NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts En Route to Kennedy Space Center

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Photo credit: NASA

The astronauts flying on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station are now on their way to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin final preparations for launch.

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, boarded a Gulfstream jet aircraft and departed from Ellington Field near the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for the flight to Florida. The crew is expected to arrive at the Launch and Landing Facility at Kennedy around 12:30 p.m. EDT.

Crew-4 astronauts will be greeted upon their arrival by Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro along with NASA Associate Administrator, Space Operations Kathy Lueders, and ESA Houston Office Team Leader Barbara Nucera. Coverage will begin at approximately 12:30 p.m. EDT, and will include welcome remarks, crew comments, and a brief question and answer session with attending news media. The event will be broadcast live on NASA TV and the agency’s website, weather permitting.

Crew-4 FRR Concludes; NASA, SpaceX ‘Go’ for April 23 Launch

Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program at Kennedy Space Center, participates in a Flight Readiness Review for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission at the Florida spaceport on April 15, 2022. International partners also participated. NASA and SpaceX mission managers held the FRR to confirm the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are ready for launch. Crew-4 is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on April 23, 2022, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft is targeted for 5:26 a.m. EDT.
Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program at Kennedy Space Center, participates in a Flight Readiness Review for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission at the Florida spaceport on April 15, 2022. International partners also participated. NASA and SpaceX mission managers held the FRR to confirm the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are ready for launch. Crew-4 is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on April 23, 2022, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft is targeted for 5:26 a.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Flight Readiness Review for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station has concluded, and teams are proceeding toward a 5:26 a.m. EDT liftoff on Saturday, April 23, from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. NASA will hold a media conference at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT to discuss the outcome of the review. Listen live on the agency’s website.

Participants in the teleconference are:

Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, participates in a Flight Readiness Review for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 15, 2022.
Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, participates in a Flight Readiness Review for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 15, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson
  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, Kennedy
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Zeb Scoville, chief flight director, Flight Operations Directorate, Johnson
  • Jared Metter, director, Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Frank De Winne, program manager, International Space Station, ESA

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, will launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Freedom, for the fourth crew rotation flight under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

More details about the mission and the Commercial Crew Program can be found in the online press kit, or by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew, and commercial crew on Facebook.

SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts Enter Quarantine for Mission to Space Station

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, entered their official quarantine period beginning Thursday, April 7, in preparation for their flight to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission.

The process of flight crew health stabilization is a routine part of final preparations for all missions to the space station. Spending the final two weeks before liftoff in quarantine will help ensure Crew-4 members are healthy and to protect the astronauts already on the space station.

Crew members can choose to quarantine at home if they are able to maintain quarantine conditions prior to travel to Kennedy. If quarantining at home is not possible – for example, if a household member can’t maintain quarantine because of job or school commitments – crew members have the option of living in the Astronaut Quarantine Facility at Johnson Space Center until they leave for Kennedy Space Center.

Additional safeguards have been added since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone who will come on site or interact with the crew during the quarantine period will be screened for temperature and symptoms. Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution, as well as anyone who comes in direct, close contact with the crew.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission is the fourth crew rotation flight to the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Crew-4 is targeted to launch no earlier than Thursday, April 21, on a new SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Freedom, atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mission operations teams will be closely monitoring the weather and operational timelines related to the Axiom Mission 1, NASA’s first Private Astronaut Mission to the space station. Additional adjustments to the Crew-4 launch date may be required based on weather and Crew-4 vehicle readiness.

Crew-4 will arrive at the space station for a short overlap with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission in November 2021. Also on station are Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov who flew to the station on a Soyuz spacecraft on March 18, 2022.

More details about the mission can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Trains for Upcoming Mission

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 team – consisting of NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti – have been busy getting ready for their upcoming mission to the International Space Station. The mission is scheduled to launch Friday, April 15, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts – NASA astronaut and Crew-4 pilot Bob Hines (left), and NASA astronaut and Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren (right) – participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. Photo credit: SpaceX

During recent training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, the crew participated in simulations focused on undocking and departing from the space station. All four astronauts practiced in a high-fidelity simulator of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, complete with flight-realistic hardware, displays, and seats. Each astronaut gained experience suiting up and configuring the spacecraft for departure. Commander Lindgren and pilot Hines took their places in the center seats, with access to flight displays they’ll use to monitor the spacecraft’s status and, if needed, take manual control of the spacecraft.

Astronaut crews regularly train for all phases of flight, using simulations to practice normal operations and respond to any unexpected issues. These simulations typically include multiple “runs” for a given day, with crew and flight controllers practicing a specific phase of the mission. Using simulated data to train personnel, simulations introduce system failures and other challenges to give teams the opportunity to prepare for and understand potential anomalies that could arise during a spaceflight, all while arming the crew with the skills needed for effectively overcoming these challenges.

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts train at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. From left to right: ESA astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; and NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins. Photo credit: SpaceX

While at Kennedy Space Center for emergency preparedness training, the crew visited the launch tower at Launch Complex 39A and trained on the emergency egress system, which employs slide wire baskets that enable crew and personnel to safely and quickly evacuate from the launch tower in the event of an emergency.

To become more familiar with recovery operations, the astronauts found their sea legs aboard SpaceX’s Dragon recovery vessels that will be used by joint SpaceX and NASA teams to pick up the crew following splashdown at the end of their mission. Two identical vessels cover potential landing zones off of the coast of Florida. The astronauts also toured one of SpaceX’s hangars where Falcon 9 rockets are refurbished and prepared for flight.

The crew is scheduled for a science expedition aboard the International Space Station, living and working as part of orbiting laboratory’s Expeditions 67 and 68. Crew-4 will be the fourth crew rotation mission with SpaceX, and fifth crewed flight overall including the Demo-2 flight test, for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercal_crew and commercial crew on Facebook. For more Crew-4 images visit the Crew-4 Flickr album.

We Have Liftoff! ELaNa 41 Mission Rockets to Space

We have liftoff! Astra’s first operational satellite mission launched on the company’s Rocket 3.3 at approximately 1:50 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The launch marked the first mission of NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 (VCLS Demo 2) contract awarded by the agency’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), the four small satellites, or CubeSats, on board make up the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa 41) mission. CSLI provides small satellite developers at academic institutions, NASA centers, and non-profit organizations access to a low-cost pathway to conduct research in the areas of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations in space.

“Missions like these are critical for developing new launch vehicles in this growing commercial sector,” said Hamilton Fernandez, LSP mission manager. “I commend the Astra team for their dedication to supporting NASA’s mission.”

Astra Space’s Rocket 3.3 is an expendable, vertically launched two-stage liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket, designed to fit inside a standard shipping container and built to provide cost-effective access to space. The rocket consists of a first stage powered by five electric-pump-fed engines and an upper stage propelled by a single pressure-fed Aether engine.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by tagging these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA,  @NASA_LSP, @Astra
Facebook:  NASANASALSP
Instagram:  @NASA, @AstraSpace

Launch Window Opens Soon for ELaNa 41 Mission

Astra's Rocket 3.3
Astra’s Rocket 3.3 is prepared for launch at Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The rocket will carry four small spacecraft – called CubeSats – that comprise NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa 41) payload. Liftoff is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. EST on Feb. 5, 2022. The mission will mark the first operational satellite launch by Astra Space Inc. and the first launch under the NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 (VCLS Demo 2) contract. Managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center, VCLS was developed to provide increased access to space for developers of small satellites. Photo credit: John Kraus/Astra

Astra’s Rocket 3.3 is ready to lift off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, as part of the first mission under the NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 (VCLS Demo 2) contract. The three-hour launch window opens at 1 p.m. EST, with launch scheduled for 2:10 p.m. EST.

The first operational satellite launch for Astra Space will carry NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa 41) mission, sending four small satellites to space for the agency.

Astra Space Inc. was one of three companies selected as service providers to launch small satellites (SmallSats) to space, including CubeSats, microsats or nanosatellites, through VCLS Demo 2 contracts awarded by NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy Space Center. LSP supports the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) by providing opportunities for small satellite payloads built by universities, high schools, and non-profit organizations to fly on upcoming launches.

ELaNa 41 will launch four CubeSats, designed and built by three universities and one NASA center. These include:

  • BAMA-1– University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
  • INCA– New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
  • QubeSat– University of California, Berkeley
  • R5-S1 – NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston

The VCLS Demo 2 contractors will launch CubeSats selected through the CSLI to demonstrate a launch capability for smaller payloads that NASA anticipates it will require on a recurring basis for future science missions.

The Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate  partnered with LSP to fund these contracts. The VCLS Demo 2 launches of small satellites can tolerate a higher level of risk than larger missions and will demonstrate – and help mitigate – risks associated with the use of new launch vehicles providing access to space for future small spacecraft and missions.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by tagging these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA,  @NASA_LSP, @Astra
Facebook:  NASANASALSP
Instagram:  @NASA, @AstraSpace

Launch Date Set for NASA CubeSat Mission

NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has awarded multiple Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 contracts to launch small satellites (SmallSats) to space, including CubeSats, microsats or nanosatellites. The first mission under the contract will lift off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in February 2022.
NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has awarded multiple Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 contracts to launch small satellites (SmallSats) to space, including CubeSats, microsats or nanosatellites. The first mission under the contract will lift off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in February 2022. Credits: NASA

NASA’s first mission under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) Demonstration 2 contract is scheduled to launch four CubeSats to space no earlier than Feb. 5, 2022. The CubeSats, which make up the agency’s 41st Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission, will be the first VCLS launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and Astra Space Inc’s first operational satellite launch aboard its Rocket 3.3.

“As the first VCLS mission to lift off from Florida’s Space Coast, this launch is ushering in new opportunities for CubeSat developers and small class launch vehicle providers,” said Hamilton Fernandez, mission manager supporting the Launch Services Program. “Through our commercial partners, NASA is providing dedicated rides to space for CubeSats, which helps meet the agency’s objectives of transporting smaller payloads and science missions into orbit.”

Three universities and one NASA center developed the CubeSats, which are a type of small satellite. They are:

  • BAMA-1– University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

BAMA-1 is a technology demonstration mission that will conduct a flight demonstration of a drag sail module by rapidly deorbiting the satellite. Spacecraft equipped with drag sail technology will be able to deorbit reliably and rapidly, thus reducing space debris and the risk to operational satellites, space stations, and crewed vehicles.

  • INCA– New Mexico State University, Las Cruces

INCA (Ionospheric Neutron Content Analyzer) is a scientific investigation mission that will study the latitude and time dependencies of the neutron spectrum in low-Earth orbit for the first time to improve current space weather models and mitigate threats to space and airborne assets. The measurements will come from a new directional neutron spectrometer, which is being developed in conjunction with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of New Hampshire.

  • QubeSat– University of California, Berkeley

QubeSat is a technology demonstration mission. It will test and characterize the effects of space conditions on quantum gyroscopes using nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond. Nitrogen-vacancy centers are nitrogen defect points in diamond with quantum properties that allow scientists to form gyroscopes that measure angular velocity. Nitrogen-vacancy center-based technologies are particularly well suited for space because of their high accuracy, small form factor, and radiation tolerance.

  • R5-S1 – NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston

R5-S1 is intended to demonstrate a fast and cost-effective way to build successful CubeSats in addition to demonstrating some technologies that are important to in-space inspection, which could help to make crewed space exploration safer and more efficient. R5-S1 could prove a cheaper way to demonstrate crucial technologies like high-performance computers, cameras, algorithms, and a new way for satellites to transmit pictures to the ground.

The ELaNa 41 mission CubeSats were selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and were assigned to the mission by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy. CSLI provides launch opportunities for small satellite payloads built by universities, high schools, NASA Centers, and non-profit organizations.

To date, NASA has selected over 200 CubeSat missions, over 100 of which have been launched into space, with more than 30 mis­sions scheduled for launch within the next 12 months. The selected CubeSats represent participants from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 102 unique organizations.

Stay connected with these CubeSat missions on social media by following NASA’s Launch Services Program on Facebook and Twitter.

Weather Holds at 30% Favorable, Prelaunch News Conference Set for Noon Today

Falcon 9 roll out for CRS-24
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon spacecraft rolls out to Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 19, 2021, in preparation for launch. The agency’s 24th commercial resupply services mission, targeted for liftoff on Dec. 21, 2021 at 5:06 a.m. EST, will deliver new science investigations, supplies, and equipment to the crew on board the International Space Station. Photo credit: SpaceX

The weather forecast remains unchanged for the planned Tuesday, Dec. 21, launch of SpaceX’s 24th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

Weather officials with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron predict a 30% chance of favorable weather conditions for Tuesday’s targeted liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the company’s Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Less than favorable conditions are expected for the primary launch window early Tuesday morning, with the main concerns associated with this weather being the cumulus cloud rule, thick cloud layer rule, and surface electric field rule.

NASA commercial cargo provider SpaceX is targeting tomorrow at 5:06 a.m. EST, to launch its resupply services mission to the space station. The backup date for launch is Wednesday, Dec. 22, at 4:43 a.m. EST.

At noon today, NASA TV will broadcast a prelaunch news conference from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for SpaceX’s 24th commercial resupply services mission. The event will feature representatives from NASA’s International Space Station Program, SpaceX, and the U.S. Space Force Space Launch Delta 45.

Participants include:

  • Joel Montalbano, manager for the International Space Station Program
  • Bob Dempsey, Acting Deputy Chief Scientist, International Space Station Program
  • Sarah Walker, director, Dragon mission management at SpaceX
  • Arlena Moses, launch weather officer, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron

Live launch coverage will air on NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency’s website, with prelaunch events starting Tuesday at 4:45 a.m. EST. Join us on the blog for live updates, or follow along on NASA TV or the agency’s website for the live launch broadcast.

Stay connected with the mission on social media and let people know you’re following the mission on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by using the hashtags #Dragon and #NASASocial. Follow and tag these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA, @NASAKennedy, @NASASocial, @Space_Station, @ISS_Research, @ISS National Lab, @SpaceX
Facebook: NASA, NASAKennedy, ISS, ISS National Lab
Instagram: @NASA, @NASAKennedy, @ISS@ISSNationalLab, @SpaceX

ELaNa 38 CubeSats: Small Satellites Making a Big Impact

One of the solar panels being installed onto the GASPACS CubeSat during final assembly.
A student from Utah State University installs one of the solar panels onto the GASPACS CubeSat during final assembly. Photo credit: Jack Danos, Team Coordinator, Get Away Special Team, Utah State University

Launching aboard SpaceX’s 24th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station, NASA’s 38th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission strengthens the initiative’s aim of providing opportunities for small satellite payloads built by universities, high schools, NASA Centers, and non-profit organizations. Liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 5:06 a.m. EST.

The DAILI spacecraft in its stowed configuration and ready for installation into the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer.
The 6U DAILI spacecraft is shown in its stowed configuration before installation into the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer. Photo credit: Nancy Pastor, The Aerospace Corporation

The four small satellites, or CubeSats, that comprise the 38th ELaNa mission include designs from Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California; Utah State University in Logan, Utah; Georgia Tech Research Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia; and NASA’s Kennedy.

CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites, built to standard dimensions – Units or “U” – of 4 inches cubed. Often included as secondary payloads, CubeSats can be 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in size, typically weighing less than 3 pounds per U and designed to carry out unique tasks once deployed into low-Earth orbit.

The DAILI spacecraft is shown in its mission configuration with the solar arrays deployed and the Sunshade open. Photo credit: Nancy Pastor, The Aerospace Corporation

The Daily Atmospheric and Ionospheric Limb Imager (DAILI), built by Aerospace Corporation, is a linear 6U CubeSat that images the edge of Earth’s atmosphere to determine daytime density of atmospheric oxygen. The region of atmosphere it will study – roughly an altitude of 87 to 180 miles – is difficult to measure and produces uncertain atmospheric models. This investigation could help improve models informing our understanding of dynamics in the upper atmosphere, which can affect satellites and space debris in low-Earth orbit, while improved understanding of how Earth’s atmosphere works could contribute to better forecasting of weather and other atmospheric events.

The Aerospace Corporation – a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center – designed and developed DAILI based on the company’s Remote Atmospheric and Ionospheric Detection System experiment, which was operational on the space station from 2009 to 2010, enabled DAILI to be designed. The DAILI CubeSat project is led by principal investigator Dr. James Hecht.

The completed GASPACS CubeSat.
The GASPACS CubeSat was built by students from Utah State. Photo credit: Jack Danos, Team Coordinator, Get Away Special Team, Utah State University

An undergraduate team at Utah State University developed the Get Away Special Passive Attitude Control Satellite (GASPACS), a 1U CubeSat with a primary mission to deploy a meter-long inflatable boom in low-Earth orbit and transmit a clear photograph of the deployed boom to Earth. Inflatable structures are compact and lightweight and therefore could serve many useful purposes in space. On this mission, the inflatable boom also will passively stabilize the rotation of the satellite due to aerodynamic drag in orbit.

The GASPACS CubeSat was developed by the university’s Get Away Special Team – an undergraduate, extracurricular research team within the physics department that gives students the opportunity to learn real-world engineering skills by effectively contributing to aerospace research. The team’s principal investigator is Dr. Jan Sojka, head of the university’s physics department.

Vibration Testing of the PATCOOL CubeSat Prototype.
The PATCOOL CubeSat Prototype undergoes vibration testing. Photo credit: NASA

The Passive Thermal Coating Observatory Operating in Low-Earth Orbit (PATCOOL) satellite is a 3U CubeSat sponsored by NASA and developed by students at the University of Florida to investigate the feasibility of using a cryogenic selective surface coating as a more efficient way to passively cool components in space. The team hopes in-orbit testing will validate what ground tests have demonstrated – that this coating should provide a much higher reflectance of the Sun’s irradiant power than any existing coating while still providing far-infrared power emission.

The ADvanced Autonomous MUltiple Spacecraft (ADAMUS) Laboratory at the University of Florida (UF), with funding from NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), developed the PATCOOL CubeSat, along with principal investigator, Brandon Marsell, branch chief for LSP’s Environments and Launch Approval, based at Kennedy.

The TARGIT satellite in its deployed state.
The TARGIT satellite is shown in its deployed state. Photo credit: W.C. Hobbs

The Tethering and Ranging mission of the Georgia Institute of Technology (TARGIT) is a 3U CubeSat that seeks to develop and test in orbit an imaging LiDAR system capable of fine detailed topographic mapping while also providing university students with hands-on education in space systems and applications. Additionally, the mission will demonstrate a series of experimental spacecraft technologies, including active tether and inflation systems, 3D-printed components, horizon sensors using low-resolution thermal imagers, and nanocarbon-based solar cells.

GAS team members Cooper Gowan, Andrew Nelson, and Carter Page showing the finished inflatable boom payload.
Utah State University’s GAS team members show the finished inflatable boom payload. Photo credit: Jack Danos, Team Coordinator, Get Away Special Team, Utah State University

Students from Georgia Tech’s School of Aerospace Engineering designed and developed the TARGIT CubeSat, under the tutelage of their professor and principal investigator, Dr. Brian C. Gunter.

The ELaNa 38 mission CubeSats were selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and assigned to the mission by LSP, based at Kennedy. CSLI provides launch opportunities for small satellite payloads built by universities, high schools, NASA Centers, and non-profit organizations.

To date, NASA has selected 220 CubeSat missions, 124 of which have been launched into space, with 37 more missions scheduled for launch within the next 12 months. The selected CubeSats represent participants from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 102 unique organizations.

Stay connected with these CubeSat missions on social media by following NASA’s Launch Services Program on Facebook and Twitter.

NASA’s LCRD Launches Aboard Space Test Program 3

Conceptual image of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload transmitting optical signals. LCRD, NASA’s first end-to-end laser relay system, will operate for at least two years and provide data rates 10 to 100 times higher than traditional radio frequency systems.
Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V 551 rocket successfully launched from Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Dec. 7, at 5:19 a.m. EST for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission. Two satellites were on board, including the Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft, which carried two NASA payloads that have been successfully deployed:

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), will be NASA’s first end-to-end laser relay system, sending and receiving data over invisible infrared lasers at a rate of approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth. With data rates 10 to 100 times higher than traditional radio frequency systems, laser communications systems will provide future missions with extraordinary data capabilities.

The mission will operate for at least two years. Engineers will beam data between LCRD and optical ground stations located in Table Mountain, California, and Haleakalā, Hawaii, once LCRD is positioned more than 22,000 miles above Earth. Experiments will refine the transmission process, study different operational scenarios, and perfect tracking systems. The information and data are essential to readying a laser communications system for an operational mission because engineers cannot replicate the same conditions with ground tests.

UVSC Pathfinder — short for Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder — begins its mission to peer at the lowest regions of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, where solar energetic particles, the Sun’s most dangerous form of radiation, are thought to originate. A joint NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory experiment, UVSC Pathfinder becomes the latest addition to NASA’s fleet of heliophysics observatories, which study a vast, interconnected system from the Sun to the space surrounding Earth and other planets, and to the farthest limits of the Sun’s constantly flowing stream of solar wind.

For a full recap of this morning’s launch, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-laser-communications-tech-science-experiment-safely-in-space-0/

To stay updated about LCRD and laser communications, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lasercomms.

Stay connected with the LCRD mission on social media:
Twitter: @NASA, @NASAGoddard, @NASALaserComm, @NASA_Technology, @NASASCaN
Facebook: NASANASAGoddardNASA TechnologyNASA Space Communications and Navigation
Instagram: NASANASAGoddard