NASA and Northrop Grumman are now targeting Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, for the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON. The spacecraft will launch aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 90 minutes starting at 4 a.m. EDT and ICON will be launching off the coast of Daytona at 39,000 ft. at a heading of 105.0 degrees. The launch was postponed from Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, to allow time to address a quality issue with a vendor-supplied electrical connector on the launch vehicle, which has been resolved.
Photo Credit: NASA
NASA and Northrop Grumman have decided to delay the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, to allow time to address a quality issue with a vendor-supplied electrical connector on the launch vehicle. Northrop Grumman does not expect an extended delay and will work with the range to determine a new launch date. The ICON spacecraft will launch aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made his first official visit to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 6 and 7 for an up-close look at the premier, multi-user spaceport.
Bridenstine’s visit began with Center Director Bob Cabana giving the administrator a helicopter tour of the bustling Florida spaceport.
During an all hands meeting for Bridenstine to speak with employees, Cabana commented on the spaceport’s shift.
“The transition that you all have made in the last seven years since (space shuttle) Atlantis made its final fight has been nothing short of phenomenal,” he said. “I’ve had the privilege the past two days to share the work that you all have accomplished with our new NASA administrator, who is passionate about what we do.”
Bridenstine also thanked Kennedy employees for their part in the recent changes.
“You have transitioned splendidly,” Bridenstine said. “When you look at how Kennedy has handled the challenge and how you have turned this into a multi-user spaceport with commercial and other partners, I’m inspired and in awe.”
For nearly half a century, Kennedy operated as a NASA-only space center. As the Space Shuttle Program came to an end, Kennedy began preparing to support NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft. Anticipation of an emerging commercial space industry resulted in center leadership developing an innovative concept of a multi-user spaceport to change focus from a big government, NASA-only space center to the agency partnering with other organizations.
The administrator also spoke of the crucial role NASA plays in everyday life around the globe.
“Space is important to our everyday lives,” he said. “Look at how space has transformed all of our lives. You look at the way we communicate, the way we navigate, the way we produce food, the way we produce energy, the way we do disaster relief in this country and the world, the way we provide national security and defense, every person in our country and every human on the planet has benefited from what NASA has done.”
In addition to touring Kennedy facilities, Bridenstine participated in an Industry Roundtable hosted by the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast and Space Florida. He later met with members of the news media in the center’s Space Florida’s Space Life Sciences Lab facility.
As astronauts prepare for trips to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, their last steps before boarding an Orion spacecraft will be across the Crew Access Arm (CAA) on the mobile launcher.
Earlier this year, the CAA was added to the mobile launcher being prepared to support NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the largest in the world. Technicians and engineers in Exploration Ground Systems at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center recently tested the crucial arm, confirming it worked as designed.
The test was designed to determine the functionality and integrity of the CAA and supporting mobile launcher systems.
“This was the first functional swing testing for the Crew Access Arm,” said Cliff Lanham, Mobile Launcher Project Manager at Kennedy. “Prior to testing, we checked the mechanical attachment, hydraulics and cabling to make sure we had confidence it would work properly.”
The CAA is designed to rotate from its retracted position and line up with Orion’s crew hatch. The arm will provide entry and emergency egress for astronauts and technicians into and out of the Orion spacecraft.
In advance of those missions, the Exploration Ground Systems team at Kennedy has been overseeing testing of umbilicals and other launch accessories on the 380-foot-tall mobile launcher in preparation for stacking the first launch of the SLS rocket with Orion.
During the test, there were several moves of the arm controlled by systems on the mobile launcher. The test also was important because of the upcoming move of the mobile launcher from its park site to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
“The CAA will be extended when it goes inside the VAB,” Lanham said. “We cannot rotate the arm once in the VAB due to space constraints.”
Testing inside the VAB is designed to ensure all systems work properly in connection with the building prior to stacking the first SLS and Orion for Exploration Mission-1. EM-1 will be the first unpiloted flight of the new NASA spacecraft traveling 280,000 miles from Earth well beyond the Moon.
Commercial Resupply Services Mission:SpaceX CRS-15 Launch:5:42 a.m. EDT, Friday, June 29, 2018 Launch Weather:Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90 percent chance of favorable weather at launch time. Cumulus and anvil clouds are the primary weather concerns. Lift Off:Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Launch Vehicle:SpaceX Falcon 9, 230 feet-tall Spacecraft:Dragon, 20 feet high, 12 feet-in diameter Payload: Dragon will deliver supplies and payloads, including materials to directly support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the space station’s Expeditions 56. Return to Earth:After about one month attached to the space station, Dragon will return with results of earlier experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. Payloads on Board:https://go.nasa.gov/2LymYKJ
Commercial Resupply Services Mission:SpaceX CRS-15 Launch:5:42 a.m. EDT, Friday, June 29, 2018 Lift Off:Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Launch Vehicle:SpaceX Falcon 9, 230 feet-tall Spacecraft:Dragon, 20 feet high, 12 feet-in diameter Payload:Dragon will deliver supplies and payloads, including materials to directly support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the space station’s Expeditions 56. Return to Earth:After about one month attached to the space station, Dragon will return with results of earlier experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. Payloads on Board:https://go.nasa.gov/2LymYKJ
Two veteran NASA astronauts, who recently passed away, were honored May 30, 2018, in separate wreath laying ceremonies at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Alan Bean, who flew during the Apollo and Skylab programs, was remembered in a ceremony at the Apollo-Saturn V Center. Space shuttle astronaut Don Peterson was honored at the Atlantis exhibit.
Bean was the fourth person to walk on the Moon as lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 in November 1969. He went on to command the 59-day Skylab 3 mission in 1973.
After his retirement from NASA, Bean became an accomplished artist capturing spaceflight from the eyes of one who has flown in space and walked on the lunar surface, He died in Houston on May 26, 2018, at the age of 86.
“After logging 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space, Alan passed the baton to the next generation of astronauts and changed fronts, looking to push the boundaries of his own imagination and ability as an artist,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe.”
Peterson originally was selected for the U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory program, but when that was cancelled, he became a NASA astronaut in September 1969. He served as a mission specialist on the maiden flight of the space shuttle Challenger during STS-6 in April 1983.
Peterson resigned from NASA in November 1984, working after that as a consultant in human aerospace operations. He died on May 27, 2018, in El Lago, Texas. He was 84.
During the six-day STS-6 mission, Peterson and fellow mission specialist Story Musgrave performed a four-hour spacewalk, the first of the shuttle program. Once outside the spacecraft, Peterson was impressed with the view.
“Got a good shot of Mother Earth there Story.” He said. “It’s a fantastic view.”
As a part of the Oral History Project, Peterson explained that the purpose of the spacewalk.
“We tested a few of the tools, wrenches and some of the foot restraints,” he said, “but mainly it was to make sure the suits were OK.”
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!
Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day are all things associated with May. As many Floridians know, the fifth month signifies another important occurrence: the start of sea turtle nesting and hatching season.
Sea turtles are prevalent along the Space Coast, and Kennedy Space Center is no exception. Experts estimate that more than 5,000 turtles nest each year on Kennedy’s protected beaches and on land near the center, on the Canaveral National Seashore. The two most common species found in this area are the green turtle, which is on the endangered list, and the loggerhead, which is listed as threatened.
People visiting, living or working near the beach, including spaceport employees, can take steps to help these fascinating reptiles during their six-month critical nesting and hatching period. Two words to keep in mind are: dark skies. Sea turtles — and their hatchlings — need them.
Females come up on the beach after dark to lay and bury their eggs. With the cooler temperatures, they are less likely to overheat while laying approximately 100-130 eggs. After 55-60 days, the hatchlings emerge from their nests — also at night.
Sea turtles use the light of the Moon and stars to navigate. Artificial lighting from street lights, buildings and flashlights on the beach can disrupt their ability to find their way back to the water. Wrong turns can be perilous for both adults and hatchlings, which have limited energy to make it offshore.
So what can we do? Be aware of lights from nearby facilities or homes that can illuminate the beach. Turn off the lights, draw the shades and use LED or “turtle-friendly” lighting. Kennedy has been diligently working to improve its performance in following these external lighting guidelines every year.
Experts say one hatchling in a thousand will make it to the reproductive stage. Consequently, ensuring dark skies along the eastern seaboard of Florida is crucial to a sea turtle’s survival.
NASA’s TESS satellite is scheduled to launch Monday, April 16, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, on an ambitious mission to search for planets outside our solar system. Tune in Sunday for a series of briefings and events broadcast live on NASA TV.
Catch the NASA Social Mission Overview at 11 a.m., a prelaunch news conference at 1 p.m. and a news conference focusing on the science of the mission beginning at 3 p.m. All times are Eastern. View the TESS Briefings and Events page for the full list of event participants.
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.