Fueling Underway For Artemis I Launch

A view of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A view of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 18, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Teams with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Exploration Ground Systems and primary contractor, Jacobs, are fueling the Orion service module ahead of the Artemis I mission. The spacecraft currently resides in Kennedy’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility alongside the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System (ICPS), the rocket’s upper stage that will send Orion to the Moon. After servicing, these elements will be integrated with the flight components of the Space Launch System, which are being assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Technicians began loading Orion’s service module with oxidizer, which will power the Orbital Maneuvering System main engine and auxiliary thrusters on the European-built service module ahead of propellant loading. These auxiliary thrusters stabilize and control the rotation of the spacecraft after it separates from the ICPS. Once the service module is loaded, teams will fuel the crew module to support thermal control of the internal avionics and the reaction control system. These 12 thrusters steady the crew module and control its rotation after separation from the service module.

Once Orion servicing is complete, teams will fill the ICPS. This liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system will push the spacecraft beyond the Moon for the test flight under the agency’s Artemis program. In several weeks, when fueling is complete, Orion will move to the center’s Launch Abort System Facility to integrate its launch abort system, and the ICPS will move to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be stacked atop the mobile launcher.

Delta II Added to Historic Line-up at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Rocket Garden

A ribbon-cutting ceremony welcomes the last United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket to the lineup of historic launch vehicles in the Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, on March 23, 2021. Cutting the ribbon, from left are Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Tim Dunn, launch director, Launch Services Program, and Therrin Protze, chief operating officer, Delaware North/KSCVC.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony welcomes the last United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket to the lineup of historic launch vehicles in the Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, on March 23, 2021. Cutting the ribbon, from left are Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Tim Dunn, launch director, Launch Services Program, and Therrin Protze, chief operating officer, Delaware North/KSCVC. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The last United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket became a permanent resident of the Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on March 23, 2021. Representatives from the Visitor Complex, ULA, Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s Launch Services Program, and the 45th Space Wing gathered for a ribbon cutting to commemorate the addition of the rocket to the line-up.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the last United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket joins the lineup of historic launch vehicles in the Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, on March 23, 2021.
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the last United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket joins the lineup of historic launch vehicles in the Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, on March 23, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

“It’s great having this ULA Delta II take its place among the other historic vehicles in our Rocket Garden,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “The Delta II launched so many critical NASA science missions throughout our solar system as well as to planet Earth, and now it begins its second career on a mission of inspiration for all our future rocket scientists and engineers visiting the Kennedy Space Center.”

Delta II took its place among iconic giants, joining an original Delta, Mercury-Redstone, Mercury-Atlas, Gemini-Titan, the Junos, Atlas-Agena and Saturn 1B.

Following the Delta II’s final mission in 2018, ULA selected Kennedy’s Visitor Complex to receive a remaining vehicle for an outdoor display to inspire current and future generations to learn about the rocket’s history.

“Today is a historic day for our ULA team. We are excited to honor the legacy of this rocket that was so instrumental in delivering critical missions for NASA, the Department of Defense and commercial customers,” said Ron Fortson, director and general manager of United Launch Alliance, “Today we honor not only the Delta II’s historical impact, but also the men and women who designed, built, and launched it for nearly three decades.”

For nearly 30 years, the Delta II was the industry workhorse for NASA and civilian scientists, the U.S. military, and commercial clients. The Delta II launched more than 230 satellites on 155 flights to deploy the Global Positioning System (GPS), explore the solar system, and serve the medium-class commercial space launch market. Delta II soared into space from both coasts of the United States, launching from two side-by-side pads at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex (SLC)-17 in Florida, and the SLC-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA’s Launch Services Program launched the ICESat-2 spacecraft on the final Delta II launch on Sept. 15, 2018, from Vandenberg.

“I was excited to see Delta II in the Rocket Garden against a beautiful blue sky. I am so thankful for the ULA/Delaware North collaboration that made this display possible,” said Tim Dunn, Launch Services Program launch director. “When I think of Delta II, I think of the launch team, the engineers, analysts, and technicians who contributed to this rocket’s unprecedented record of success, consistent performance, and its appropriate nickname, ‘The Workhorse.’ I believe the success of this rocket has left a huge ripple effect on the launch systems we have today.”

McDonnell Douglas created the rocket in the late 1980s to fulfill the U.S. Air Force’s need for a launch vehicle to carry the GPS first generation of operational satellites into space and create a worldwide precision navigation network.

Kennedy Scientist Journeys to End of Earth for Plant Research: Astrobotanist Log 1

Neumayer III Station in Antarctica.
Neumayer III Station in Antarctica. Photo credit: DLR/NASA/Jess Bunchek

After training for months in Germany, Jess Bunchek, a plant scientist with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, departed Dec. 20, 2020, for the German Neumayer III Station in Antarctica, operated by the Alfred Wegner Institute (AWI). Working at the EDEN ISS greenhouse managed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Bunchek will research growing food crops in a remote, harsh setting, similar to what astronauts experience in space. Here is her account of the journey to EDEN ISS.

The 2021 overwintering team in front of Polarstern upon arrival in Antarctica.
The 2021 overwintering team in front of Polarstern upon arrival in Antarctica. Back row L-R: mechanical engineer Florian Koch, chef Tanguy Doron, station leader and surgeon Peter Jonczyk, meteorologist Paul Ockenfuss, electrical engineer Markus Baden, geophysicist Lorenz Marten. Front row L-R: atmospheric chemist Linda Ort, IT and radio specialist Theresa Thoma, geophysicist Timo Dornhoefer, agronomist/astrobotanist Jess Bunchek. Photo credit: AWI/Tim Heitland

In a typical year, you can reach the Neumayer III Station in Antarctica by air, but as we all know, the past year has been anything but typical. With countries restricting travelers and flights being cancelled, the institute that runs Neumayer came up with an alternative: go by ship. The icebreaker RV Polarstern, German for “polar star,” already travels annually from Germany to Neumayer to resupply the station, so adding a few passengers to this year’s transit was a logical and COVID-safe solution for AWI.

Icebreaker RV Polarstern that transported the team from Germany to Antarctica on a non-stop trip.
Icebreaker RV Polarstern that transported the team from Germany to Antarctica on a non-stop trip. Credit: DLR/NASA/Jess Bunchek

Our month-long voyage started with a storm in the English Channel and Bay of Biscay. The ship cut through 16-foot (5-meter) waves in spectacular fashion, although inside the ship, many of us rookies looked a bit, well, green from seasickness. Fortunately, we found ourselves in calmer seas with beautiful weather by the time we passed the Grand Canary Islands, which gave us the chance to fully appreciate the purpose and privilege of our voyage. That we are still able to overwinter while the world has come to a halt due to the pandemic has not been lost on us in the slightest.

The temperature quickly dropped as we approached the Antarctic Circle at 60 degrees south latitude, and soon we found ourselves in polar day where the Sun does not set, and sea ice is common. The latter was no problem for Polarstern, which is designed to navigate such an environment. In the Antarctic, orcas are the greatest predatorial threat to seals and penguins, which prefer to stay on the ice as we pass by than risk diving into the water. On multiple occasions, the large ship had to navigate around sunbathing seals.

We awoke early one morning parked next to the Ekstrøm Ice Shelf. Welcome to Antarctica! The next step was to unload Polarstern of passengers and cargo and move to Neumayer, still 12 miles (20 km) away. In the absence of buildings, trees, or mountains, our landmarks were now the colossal icebergs in nearby Atka Bay.

Navigating polar regions goes beyond the design of an icebreaker ship. In thick sea ice, helicopters are crucial for surveying the surrounding area and determining the best route for Polarstern. They also can quickly run temperature-critical and fragile supplies – such as seeds for EDEN ISS – from the ship to Neumayer while checking the long-term condition of the shelf ice.

However, all other transit is done on the ice. Snowmobiles are the ideal option for shorter, lighter trips, while tracked plows are better for heavy-duty jobs such as hauling, plowing, or longer travel.

Without further ado, I present AWI’s 41st overwintering team. Our 10-person crew consists of mechanic and electrical technician support, a cook, an IT and radio specialist, a surgeon, and scientists in the areas of geophysics, atmospheric chemistry, meteorology, and me, an agronomist and astrobotanist. Although my area of research focuses on supplying fresh crops to the crew while testing capabilities for space crop production, I would be remiss to not mention the role that marine and polar science play in climate change research. Traveling the length of the Atlantic Ocean reinforced a seemingly obvious but noteworthy theme: Our oceans and poles are humbling and marvelous. From the dark hues of icy, choppy waters to the velvet-smooth waves and warm, vibrant blue-greens near the Equator, to the frozen shelf ice that the 10 of us will call home for the next year, our Earth sure is a beautiful planet.

Now, we’re preparing the EDEN ISS greenhouse for the upcoming season, and I will post again soon.

Click here to view the story and additional photos on Instagram.

SLS Rocket Stage and Orion Share Space at Kennedy ahead of Artemis I

The ICPS is inside the Multi-Payload Process Facility at Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 18, 2021.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) moved into the Multi-Payload Processing Facility February 18, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) moved into the Multi-Payload Processing Facility February 18, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida alongside one of its flight partners for the Artemis I mission, the Orion spacecraft. Both pieces of hardware will undergo fueling and servicing in the facility ahead of launch by teams from NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and their primary contractor, Jacobs Technology. The rocket stage and Orion will remain close during their journey to space.

The ICPS is moved into the Multi-Payload Process Facility on Feb. 18, 2021 at Kennedy Space Center.
The interim cryogenic propulsion stage is in view inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility on Feb. 18, 2021, at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Built by United Launch Alliance and Boeing, the ICPS will be positioned above the core stage and will provide the power needed to give Orion the big push it needs to break out of Earth orbit on a precise trajectory toward the Moon during Artemis I.

This is the first time since the shuttle program that two pieces of flight hardware have been processed inside this facility at the same time. Once final checkouts are complete, the ICPS and Orion will part ways on the ground and be reunited in the Vehicle Assembly Building for integration onto the SLS rocket.

Artemis I will be an integrated flight test of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft ahead of the crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface and establish a sustainable presence at the Moon to prepare for human missions to Mars.

View additional photos here.

NASA “Meatball” Insignia and ESA Logo Added to Artemis I Fairings

The NASA and ESA insignias are in view on the Orion spacecraft adapter jettison fairings in the MPPF at Kennedy Space Center.
Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s (European Space Agency) strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions, as the ESA logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

NASA’s Artemis I Orion spacecraft is being outfitted with additional artwork as technicians began installing the logo for ESA (European Space Agency). ESA provided the European-built service module, which provides power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, and will also provide water and air for astronauts on future missions.

The NASA and ESA insignias are in view on the Orion spacecraft adapter jettison fairings in the MPPF at Kennedy Space Center.
The ESA (European Space Agency) logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch. Orion is currently stationed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions. The ESA logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch.

Orion is currently stationed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility, where it will undergo fueling and servicing by NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs Technology teams in preparation for the upcoming flight test with the Space Launch System rocket under the agency’s Artemis program.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Awaits Liftoff with Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is vertical at the launch pad.
The protective payload fairing containing the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is seen atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 after the rocket was lifted to vertical at Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 20, 2020. Photo credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite inside the payload fairing, is lifted to vertical at Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 20, 2020.

Stay tuned for launch coverage today on the NASA’s Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich blog, on NASA TV, and the agency’s website. Live coverage begins at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST). Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for today, Nov. 21, at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST).

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Rolls to Pad with Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich rolls out to the launch pad.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite atop in its payload fairing rolls out to Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 20, 2020. Photo credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite inside the payload fairing, rolls to Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 20, 2020.

Stay tuned for launch coverage of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite today here on the NASA blog, on NASA TV, and the agency’s website. Live coverage begins at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST).

Tune in Tomorrow for Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Launch Coverage

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich stickerTune in tomorrow, Nov. 21, for launch coverage of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite here on the NASA blog, on NASA TV, and the agency’s website. Live coverage begins at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST). Rollout of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was completed this afternoon.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ‘Go’ For Launch, Prelaunch News Conference at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST)

The Sentinel-6 satellite in the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload fairing.
An animated image of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite in the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload fairing at the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: NASA

Launch and mission managers have completed the Launch Readiness Review for the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission. At the conclusion of the review, NASA’s Launch Services Program, SpaceX, the European Space Agency (ESA), and NOAA agreed to target the launch for 9:17 PST (12:17 p.m. EST) on Saturday, Nov. 21, from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Currently, the 30th Space Wing weather forecast is 80% “go” for launch, with a 20% chance of violating weather constraints. The primary concern is ground winds of 20 knots at the time of launch.

A prelaunch news conference will be held at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST), live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Participants are:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate, NASA HQ
  • Johann-Dietrich Worner, Director-General, European Space Agency
  • Pierrik Vuilleumier, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project manager, ESA
  • Parag Vaze, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project manager, JPL
  • Tim Dunn, NASA Launch Director, Launch Services Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
  • Julianna Scheiman, program manager, NASA Launch Services, SpaceX
  • Anthony Mastalir, commander, 30th Space Wing and Western Launch and Test Range
  • John Ott, weather officer, 30th Space Wing

NASA TV launch coverage will begin at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST) on Nov. 21. You can follow the countdown milestones here on the blog and on NASA Television.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtag #SeeingTheSeas and tag these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA@NASAEarth@NASA_JPL@NASASocial@ESA@ESA_EO@EU_Commission@NOAA@CNES@Eumetsat@CopernicusEU@defis_eu  @SpaceX@NASA_LSP@NASA36030thSpaceWing
Facebook: NASANASA JPLNASA EarthNASA LSP30thSpaceWing
Instagram: NASANASAJPLNASAEarthVandenberg_AFB

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Launch Readiness Review, Televised Briefings on Tap Today

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission patch Today, launch and mission managers are holding the final major review, called the Launch Readiness Review, for the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission that will launch from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Launch is targeted for 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST) on Saturday, Nov. 21.

Coming up today at 12:30 p.m. PST (3:30 p.m. EST) is a science briefing, live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Participants are:

  • Karen St. Germain, director, NASA Earth Science Division, NASA HQ
  • Josh Willis, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project scientist, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) (remote)
  • Craig Donlon, Sentinel-6 mission scientist, European Space Agency (remote)
  • Remko Scharroo, programme scientist for Sentinel-6 EUMESTAT (remote)
  • Deirdre Byrne, oceanographer, NOAA (remote)
  • Luanne Thompson, Walters Professor of Oceanography, University of Washington (remote)

A prelaunch news conference will be held today at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST), live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Participants are:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate, NASA HQ
  • Johann-Dietrich Worner, Director-General, European Space Agency
  • Pierrik Vuilleumier, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project manager, European Space Agency
  • Parag Vaze, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project manager, JPL
  • Tim Dunn, NASA Launch Director, Launch Services Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
  • Julianna Scheiman, program manager, NASA Launch Services, SpaceX
  • Anthony Mastalir, commander, 30th Space Wing and Western Launch and Test Range
  • John Ott, weather officer, 30th Space Wing

NASA TV launch coverage will begin at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST) on Nov. 21.

Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: https://www.nasa.gov/sentinel-6.

Learn more about NASA’s Launch Services Program at: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/index.html.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtag #SeeingTheSeas and tag these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA@NASAEarth@NASA_JPL@NASASocial@ESA@ESA_EO@EU_Commission@NOAA@CNES@Eumetsat@CopernicusEU@defis_eu  @SpaceX@NASA_LSP@NASA36030thSpaceWing
Facebook: NASANASA JPLNASA EarthNASA LSP30thSpaceWing
Instagram: NASANASAJPLNASAEarthVandenberg_AFB