Author Archives: Linda Herridge

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Makes Grand Finale Plunge

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Rings of Saturn as viewed by the Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini gazes across the icy rings of Saturn toward the icy moon Tethys, whose night side is illuminated by Saturnshine, or sunlight reflected by the planet. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

The spacecraft that revealed the remarkable planet Saturn to the world and sent back stunning images of its rings and nearby moons has completed its mission. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its final grand finale plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere Sept. 15, 2017.

Cassini made distant flybys of Saturn moons Janus, Pan, Pandora and Epimetheus before making its last dive.

The spacecraft and its attached Huygens probe launched aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket on Oct. 15,1997, from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on its seven-year, 2.2-billion mile journey.

Cassini arrived in the Saturn system on June 30, 2004, and began a four-year mission to study the giant planet, its rings, moons and magnetosphere. The spacecraft made 22 weekly dives between the planet and its rings. It continued to beam back to Earth hundreds of gigabytes of scientific data. The Huygens probe made the first landing on a moon (Titan) in the outer solar system.

The Cassini-Huygens mission was a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

For more information on Cassini’s mission finale, visit: https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/grandfinale.

Service Platforms Arrive for Space Launch System Booster Engines

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SLS booster engine platforms arrive at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

A flatbed truck carrying one of two new service platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System booster engines arrives at the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 31, 2017. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

New service platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) booster engines arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The platforms were transported on two flatbed trucks from fabricator Met-Con Inc. in Cocoa, Florida. They were offloaded and stored inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

The platforms will be used for processing and checkout of the engines for the SLS’ twin five-segment solid rocket boosters for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The boosters, in combination with the rocket’s four RS-25 engines, will produce more than 8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The first SLS mission, EM-1, will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to a stable orbit beyond the Moon and bring it back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will demonstrate the integrated system performance of the rocket, Orion spacecraft and ground support teams prior to a crewed flight.

Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage Moves to Space Station Processing Facility

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The ICPS is moved to the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, packed in its canister, exits the Delta Operations Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for transport to the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) is the first segment for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to arrive at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was transported from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it had been undergoing final testing and checkout since arriving in February, to the Space Station Processing Facility at the center.

Stacking of the rocket will occur in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The ICPS will be located at the very top of the SLS, just below the Orion capsule. During Exploration Mission-1, NASA’s first test mission of the SLS rocket and Orion, the ICPS, filled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, will give Orion the big in-space push needed to fly beyond the Moon before returning to Earth.

The ICPS was designed and built by ULA in Decatur, Alabama, and Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama. The propulsion stage will be cleaned and maintained and remain in the high bay at the Space Station Processing Facility and moved to the VAB when it is time for stacking operations.

TDRS-M Spacecraft Arrives in Florida for Prelaunch Preparations

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TDRS-M arrives at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida.The next addition to NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) System has arrived in Florida to begin processing for its August launch. The TDRS-M satellite, secured in a shipping container, was delivered Friday aboard a cargo aircraft that touched down at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft then was transported to the Astrotech Space Operations facility to begin preparations for launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

TDRS-M will expand the capabilities of NASA’s Space Network to support space communication for an additional 15 years. The network consists of TDRS satellites that transmit data to and from ground stations on Earth for NASA missions and expendable launch vehicles. The Space Network allows scientists, engineers and control room staff to readily access data from missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, California, built TDRS-M. NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Program, a part of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, is responsible for the TDRS network. Launch management of the Atlas V launch service for TDRS-M is the responsibility of the mission directorate’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Kennedy Space Center’s Education Outreach to Girls Receives National Recognition

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Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day flyer.NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Digital Learning Network and Speakers’ Bureau received the Women Engineering Pro-Active Network (WEPAN)/DiscoverE Girl Day Award for 2017 for their “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” Program. The award was announced June 13 during WEPAN’s annual Change Leader Forum in Westminster, Colorado.

“I am very proud of the Kennedy team for receiving this award,” said Lesley Fletcher, Ph.D., deputy division chief, Education Projects and Youth Engagement. “One of our primary goals is to reach girls and inspire them to pursue science, technology, engineering and math careers.”

The eight-hour, interactive web live-streaming event was selected for the prestigious award “for empowering girls with information about opportunities in engineering.”

The program was viewed by more than 12,000 people on Feb. 23 during National Engineering Week.

“This was the first year we hosted an ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’ event. The flexible schedule allowed groups to join in at a time that was convenient. It was a well-organized and widely attended event that provided girls with role models and information about opportunities in engineering,” Fletcher said.

The program featured female NASA subject-matter experts inspiring viewers with details about their careers, the challenges and rewards.

WEPAN and the DiscoverE Foundation work together to recognize organizations and individuals whose participation excelled in the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” initiative.

NASA’s 8th Annual Robotic Mining Competition Underway at Kennedy Space Center

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The robotic miner from Mississippi State University digs in the mining arena during NASA's 8th Annual Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

The robotic miner from Mississippi State University digs in the mining arena during NASA’s 8th Annual Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The robots are here. More than 40 teams of undergraduate and graduate students from throughout the U.S. have descended upon NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with their uniquely-designed robotic miners, in all shapes and sizes, to compete over three days in the agency’s 2017 Robotic Mining Competition (RMC).

Each team’s robot traverses and excavates simulated Martian dirt, seeking to move and collect the most regolith, or simulated Martian soil, within a specified amount of time. Other RMC competition categories include submission of a systems engineering paper, slide presentation and robot demonstration. Also factored in is how well each team has reached out to its community through social media and engagement with area schools and the general public.

The competition concludes tomorrow with an evening awards ceremony at the Apollo Saturn V Center. A list of winners will be available by May 30 at http://www.nasa.gov/nasarmc.

Watch RMC live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-dlinfo.

The Robotic Mining Competition is a NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate project designed to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields. The project provides a competitive environment to foster innovative ideas and solutions that could be used on NASA’s Journey to Mars.

For more information on the RMC, associated activities and social media, visit http://www.nasa.gov/nasarmc.

Engineer’s LLAMA Design Aids Orion Recovery, Earns Innovation Award

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Jeremy Parr with the LLAMA during Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 in the Pacific Ocean.

Jeremy Parr, a mechanical design engineer in Kennedy Space Center’s Engineering Directorate, monitors the Line Load Attenuation Mechanism Assembly, or LLAMA, on a U.S. Navy ship during Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. Photo credit: NASA

What is a LLAMA? It’s a Line Load Attenuation Mechanism Assembly, designed by Jeremy Parr, a mechanical design engineer in the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He designed the LLAMA to help U.S. Navy line handlers retrieve the Orion crew module after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

Parr is the lead design engineer for Orion Landing and Recovery, which is coordinated and led by the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program. Parr’s design recently earned him second place in the agency’s third Innovation Awards competition.

“The LLAMA concept came to me after watching the sailors fighting to control the Orion test capsule during Underway Recovery Test 1 in open water in February 2014,” Parr said.

The standard Navy line tending practice is to wrap their lines around the ship’s T-bits, or large solid columns with a crossbar that resemble the letter “t,” located near the stern, so that the sailors can control big loads with only a few people. This works for most operations they do since the hardware they handle is usually big and slower moving in the seas. But the crew module is a different beast when floating in the water than anyone on the recovery team expected, Parr said. Orion is easily pushed around by wind and waves.

“I came up with a design that helps the Navy line handlers to safely maintain high tension in the tending lines during recovery of Orion into the well deck of a ship. It also regulates the amount of tension in the lines to ensure equal loading on the vehicle.”

The LLAMAs are mounted on the ship’s T-bits, and the mechanisms provide all tending line control of the crew module once it enters the well deck and until it is secured on the recovery cradle pads.

“I am both excited and honored to be recognized for the LLAMA design,” Parr said. “This has been a team effort for a few years now to get where we are today. We worked through development and testing until we completed our successful test during Underway Recovery Test 5 off the coast of San Diego in the fall of 2016.”

The LLAMA-controlled tending lines are the baseline method for recovery of Orion after Exploration Mission-1 and all future missions.

Parr began working at Kennedy in 2007. Prior to that, he worked for SAIC at Johnson Space Center in Houston for four years.

Orion Processing Continues at Kennedy Space Center for First Flight with SLS

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The Orion EM-1 crew module is moved from a clean room to a work station in the O&C Building at Kennedy Space Center.Work continues to prepare NASA’s Orion crew module for its first integrated flight atop the Space Launch System rocket. The crew module was moved from a clean room to a work station inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for the next additions to the spacecraft.

In the clean room, engineers and technicians completed the welding of the tanks to the propulsion and environmental control/life support systems (ECLSS) tubing. They also completed welding to install the propellant, pressurant and post-landing coolant tanks. The pressurant is used to maintain the flow of propellant and coolant in the propulsion and ECLSS systems, respectively.

Now secured in a work station, Orion will undergo additional processing to prepare it for launch in 2019. The crew module up-righting system, comprised of five up-righting bag assemblies, each with an inflation gas assembly, will be installed in the crew module’s forward bay. The up-righting bags are inflated after the crew module splashes down in the ocean and will turn the spacecraft upright if external forces cause it to roll over. The three main parachute assemblies also will be installed in the forward bay.

Orion’s crew module will be populated with avionics components, including control systems and communication and data units. Flight wire harnesses, which distribute power and data among the spacecraft’s systems, will be routed throughout the crew module’s forward bay, crew cabin and aft- and mid-bays.

The first flight of SLS and Orion will send the spacecraft beyond the moon before Orion returns to Earth and splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will demonstrate the integrated performance of the SLS rocket, Orion and ground support teams before a flight with crew in the early 2020s.

Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

Final Brick Installed in Launch Complex 39B Flame Trench for NASA’s Space Launch System

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Final brick is installed in the flame trench at Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center.

A construction worker installs the final brick on the north side of the flame trench walls May 9, 2017 at Launch Complex 39B. Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

Intense heat and fire will fill the north side of the flame trench beneath the pad when NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft lift off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A project to upgrade the walls of the flame trench to withstand these conditions recently was completed.

All of the new heat-resistant bricks now are in place in the flame trench below the surface of the pad. Construction workers installed the final brick May 9, completing about a year’s worth of work on the walls on the north side of the flame trench to support the launch of the (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft on deep-space missions, including the Journey to Mars.

About 96,000 heat-resistant bricks, in three different sizes, now are secured to the walls using bonding mortar in combination with adhesive anchors. The flame trench will be able to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit at launch of the rocket’s engines and solid rocket boosters.

“The flame trench has withstood so many historical launches, and we are giving it new life to withstand many more,” said Regina Spellman, the launch pad senior project manager with the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program.

The north side of the flame trench is about 571 feet long, 58 feet wide and 42 feet high.

A new flame deflector soon will be installed that will safely contain and deflect the plume exhaust from the massive rocket to the north during launch. Two side flame deflectors, repurposed from space shuttle launches, will be refurbished and reinstalled at pad level on either side of the flame trench to help reduce damage to the pad and SLS rocket.

Flown Orion Crew Module Moves to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

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The Orion EFT-1 crew module is moved into the IMAX Theater at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

The Orion crew module from Exploration Flight Test 1, secured on its custom-made ground support equipment, is moved into the IMAX Theater at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

The Orion crew module that traveled into space beyond low-Earth orbit on Exploration Fight Test 1 (EFT-1) completed a different kind of trip this week at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Secured on a custom-made ground support equipment transporter, Orion was moved from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, less than three miles down the road. The crew module will become part of the NASA Now exhibit inside the IMAX Theater at the visitor complex.

The Orion spacecraft launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket Dec. 5, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft built for humans traveled 3,604 miles above Earth, and is the first U.S. spacecraft to go beyond low-Earth orbit in 42 years. The Orion crew module splashed down approximately 4.5 hours later in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles off the shore of California.

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