High School Scholars Tour Kennedy Space Center, Have Lunch with an Astronaut

Top scholars from Brevard County high schools tour Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Nov. 7, 2018.
Top scholars from Brevard County high schools tour Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Nov. 7, 2018, and stop for a group photo near the Vehicle Assembly Building. Photo credit: NASA/Jennifer Hudgins

Seniors from Brevard County area high schools were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, ate lunch with an astronaut, and participated in a roundtable discussion with Kennedy engineers, scientists and business experts at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Nov. 7, 2018.

The students heard from astronaut Bob Springer, a member of the second class of NASA astronauts, who flew on the STS-29 and STS-38 missions. Mixing pertinent information with humor, Springer shared his experiences in training and flying on a space shuttle, and the astronaut selection criteria.

The annual event, hosted by the NASA Academic Engagement Office at the center, also provided information about NASA’s internships and scholarships. At the end of the day, each student received a certificate of recognition. From there, they were invited to tour the visitor complex and view the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit.

“Each year, the schools select a superb group of students to participate,” said Denise Coleman, Education Program specialist. “They were engaged and eager to see and hear as much as possible about Kennedy, NASA missions, and how all of that might relate to their future.”

Kennedy Team Puts Space Sensor to use on the Ground

Researchers discuss best practices for using a residual gas analyzer/mass spectrometer to detect leaks and contamination in a vacuum.
Janine Captain, a researcher at Kennedy, (left) and Dan Ciarlariello, thermal vacuum chamber engineer, (center) discuss best practices for using a residual gas analyzer/mass spectrometer to detect leaks and contamination in a vacuum with Ken Wright, chief scientist and instrument development lead for sensor manufacturer Inficon (right). The TVAC can simulate various space environments to test and prepare hardware for flight. Photo credit: NASA

NASA Kennedy Space Center’s use of a technology widely employed in sophisticated manufacturing supports the agency’s space exploration efforts and also has led to improvements in the product’s design.

The technology is a sensor called a residual gas analyzer/mass spectrometer, or RGA. At each step in the process of producing complex items like semi-conductors, which can involve thousands of RGAs for process control, the devices can rapidly detect vacuum leaks as well as contamination that, if left unchecked, could result in manufacturing defects. RGAs also can determine the type and location of a leak by identifying its chemical composition.

A team at Kennedy leveraged their experience working with RGAs while they worked with members of industry to troubleshoot Kennedy’s thermal vacuum chamber, or TVAC. The chamber can simulate various space environments to test and prepare hardware for flight.

The NASA researchers, members of the Water Analysis and Volatile Extraction (WAVE) team, are developing RGAs as payloads for landers to detect resources on the Moon, such as water that astronauts can drink or convert to rocket fuel. During testing of the TVAC, engineers had detected pressure spikes indicative of small, invisible leaks. The WAVE team and members of industry demonstrated how to use a RGA sensor to troubleshoot the leaks by identifying gases present in the chamber which would indicate the source of a leak, thus avoiding a costly and time-consuming delay to operations.

This was not their first collaboration.

The NASA researchers had already put their RGA through numerous flight verifications, and had worked with the vender to resolve issues that arose when adapting the technology for space. Vibration testing, in particular, highlighted several ways in which RGA manufacturers could make their devices more robust. Ken Wright, chief scientist and instrument development lead for sensor manufacturer Inficon, said working with NASA produced at least three direct improvements to the company’s residual gas analyzer. “Our main product is now better because of this collaboration,” Wright said.

Janine Captain, a researcher at Kennedy, said the work was beneficial to everyone involved. “This collaboration makes the center stronger and better equipped to provide testing facilities to our customers,” she said. “Working with commercial providers enables us to continue expanding our capabilities.”

Employing the RGA sensor to troubleshoot Kennedy’s thermal vacuum chamber while preparing the same equipment for use in space is another example of harnessing innovation to develop the agencies capabilities and using technology to drive exploration.

Kennedy Space Center Celebrates U.S. Constitution Day

The Kennedy Space Center "Freedom Needs Space" poster is in view at the new Headquarters Campus Building.
NASA Kennedy Space Center observes U.S. Constitution Day, Sept. 17, with the theme “Freedom Needs Space.” The remembrance poster is near the new Headquarters Campus Building. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux
Kennedy Space Center's "Freedom Needs Space" poster is near the Vehicle Assembly Building
NASA Kennedy Space Center’s remembrance poster “Freedom Needs Space” is near the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building. The center celebrates U.S. Constitution Day, Sept. 17. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Today, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida celebrates U.S. Constitution Day, the official birthday of our country’s government. With the theme “Freedom Needs Space,” a remembrance poster makes appearances in various locations around the multi-user spaceport, including the crawlerway, Vehicle Assembly Building and Shuttle Landing Facility.

Constitution Day is an American federal observance. It recognizes the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. Constitution Day is observed on Sept. 17, the day in 1787 that 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, representing the 13 original colonies, met for the last time and signed the document in Philadelphia.

For more information about Constitution Day, resources and activities, visit http://www.constitutionday.com/.

Engineers Mark Completion of Umbilical Testing at Launch Equipment Test Facility

A banner signing event was held at the Launch Equipment Test Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to mark completion of umbilical testing.
A banner signing event was held at the Launch Equipment Test Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to mark completion of umbilical testing. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The team that tested the umbilical lines and launch accessories that will connect from the mobile launcher (ML) to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission-1 celebrated their achievement during a banner signing at the Launch Equipment Test Facility (LETF) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Engineers and technicians in the Engineering Directorate and the Exploration Ground Systems Program, along with contractor support, began the tests at the LETF about 2.5 years ago. The first to be tested was one of two aft skirt electrical umbilicals. Testing of the final umbilical, the second of two tail service mast umbilicals, was completed on June 27.

“The team of NASA test engineers and test managers, and contractor engineers and technicians, worked tirelessly six days a week, 10 hours a day, in order to meet the highly aggressive schedule and deliver the hardware to the mobile launcher for installation,” said Jeff Crisafulli, Test and Design branch chief in the Engineering Directorate.

In all, 21 umbilicals and launch accessories were tested on various simulators at the LETF that mimicked conditions during launch to ensure they are functioning properly and ready for installation on the ML. Most have been delivered and installed on the ML tower. These include the Orion service module umbilical, interim cryogenic propulsion stage umbilical, core stage forward skirt umbilical and core stage inter-tank umbilical. Two aft skirt electrical umbilicals, two aft skirt purge umbilicals, a vehicle stabilizer system, eight vehicle support posts and two tail service mast umbilicals were installed on the 0-level deck of the ML.

Before launch, the umbilical lines will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel to the rocket and spacecraft. Additional accessories will provide access and stabilization. During launch, each umbilical and accessory will release from its connection point, allowing the SLS and Orion to lift off safely from the launch pad.

“Design, fabrication and testing of the new mobile launcher’s umbilicals and launch accessories is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am proud to have been part of,” Crisafulli said.

Launch of NASA’s ICON Satellite Postponed

Artist image of NASA's ICON satellite.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.

Chilling Out During Liquid Oxygen Tank Test

The liquid oxygen tank at Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.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!

Kennedy Space Center to Host NASA’s 9th Annual Robotic Mining Competition

The robotic miner from Mississippi State University digs in the mining arena May 24, 2017, 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 May 24, 2017, 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 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).

Team Raptor members from the University of North Dakota College of Engineering and Mines check their robot, named "Marsbot," in the RoboPit on May 23, 2017, at NASA's 8th Annual Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
Team Raptor members from the University of North Dakota College of Engineering and Mines check their robot, named “Marsbot,” in the RoboPit on May 23, 2017, at NASA’s 8th Annual Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

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.

Watch the RMC competition live at http://bit.ly/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.

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

Covault, Diller Join Prestigious ‘Chroniclers’ Group

Craig Covault, left, and George Diller were honored as “Chroniclers” during an event at Kennedy Space Center’s NASA News Center on Friday, May 4. The longtime friends combined for more than 80 years of U.S. space exploration news reporting. “Chroniclers” recognizes retirees of the news and communications business who helped spread news of American space exploration from Kennedy for 10 years or more.
Craig Covault, left, and George Diller were honored as “Chroniclers” during an event at Kennedy Space Center’s NASA News Center on Friday, May 4. The longtime friends combined for more than 80 years of U.S. space exploration news reporting. “Chroniclers” recognizes retirees of the news and communications business who helped spread news of American space exploration from Kennedy for 10 years or more. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.

Craig Covault, left, and George Diller unveil their names on the “Chroniclers wall” during a gathering of the honorees’ friends, family, media, and current and former NASA officials at Kennedy Space Center’s NASA News Center in Florida on Friday, May 4.
Craig Covault, left, and George Diller unveil their names on the “Chroniclers wall” during a gathering of the honorees’ friends, family, media, and current and former NASA officials at Kennedy Space Center’s NASA News Center in Florida on Friday, May 4. “Chroniclers” recognizes retirees of the news and communications business who helped spread news of American space exploration from Kennedy for 10 years or more. The two men combined for 85 years of U.S. space exploration coverage. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

“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.”

Brass strips engraved with the names of Craig Covault and George Diller were unveiled during a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center’s NASA News Center in Florida on Friday, May 4.
Brass strips engraved with the names of Craig Covault and George Diller were unveiled during a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center’s NASA News Center in Florida on Friday, May 4. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.

TESS Televised Events Today and Monday

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star.
Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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.

Today, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is hosting several events to be broadcast live on NASA TV. View the TESS Briefings and Events page for the full list of event participants.

The schedule is:
11 a.m. – NASA Social Mission Overview
1:30 p.m. – Prelaunch news conference
3 p.m. – Science news conference

Join us here or at NASA TV from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday for live coverage from the countdown. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 is scheduled for 6:32 p.m.