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.

Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test Scheduled to Launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this Morning

Ascent Abort-2 will verify Orion’s abort system can pull the crew module away from an emergency during its ascent to space. Photo credit: NASA
Ascent Abort-2 will verify Orion’s abort system can pull the crew module away from an emergency during its ascent to space. Photo credit: NASA TV

The Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, featuring a test version of the crew module, is scheduled to lift off this morning from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Follow on the AA-2 Launch Blog.

The four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast launch activities, starting at 6:40 a.m. Updates also can be found on this blog. A postlaunch briefing is scheduled for approximately two hours after launch. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.

Orion will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.

Update from Everest: Hintze, Gateway Flag Reach Base Camp

Hintze wrote, “The NASA Gateway flag has made it to Everest Basecamp! That’s @OceanDebra, me, Bhalakaji our porter, and Dambar our guide!”
Hintze wrote, “The NASA Gateway flag has made it to Everest Basecamp! That’s @OceanDebra, me, Bhalakaji our porter, and Dambar our guide!”

Dr. Paul Hintze of NASA’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs is trekking Nepal and has reached his final destination: Everest base camp. With him is a NASA flag representing the Kennedy Space Center team supporting the Gateway.

Keep up with Dr. Hintze on Twitter @KSCPaul.

NASA Flag from Kennedy’s Gateway Team en Route to Mount Everest

On the way to Everest Base Camp, the NASA flag made a stop at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where shuttle Endeavour is displayed.
On the way to Everest Base Camp, the NASA flag made a stop at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where shuttle Endeavour is displayed. Photo credit: Paul Hintze

A NASA flag representing the Kennedy Space Center team supporting the Gateway—the agency’s “base camp” for the Moon—is on its way to the base camp for one of the most challenging exploration destinations on Earth: Mount Everest.

Hintze with Kanccha Sherpa and NASA flag
Hintze wrote, “This is me with Kanchha Sherpa. He is the last surviving member of the team that enabled Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary to reach the summit of Everest. He pointed to a picture Hillary and Norgay and said he carried the oxygen bottles they were using.”

Gateway is a lunar outpost that will enable the first woman and next man to set foot on the Moon in 2024. Mark Wiese, Gateway Logistics Element manager at Kennedy, is assembling the team that will provide logistics to the Gateway.

One of those team members, Dr. Paul Hintze of Exploration Research and Technology Programs, is in Kathmandu, Nepal. The flag, signed by Kennedy’s Gateway team members, is among the supplies he’s carrying on his journey. After leaving Florida, Hintze made a stop at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where he took out the flag for a photo op with shuttle Endeavour, on display at the museum. Next stop: Nepal.

Hintze with flag in Kathmandu
Hintze wrote, “In Kathmandu and our Gateway flag has its first Nepali signatures! Snow Leopard Trek is providing logistics for our two passes trek to EBC. That’s our guide, Dambar, on the right.”

According to Wiese, complex exploration campaigns require planning, professionals that know the route, and detailed staging of supplies in order to create a base camp from which the final leg of the trip can be carefully monitored and initiated… not unlike the logistical needs of an Everest adventure.

To keep up with Dr. Hintze, follow him on Twitter @KSCPaul.

SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon Launch on Resupply Mission to International Space Station

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft on the company's 17th mission to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station
Image credit: NASA TV

Dragon successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:48 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying more than 5,500 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the International Space Station.

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

SpaceX CRS-17 Launch Updates

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule await liftoff on CRS-17
Image credit: NASA TV

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft stand ready for a second launch attempt today on the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Liftoff is targeted for 2:48 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with an instantaneous launch window. Join us on NASA’s launch blog and on NASA Television beginning at 2:30 a.m. for updates from the countdown.

Crawler-Transporter 2 Gets Engine Maintenance in Preps for Exploration Mission-1

Pat Brown, left, and William Vardaman, mechanical technicians with the Jacobs contracting team, perform engine maintenance on NASA's crawler-transporter 2 on March 26, 2019.
Pat Brown, left, and William Vardaman, mechanical technicians with the Jacobs contracting team, perform engine maintenance on NASA’s crawler-transporter 2 on March 26, 2019.

Even the toughest vehicles need regular maintenance to function at their best. Recently, William Vardaman and Pat Brown, both working under the Jacobs contracting team, performed engine maintenance on NASA’s crawler-transporter 2 in the crawler yard located in the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39 area in Florida.

Vardaman, a mechanical technician with the Jacobs contracting team, performs engine maintenance on NASA's crawler-transporter 2 on March 26, 2019.The massive, tracked vehicles are powered by large electrical power engines and two 16-cylinder American Locomotive Company (ALCO) engines. Vardaman and Brown, both mechanical technicians supporting the agency’s Test and Operations Support Contract, spent several days rebuilding the vehicle’s fuel pump assemblies on both ALCO engines. They also installed new oil pumps that will lubricate the ALCOs from the top down before they’re started, minimizing future wear.

This is one of two crawler-transporters that carried rockets and spacecraft, including the Apollo/Saturn V and space shuttle, from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad. Now, they’re getting ready for NASA’s accelerated return to the Moon.

Crawler-transporter 2 has been modified and upgraded to carry the mobile launcher and NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, topped by the Orion spacecraft, for Exploration Mission-1, which will launch in 2020. The agency’s Exploration Ground Systems oversaw extensive upgrades to crawler-transporter 2, including new generators, gear assemblies, roller bearings and brakes, as well as the hydraulic jacking, equalization and leveling (JEL) cylinders that keep its carrying surface level.

Last fall, crawler-transporter 2 carried the newly completed mobile launcher from its construction site north of the VAB, out to Launch Pad 39B, then into the VAB, where the mobile launcher continues extensive testing. The crawler is gearing up for another move of the mobile launcher back to the pad later this spring for more testing.

Learn more about the crawlers at https://www.nasa.gov/content/the-crawlers

Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Now Open: New Headquarters Building at Kennedy Space Center

The new, seven-story headquarters building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

A brand-new headquarters building boasting several sustainable features has opened for use at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The newly constructed facility anchors the multi-user spaceport’s Central Campus.

The facility has earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold designation. It has LED lighting throughout, along with occupancy sensors to turn off unneeded lights; windows, screens and shades designed to maximize natural light; chilled beam HVAC technology reducing the need for ductwork; and more. Outside, the parking lot has dual electric vehicle charging stations and Florida native plants.

More than 500 civil service and contractor employees will be based in the 200,000-square-foot building, including shared services such as printing, reprographics and the center’s post office. Several center organizations have recently moved in, and more will follow during the coming months.

Demo-1 Concludes With Crew Dragon Splashdown

The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast, returning from the uncrewed Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station and the company’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The mission, known as Demo-1, is a critical step for NASA and SpaceX to demonstrate the ability to safely fly missions with NASA astronauts to the orbital laboratory.

The Crew Dragon launched March 2 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station and autonomously dock to the station. To complete the docking, both the station and Crew Dragon’s adapters used the new international docking standard.

Crew Dragon is returning to Earth some critical research samples from science investigations conducted to enable human exploration farther into space and develop and demonstrate in the U.S. ISS National Laboratory new technologies, treatments, and products for improving life on Earth.

Also traveling aboard the spacecraft is an anthropomorphic test device named Ripley outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in Crew Dragon.

SpaceX’s recovery ship, Go Searcher, is equipped with a crane to lift Crew Dragon out of the water and onto the main deck of the ship within an hour after splashdown.

NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to review the systems and flight data to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts. Already planned upgrades, additional qualification testing, and an in-flight abort test will occur before NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will climb aboard for Demo-2, the crewed flight test to the International Space Station that is necessary to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

Demo-1 Underway: Crew Dragon Launches on Debut Flight

Image credit: NASA TV

The Demo-1 uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station, SpaceX’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, is underway following the successful launch Saturday morning of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. The first-of-its-kind mission, planned to be a full demonstration of the spacecraft and its systems, launched on time at 2:49 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in

In addition to 400 pounds of supplies and equipment, Crew Dragon is carrying Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device outfitted with sensors to gather important data about what an astronaut flying aboard the spacecraft would experience throughout the mission.

Crew Dragon will carry out a series of phasing maneuvers as it pursues the space station during approach. The spacecraft is scheduled to autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory tomorrow morning, March 3, at about 6 a.m. EST, and remain docked until approximately 2:30 a.m. on Friday, March 8. Crew Dragon is expected to return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m., a little more than six hours after departing the space station.