NASA and Northrop Grumman have postponed the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite. ICON, which will study the frontier of space, was targeted to launch on a Pegasus XL rocket June 14 from the Kwajalein Atoll in Marshall Islands.
During a ferry transit, Northrop Grumman saw off-nominal data from the Pegasus rocket. While ICON remains healthy, the mission will return to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for rocket testing and data analysis. A new launch date will be determined at a later date.
Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) chilled out recently with a pressurization test of the liquid oxygen (LO2) tank at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – Pad 39B, recently upgraded by the EGS team for the agency’s new Space Launch System rocket.
The six-hour test of the giant sphere checked for leaks in the cryogenic pipes leading from the tank to the block valves, the liquid oxygen sensing cabinet, and new vaporizers recently installed on the tank.
The SLS will use both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. During tanking, some of the liquid oxygen, stored at minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit, boils off and vapor or mist is visible. While the tank can hold up to 900,000 gallons of liquid oxygen; during the test it only contained 590,000 gallons of the super-cooled propellant.
The test was monitored by engineers and technicians inside Firing Room 1 at the Launch Control Center, a heritage KSC facility also upgraded by the EGS team in preparation for the upcoming mission. Results of the test confirmed that the fill rise rate was acceptable, the tank pressurization sequence works and that only one of the two vaporizers was needed to accomplish pressurization.
Another system is “go” for the first integrated launch of SLS and the Orion spacecraft!
The robots are coming! Forty-five teams of undergraduate and graduate students, from universities and colleges throughout the U.S., are expected to soon descend upon NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida with their uniquely designed robotic miners, in all shapes and sizes. They will compete May 16-18 in the agency’s 2018 Robotic Mining Competition (RMC).
Each team’s robot will traverse and excavate the simulated Martian regolith, seeking to mine and collect the most regolith within a specified amount of time. Teams also are required to submit a Systems Engineering Paper, perform STEM Outreach in their communities and provide a presentation and robot demonstration.
The competition will conclude May 18 with an evening awards ceremony at the Apollo Saturn V Center. A list of winners will be available by May 21 at http://www.nasa.gov/nasarmc.
The Robotic Mining Competition is a NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate project designed to encourage and retain 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 deep space exploration missions.
NASA recently honored a pair of veteran space chroniclers for their contributions to delivering U.S. space exploration news. Craig Covault and George Diller are the newest additions to the facility’s “Chroniclers wall,” recognized during a ceremony held May 4 at the Kennedy Space Center Press Site in Florida.
“George dedicated most of his professional career to public affairs’ mandated mission to keep our citizens cognizant of NASA’s goals, rationales, successes and failures, all in a timely and accurate manner,” said Hortense Diggs, deputy director of Kennedy Space Center’s Office of Communication and Public Engagement. “As a member of the free press, Craig reported with objectivity and diligence about how well we did as stewards of the U.S. space program and the taxpayers’ dollars.”
Earlier in the week, brass strips engraved with each awardee’s name and affiliation were added to the wall and covered. Those strips were unveiled during a special gathering of the honorees’ friends and family, media, and current and former NASA officials on Friday. The two men were selected by a committee of their peers to be the 2018 Chroniclers on March 21.
“Chroniclers” recognizes retirees of the news and communications business who helped spread news of American space exploration from Kennedy for 10 years or more. Covault and Diller each far exceeded that amount.
Considered for NASA’s journalist in space initiative during the Space Shuttle Program, Covault covered approximately 100 space shuttle launches and missions. The former writer and reporter with Aviation Week & Space Technology is credited with 2,000 news and feature stories on space and aeronautics during his 48-year career.
“I certainly want to, from the bottom of my heart, thank NASA, thank public affairs, and my journalism colleagues, for providing me this recognition,” Covault said. “And I certainly want to add my congratulations and pleasure at having George Diller share this award with me. We have been friends for many, many years.”
Diller, known by many as “The Voice of Kennedy Launch Control,” retired in 2017 after a 37-year career in NASA Public Affairs. He provided commentary for numerous critical missions, including the space shuttle launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, and all five of its servicing missions. He called his launch commentary of Atlantis STS-135, which was the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program, “something that I’ll never quite forget.”
“I can’t really think of anything that I would have done differently; that I could have enjoyed more,” Diller said. “I pretty much got to do with my career just about everything I wanted to do. And a lot of people never have that satisfaction.”
Covault and Diller are the 75th and 76th names to be added to the “Chroniclers wall,” which includes Walter Cronkite of CBS news, ABC News’ Jules Bergman and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Noble Wilford of the New York Times.
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)