NASA and SpaceX Prepare to Launch Planet-hunting Spacecraft

The payload fairing for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is being moved to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Inside the facility, TESS will be encapsulated in the payload fairing.
The payload fairing for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is being moved to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Inside the facility, TESS will be encapsulated in the payload fairing. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is making strides toward its upcoming liftoff. The planet-hunting spacecraft is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 on Monday, April 16, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.  Inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, the TESS spacecraft was sealed within the Falcon 9 payload fairing in preparation for its move to the launch pad.

The satellite is the next step in NASA’s search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Space Telescope Science Institute. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission. NASA’s Launch Services Program is responsible for launch management.

Successful Liftoff for SpaceX Falcon 9

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft lifts off on the company's 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft launches on the company’s 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Dan Casper

Dragon successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 4:30 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Follow NASA’s Launch Blog and NASA Television during the early portions of flight.

SpaceX CRS-14 Countdown in Progress

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Launch Complex 40
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft await liftoff on the company’s 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA TV

A Dragon spacecraft is poised for liftoff atop a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40. The launch vehicle will boost the resupply capsule on its 14th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Dragon will deliver supplies and equipment supporting numerous science investigations for the crew working aboard the orbiting laboratory. Liftoff is scheduled for today at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

Be sure to follow NASA’s Launch Blog during the last stages of the countdown and early portions of flight. You also may follow the countdown on NASA Television.

Spaceport Employees Participate in Annual Run

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, center, is joined by a large group of center employees and guests as they participate in the KSC Walk Run on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway.
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, center, is joined by a large group of center employees and guests as they participate in the KSC Walk Run on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway. Photo credit: NASA/Fred Benavidez

Led by Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, spaceport employees took part in an annual tradition Tuesday, March 13: the KSC Walk Run. It’s NASA’s version of the community fun run, but the race course – the Shuttle Landing Facility – is one of a kind.

Runners may choose between 10K, 5K and 2-mile options and take off down the runway alongside their colleagues in the spirit of friendly competition.

Open only to badged spaceport employees and their guests, the KSC Walk Run is a part of Safety and Health Days, a week-long event dedicated to fostering a culture of safety and wellness both at work and at home. A safe workplace and healthy workforce are key ingredients to successful missions.

Aircraft Mishap Exercise Validates Procedures for Kennedy’s First Responders

An Aircraft Mishap Preparedness and Contingency Plan is underway at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The center's Flight Operations rehearsed a helicopter crash-landing to test new and updated emergency procedures. The operation was designed to validate several updated techniques the center's first responders would follow, should they ever need to rescue a crew in case of a real accident. The mishap exercise took place at the center's Shuttle Landing Facility.
An Aircraft Mishap Preparedness and Contingency Plan is underway at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The center’s Flight Operations rehearsed a helicopter crash-landing to test new and updated emergency procedures. The operation was designed to validate several updated techniques the center’s first responders would follow, should they ever need to rescue a crew in case of a real accident. The mishap exercise took place at the center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Flight Operations rehearsed a helicopter crash-landing to test new and updated emergency procedures on February 14.

Called the Aircraft Mishap Preparedness and Contingency Plan, the operation was designed to validate several updated techniques the center’s first responders would follow should they need to rescue a crew in case of a real accident.

Personnel from NASA’s fire, security and emergency management were joined by team members from center Safety and Mission Assurance departments and Space Florida, the state agency that operates the Shuttle Landing Facility for NASA, to participate in the simulation and communication tests.

The drill began with a distress call from the helicopter “crash site,” near the northwest end of the Shuttle Landing Facility runway to the facility’s control tower. The pilot, still inside the aircraft, was injured and his colleague unconscious.

The exercise was performed to gauge reaction times and identify and correct possible deficiencies in coordination and communications.

The operation concluded with the successful recovery of both pilots from the crash simulation area. The helicopter was left at the site to allow additional training for mishap investigators.

NOAA’s GOES-S Satellite Awaits Launch

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NOAA’s GOES-S satellite waits for liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NOAA’s GOES-S satellite waits for liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

NOAA’s GOES-S satellite is scheduled to launch today at 5:02 p.m. EST. aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Live launch coverage will begin at 4:30 p.m. on NASA TV and NASA’s GOES-S Launch Blog.

NASA Women Introduce Girls to the Wide World of Engineering

The laptop computer in the foreground displays Rachel Power, left, of NASA’s Digital Expansion to Engage the Public (DEEP) Network; Bethanne’ Hull, center, of NASA Outreach; and NASA engineer Krista Shaffer inside Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building during Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.
The laptop computer in the foreground displays Rachel Power, left, of NASA’s Digital Expansion to Engage the Public (DEEP) Network; Bethanne’ Hull, center, of NASA Outreach; and NASA engineer Krista Shaffer inside Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building during Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

In celebration of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, thousands of students from throughout the nation participated in a virtual gathering that featured several female NASA scientists and technical experts.

The event was anchored at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but hosted in “classrooms” on the agency’s Digital Expansion to Engage the Public (DEEP) network, allowing students to speak with and ask questions of women working on the leading edge of science and technology. Among the NASA experts making presentations were Janet Petro, Kennedy’s deputy director; Dr. Gioia Massa, life science project scientist for the Vegetable Production System (Veggie); and Janet Gobaira, Kennedy flight systems engineer, who also engaged with Spanish-speaking students.

“NASA recognizes the need to empower women and to utilize the full range of talented students across our country that will someday enter the workforce,” Petro said.

“Women are already making huge contributions to STEM fields. Through this event, we are hoping to introduce students to just a few of the women at NASA who are making contributions and provide a behind the scenes glimpse of what it is like to be a woman working in STEM field.”

Held Feb. 22, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day was a part of National Engineers Week (Feb. 18-24) and coincided with the worldwide celebration of Girl Day.

Atlas V Booster, Centaur Arrive for GOES-S

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster and Centaur stage for NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) are offloaded from the Mariner transport ship at the Army Wharf at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster and Centaur stage for NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) are offloaded from the Mariner transport ship at the Army Wharf at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster for NOAA's GOES-S mission arrives at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster for NOAA’s GOES-S mission arrives at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster and Centaur stage for NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) arrived this week at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Mariner transport ship delivered the components to the Army Wharf at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Atlas V booster was moved to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center near Space Launch Complex 41; the Centaur was taken to the Delta Operations Center.

GOES-S is the second in a series of four advanced geostationary weather satellites. The satellite is slated to launch aboard the Atlas V rocket March 1.

Commercial Crew 2018 Preview

Combined image with Boeing Starliner in production on the left, and SpaceX Falcon 9 build on the rightNASA and industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are targeting the return of human spaceflight from Florida’s Space Coast in 2018. Both companies are scheduled to begin flight tests to prove the space systems meet NASA’s requirements for certification in the coming year.

Since NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX, the companies have matured space system designs and now have substantial spacecraft and launch vehicle hardware in development and testing in preparation for the test flights. The goal of the Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station from the United States through a public-private approach. NASA, Boeing and SpaceX have significant testing underway, which will ultimately lead to test missions when the systems are ready and meet safety requirements.

Boeing’s Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will launch on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A.

After completion of each company’s uncrewed and crewed flight tests, NASA will review the flight data to verify the systems meet the requirements for certification. Upon NASA certification, the companies are each slated to fly six crew missions to the International Space Station beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2024.

Here’s a look at (some of) what’s ahead in 2018:

Boeing

Spacecraft: In 2018, Boeing will continue with the production and outfitting of three crew modules and multiple service modules inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing already has a structural version of its spacecraft going through loads, shock and separation test events in Huntington Beach, California. It will conduct a series of service module hot-fire tests in White Sands, New Mexico, as well as environmental testing to include thermal, vacuum and electromagnetic frequency in El Segundo, California.

Spacesuit: Boeing’s spacesuit will continue to undergo integrated system verification tests. These include environmental control and life support system testing, immersing the suit in water, egress demos with the aid of virtual reality, suited launch and landing cabin operations, prelaunch emergency exit with ground crews, ascent simulations with mission operations teams and post-landing egress.

SpaceX

Spacecraft: SpaceX is making significant progress on the six Crew Dragon spacecraft that the company currently has in various stages of production and testing. SpaceX’s structural qualification module has undergone extensive testing, which is scheduled to be complete in the first half of 2018. The company will continue ongoing hardware and software testing on its Environment Control and Life Support System, or ECLSS, module, through early 2018. The crew module that will be used to support SpaceX’s upcoming Demonstration Mission 1 has had its critical onboard avionics powered up and has completed integration of the module’s pressure section and service section’s structural components with preparations ongoing for its flight in 2018. Progress continues on SpaceX’s spacecraft for Demonstration Mission 2 and both of the company’s initial crew rotation missions.

Spacesuit: SpaceX will continue ongoing qualification and validation testing on its advanced spacesuits next year, including NASA’s four CCP flight test astronauts for a variety of the assessments, including suit-fit, reach and visibility assessments, and pressure tests. The company is in the process of manufacturing custom suits for each of the four astronauts, which will ensure a proper fit and comfortable ride to and from the International Space Station in the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Read the full feature here:
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-commercial-crew-program-mission-in-sight-for-2018

Commercial Crew Program 2017 Year in Review

In this composite image, at left, an astronaut wears the SpaceX spacesuit design. At right, an astronaut wears the Boeing spacesuit design.
Left: SpaceX unveiled the first look at its new spacesuit design that astronauts flying to and from the International Space Station will wear inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Right: Boeing unveiled the company’s new, blue spacesuit astronauts will wear while aboard the Starliner spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, made significant strides in 2017 to return human spaceflight to the United States. Each company continued to develop and test unique space systems to fly astronauts for the agency to and from the International Space Station. Both companies are targeting flight tests in 2018.

Here’s the 2017 year in review:

Crew Rotation Missions Secured
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program started the year by securing an additional four crew rotation missions from Boeing and SpaceX. The missions will carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station through 2024. The four additional missions fall under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts and bring the total number of crew rotation missions awarded to each provider to six. The missions will fly following NASA certification.

To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, each company will carry out a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions.

The Crew
NASA’s four astronauts training to fly the test flights on Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spent time evaluating both providers’ progress during 2017. The astronauts are learning about the systems, being fitted for spacesuits and readying for flight tests to and from the International Space Station.

The International Space Station
The International Space Station continued to prepare for the new commercial spacecraft to arrive. During Orbital ATK’s resupply mission to the space station in November, the cargo spacecraft maneuvered above the Harmony module prior to its release. There, it gathered data relevant to future rendezvous and docking operations for U.S. commercial crew vehicles that will be arriving for a linkup to Harmony’s international docking adapters. Other work included the space station crew installing and performing check-outs of a control panel on Harmony for the docking adapter.

Check out more progress – the full feature here:
https://www.nasa.gov/specials/CCP2017/