The planned liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, remains scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT Monday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff.
Each semester the Pathways and NASA Internships, Fellowships and Scholarships (NIFS) interns at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida come together for a team-building event. This spring semester, 92 interns participated in an afternoon of friendly competition. The students rotated through six activity stations that tested their abilities to communicate well, solve problems, strategize and share knowledge.
The fast-paced and physically active event focused on networking and collaboration. Kennedy’s senior managers and volunteers helped facilitate the activities. The team with the most points won bragging rights – and a lunch with Kennedy’s Director, Bob Cabana.
The winning team members and the directorate they support are: Eric Barash, Exploration Research and Technology; Nathan Estey, Chief Financial Officer; Jose Pacheco, Engineering Directorate; Ashley Renfroe-Suttle, Chief Financial Officer; Michael Roberts, Exploration Research and Technology; Madison Tuttle, Communication and Public Engagement; and Jessica Warren, Engineering Directorate.
Nearly the last of several large connection lines, called umbilicals, was installed on the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The umbilical was lifted by crane and attached high on the tower of the mobile launcher at about the 240-foot level, bringing the steel structure one step closer to supporting processing and launch of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The launcher is designed to support the assembly, testing, check out and servicing of the rocket, as well as transfer it to the pad and provide the platform from which it will launch.
This particular umbilical will supply propellants, environmental control systems, pneumatics and electrical connections to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) of the SLS rocket and will swing away before launch. The umbilical also will provide hazardous gas leak detection while the rocket is on the pad. The ICPS is located between the core stage of the rocket and the Orion capsule, and will provide propulsion for Orion while in space and give the spacecraft the big push needed to fly beyond the moon.
To install the umbilical, construction workers with JP Donovan prepared the rigging lines and attached the umbilical to a large crane. The ICPS umbilical was slowly lifted up and bolted to the mobile launcher. The entire process took about four hours.
With the umbilical in place, workers will install additional equipment on the tower, as well as electrical wiring, environmental control system tubing, hydraulics and other commodities will be routed to the umbilical arm before testing. Tests of the swing arm also will be performed as part of the verification and validation process.
Exploration Ground Systems is overseeing installation of the launch umbilicals and launch accessories on the mobile launcher to prepare for the first integrated test flight of Orion atop the SLS on Exploration Mission-1. A pair of tail service mast umbilicals are slated for installation later this year and will be the last of the twenty umbilicals and launch accessories to be installed on the mobile launcher. With this test flight, NASA is preparing for missions to send astronauts to deep space destinations, including the Moon, Mars and beyond.
The first growth test of crops in the Advanced Plant Habitat aboard the International Space Station yielded great results this week. Arabidopsis seeds – small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard – grew for about six weeks, and the dwarf wheat for five weeks.
This growth test was a precursor to the start of an investigation known as PH-01, which will grow five different types of Arabidopsis and is scheduled to launch in May on Orbital ATK’s ninth commercial resupply mission to the space station.
“The first growth test demonstrated the plant habitat can grow large plants within an environmentally controlled system,” said Bryan Onate, Advanced Plant Habitat project manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “The systems performed well in microgravity, and the team learned many valuable lessons on operating this payload on station.”
The plant habitat is now ready to support large plant testing on the space station. A fully enclosed, closed-loop system with an environmentally controlled growth chamber, it uses red, blue and green LED lights, as well as broad-spectrum white LED lights. The system’s more than 180 sensors will relay real-time information, including temperature, oxygen content and moisture levels back to the team on the ground at NASA Kennedy.
A memorial quilt commemorating Columbia and the seven crew members of STS-107 has been officially turned over for display in the Columbia Preservation Room inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The quilt was received by Mike Ciannilli, the Apollo, Challenger, Columbia Lessons Learned Program (ACCLLP) manager. Janet Phillips, property custodian in Kennedy’s Office of Procurement, presented the quilt, along with a certificate, during the turnover ceremony. Both will be preserved and added to NASA’s collection of more than 80,000 artifacts in the Columbia Preservation Room.
“Art often can be used to powerfully convey emotion,” Ciannilli said. “This quilt, this work of art, does just that. It shares the pain, support and comfort of the American people for our nation’s loss of Columbia and her heroic crew.”
The 10-by16-foot quilt was designed by Katherine Walsh, originally from Kentucky, now residing in Dover, New Jersey. Walsh is a lifelong fan of NASA and the space program. After space shuttle Columbia and the crew were lost, she had an idea to create the quilt. Beginning in early February 2003, she sent out requests to the quilting community to create and send her quilt squares. By May, she had received fabric donations from adults and children in 13 states.
Walsh worked on the quilt for seven months. During a family vacation to Florida, she handed over the finished quilt at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Oct. 8, 2003. The quilt made its way to the center. Phillips recently located it and worked to get it transferred from the Office of Procurement to the Columbia Preservation Room.
“I am thrilled to know that all of my research and perseverance paid off with the culmination of the Columbia Preservation Room transfer ceremony,” Phillips said. “We’ve preserved history, not just for Kennedy, but for the entire agency and the nation.”
The magic number for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida could be six. That’s because there are six primary missions scheduled to launch from two different coasts, within about six months, atop six different rocket configurations.
“Not since 2003 has the Launch Services Program had a denser and more diverse manifest as it will this year,” said Chuck Dovale, the program’s deputy manager. “We are poised and ready for the challenges ahead.”
LSP is preparing for the following missions:
NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S)
Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2)
Iconospheric Connection Explorer (ICON)
Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight)
Parker Solar Probe
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Apollo, Challenger, Columbia Lessons Learned Program (ACCLLP) focused on space shuttle Columbia and crew recovery efforts during an employee event Jan. 26. The theme of the presentation was “Columbia: Lessons and Legends of Recovery.”
When Columbia and her crew of seven were lost during re-entry 15 years ago, the recovery efforts became the largest ground search in the history of the United States. Federal, state, county and local agencies, in addition to thousands of patriotic American citizens, joined together to help with recovery efforts that focused mainly in Lufkin, Texas.
Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana served as the moderator for a panel discussion that included several guests with powerful direct connections to that fateful day and the recovery efforts. They were Dave King, former director of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and NASA Columbia Recovery director; Mike Leinbach, former shuttle launch director; Jonathan Ward, author and space historian; Gerry Schumann, NASA Mishap Investigation manager; Greg Cohrs, U.S. Forestry Service ranger, stationed in Hemphill, Texas, close to Lufkin; and Mike Ciannilli, ACCLLP manager.
“It’s important to have our day of remembrance,” Cabana said. “We have a huge challenge in front of us as we prepare for our next journey.”
NASA’s Recovery Team from Kennedy Space Center just finished a week at sea, testing and improving their processes and ground support hardware to recover astronauts in the Orion capsule once they splash down in the Pacific Ocean. Aboard the USS Anchorage, NASA and the U.S. Navy worked together to run through different sea conditions, time of day and equipment scenarios—putting hardware and the people through their paces.
Astronaut Stephen Bowen was aboard as an observer to better understand the recovery procedures and to offer an astronaut’s perspective. As a former Navy captain, Bowen has a wealth of knowledge to impart to the team—helping them better understand what the crew will be going through as they are bobbing up and down in the capsule after spending time in microgravity.
“I understand what it’s like to be on a boat that doesn’t have a keel (a structural beam that runs in the middle from bow to stern to give it stability) in the open ocean,” Bowen said. “It’s not necessarily the friendliest of places to be.” And add that to the physical manifestations of re-entering a gravity environment after several weeks, Bowen’s first-hand knowledge will be paramount for the team as they hone their plans to make recovery smooth.
During the weeklong testing, the team made strides in developing the final recovery plan and even shaved 15 minutes off their best time. “When the astronauts return to Earth, we are required to retrieve them within two hours,” said NASA Recovery Director Melissa Jones, “but our goal is to get to them as quickly and safely as possible—we are shooting for half that time.”
The team still has several tests scheduled between now and Orion’s first uncrewed flight atop the new Space Launch System rocket, known as Exploration Mission-1. The mission will pave the way for future crewed missions and enable future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. During the flight, Orion will travel thousands of miles beyond the Moon before splashing down into the Pacific, where NASA’s Recovery Team will be ready and waiting for her.
NASA’s new deep space exploration systems will send crew 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, and return them safely home. After traveling through space at 25,000 miles per hour, the Orion spacecraft will slow to 300 mph after it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft then slows down to 20 mph before it safely splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.
When astronauts come back from deep space, they will need to be picked up as quickly as possible. That’s where Kennedy Space Center’s NASA Recovery Team comes in.
Under the auspices of Exploration Ground Systems, Melissa Jones, NASA’s recovery director, and her team will recover the Orion capsule and crew. NASA and the U.S. Navy are working together to ensure they are ready before the first uncrewed Orion mission aboard the agency’s new Space Launch System rocket, known as Exploration Mission-1.
This week, the integrated NASA and U.S. Navy team are aboard the USS Anchorage, testing out new ground support equipment and practicing their procedures.
After Orion completes its mission out past the Moon and heads to Earth, Jones will get the call Orion is coming home. Then, it is her job to get the joint NASA and U.S. Navy team to the capsule’s location quickly and bring it and the astronauts safely aboard the U.S. Navy recovery ship.
“We are testing all of our equipment in the actual environment we will be in when recovering Orion after Exploration Mission-1,” Jones said. “Everything we are doing today is ensuring a safe and swift recovery when the time comes for missions with crew.”
Engineers and technicians gathered in the Prototype Development Laboratory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 8, 2017, to sign a banner marking the successful delivery of a liquid oxygen test tank, affectionately named “Tardis” due to its large rectangular shape. The tank, made of aluminum, was built at the lab to support cryogenic testing at Johnson Space Center’s White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The tank is close to 12 feet tall and weighs 3,810 pounds. One side of the tank is curved to simulate the shape of a rocket for testing.
Engineers and technicians came together to work on the tank. It was designed by Robert Whited, a mechanical engineer at Kennedy. Following a critical design review in July 2017, construction of the tank began in August. Large sheets of aluminum were used to make the tank. All of the parts were welded together by Phil Stroda, a professional welder with NASA.
“This is a tremendous example of Kennedy’s engineering infrastructure being able to investigate and solve problems for major space programs,” said Pat Simpkins, Kennedy Engineering director.
Todd Steinrock, who is the chief of the Fabrication and Development Branch, and manager of the Prototype Development Lab, said this is a great example of the value of collaboration between engineers and engineering technicians.
“The technical input from the Prototype Lab technicians, especially our welder, had a huge impact on the design of the tank,” Steinrock said. “We refer to it as ‘Design for Manufacturability.’ The technician’s advice led to an improved design and fast fabrication.”
The test tank was loaded into a truck on Dec. 11 and transported to White Sands. At White Sands, the test tank will be filled with cryogenic fluids and simulate processing of flight hardware. The tank will be instrumented and the data that is collected will assist engineers in validating various structure, thermal and fluid models.
The Prototype Development Lab has been operating at Kennedy for more than 50 years.