Vice President Pence Visits NASA’s Multi-User Spaceport

Vice President Mike Pence thanked employees at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for their commitment to America’s continued leadership in the space frontier during a visit to America’s multi-user spaceport on Thursday.

“Let us do what our nation has always done since its very founding and beyond: We’ve pushed the boundaries on frontiers, not just of territory, but of knowledge. We’ve blazed new trails, and we’ve astonished the world as we’ve boldly grasped our future without fear,” the Vice President told employees, government dignitaries and space industry leaders in remarks at the facility’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building, where the new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft will be prepared ahead of launches to the moon, and eventually to Mars and beyond. “From this ‘Bridge to Space,’ our nation will return to the moon, and we will put American boots on the face of Mars.”

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot thanked Vice President Pence and the administration for their strong support, and pointed out the evidence of government and industry cooperation on display at Kennedy.

“Here, of all places, we can see we’re not looking at an ‘and/or proposition’,” Lightfoot said. “We need government and commercial entities. We need large companies and small companies. We need international partners and our domestic suppliers. And we need academia to bring that innovation and excitement that they bring to the next workforce that we’re going to use to actually keep going further into space than we ever have before.”

Vice President Pence also got a first-hand look at the public-private partnerships at Kennedy during a tour that showcased both NASA and commercial work that will soon lead to U.S.-based astronaut launches and eventual missions into deep space. The Vice President started his visit with a concrete example of public-private development, as Air Force Two touched down on the Shuttle Landing Facility, the former space shuttle landing strip now leased and operated by Space Florida. After his remarks in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the Vice President shook hands with employees before departing on a tour, accompanied by Lightfoot, Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana, and NASA astronauts Pat Forrester and Reid Wiseman.

The Vice President visited the center’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, where the Orion spacecraft is being prepped for its first integrated flight with SLS in 2019. Orion has elements made in America by workers at more than 1,500 companies in 48 states, and some of that work, including components of Orion’s protective heat shield, were on display during the tour.

A driving tour showcased the mobile launch platform being readied for SLS flights as well as two commercial space facilities: Launch Complex 39A, the historic Apollo and shuttle pad now leased by SpaceX and used for commercial launches, and Boeing’s facility, where engineers are prepping the company’s Starliner capsule for crew flights to the space station in the same facility once used to do the same thing for space shuttles.

“We are in a great position here at Kennedy, we made our vision a reality; it couldn’t have been done without the passion and energy of our workforce,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Cabana. “Kennedy is fully established as a multi-user spaceport supporting both government and commercial partners in the space industry. As America’s premier multi-user spaceport, Kennedy continues to make history as it evolves, launching to low-Earth orbit and beyond.”

The Vice President also discussed President Trump’s executive order signed on June 30, re-establishing the National Space Council to coordinate all aspects of the nation’s space power. The Vice President said the Council will bring a renewed sense of purpose to America’s space policy by strengthening our economy and unlocking new opportunities, inspiring our children, enhancing our common defense and advancing the security of the American people.

For more information about NASA’s missions and activities, including video and images of Vice President Pence’s tour of the Kennedy Space Center, visit: https://www.nasa.gov

Coverage of Today’s Visit by Vice President to Kennedy


Watch the visit to Kennedy by Vice President Mike Pence today on NASA TV and on NASA’s social media accounts. Coverage of parts of the visit will begin at noon EDT with Air Force Two’s arrival at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility runway, followed by a special address to the center’s workforce in the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at 1 p.m.

The Vice President will tour Kennedy and learn more about the center’s work as a multi-user spaceport for commercial and government clients, as well as see the agency’s progress toward launching from U.S. soil on spacecraft built by American companies, and traveling past the moon, and eventually on to Mars and beyond with the help of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

For images of the Vice President’s tour, visit NASA’s homepage and the agency’s headquarters Flickr account. Coverage on NASA’s social media accounts will include Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Cassini’s Launch a Legacy of Pride

The launch team that dispatched NASA’s Cassini probe to Saturn almost 20 years ago aboard a Titan IVB rocket often recalls the months of work that went into preparing the massive, uncrewed spacecraft and its launch vehicle for the unprecedented survey of one of the solar system’s most intriguing planets. Cassini entered Saturn’s orbit on June 30, 2004, seven years after liftoff from Florida. Ray Lugo, Cassini’s launch director, never forgot the many careers formed around the Cassini mission from its inception to the spacecraft assembly and its ultimate success orbiting Saturn and studying its rings and moons. Read more of the launch team’s recollections about the mission as the Cassini spacecraft prepares for its Grand Finale in September: https://go.nasa.gov/2tq0YfY

Crew Dragon Trainer Takes Shape at Kennedy

NASA and SpaceX engineers are working together at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to build a full-scale Crew Dragon model, or Recovery Trainer, that will be used by the U.S. Air Force to perform flight-like rescue and recovery training exercises in the open ocean later this year.

The model, shown above with astronauts Dan Burbank and Victor Glover inside, is built to mimic the Crew Dragon spacecraft that SpaceX is developing with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. In certain unusual recovery situations, SpaceX may need to work with the U.S. Air Force to send parajumpers to recover astronauts from the capsule. The Recovery Trainer will be used by the Air Force to prepare procedures and train for this contingency scenario. The trainer also has two working hatches and other simulated components similar to the ones astronauts and support teams will encounter in real missions.

Scott Colloredo, deputy director of Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate, said the engineers adapted SpaceX designs of internal elements to be compatible with the trainer and worked with Kennedy’s Prototype Development Lab to produce the parts quickly and install them inside the trainer. The Prototype Development Lab designs, fabricates and tests prototypes, test articles and test support equipment. The lab has a long history of providing fast solutions to complex operations problems. The lab’s teams of engineers use specialized equipment to produce exacting, one-of-a-kind items made from a range of materials depending on the design.

“We perform things that complement what the partners and programs provide,” Colloredo said. “The team delivered right to the minute.”

SpaceX is now finalizing modifications to the trainer to ensure it floats in water in the same way as the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Following those modifications, the trainer will enter service as the primary training vehicle for Crew Dragon astronaut recovery operations.

Air Force Orbital Test Vehicle Lands at Kennedy Space Center

Yesterday, one of our spaceport partners, the U.S. Air Force, successfully landed their X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at the Space Florida-operated Shuttle Landing Facility here at Kennedy Space Center.  I am proud to congratulate the Air Force on their program accomplishment and welcome them as a member of the KSC multiuser spaceport family.  What an outstanding use of a runway and processing facilities that once supported NASA’s space shuttle and now support a new orbital vehicle.

This achievement is just one more example of how KSC is a vibrant spaceport full of activity.  We continue to forge new relationships with commercial space industry and other partners to expand the spaceport.  We enable organizations to achieve mission success through a comprehensive range of resources unmatched anywhere in the world.  Having industry partners enables NASA, to do what we do best, explore the unknown and forge the path to send humankind farther into deep space than we have ever been, including Mars.

— Bob Cabana,
Director, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

CubeSats Touching New Heights in Space Research

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Part of the scientific cargo packed inside an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft recently launched to the International Space Station is a trio of tiny spacecraft that soon will fly on their own in orbit to look at different aspects of space-based science.

With one examining Earth’s cloud layer, another looking at the cosmic background radiation from the birth of the universe and one evaluating battery storage capacities in space, the three satellites make up NASA’s ELaNa XVII mission, short for Educational Launch of Nanosatellites. The CubeSat Launch Initiative offers launch opportunities for CubeSats proposed and built by teams of engineers and researchers from U.S. educational institutions, non-profits and NASA centers. NASA evaluates each proposal, selects some to fly and then schedules them for a trip into space on an ELaNa mission.

Built to operate on their own and communicate with Earth despite being only a few inches across, the CubeSats are the latest examples from a scientific movement that has seen satellites shrink dramatically to conduct research for far less money while still returning high-quality results.

“The community and industry is growing by leaps and bounds,” said NASA’s Scott Higginbotham, mission manager for ELaNa XVII. “It is amazing what you can do with in a small package at a relatively low price and folks are truly embracing the concept.”

The three ELaNa XVII satellites are:
IceCube – The mission is to demonstrate the technology of a submillimeter-wave radiometer for future cloud ice sensing. This technology will enable cloud ice measurements to be taken in the intermediate altitudes (5 km – 15 km), where no measurements currently exist. It will perform first-of-a-kind measurements of ice particles embedded within clouds. These measurements will advance atmospheric monitoring technology and also fill in critical gaps in understanding how cloud ice affects the weather and how cloud formations process atmospheric radiation.

CXBN-2 – Short for Cosmic X-Ray Background NanoSat-2, the mission will increase the precision of measurements of the Cosmic X-Ray Background in order to constrain models that attempt to explain the relative contribution of proposed sources lending insight into the underlying physics of the early universe. The mission addresses a fundamental science question that is central to our understanding of the structure, origin, and evolution of the universe, by potentially lending insight into high-energy background radiation and the evolution of galaxies.

CSUNSat1 – Short for California State University Northridge Sat1, the primary mission of CSUNSat1 is to test an innovative low-temperature-capable energy storage system in space. The success of this energy storage system will enable future missions, especially those in deep space, to do more science while requiring less energy, mass and volume.

The three satellites flew into orbit inside a small canister tailored to the needs of CubeSats. Astronauts on the station will pull the canister out of the Cygnus and position it at the airlock of the Japanese Experiment Module. Once moved to the outside of the station, the small robotic arm on the Japanese module will point the canister out into space and each spacecraft will be pushed out into its own separate flight path to conduct its mission.

Part of lining up CubeSat missions is evaluating which ones are ready to go when the main payload is ready. Mission planners also work to get as many CubeSats into space with each launch as they can, Higginbotham said.

“We try to match the readiness date and orbital parameter desires of our CubeSats with the vehicles going to those orbits,” Higginbotham said. “We are also always looking for efficient ways to effectively ‘bundle CubeSats together because we often get a volume discount.”

Launch companies are making more room on their launchers for these tiny spacecraft as the interest in them grows. Some companies, such as those contracted under NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services, are building launch vehicles solely for CubeSats and small spacecraft. Those launchers can be sent to many different orbits and are designed to carry dozens of CubeSats into space at a time.

Right now, Higginbotham and his NASA teams are processing eight more ELaNa missions that are in different stages of preparation for their own launches.

“There’s never a dull moment around here,” Higginbotham said.

20 Years Ago: Cassini Arrives at Kennedy for Launch

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Before heading to Saturn to conduct unprecedented science in the orbit of the gas giant, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a comparatively short jaunt from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida inside an Air Force C-17 transport aircraft. April 1997 saw the arrival of Cassini and its move to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility for assembly and prelaunch processing. After 20 years in space and delivering spectacular images, the massive spacecraft is beginning its final chapter. Engineers at Kennedy took a look back to how their contributions to the mission began: https://go.nasa.gov/2ocAe0g

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Review Gives CRS-7 Team ‘Go’ For Tuesday Launch

United Launch Alliance and Orbital ATK’s Launch Readiness Review for the Atlas V rocket with the Cygnus cargo resupply module was held April 15 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Launch managers from ULA, Orbital ATK and NASA determined all is ready for a targeted launch to the International Space Station on Tuesday, April 18. The liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 is scheduled for 11:11 a.m. EDT and there is a 30-minute launch opportunity available.

NASA TV launch coverage will begin at 10 a.m. EDT on air and streaming at www.nasa.gov/ntv. Ten minutes prior to liftoff, NASA TV’s YouTube channel will debut full, 360 coverage of the launch at http://youtube.com/nasatelevision

Learn more about the 360 video coverage at https://go.nasa.gov/2ove1Yw

Orbital ATK CRS-7 Launch Targets NET March 27

NASA, Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance, or ULA, now are targeting launch of Orbital ATK’s seventh commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station no earlier than Monday, March 27. The additional time allows the ULA team to troubleshoot a hydraulic issue discovered on ground support equipment needed for launch. Orbital ATK has contracted with ULA for its Atlas V rocket for the launch service, which will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft is packed with 7,600 pounds of supplies and research for crew aboard the orbiting laboratory. The Atlas V and Cygnus remain secure and continue to undergo processing for launch. The encapsulated Cygnus spacecraft has been mounted to the top of the Atlas V in preparation for launch.

OneWeb Breaks Ground on Satellite Factory at Kennedy

One Web Satellites Ground Breaking

OneWebconceptbuildingOne Web Satellites Ground BreakingThe portfolio of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will soon include large-scale satellite manufacturing following Thursday’s groundbreaking for a 150,000-square foot spacecraft factory in the center’s Exploration Park.

“This is all a part of our vision for a multi-user
spaceport,” said Kelvin Manning, associate director of Kennedy. “I think when people signed up to work at Kennedy Space Center, they wanted to come to the place where we launch rockets.”

OneWeb, in partnership with Airbus’ American branch, intends to build 2,000 satellites that will form a constellation capable of wirelessly connecting every portion of the world to the Internet. The satellites will launch from the Kennedy spaceport as well, some on New Glenn rockets that will be built in the Blue Origin factory across the street from the OneWeb facility. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, an air-launched rocket flying from the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy, also will send some of the OneWeb satellites into orbit.

Rick Scott, governor of Florida, hailed the company’s decision to open the factory at Kennedy, noting the company’s goals enhance the value of the commercial space environment as it develops.

“OneWeb’s building this factory and providing jobs and they’re going to provide affordable Internet access worldwide so everybody has a chance to experience the Internet and get the benefits of the Internet,” Scott said.

The development is part of renaissance at the space center built on a philosophy of opening the center’s extensive capabilities and work force to commercial enterprises as well as government operations. It also works close partnerships with organizations such as Space Florida which administers Exploration Park.

“This is another exciting addition to the Multiuser Spaceport at the Kennedy Space Center,” said Tom Engler, acting director of Kennedy’s Center Planning and Development. “Having the OneWeb factory adding to all of the great capability that is here at Kennedy is fantastic. Seeing how we continue to evolve is going to be very exciting.”

Photos by NASA/Kim Shiflett, concept art by OneWeb.