NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Astronauts Rehearse for Launch Day

Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley walk down the hallway of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a dry dress rehearsal ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 launch.
On May 23, 2020, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley walk down the hallway of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as they prepare to be transported to Launch Complex 39A during a full dress rehearsal ahead of launch. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
On May 23, 2020, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building as they prepare to be transported to historic Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 launch.
On May 23, 2020, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley (left) walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for transport to Launch Complex 39A during a full dress rehearsal ahead of launch. Photo credit: NASA/Brandon Garner

Today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participated in a countdown dress rehearsal of the launch day events. The crewmates are preparing to launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and fly to the International Space Station. Demo-2 will be the first crewed mission for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Behnken and Hurley began their day in the Astronaut Crew Quarters inside Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. The pair put on their black-and-white SpaceX spacesuits, took the elevator down to the ground level and exited through a pair of double doors, where their transport vehicle – a Tesla Model X — waited. With smiles and waves, they climbed in for the 20-minute ride to Launch Complex 39A.

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft have been in place on the launch pad since Thursday morning, May 21. Behnken and Hurley entered the Crew Dragon by way of the pad’s Crew Access Arm and checked their communications systems before the hatch was closed. The rehearsal concluded with the go/no-go poll for Falcon 9 propellant loading, which normally occurs 45 minutes before launch.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) participate in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) participate in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for the SpaceX Demo-2 mission.  Launch is scheduled at 4:33 p.m. EDT Tuesday, May 27, from Launch Pad 39A. The primary weather concerns for launch are flight through precipitation, thick and cumulus clouds.

FORECAST DETAILS

Clouds                      Coverage           Bases (feet)               Tops (feet)
Cumulus                    Scattered            3,000                          15,000
Altostratus                Broken                10,000                        17,000

Weather/Visibility:  Rain showers/5 miles
Temperature:  80 degrees

A strong high pressure ridge near Bermuda is creating east winds across Central Florida today. This flow may create morning coastal showers, but the cells will be inland of the Spaceport by the time they can develop into thunderstorms.  A low pressure area moving off the mid-Atlantic states stalls as it nudges into the ridge. Tomorrow, the low pressure area will weaken the ridge enough to allow an increase in moisture along its western periphery and into South Florida. Monday will see the clouds infiltrate the Space Coast as the ridge fully breaks down. Easterly winds will increase as a low pressure area develops over the Gulf of Mexico. Rain showers will be prevalent off and on all day. Tuesday will continue the cloudy, rainy conditions over the Spaceport. On launch day, continued extensive cloudiness is expected with rain showers and isolated thunderstorms expected throughout the day.

Rocket Completes Static Fire Test Ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A during a brief static fire test ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, Friday, May 22, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A during a brief static fire test ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, Friday, May 22, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft that will launch American astronauts to the International Space Station from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade has completed a key prelaunch milestone: the integrated static fire. Standing on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rocket’s nine Merlin first-stage engines were fired for seven seconds for this critical but routine test.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-2 flight test. The mission will serve as an end-to-end test of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, paving the way for NASA to certify the system for regular, crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff is slated for May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EDT.

NASA and SpaceX were cleared to proceed with the May 27 launch following the conclusion of the flight readiness review on Friday, May 22. Click here for a full recap of the news conference that agency and industry leaders held at the Florida spaceport on Friday.

Launch Date Set for First Crew Flight from U.S. Soil Since 2011

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoes final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for the Demo-2 launch with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoes final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for the Demo-2 launch with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Crew Dragon will carry Behnken and Hurley atop a Falcon 9 rocket, returning crew launches to the space station from U.S. soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011. Photo credit: SpaceX

A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 p.m. EDT on May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission. The specific duration of the mission is to be determined.

As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.

The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars with the agency’s Artemis program.

To learn more about the Demo-2 mission and crew, read the full story at https://www.nasa.gov/specials/dm2.

Final Call for NASA’s RASSOR Bucket Drum Challenge

The Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) is in the regolith bin inside Swamp Works at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A team from the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Lab tests the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) in the regolith bin inside Swamp Works at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 5, 2019. Tests use a gravity assist offload system to simulate reduced gravity conditions found on the Moon. On the surface of the Moon, mining robots like RASSOR will excavate the regolith and take the material to a processing plant where usable elements such as hydrogen, oxygen and water can be extracted for life support systems. RASSOR can scoop up icy regolith, which can be used to make operations on the Moon sustainable. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

There is still time to submit an entry to NASA’s Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) Bucket Drum Design Challenge. Entries are due by 11:59 p.m. EDT Monday, April 20. A total of $7,000 will be awarded for the top five submissions.

NASA is holding a competition for participants to design an improved bucket drum for RASSOR, a robotic platform designed to dig on the Moon. RASSOR’s current design has counter-rotating bucket drums mounted on moveable arms positioned on either end of the robot. As the bucket drums rotate and start to dig, the forces balance out. This means RASSOR is well suited for excavating in low gravity, because it does not have to rely on its weight or traction to dig.

To enter the competition, go to the GrabCAD website that hosts the challenge and submit an original design with CAD files and a short description of how the design works. The competition is open to eligible individuals.

The challenge is funded by NASA’s Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative within the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), which champions technologies needed to live on and explore the Moon supporting NASA’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and next man on the Moon. NASA Tournament Lab, part of STMD’s Prizes and Challenges program, manages the challenge. The program supports the use of public competitions and crowdsourcing as tools to advance NASA R&D and other mission needs.

Learn more about opportunities to participate in your space program via NASA prizes and challenges: www.nasa.gov/solve

https://grabcad.com/challenges/nasa-regolith-advanced-surface-systems-operations-robot-rassor-bucket-drum-design-challenge

Millions Tag Along for NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission

"Send Your Name to Mars" logo installation
The “Send Your Name to Mars” logo is installed on the Mars Perseverance rover on March 16, 2020, inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

When the Mars Perseverance rover begins its seven-month journey to the Red Planet in mid-July, it will be carrying the names of more than 10 million people throughout the world.

Those names were etched onto three microchips, which were placed aboard Perseverance. On March 16, 2020, inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the “Names to Mars” logo was installed on the rover.

Those who took advantage of the special public promotion also had the opportunity to receive a souvenir boarding pass and obtain “frequent flyer points” as part of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. In total, 10,932,295 people submitted their names. Turkey (2,528,844), India (1,778,277) and the United States (1,733,559) all had more than 1 million submissions.

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center
More than 10 million names were etched onto three microchips, which were placed aboard Perseverance. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

Perseverance will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

The rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket is targeted for mid-July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

Weighing more than 2,300 pounds, Perseverance is about the size of a car, with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover. It was developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.

Earlier this month at Kennedy, activities to measure mass properties of the Cruise Stage vehicle were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Successful testing also was performed on NASA’s Mars Helicopter, which will be attached to Perseverance. The helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

Please visit the mission’s website for more information on the Mars 2020 mission.

Welcome Home, Orion: Spacecraft Ready for Final Artemis I Launch Preparations

NASA's Orion spacecraft, secured atop a transporter, is carried to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building following its return to Kennedy Space Center on March 25, 2020.
The Orion spacecraft, secured atop a transporter in its shipping container, is carried to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 25, 2020. The spacecraft was transported to Kennedy in NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft from the agency’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. Sent to Ohio in fall 2019 for environmental testing, Orion is now ready to undergo final testing and assembly, after which it will be integrated with the Space Launch System rocket. Orion will fly on the agency’s Artemis I mission – the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon that will ultimately lead to the exploration of Mars. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Orion spacecraft for Artemis I returned to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 25 after engineers put it through the rigors of environmental testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. At Kennedy, the spacecraft will undergo final processing and preparations prior to launching on the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon that will ultimately lead to the exploration of Mars.

The spacecraft – comprised of the crew module and service module – arrived in Ohio during the fall of 2019, where two phases of testing occurred inside the world’s largest space simulation vacuum chamber. First, the spacecraft demonstrated it could handle the extreme temperatures of space during thermal vacuum testing, simulating sunlight and shadow Orion will encounter during flight. During this test, the spacecraft was exposed to temperatures ranging from -250 to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, an electromagnetic interference and compatibility test verified all of Orion’s electronics work correctly when operating simultaneously and in the electromagnetic environments it will encounter during its mission.

“The test went exceptionally well, especially considering we were doing all of this for the first time,” said Nicole Smith, testing project manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “We found a lot of efficiencies throughout the thermal vacuum phase, and overcame a few facility equipment challenges early during electromagnetic interference testing, but our combined NASA, Lockheed Martin, ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus team was able to complete the testing ahead of schedule.”

Arriving at Kennedy in the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft, Orion is now ready to undergo its next phase of processing. Before it can be integrated with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the Orion spacecraft will go through a final round of testing and assembly, including end-to-end performance verification of the vehicle’s subsystems, checking for leaks in the spacecraft’s propulsion systems, installing its solar array wings, performing spacecraft closeouts and pressurizing a subset of its tanks in preparation for flight.

Orion will then begin its ground processing journey with Exploration Ground Systems. The first stop on the journey will be at Kennedy’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility for fueling and pressurizing of its remaining tanks, and after this, to the Launch Abort System Facility for integration with the spacecraft’s launch abort system (LAS). After installation of the LAS, engineers will transport Orion to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where they will stack the spacecraft atop SLS when the rocket arrives to Kennedy. Once integrated with SLS, a team of technicians and engineers will perform additional tests and checkouts to verify Orion and SLS operate as expected together.

“The Artemis program is the future of human space exploration, and to be a part of the design, assembly and testing of NASA’s newest spacecraft is an incredible, once-in-a-career opportunity,” said Amy Marasia, spacecraft assembly operations lead in Orion production operations at Kennedy. “Witnessing the daily transformation of numerous individual flight hardware components and parts into a fully equipped and operational spacecraft is one of my favorite parts of this job.”

NASA’s Super Guppy transport was assisted by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), who provide specialized equipment and services to load and offload the spacecraft from the Super Guppy, and the Ohio Air National Guard, who provided supplemental air cargo transport services for support equipment and overnight hangar storage for the spacecraft prior to the Super Guppy airlift. NASA, DoD and the Ohio Air National Guard made the decision to continue with the transport operation after a full assessment determined that the risks to personnel due to COVID-19 would be low and could be reduced by steps taken during the operation.

“NASA sincerely thanks the DoD personnel from the United States Air Force’s Air Mobility Command who helped us accomplish this mission essential operation during these trying times,” said Mark Kirasich, manager for the Orion Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Specifically, we’d like to thank the 437th Aerial Port Squadron from Joint Base Charleston and the 305th Aerial Port Squadron/87th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst of the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command, the 45th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Patrick Air Force Base of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, and the 179th Airlift Wing from Mansfield-Lahm of the Ohio Air National Guard.”

Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. Through the Gateway – an outpost in lunar orbit – the agency will develop a sustainable presence in deep space, taking what crew members learn on the lunar surface and applying that to the journey on to Mars. As the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion, Artemis I is critical to providing the foundation for human deep-space exploration.

“With Orion back at Kennedy, we’re ready,” said Scott Wilson, NASA Orion production operations manager. “Ready to finalize the vehicle and send it to be integrated for its voyage to deep space, tackling the next era of human space exploration.”

Kennedy’s Safety and Health Days Reinforce What Matters Most

NASA Kennedy Space Center employees are photographed during a Safety and Health Days celebration at the Florida spaceport’s KARS Park II on March 5, 2020.
NASA Kennedy Space Center employees are photographed during a Safety and Health Days celebration at the Florida spaceport’s KARS Park II on March 5, 2020. Front row from left are Michele Richtmeyer and Heidi Harden, and back row from left are Phil Falk, Chris Berg, Marcus Chancery, Amber Philman-Blair, Larrin Moody and Dustin Cammack. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Maintaining a safe and healthy workforce remains a top priority at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and this year, that was reinforced through the center’s annual Safety and Health Days. The theme – Know What Matters – was amplified through a wide variety of events and presentations for employees to attend March 2–10, 2020.

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana hosts a lunch and learn on March 4, 2020, inside the Florida spaceport’s Training Auditorium during the center’s annual Safety and Health Days.
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana hosts a lunch and learn on March 4, 2020, inside the Florida spaceport’s Training Auditorium during the center’s annual Safety and Health Days. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Safety and Health Days kicked off Monday, March 2, with a presentation by NASA astronaut Stan Love, who was first selected to be an astronaut in 1998 and now serves as a crew representative for the agency’s Space Launch System. Love, along with six crew members, launched to the International Space Station in 2002 on STS-122, spending nearly two weeks in space to install the station’s Columbus Laboratory module.

“During that time, nothing scary happened. And that’s thanks in part to people in this room,” he said. Love, excited to witness astronauts launch from Florida once again in the near future, went on to discuss how activities at Kennedy are ramping up with commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“It’s good to see activity and optimism and looking forward here,” he said. “But these new vehicles may present us with some scary moments. And the big question we’re all asking ourselves – especially on safety day and especially here at the Kennedy Space Center – is are we ready?”

Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana also provided some opening remarks on March 2 prior to introducing Love as the guest speaker.

NASA Kennedy Space Center employees learn more about safety from an informational table set up inside the Florida spaceport’s Training Auditorium on March 4, 2020, during the center’s annual Safety and Health Days.
NASA Kennedy Space Center employees learn more about safety from an informational table set up inside the Florida spaceport’s Training Auditorium on March 4, 2020, during the center’s annual Safety and Health Days. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

“We’ve got some huge challenges in front of us this year, and we’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” he said. “My number one goal this year is to safely fly crews on U.S. rockets from right here at KSC to the International Space Station. I just want to make sure that we’ve done our very best to prepare so that when we fly our crews on these vehicles, we’re confident that we’ve played our role to make sure it’s as safe as it can possibly be.”

On Wednesday, March 4, Jim Wetherbee, a retired U.S. Navy captain and former NASA astronaut, spoke to Kennedy employees on the topic of controlling risk in a dangerous world, which focused largely on the importance of mental attitude and preparedness.

“We’re all humans, we all make mistakes. But in a dangerous business, the smallest mistake can quickly cascade to disaster,” he said. “You have to follow the rules – you have to have policies and procedures – but we supplement the rules with techniques, and largely those techniques are mental attitudes that are so critical and important for controlling risk, staying alive and accomplishing the mission.”

The subject of employee health and wellbeing, both at home and at work, was another main focus throughout the week.

Carly Paige, an integrative nutrition health coach and chef, speaks to Kennedy Space Center employees inside the Florida spaceport’s Training Auditorium on March 5, 2020, during the center’s annual Safety and Health Days.
Carly Paige, an integrative nutrition health coach and chef, speaks to Kennedy Space Center employees inside the Florida spaceport’s Training Auditorium on March 5, 2020, during the center’s annual Safety and Health Days. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

“What we put in our bodies can directly affect how we feel and function. You would think that would be reason enough to motivate us to eat healthier, but for some reason, it just doesn’t. It’s my mission to redefine what healthy means by making it simple,” said Carly Paige, an integrative nutrition health coach and chef, during a presentation on Thursday, March 5.

Paige’s presentation included suggestions on how to improve health and energy levels throughout the day by incorporating simple food swaps into snacks and meals, such as using coconut sugar instead of white or brown sugar, lentil pasta in place of classic pasta or eating carrots with hummus instead of chips. She also discussed how healthy living habits stem from a change in lifestyle.

Extending into the weekend was the Tour de KSC – a bicycle tour of Kennedy open for all employees to attend. The tour included three different routes available for individuals to choose from, with lengths ranging from seven to 33 miles. All routes provided participants with photo opportunities with some of Kennedy’s most iconic structures and facilities, such as the Vehicle Assembly Building, Launch and Landing Facility, Launch Pad 39A and more. Also available for employees to attend was the KSC Walk Run, on Tuesday, March 10, at the landing facility. The Walk Run allowed participants to choose from a simultaneously occurring two-mile walk or run, 5K run and 10K run.

While these presentations and events may only happen once every year, one thing remains constant: The workforce at Kennedy knows what matters. And that involves taking care of one another and performing safe operations here on Earth to support safe and healthy crews in space, allowing NASA to continue pushing the boundaries of space exploration.

Atlas V Rocket, Solar Orbiter Spacecraft Arrive at Launch Pad

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrives at the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 8, 2020.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrives at the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft departs the Vertical Integration Facility for the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 8, 2020.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft departs the Vertical Integration Facility for the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Solar Orbiter spacecraft has made its final move on Earth: the short journey from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Liftoff is targeted for 11:03 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9. There is a two-hour launch window.

The weather forecast for launch time calls for favorable conditions. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80% chance of weather cooperating for launch.

Live coverage of the countdown and liftoff will begin at 10:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9, on NASA TV, NASA TV online, and on NASA’s Solar Orbiter blog.

Solar Orbiter is an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The spacecraft will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to create a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system. The spacecraft also will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and the never-before-observed magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.

Update: NASA and SpaceX Targeting Sunday, Jan. 19, for In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX In-flight abort test
The uncrewed in-flight abort demonstration is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 19, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. There is a six-hour test window. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 8 a.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 19, for launch of the company’s In-Flight Abort Test from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, which will demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch. The abort test has a six-hour launch window.

Teams are standing down from today’s launch attempt due to poor splashdown and recovery weather.

For tomorrow’s launch attempt, meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 60% chance of favorable weather toward the opening of the window with a 40% chance toward the end of the window. The primary concerns for launch day are the thick cloud layer and flight through precipitation rules during the launch window.

The test launch will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Here’s the upcoming mission coverage:

Sunday, Jan. 19

  • 7:40 a.m. – NASA TV test coverage begins for the 8 a.m. liftoff
  • 9:30 a.m. – Post-test news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • SpaceX representative
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA’s Launch Services Program Prepares for Upcoming 2020 Missions

An artist's concept of NASA's Mars 2020 rover exploring the Red Planet.
An artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover exploring the Red Planet. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) is ringing in the New Year with three planned science missions in 2020, aimed at studying the Sun, Mars and our oceans. The first two missions will be launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, while the third will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Launching in February, Solar Orbiter is a collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, which will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and the solar wind. The spacecraft, developed by Airbus Defence and Space, will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles. The Solar Orbiter spacecraft will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 411 rocket, and liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 5. LSP will manage the launch.

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is targeting to launch in July. Established under the agency’s Mars Exploration Program, the mission will send a rover to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient microbial life. It also will help us better understand the planet’s geology, collect rock and soil samples that can later be returned to Earth and test new technologies that could pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.

The rover is being manufactured at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and will be sent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in mid-February. The rover will launch on a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket, procured by LSP, and is expected to land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

Sentinel-6/Jason CS (Continuity of Service), the final mission of 2020, is projected to launch later in the year and will observe global sea level changes. The mission – a collaboration between ESA and NASA – aims to collect high-precision ocean altimetry measurements using two consecutive and identical satellites. The Sentinel-6 mission will launch from California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“LSP is incredibly excited to execute the 2020 launch manifest,” said Tim Dunn, LSP launch director. “Additionally, LSP will provide advisory expertise for four Commercial Crew Program missions and four Commercial Resupply Services program missions – all in support of the International Space Station. Also, throughout the year, LSP will be launching numerous CubeSat missions, focused on making space accessible to educational institutions.”