High Bay 2.

Kennedy has transformed from a government-only space launch complex to the nation’s premier multi-user spaceport. Today, the space center has more than 90 active agreements with private-sector partners, sharing its array of unique facilities and resources through partnerships with government and commercial organizations.

This latest agreement brings Northrop Grumman into the fold.

“We have a great partnership with Northrop Grumman; we have a great partnership with all our partners,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “It’s a great pleasure to be able to be here today and cut the ribbon after signing this historic agreement to utilize this awesome facility to support our nation’s space program.”

The addition of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket to the stable of vehicles processed and launched from the spaceport continues a long legacy that defines the local community.

“This whole area has been home to innovation and the drive to be bolder,” said Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. “These efforts, government and contractor, have fueled the economies and the imagination and, really, the spirit of this community that we like to call the Space Coast.”

Liftoff: SpaceX Dragon en Route to Space Station

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the company's 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 25, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

At 6:01 p.m. EDT on July 25, 2019, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission.

Due to arrive at the International Space Station on July 27, the Dragon spacecraft contains multiple supplies, equipment and material critical for supporting science and research investigations at the space station.

CRS-18 Launch Scrubbed Due to Weather

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station – scheduled for this evening – has scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Launch is now scheduled for Thursday, July 25, at 6:01 p.m. EDT. Launch coverage will begin at 5:45 p.m. on NASA TV and the agency’s website. A launch on Thursday would result in the Dragon spacecraft arriving to the space station Saturday, July 27.

SpaceX CRS-18: Launch Countdown Milestones for July 24 Liftoff

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA is scheduled for 6:24 p.m. EDT with an instantaneous launch window. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been moved to the vertical launch position. Launch coverage will begin at 6 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s launch blog.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict a 30% chance of favorable weather for liftoff. The primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule, lightning rule and attached anvil rule.

Packed with more than 5,000 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, the Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Mission Timeline (all times approximate)
COUNTDOWN
– 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
– 00:07:58     Dragon transitions to internal power
– 00:07:00     Falcon 9 begins pre-launch engine chill
– 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

SpaceX CRS-18 Launch Now Targeted for Wednesday, July 24

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 6:24 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 24, for the company’s 18th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrive at the space station on Friday, July 26, filled with about 5,500 pounds of science, cargo and crew supplies for the microgravity laboratory.

Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test a Success

A fully functional Launch Abort System (LAS), with a test version of Orion attached, launches on NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 atop a Northrop Grumman-provided booster on July 2, 2019, at 7 a.m. EDT, from Launch Pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
A fully functional Launch Abort System (LAS), with a test version of Orion attached, launches on NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 atop a Northrop Grumman-provided booster on July 2, 2019, at 7 a.m. EDT, from Launch Pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Kevin O’Connell

NASA successfully demonstrated the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system can outrun a speeding rocket and pull astronauts to safety during an emergency during launch. During the approximately three-minute test, called Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a modified Peacekeeper missile procured through the U.S. Air Force and built by Northrop Grumman.

The Orion test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of about six miles, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent. The abort sequence triggered and, within milliseconds, the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket. Its attitude control motor flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

A team is collecting the 12 data recorders that were ejected during the test capsule’s descent. Analysis of the information will provide insight into the abort system’s performance.

A postlaunch briefing will be held approximately two hours after launch reviewing initial insights from the test data. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.

The test is another milestone in the agency’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon that will lead to astronaut missions to Mars.