Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility Ready for Artemis 1

The Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Technicians watch as a crane and special mechanism begin breakover, or flipping, of the mated Thrust Resistance Structure and the Guidance Control Assembly for the Orion Program’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test during practice, or pathfinder activities, June 22, 2018, inside Exploration Ground Systems’ Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility high at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Many pathfinding tests were completed on the flight hardware in preparation for the flight test. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will receive the solid rocket booster segments for final assembly of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The agency’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team successfully completed the system acceptance review and operational readiness review for the facility on July 25, 2019. This review evaluated the RPSF’s readiness to receive, process, integrate and launch flight hardware for Artemis 1 and beyond.

“The RPSF is the first processing facility at Kennedy to reach operational readiness status, and our team is looking forward to the arrival of the flight hardware so we can get to work preparing for the Artemis 1 launch,” said Mike Chappell, EGS associate program manager with lead contractor, Jacobs.

When the booster segments arrive at Kennedy, the pieces are inspected before two 200-ton cranes are positioned to lift the segments from a horizontal position to a vertical position. The RPSF also will receive the booster aft skirt from the Booster Fabrication Facility. During processing, the aft segment is attached to the aft skirt and aft exit cone.

All of the SLS solid rocket components processed in the RPSF will be transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building for final assembly with the SLS core stage and Orion spacecraft on top of the mobile launcher for the agency’s Artemis missions.

The RPSF is part of the infrastructure at Kennedy that will help NASA launch the Artemis missions and send the first woman and next man back to the Moon by 2024.

Pence to Visit Kennedy on 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Vice President Mike Pence speaking at Kennedy Space Center in December 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence addresses members of the U.S. Air Force at Kennedy Space Center’s Operations and Support Building II on Dec. 18, 2018. Pence is returning to the Florida spaceport Saturday, July 20, in celebration of the Apollo 11 50th anniversary. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Vice President Mike Pence will make multiple stops at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, July 20 — 50 years from the day NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed the first two humans on the Moon.

The vice president and second lady Karen Pence will arrive in Air Force Two at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility. The next stop is Launch Complex 39A, the site of the historic Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969.

Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, will address invited guests, elected officials and NASA, Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders at Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building (O&C). The vice president will recognize NASA’s history in honoring the Apollo 11 heroes, while examining NASA’s future plans, including the Artemis missions that are part of the agency’s Moon to Mars human space exploration efforts.

Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website at 1:05 p.m. to view Pence’s speech live from the O&C.

NASA Gearing up for July 2 Morning Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test

Prelaunch news conference for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test
From left, Derrol Nail, NASA Communications, moderates a prelaunch news conference on July 1, 2019, for the agency’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test, with Jenny Devolites, AA-2 Crew Module manager; Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager; and Randy Bresnik, NASA astronaut, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With weather at 80 percent go for launch and everything proceeding as planned, optimism and enthusiasm were high at Monday morning’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test preview news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“We are incredibly excited,” said Jenny Devolites, Ascent Abort-2 crew module manager and test conductor. “It’s such an honor to be a part of this activity and to have this opportunity.”

The Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, featuring a test version of the crew module, will lift off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Tuesday, July 2. The four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast launch activities, starting at 6:40 a.m. A postlaunch briefing is  scheduled for approximately two hours after launch. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.

Orion will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.

“This test is extremely important,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager. “Our Launch Abort System is a key safety feature of the spacecraft — it will protect the crew members who fly onboard Orion during the most challenging part of the mission, which is the ascent phase.”

Ascent Abort-2 will verify Orion’s abort system can pull the crew module away from an emergency during its ascent to space. The two main objectives: execute the abort by demonstrating it can be completed end to end, and collect key data. There are approximately 900 sensors — including temperature sensors, pressure sensors and microphones —located throughout the vehicle.

At liftoff, the booster will provide about 500,000 pounds of thrust. It will take 55 seconds to ascend to 31,000 feet, traveling more than 800 mph, at which point the abort will be initiated and the abort motor will ignite. Also igniting will be the attitude control motor, which provides steering.

Twenty-seven seconds after the abort, the jettison motor will ignite, pulling away the Launch Abort System from the crew module. The crew module will then free-fall and descend back to the ocean. As a backup communication system, 12 ejectable data recorders eject into the water in pairs. The highest altitude reached will be about 45,000 feet.

“It’s certainly a very exciting test for us tomorrow because it is so important,” NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik said. “The neat part is the next time this whole Launch Abort System flies, there will be crew underneath it in Artemis 2.”

On a Roll! Ascent Abort Test-2 Flight Test Article Moves to Launch Pad 46

The flight test article for Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on its 21.5-mile-trek to Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 22, 2019.
The flight test article for Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on its 21.5-mile-trek to Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 22, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Engineers rolled a test version of the Orion spacecraft integrated with the Launch Abort System for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in preparation for its launch this summer.

The 21.5 mile trek began around 6 p.m. on May 22, and finished at 3:18 a.m. on May 23. The team will be stacking all the AA-2 elements together at the launch pad over the next several weeks.

During the flight, planned for July 2, a test version of Orion will launch on a booster to more than six miles in altitude, where Orion’s launch abort system will pull the capsule and its crew away to safety if an emergency occurs during ascent on the Space Launch System rocket.

The test helps pave the way for Artemis missions at the Moon and will enable astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface by 2024.

Orion Flight Test Article Attached to Launch Abort System for Ascent Abort-2

The Launch Abort System flight test article for AA-2 is stacked inside the Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center.
Inside the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a test version of the Orion crew module has been integrated with the Launch Abort System (LAS) on May 18, 2019. It is being lifted by crane for transfer to a KAMAG transporter. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

The 46,000-pound flight test article that will be used for a test of Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) was lifted and mated to its transportation pallet inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 18, 2019. The flight test article includes the Orion test article, a separation ring created for this test, and the LAS. This operation marks the completion of the flight test article integration and checkout operations necessary for NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test scheduled for July. Next, the system will roll to Pad 46 where the team will be stacking all the AA-2 elements together at the launch pad over the next several weeks.

The flight test vehicle for AA-2 is integrated inside the Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center.
Inside the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers are completing the integration of a test version of the Orion crew module with the Launch Abort System (LAS) on May 18, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

AA-2 will demonstrate the abort system can activate, steer the spacecraft, and carry astronauts to a safe distance if an emergency arises during Orion’s climb to orbit as the spacecraft faces the greatest aerodynamic pressure during ascent. AA-2 is an important test to verify Orion’s design to safely carry astronauts on deep space missions as NASA works to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024

During the three-minute test, the LAS with the Orion test article will launch atop a booster from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to an altitude of about six miles and traveling at more than 1,000 mph. The abort motor will quickly whisk the crew module away from the booster, and the attitude control motor will maneuver the assembly into position to jettison the crew module. Test data from 890 sensors will be sent in real-time to ground sites as well as recorded on board by 12 data recorders. The 12 data recorders will eject from the crew module before Orion reaches the water and will be retrieved after the test.

With no astronauts on board, the test concludes after the data recorders are ejected and does not include parachutes or recovery of the test capsule. AA-2 is focused on testing Orion’s ability to abort during ascent, and NASA has already fully qualified the parachute system for flights with crew through an extensive series of 17 developmental tests and 8 qualification tests completed at the end of 2018.

The LAS was designed and built by NASA and Lockheed Martin with motors provided by Northrop Grumman and Aerojet Rocketdyne. NASA’s Orion and Exploration Ground Systems programs, contractors Jacob’s, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, in conjunction with the Air Force Space and Missile Center’s Launch Operations branch and the 45th Space Wing will perform flight operations for AA-2.

Crawler-Transporter 2 Gets Engine Maintenance in Preps for Exploration Mission-1

Pat Brown, left, and William Vardaman, mechanical technicians with the Jacobs contracting team, perform engine maintenance on NASA's crawler-transporter 2 on March 26, 2019.
Pat Brown, left, and William Vardaman, mechanical technicians with the Jacobs contracting team, perform engine maintenance on NASA’s crawler-transporter 2 on March 26, 2019.

Even the toughest vehicles need regular maintenance to function at their best. Recently, William Vardaman and Pat Brown, both working under the Jacobs contracting team, performed engine maintenance on NASA’s crawler-transporter 2 in the crawler yard located in the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39 area in Florida.

Vardaman, a mechanical technician with the Jacobs contracting team, performs engine maintenance on NASA's crawler-transporter 2 on March 26, 2019.The massive, tracked vehicles are powered by large electrical power engines and two 16-cylinder American Locomotive Company (ALCO) engines. Vardaman and Brown, both mechanical technicians supporting the agency’s Test and Operations Support Contract, spent several days rebuilding the vehicle’s fuel pump assemblies on both ALCO engines. They also installed new oil pumps that will lubricate the ALCOs from the top down before they’re started, minimizing future wear.

This is one of two crawler-transporters that carried rockets and spacecraft, including the Apollo/Saturn V and space shuttle, from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad. Now, they’re getting ready for NASA’s accelerated return to the Moon.

Crawler-transporter 2 has been modified and upgraded to carry the mobile launcher and NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, topped by the Orion spacecraft, for Exploration Mission-1, which will launch in 2020. The agency’s Exploration Ground Systems oversaw extensive upgrades to crawler-transporter 2, including new generators, gear assemblies, roller bearings and brakes, as well as the hydraulic jacking, equalization and leveling (JEL) cylinders that keep its carrying surface level.

Last fall, crawler-transporter 2 carried the newly completed mobile launcher from its construction site north of the VAB, out to Launch Pad 39B, then into the VAB, where the mobile launcher continues extensive testing. The crawler is gearing up for another move of the mobile launcher back to the pad later this spring for more testing.

Learn more about the crawlers at https://www.nasa.gov/content/the-crawlers

Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.

Aeroshells Prepped for Vital Orion Launch Abort System Test

The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion's Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at Kennedy Space Center after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island.
The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at Kennedy Space Center after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island.

The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island. In the photo above, technicians prepare the aeroshell to be lifted off of the flatbed truck and transferred to slats. All three aeroshells will be stacked and prepared for a full-stress test of the LAS, called Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test, scheduled for April 2019.

During the test, a booster will launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a fully functional LAS and a 22,000-pound Orion test vehicle to an altitude of 31,000 feet and traveling at more than 1,000 miles per hour. The test will verify the LAS can steer the crew module and astronauts aboard to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during a rapid climb into space.

NASA’s Orion is being prepared for its first integrated uncrewed flight atop the SLS on Exploration Mission-1.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

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!