NASA Announces Date for SpaceX’s 24th Cargo Resupply Mission

A close-up view of SpaceX's cargo Dragon spacecraft atop the Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.
A close-up view of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule atop in the vertical position on June 2, 2021, at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in preparation for the company’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA to the International Space Station. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 5:06 a.m. EST for launch of the 24th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will lift off aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Dragon will bring food, supplies, and scientific investigations to the orbiting crew, including a protein crystal growth study that could improve the delivery of cancer treatment drugs and a handheld bioprinter that could one day be used to print tissue directly onto wounds to faster healing.

The spacecraft will arrive at the station on Wednesday, Dec. 22 at approximately 4:30 a.m. and remain docked for about a month before returning to Earth.

The mission will be covered live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Lift and Mate Operations Complete for Space Test Program 3, Now Targeted for Dec. 5

Teams prepare to lift the STP-3 spacecraft and attach it to the top of ULA's Atlas V rocket.
The Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission for the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space Systems Command (SSC) is mounted atop its ride to space, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, in preparation for launch. STP-3 will host NASA’s Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD). LCRD will send and receive data over infrared lasers at approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth and seeks to make operational laser communications a reality. Photo Credit: United Launch Alliance

NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) moved one step closer to launch on Monday, Nov. 22, after a team of engineers fastened the payload fairing containing its host satellite to a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket. Launch is now targeted for Dec. 5, 2021, due to inclement weather during launch vehicle processing.

Teams at Astrotech Space Operations Payload Processing Facility in Titusville, Florida, spent several weeks preparing the satellite before moving it to the United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) for the lift and mate operations.

The Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission for the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space Systems Command (SSC) is mounted atop its ride to space, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, in preparation for launch. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

Inside the VIF, a team of engineers fastened the payload fairing, which houses the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft. LCRD is hosted on STPSat-6. The mission is scheduled to launch on Dec. 5 from Launch Complex 41 on CCSFS, with a two-hour launch window beginning at 4:04 a.m. EST.

The fully stacked rocket and payload stands 196 feet tall and is anticipated to roll out on a mobile launch platform from the VIF to the launch pad on Dec. 3. The rocket’s Centaur second stage and spacecraft will remain attached until 4 minutes, 33 seconds after launch, with deployment of STPSat-6 scheduled about 6 hours, 30 minutes after launch.

NASA’s LCRD payload, hosted on STPSat-6, is about the size of a king-sized mattress and seeks to make operational laser communications a reality. As space missions generate and collect more data, higher bandwidth communications technologies are needed to bring data home, and laser communications systems offer higher bandwidth in a smaller package that uses less power. LCRD will send and receive data over infrared lasers at approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth.

LCRD is led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Partners include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. LCRD is funded through NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program at NASA Headquarters.

To learn more about the STP-3 launch, visit: www.ulalaunch.com. To stay updated about LCRD and laser communications, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lasercomms.

NOAA’s GOES-T Arrives in Florida for Processing Ahead of Launch

Secured inside a shipping container, the GOES-T satellite is removed from the holding area of a United States Air Force C-5 cargo plane.
The shipping container holding the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite T (GOES-T) is unloaded from a United States Air Force C-5 cargo plane following its arrival at the Launch and Landing Facility runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 10, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Gregory B Harland

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite T (GOES-T) – the third satellite in NOAA’s GOES-R series – is now in Florida, undergoing final preparations ahead of its targeted launch on March 1, 2022. The satellite arrived at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 10, 2021, in a United States Air Force C-5 cargo plane. Shortly after landing at the runway, teams transported it to an Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville, where it will remain for processing and final checkouts prior to liftoff.

Upon its arrival at Astrotech, teams removed the spacecraft from its shipping container and attached it to the electrical ground support equipment that they will use to perform multiple tests over the next few weeks to ensure all satellite elements function properly.

A ULA transport boat carrying the first and second stages of the Atlas V rocket that will launch the GOES-T satellite arrives at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) transport boat carrying the first and second stages of the company’s Atlas V 541 rocket arrives at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) in Florida on Nov. 15, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Daniel Casper

GOES-T will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS). After departing from ULA’s manufacturing plant in Decatur, Alabama, on Nov. 6, the rocket’s first and second stages arrived at CCSFS aboard a transport boat on Nov. 15. When spacecraft testing is complete and teams have conducted the Launch Vehicle Readiness Review, the satellite – once encapsulated in its protective payload fairing – will be placed atop the Atlas V rocket in preparation for liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41.

The GOES-R program is a collaboration between NASA and the NOAA. NASA manufactures and launches the satellites and NOAA funds and operates them and distributes their data to users worldwide. The GOES satellite network helps meteorologists observe and predict local weather events that affect public safety, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, fog, hurricanes, flash floods, and other severe weather. GOES-T will provide critical data for the U.S. West Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and the Pacific Ocean.

This launch is being managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy in Florida, America’s multi-user spaceport. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R spacecraft and instruments. Lockheed Martin designs, creates, and tests the GOES-R Series satellites. L3Harris Technologies provides the main instrument payload, the Advanced Baseline Imager, along with the ground system, which includes the antenna system for data reception.

Looking forward, NOAA is working with NASA on the next-generation geostationary satellite mission called Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO), which will bring new capabilities in support of U.S. weather, ocean, and climate operations in the 2030s. NASA will manage the development of the GeoXO satellites and launch them for NOAA.

Media Accreditation Now Open for SpaceX’s 24th Cargo Launch to Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft lift off from Kennedy's Launch Complex 39A for the company's 23rd cargo resupply services mission.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo capsule soars upward after lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3, 2021, on the company’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission for the agency to the International Space Station. Photo credit: Tony Gray and Kevin O’Connell

Media accreditation is now open for SpaceX’s 24th cargo resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station. Liftoff of the cargo Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket is targeted for late December from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Media prelaunch and launch activities will take place at Kennedy. Media wishing to take part in person must apply for credentials at https://media.ksc.nasa.gov.  International media residing in the United States must apply by Tuesday, Nov. 23. U.S. media must apply by Monday, Nov. 29.

The cargo Dragon will deliver a variety of investigations to the space station, including a protein crystal growth study that could improve the delivery of cancer treatment drugs; a handheld bioprinter that will test technology that could one day be used to print tissue directly on wounds to accelerate healing; experiments from students at several universities as part of the Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science (SPOCS) program; and an investigation from the makers of Tide that examines detergent efficacy in microgravity.

For a link to the full media advisory, click here.

NASA, NOAA Adjust GOES-T Launch Date

An artist's rendering of GOES-R.
An artist’s rendering of GOES-R. Photo credit: NASA

NASA and NOAA are now targeting launch of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite T (GOES-T) mission March 1, 2022. NASA, NOAA, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) coordinated the new launch opportunity due to shifts with other missions scheduled ahead of GOES-T. The launch previously was scheduled for Feb. 16, 2022.

GOES-T, the third satellite in NOAA’s advanced GOES-R series, will be renamed GOES-18 once it reaches geostationary orbit. After it completes checkout of its instruments and systems, the new satellite will go into operation as GOES West and work in tandem with GOES-16, which operates in the GOES East position.

GOES-T, which arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida Nov. 10, will launch on a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The two-hour launch window will open at 4:38 p.m. EST. NASA’s Launch Services Program is managing the launch.

NOAA manages the GOES-R Series Program through an integrated NOAA-NASA office, administering the ground system contract, operating the satellites, and distributing their data to users worldwide. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R spacecraft and instruments. Lockheed Martin designs, creates, and tests the GOES-R series satellites. L3Harris Technologies provides the main instrument payload, the Advanced Baseline Imager, along with the ground system, which includes the antenna system for data reception.

Looking forward, NOAA is working with NASA on the next-generation geostationary satellite mission called GeoXO, which will bring new capabilities in support of U.S. weather, ocean, and climate operations in the 2030s. NASA will manage the development of the GeoXO satellites and launch them for NOAA.

Final Certification Run for Orion Recovery

A test version of the Orion spacecraft is loaded into the well deck of a U.S. Navy ship.
A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft is loaded into the well deck of a U.S. Navy ship in preparation for the ninth in a series of tests to verify and validate procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the spacecraft after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean following the agency’s Artemis I mission. The first in an increasingly complex series of missions, Artemis I will test the Space Launch System rocket and Orion as an integrated system prior to crewed flights to the Moon. Photo credit: NASA/Pete Reutt

NASA and the U.S. Navy are preparing to head out to sea for the ninth in a series of tests to verify and validate procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean following deep space exploration missions.

NASA’s Landing and Recovery team, managed by Exploration Ground Systems, is heading from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Naval Base San Diego in California where they will have their final certification run for the Artemis I mission.

During the weeklong test, the joint team will conduct simulations that will exercise all the operational procedures, including nighttime, to support certification of team members for the Artemis I mission. The team will practice recovering a test version of an Orion capsule and bringing it into the well deck of a Navy ship, ensuring all personnel are properly trained before the real Orion splashes down.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to the Moon and destinations not yet explored by humans. It is slated to launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on its first deep space mission to pave the way for future flights with astronauts.

Public Shares Messages for Crew in Advance of Crew-3 Launch

The astronauts for NASA's SpaceX Crew-3 mission are photographed in front of the Falcon 9 rocket inside the hangar at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida.
The astronauts for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission are photographed in front of the Falcon 9 rocket during a tour of the hangar at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida on Oct. 26, 2021. From left are NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer. Photo credit: SpaceX

Around the world, more than 10,000 virtual guests are registered to be a part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station. Since this is a crewed flight, we asked our guests to share a message with the crew. Thousands of guests from Germany, Turkey, the United States, Ireland, Croatia, Spain, New Zealand, and more responded with well wishes, hopes, and dreams.

For many, the Crew-3 mission is an inspiration to the younger generation. One guest stated, “My daughter dreams big of being the first person on Mars. Every mission you go on continues to inspire her to push harder to become an astronaut. Thank you!” We agree, these missions inspire us, too!

Another message from a crew member’s former colleague was more personal. The guest said, “My wife and I are extremely excited for you and proud of you all! Raj: From the first meeting in basic training, I knew you were destined for the stars. I just had no idea it was literally going to be the stars! Congrats, my friend, to you and your family, and I am honored to be part of this journey!”

Some of our guests are tuning in with their school. One school from Silicon Valley shared, “Thank you for inspiring the next generation of space explorers, and Godspeed!” More schools from Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina also send their congratulations.

Many people dream of going to space, and one guest’s response summed it up for all of us at the Virtual Guest Program, saying “All the best for a safe launch! We will be standing by and watching the event online. Thanks for your courage and spirit of adventure showing us a bit more of our universe.”

We’d love to have you along on our virtual guest program – you can join our standing list or register for specific upcoming missions by visiting nasa.gov/virtualguest. In addition to sharing thoughts on launch-related questions, virtual guests receive emails with curated launch resources, notifications about NASA activities, and updates on any launch time or date changes.

We’re releasing our second-edition virtual guest passport for the Crew-3 mission. Whether it’s your first stamp or your 14th, NASA hopes you’ll print, fold, and get ready to fill your virtual passport. It will be possible to customize the new edition with your name, nationality, and the date you first use it. Mission stamps will be emailed following the launch to all virtual guest program attendees.

Liftoff of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission on a Falcon 9 rocket is targeted for 2:21 a.m. EDT Sunday, Oct. 31, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Orion ‘Powerhouse’ for Artemis II Arrives at Kennedy

The European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrives at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.
The European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrives at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. Making the journey from the Airbus Facility in Bremen, Germany, aboard a Russian Antonov aircraft, the service module will be transferred to Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

Built by teams at ESA (European Space Agency) and aerospace corporation Airbus, the European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Oct. 14, aboard the Russian Antonov aircraft. This service module will be used for Artemis II, the first Artemis mission flying crew aboard Orion. Service module assembly was completed at the Airbus facility in Bremen, Germany, and the module traveled across the world on its journey to Kennedy.

The service module is the powerhouse that will fuel and propel Orion in space. It stores the spacecraft’s propulsion, thermal control, electrical power, and critical life support systems such as water, oxygen, and nitrogen.

The service module will be transferred from the Launch and Landing Facility to Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility where teams from NASA and Lockheed Martin will integrate it with the crew module adapter and crew module, already housed in the facility.

With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface. Artemis II will be the first crewed flight test of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion, paving the way for human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

Release and Retract Test Marks Artemis I Mission Milestone

A close-up view of the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket inside High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A close-up view of the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket inside High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 20, 2021. All 10 levels of work platforms have been retracted from around the rocket as part of the umbilical release and retract test. During the test, several umbilical arms on the mobile launcher were extended to connect to the SLS rocket and then swung away from the launch vehicle, just as they will on launch day. Artemis I will be the first integrated test of the SLS and Orion spacecraft. In later missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone on the way to Mars. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs successfully completed the Umbilical Release and Retract Test on Sept. 19 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in preparation for the Artemis I mission.

The umbilicals will provide power, communications, coolant, and fuel to the rocket and the Orion spacecraft while at the launch pad until they disconnect and retract at ignition and liftoff.

“Previous testing at the Launch Equipment Test Facility and in the VAB refined our designs and processes and validated the subsystems individually, and for Artemis I, we wanted to prove our new systems would work together to support launch,” said Jerry Daun, Jacobs Arms and Umbilical Systems Operations Manager.

During the test, several umbilical arms extended to connect the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the mobile launcher. They swung away from the rocket, just as they will on launch day.

“This test is important because the next time these ground umbilical systems are used will be the day of the Artemis I launch,” said Scott Cieslak, umbilical operations and testing technical lead.

Teams will continue conducting tests inside the VAB before transporting the Orion spacecraft to the assembly building and stacking it atop the SLS, completing assembly of the rocket for the Artemis I mission.

“It was a great team effort to build, and now test, these critical systems,” said Peter Chitko, arms and umbilicals integration manager. “This test marked an important milestone because each umbilical must release from its connection point at T-0 to ensure the rocket and spacecraft can lift off safely.”

Artemis I will be the first integrated test of the SLS and Orion spacecraft. In later Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone on the way to Mars.

NASA, SpaceX Continue Planning for Next Crew Rotation Missions to International Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021.
With a view of the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at left, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, carrying a crew of four on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission. Launch time was at 5:49 a.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and SpaceX are continuing plans to launch Crew-3 astronauts to the International Space Station as early as Sunday Oct. 31, and targeting the return home of Crew-2 astronauts in the early-to-mid November timeframe.

Crew-3 will be the third crew rotation mission with astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from the United States to the space station, and the fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight in 2020, Crew-1 mission in 2020-21, and the ongoing Crew-2 flight as part of the Expedition 65 crew.

The Crew-3 mission will launch NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander, Tom Marshburn, pilot, and Kayla Barron, mission specialist, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist, aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long-duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.

Crew-3 astronauts plan to arrive at the station to overlap with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission in April 2021.

Missions teams also are targeting no earlier than April 15, 2022, for the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the space station for a six-month science mission aboard the microgravity laboratory.

Crew-4 will be commanded by Kjell Lindgren with Bob Hines as pilot, both NASA astronauts. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will be a mission specialist and command the ISS Expedition 68 crew, while the remaining crew member has yet to be named. Crew-3 astronauts are set to return to Earth in late April 2022 following a similar handover with Crew-4.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and Mars.