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.”

SpaceX Successfully Launches 19th Resupply Services Mission to Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida at 12:29 p.m. EST on Dec. 5, 2019, for the company’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission to the International Space Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida at 12:29 p.m. EST on Dec. 5, 2019, for the company’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

Critical supplies, equipment and material are on its way to the International Space Station following the successful launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company’s uncrewed Dragon spacecraft lifted off atop the Falcon 9 at 12:29 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 on Dec. 5, 2019, for the 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission.

Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the space station Dec. 8, with live coverage on spacecraft rendezvous and capture beginning at 4:30 a.m. EST on NASA TV and the agency’s website. To read a full recap of the launch, click here.

Launch Day Arrives for SpaceX’s 19th Resupply Services Mission to Station

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands ready for liftoff at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida for the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission to the International Space Station.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands ready for liftoff at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida for the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

SpaceX’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission is set to launch at 12:51 p.m. EST today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company’s uncrewed Dragon spacecraft – launching aboard a Falcon 9 rocket – will deliver research, supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

Beginning at 12:30 p.m., join NASA’s launch blog for updates and follow along on NASA TV or the agency’s website for the live launch broadcast.

Here’s a look at today’s countdown and ascent milestones. All times are approximate:

COUNTDOWN
Hour/Min/Sec – Events
-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
-00:01:00 – 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

LAUNCH, LANDING AND DRAGON DEPLOYMENT
Hour/Min/Sec – Event
00:01:18 – Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:31 – 1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:34 – 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:42 – 2nd stage engine starts
00:02:47 – 1st stage boostback burn begins
00:06:11 – 1st stage entry burn begins
00:07:48 – 1st stage landing
00:08:35 – 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:09:35 – Dragon separates from 2nd stage
00:12:02 – Dragon’s solar arrays deploy
02:19:00 – Dragon’s Guidance, Navigation and Control bay door opens

Kennedy’s Senior Management Team Honored at Sammies Awards Gala

Senior leaders are photographed at the Partnership for Public Service’s 18th annual Service to America Medals awards gala in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 16, 2019, after receiving the Management Excellence Medal. Holding the award is Center Director Bob Cabana. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and senior management’s forward-facing vision of transforming Kennedy into the multi-user spaceport it is today has led them to receive one of six Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medals.

Named after the Partnership for Public Service’s late founder, Samuel J. Heyman, the “Sammies” awards gala took place Oct. 16, 2019, in Washington, D.C., honoring six of our nation’s career civil servants and showcasing their remarkable achievements in tackling America’s most pressing challenges. Cabana and senior leaders were presented with the Management Excellence Medal for ushering in a new era of space exploration by opening Kennedy up to both government and commercial organizations.

This year’s award recipients were chosen from a group of 26 finalists, narrowed down from more than 300 nominations. Cabana and Kennedy’s team of senior leaders also were chosen as a crowd favorite, winning the Service to America Medals People’s Choice award in July – voted on by the public once the 26 finalists were selected.

Read the full story at https://go.nasa.gov/2qfv0mm.

NASA, Northrop Grumman Prepare for Launch of ICON

Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019.
Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019. The company’s Pegasus XL rocket, containing NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), is attached beneath the aircraft. ICON will study the frontier of space – the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and Northrop Grumman will hold a mission briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in preparation for the launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite. Tune in to NASA TV and the agency’s website to watch the mission briefing live.

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft, carrying a Pegasus XL rocket with the agency’s ICON satellite, will take off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Skid Strip on Oct. 9. The launch window will be open from 9:25 to 10:55 p.m., with a targeted release at 9:30 p.m. Ignition of the Pegasus XL rocket will occur five seconds after release from the Stargazer.

ICON is designed to study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above.

Be sure to follow our blog for launch updates. Live launch coverage here and on NASA TV will begin at 9:15 p.m. on Oct. 9.

Large and on a Barge: SLS Core Stage Pathfinder Arrives at Kennedy

NASA’s Pegasus Barge arrives at the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 27 to make its first delivery to Kennedy in support of the agency’s Artemis missions. Photo credit: NASA/Mike Downs

NASA’s Pegasus Barge arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 27, carrying the 212-foot-long core stage pathfinder for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Weighing in at 228,000 pounds, the pathfinder is a full-scale mock-up of the rocket’s core stage and will be used to validate ground support equipment and demonstrate it can be integrated with Kennedy facilities.

NASA’s Pegasus Barge makes its way along the intercoastal waterway to its destination at the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf on Sept. 27, to make its first delivery to Kennedy in support of the agency’s Artemis missions. Photo credit: NASA/Mike Downs

After arriving at the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf – a docking area initially used during the Space Shuttle Program that has been modified to accommodate SLS hardware deliveries – the pathfinder was moved into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on Sept. 30, where it will remain for testing for about one month.

While in the VAB, pathfinder will provide NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and contractor Jacobs with the opportunity to practice stacking maneuvers in the VAB’s High Bay 3 prior to the arrival of the SLS flight hardware that will be processed for the agency’s Artemis I mission.

“This will help ensure that all core stage engineers and technicians are trained and certified in preparation for the flight core stage processing,” said Jim Bolton, EGS core stage element operations manager at Kennedy. “It’s a very significant milestone that will demonstrate the capabilities and ability for KSC to receive, process and integrate that flight hardware.”

The core stage – the largest rocket stage in the world and the backbone of SLS – will provide the power necessary to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit and to the Moon. Before it can be brought to Kennedy for processing, the core stage will undergo its first full test with all flight hardware, known as a green run, at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Following this, Pegasus will make its return journey to Kennedy in 2020 – this time, delivering the SLS core stage for launch.

Learn more about the SLS rocket’s pathfinders at: https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/pathfinders-prepare-teams-for-one-of-a-kind-hardware.html

ICON Launch Now Targeted for Oct. 9

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft lands on Oct. 19, 2018 at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A Pegasus XL rocket is attached to the underside of the aircraft with NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft lands on Oct. 19, 2018 at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A Pegasus XL rocket is attached to the underside of the aircraft with NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Northrop Grumman coordinated with the U.S. Air Force Eastern Range for an earlier launch date for the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. ICON is now targeted for launch on Oct. 9, 2019, aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carried by the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft.