Installation of Next Level of Work Platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System Begins at Kennedy Space Center

Lift and installation of the first half of Platform E, E south, in the Vehicle Assembly Building.The first half of the E-level work platforms, E South, was installed Aug. 26 in High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The platform was lifted up by crane from the floor of the transfer aisle and lowered into the high bay for installation about 246 feet above the floor on the south wall of the high bay.

The E platforms are the sixth of 10 levels of platforms that will surround NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft and provide access for testing and processing for the uncrewed Exploration Mission 1 flight test and deep-space missions, including the journey to Mars.

The E platforms will provide access to the SLS core stage forward skirt umbilical for mating operations. The platforms will provide entry into the core stage forward skirt for alignment measurements of the SLS critical navigation components.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to the VAB, including installation of the new work platforms.

Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Orion Heat Shield for Exploration Mission 1 Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

Orion heat shield for Exploration Mission 1 arrives at Kennedy Space Center.The heat shield that will protect the Orion crew module during re-entry after the spacecraft’s first uncrewed flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket in 2018 arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 25. The heat shield arrived aboard NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility, was offloaded and transported to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building high bay today.

The heat shield was designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the company’s facility near Denver. Orion’s heat shield will help it endure the approximately 5,000 degrees F it will experience upon reentry. The heat shield measures 16.5 feet in diameter.

Orion is the spacecraft that will carry astronauts to deep-space destinations, including the journey to Mars. Orion will be equipped with power, communications and life support systems to sustain space travelers during their journey, and return them safely back to Earth.

For more information about Orion, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/orion/index.html

Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

Platform C South Arrives at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Space Launch System

The first segment of the C-level work platforms, C South, arrives at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.The first half of the C-level work platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), C South, arrived in two segments at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center this week. The first segment arrived Aug. 4, and the second segment arrived today. The C work platforms are the eighth of 10 levels of platforms that will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and provide access for processing.

The platform segments were transported from Sauer Corp. in Orlando, Florida, by Tillett Heavy Haul of Titusville, Florida. Sauer is a subcontractor to VAB general contractor Hensel Phelps. Tillett Heavy Haul is a subcontractor to Sauer. The platform was placed on a stand in a staging area near the VAB, where some final assembly will be performed before it is transferred into the building.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to the VAB, including installation of the new platforms, to prepare for Exploration Mission 1, deep-space missions and the journey to Mars.

Photo credit: NASA/Glen Benson

First Tail Service Mast Umbilical Arrives for Testing at Kennedy Space Center

The first Tail Service Mast Umbilical arrives at Kennedy Space Center for Testing.The first of two Tail Service Mast Umbilicals (TSMUs) for NASA’s Space Launch System arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida from Precision Fabrication and Cleaning in Cocoa. The TSMU was moved to the Launch Equipment Test Facility, where it will undergo testing to ensure it functions properly.

Both TSMUs will connect from the zero-level deck on the mobile launcher to the SLS rocket core stage aft section. The 33-feet-tall umbilicals will provide liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fluid lines and electrical cable connections to the SLS core stage engine section to support propellant handling during prelaunch operations. Before launch, both TSMUs will tilt back to ensure a safe and reliable disconnect and retract of all umbilical hardware away from the rocket during liftoff.

Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate, along with the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, are supporting testing of all of the umbilicals that will attach from the tower on the mobile launcher to the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1 and deep-space missions, including the journey to Mars.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Zinnia Flowers from International Space Station Yield Seeds for Future Experiments

Zinnia flowers are dissected in the SSPF at Kennedy Space Center.
Zinnia flowers were dissected inside the Veggie flight laboratory in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

A baker’s dozen of zinnia flowers that were grown on the International Space Station were unpacked and recently dissected inside the Veggie flight laboratory in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. An additional dozen zinnias were given to the six crew members on the space station as souvenirs.

A team of NASA and contractor scientists in the ISS Ground Processing and Research Project Office carefully removed the seeds from each of the thirteen zinnia plants and the zinnias from a ground control experiment. The seeds were examined under a microscope and then packaged in small vials and labeled for further analysis.

At Kennedy, the seeds will undergo a microbial analysis and a germination test to determine if they could be sent to the space station for another growth cycle in the Veggie system.

The zinnia seeds were delivered to the space station as part of the Veg-01 experiment in April 2014. The plant pillows containing the zinnia seeds were activated Nov. 16, 2015, in the Veggie plant growth system by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly during his one-year mission. The zinnias were watered and their growth was monitored for 90 days. The plants were harvested on Feb. 14, 2016, packaged and returned to Earth on the SpaceX CRS-8 Commercial Resupply Services Mission. Funding for Veggie is provided by the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research Applications Division at NASA Headquarters.

NASA is maturing Veggie technology aboard the space station to provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement – a critical part of NASA’s Journey to Mars. As NASA moves toward long-duration exploration missions farther into the solar system, Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption. It also could be used by astronauts for recreational gardening activities during long-duration space missions.

Platform Milestone Reached at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Space Launch System

The first half of the F platforms is installed in the Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay 3.
A crane lowers the first half of the F platforms into place July 15, in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Installation of new work platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and the journey to Mars reached the halfway point this week inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The F North and South platforms were lifted by crane from the transfer aisle floor of the VAB, slowly raised into position, and attached to rail beams on the north and south walls in High Bay 3 on July 15 and 19. The rail beams provide structural support and contain the drive mechanisms to retract and extend the platforms.

Each platform weighs between 300,000 and 325,000 pounds and measures about 38 feet long and close to 62 feet wide.

The F-level platforms will provide access to the SLS Core Stage (CS) Intertank and facilitate CS Intertank Umbilical mate operations. Located on Platform F, the “F-1” multi-level ground support equipment platform will be used to access the booster forward assemblies and the CS to booster forward attach points. The upper level of F-1 will be used to remove the lifting sling used to support forward assembly mate for booster stacking operations.

A total of 10 levels of work platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft and enable testing and processing for the uncrewed Exploration Mission 1, and deep-space missions, including the journey to Mars.

Platform D North Arrives at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Space Launch System

Platform D North arrives at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.The second half of the D-level work platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), D North, arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center on June 27. The D work platforms are the seventh set of new platforms to arrive at Kennedy. A total of 10 levels of work platforms will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and provide access for processing.

The platform was transported from Sauer Corp. in Orlando, Florida, by Tillett Heavy Haul of Titusville, Florida. Sauer is a subcontractor to VAB general contractor Hensel Phelps. Tillett Heavy Haul is a subcontractor to Sauer. The platform was placed on a stand in a staging area near the VAB, where some final assembly will be performed before it is transferred into the building.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to the VAB, including installation of the new platforms, to prepare for Exploration Mission 1, deep-space missions and the journey to Mars.

Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Fourth Set of New Work Platforms Installed in Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay 3

The g-level work platforms are installed in the Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay 3.The G-level work platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, were installed this week in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. A heavy-lift crane was used to raise G south and G north platforms up from the transfer aisle, then over and down to about the 14th floor level for installation.

The G-level work platforms are the fourth of 10 levels of work platforms that will surround and provide access to the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to VAB High Bay 3, including installation of the new work platforms, to prepare for deep space missions, including NASA’s journey to Mars.

Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Tail Service Mast Umbilicals Prepared to Support NASA’s Journey to Mars

A Tail Service Mast Umbilical at Precision Fabrication Cleaning in Cocoa, Florida.
A crane lowers a segment of one of the Tail Service Mast Umbilicals to its other segment at Precision Fabrication Cleaning in Cocoa, Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Several connections, called launch umbilicals, will connect from the mobile launcher tower and provide power, communications, coolant and fuel to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for their first integrated mission. Among them are two umbilicals, called tail service mast umbilicals (TSMUs). They are being cleaned and assembled at Precision Fabrication Cleaning in Cocoa, Florida, before they are transported to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for testing.

Technicians are cleaning the two segments of each umbilical to remove any dirt or debris that may hinder their functionality, checking them for any defects, and then assembling the parts to form two complete umbilicals. They will be transported to Kennedy’s Launch Equipment Test Facility where they will undergo testing to ensure their readiness to support prelaunch operations leading up to launch.

The umbilicals will connect from the zero-level deck on the base of the mobile launcher to the SLS rocket core stage aft section. The 33-foot-tall structures will provide liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fluid lines and electrical cable connections to the SLS core stage engine section to support propellant handling during prelaunch operations.

At the LETF, engineers and technicians will use liquid nitrogen to simulate the liquid oxygen for the TSMU that will provide liquid oxygen. They will test the umbilical’s arm performance across the full range of SLS core stage motions and simulate a vehicle launch using the Vehicle Motion Simulator test fixture. The same series of tests will be performed with the second TSMU that will provide liquid hydrogen, using the actual liquid hydrogen commodity.

Before launch, both TSMUs will tilt back to ensure a safe and reliable disconnect and retract of all umbilical hardware away from the rocket during liftoff.

Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate, along with the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, are supporting processing activities of the umbilicals for missions to deep space, including NASA’s journey to Mars.

Platform D South Arrives at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Space Launch System

Platform D South arrives at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.A heavy load transport truck from Tillett Heavy Hauling in Titusville, Florida, arrived at the north entrance gate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 6, carrying the first half of the D-level work platforms, D south, for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The platform will be delivered to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) staging area in the west parking lot. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to VAB High Bay 3 to support processing of the SLS and Orion spacecraft. A total of 10 levels of new platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft and provide access for testing and processing to prepare for Exploration Mission 1.

Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky