Upgrades Establish Kennedy’s Future


More than five years of careful thought, in-depth planning and detailed refurbishments have set up Kennedy Space Center for diverse exploration missions that will push astronauts and robotic spacecraft into new areas of accomplishment, said, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center director, Bob Cabana at the National Space Club Florida Committee meeting today in Cape Canaveral.

“We’re not just making a difference for Kennedy or even the nation, we’ve got a meaningful mission and we are making a difference for all of humankind,” Cabana, a former astronaut, told the group of about 375 in attendance.

By focusing on piloted missions to the International Space Station using Commercial Crew Program spacecraft, followed by Space Launch System and Orion flight tests, Kennedy has established a ground support network of launch pads and associated infrastructure needed to support missions to Mars by astronauts in the future. All of this while maintaining the center’s unique ability to launch historic robotic exploration missions such as Osiris-Rex that will bring back a sample from an asteroid. Other flights in the future will continue to decipher the mysteries of Mars as well as taking close looks at other planetary networks in the solar system.

The center has seen complete upgrades in many areas including the Launch Control Center, Launch Complex 39B and modifications to the Mobile Launcher tailored to the needs of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. Other facilities have been upgraded for commercial partners. The center’s new headquarters campus is under construction to deliver an environmentally friendly, energy efficient structure.

“Our future is absolutely outstanding,” Cabana said. “I believe the years we have ahead of us will be our best ever.”

View Mr. Cabana’s complete presentation here.

Orbital ATK Cygnus Pressurized Module Arrives for CRS-6

Orbital ATK CRS-6 Payload Cargo Module arrives by truck at Kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing FacilityA transporter carrying the Orbital ATK Cygnus pressurized cargo module, sealed inside a shipping container, approaches the open door to the high bay of the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The module will soon begin preflight preparations for its upcoming mission to carry hardware and supplies on the company’s Commercial Resupply Services flight to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Charles Babir

Bolden: Commercial Market in Low-Earth Orbit Serves Nation’s Journey to Mars

NASA Administrator Charles BoldenToday, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden blogged about the agency’s plan, vision and timetable for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. By building a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit, the agency is able to focus on simultaneously getting our astronauts to deep space. Kennedy, the agency’s premier multi-user spaceport, is home to two programs that are vital to this plan. The Commercial Crew Program will return our astronauts to the International Space Station on American systems launching from the United States. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is upgrading our facilities to support the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for our Journey to Mars.

Competition, innovation and technology – it’s the American way,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “It’s helping us to Launch America.”

Read more of Bolden’s blog at http://go.nasa.gov/1Q8VLNX

OA-4 Coverage and Briefings Next Week

jb_wintery_grungeLaunch week at Kennedy will be as busy as ever heading toward the Dec. 3 liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft stuffed with 7,300 pounds of supplies and equipment for the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 5:55 p.m. EST. The launch will be shown live on NASA TV and covered here on the NASA Blog from the launch site beginning at 4:30 p.m.

There are numerous briefings and activities planned leading up to launch. The details can be found here. Here’s a quick look at the briefings on tap for next week, too. All will be shown on NASA TV which can be streamed at www.nasa.gov/ntv:


Wednesday, Dec. 2: An ISS Science, Research and Technology briefing will be held at Kennedy’s Press Site at 1 p.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirt Costello, deputy chief scientist, International Space Station Program Science Office, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Ken Shields, director of Operations and Education Outreach, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
  • Dr. Brian Motil, principle investigator, Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE), NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Cleveland
  • Talbot Jaeger, chief technology officer, NovaWurks, and principle investigator, Nanoracks-MicroSat-SIMPL (Satlet Initial-Mission Proofs and Lessons)
  • Andrew Petro, program executive, Small Spacecraft Technology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
  • Eleanor McCormack, principal, St. Thomas More Cathedral School, St. Thomas More (STM)Sat-1


Wednesday, Dec. 2: A prelaunch status will be held at Kennedy’s Press Site at 2 p.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirk Shireman, International Space Station Program manager
  • Frank Culbertson, Jr., Space Systems Group president, Orbital ATK
  • Vernon Thorpe, program manager for NASA missions, United Launch Alliance
  • Todd McNamara, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron


Thursday, Dec. 3: A post-launch news conference will occur at about 8 p.m. and NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirk Shireman, International Space Station Program manager
  • Frank Culbertson, Jr., Space Systems Group president, Orbital ATK
  • Vernon Thorpe, program manager for NASA missions, United Launch Alliance

Kennedy Leaders Celebrate 15 Years of Ongoing Space Station Work

International Space Station 15th Anniversary Celebration
Inside the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, agency leaders and guests celebrate the 15th anniversary of ongoing work aboard the station. On the podium, Chris Hummel of NASA Communications, left, moderates a discussion between center director Bob Cabana, center, and Josephine Burnett, director of Kennedy’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

As NASA celebrates 15 consecutive years with humans aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana joined Josephine Burnett, director of Kennedy’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs, in a discussion of the milestone.

They spoke on Nov. 3 in the high bay of the spaceport’s Space Station Processing Facility. It was in that location that many of the key ISS elements were prepared for launch aboard the space shuttle.

Cabana commanded the STS-88 flight of the shuttle Endeavour that lifted off from Kennedy on Dec. 4, 1998. The crew carried the first American-launched element, Node 1, called “Unity.” The highlight of their 12-day shuttle flight was connecting Unity to the Zarya module launched by Russia just a few weeks earlier.

Permanent occupancy of the space station began Nov. 2, 2000, when the first expedition crew docked with the space station. American astronaut Bill Shepherd, along with Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, moved in and began activation of the space station, and scientific research has continued nonstop.

Cabana has been Kennedy’s director since 2008. During that time, many of the station elements processed at the Florida spaceport were launched aboard the space shuttle.

Burnett’s 28-year career at Kennedy included several roles in overseeing preparation and processing of space station hardware. In 1996, she was assigned to the Space Station Hardware Integration Office, supporting the test and checkout of the Canadian Space Station Remote Manipulator System in Brampton, Ontario, and the Canadian portion of the Multi Element Integrated Test.

In 2000, Burnett joined the ISS/Payload Processing Project as chief of the Future Missions and International Partner Division. She was named the director of International Space Station and Spacecraft Processing at Kennedy in 2010. In this role, Burnett was responsible for all ground processing of space station elements from around the world being prepared to fly aboard the space shuttle.

Watch as Cabana and Burnett recall their experiences in supporting construction of the International Space Station and the strategic value of the orbiting laboratory.

Cygnus Moved to Launch Pad for Dec. 3 Liftoff


2015-3363Orbital ATK’s enhanced Cygnus spacecraft was transported to Space Launch Complex 41 early this morning and was lifted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for launch Dec. 3 on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Sealed inside a protective payload fairing, the 20.5-foot-long Cygnus left the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at about 3:20 a.m. EST. It arrived at the pad at about 5:30 a.m. A crane at the Vertical Integration Facility at SLC-41 hoisted the spacecraft and fairing into place on the Atlas V with the first phase of the connection complete around 9:30 a.m.

The spacecraft and fairing will be secured in place and a series of tests run to confirm a proper attachment. The enhanced Cygnus, which carries 25 percent more mass than the previous version, has been loaded with more than 7,100 pounds of equipment and supplies that will be used by the space station crew for daily operations and to conduct cutting edge science on the orbiting laboratory. Launch time Dec. 3 is 5:55 p.m. EST to set up a rendezvous with the station Dec. 6. The launch window extends 30 minutes. Photo credits: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

Cygnus Sealed Inside Fairing

23004328681_f754a1c2fd_oThe enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and more than 7,100 pounds of cargo have been enclosed inside a payload fairing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as processing moves ahead on schedule for a Dec. 3 launch. The Orbital ATK Cygnus will be moved to Space Launch Complex 41 early Friday and lifted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The spacecraft, which will carry no people, is to lift off aboard the Atlas V to take equipment, experiments and supplies to the International Space Station for use by the residents there including yearlong-crew member astronaut Scott Kelly. Speaking to the news media last week, Orbital ATK’s Dan Tani – a former astronaut who served as a station resident – said a 22442657874_f07a7bb177_onew round of cargo always brings excitement: “It’s a real morale boost. It’s like coming home from the store and unpacking the trunk full of the things you bought. A lot of stuff you didn’t know you needed along with a lot of things like notes from home and other items that are really meaningful.”

The enhanced Cygnus can carry about 25 percent more mass than its predecessor and features upgraded Ultraflex solar arrays that unfurl like a fan into a circle and are lighter than the previous models. For NASA, the increased capacity brings the obvious benefit of taking more to the station at once, ranging from daily supplies of food and clothing for the station residents to new experiments so astronauts can continue to use the space-based laboratory to the benefit of all on the Earth. For the astronauts, the new round of cargo brings excitement. Photo credits: top – NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis, below – NASA/ Kim Shiflett.

Space-Grown Flowers Will be New Year Blooms on International Space Station

Veggie_Patch_finalFlowers could be blooming on the International Space Station after the New Year.

This morning, Nov. 16, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren activated the Veggie plant growth system and its rooting “pillows” containing zinnia seeds on the space station.

It is the first time that a flowering crop experiment will be grown on the orbiting laboratory. Growing zinnias in orbit will help provide precursory information about other flowering plants that could be grown in space.

“Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce,” said Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center payload scientist for Veggie. “Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical.”

Lindgren will turn on the red, blue and green LED lights, activate the water and nutrient system to Veggie, and monitor the plant growth. The zinnias will grow for 60 days, which is twice as long as the first and second crop of Outredgeous red romaine lettuce that grew on the space station.

During the growth cycle, the LED lights will be on for 10 hours and off for 14 hours in order to stimulate the plants to flower.

“Growing the zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden,” said Trent Smith, Veggie program manager at Kennedy.

Researchers also hope to gather good data regarding long-duration seed stow and germination, whether pollen could be an issue, and the impacts on crew morale. Growing tomato plants on the space station is planned for 2017.

The Veggie system was developed by Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) in Madison, Wisconsin, and tested at Kennedy before flight. Veggie, along with two sets of pillows containing romaine seeds and one set of zinnias, was delivered to the station by SpaceX on the third cargo resupply mission in April 2014.

Cygnus Prepped for More Cargo Loading

22793270772_21ec1db68f_oEngineers are opening the hatch on the Enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and the spacecraft is being rotated to its horizontal position today in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center during preparations for launch December 3 to the International Space Station.

The Orbital ATK-built spacecraft, which will carry more than 7,000 pounds of equipment, experiments and supplies, is being moved and opened so teams can load the last of the gear slated for this resupply mission. The stowage loading will take place Nov. 8 to 10.

Also on Nov. 8, the Delta Mariner will dock at Port Canaveral to deliver the first stage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will lift the Enhanced Cygnus into orbit. The booster stage will be hoisted into the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Nov. 11. The latest version of the Cygnus is bigger than its predecessors and can carry 25 percent more supplies on unpiloted missions to the space station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Astronauts to Mark Station’s 15-Year Anniversary

22588197126_8b6731d892_oHumans have lived aboard the International Space Station continuously for 15 years, a record accomplishment that astronauts and cosmonauts will discuss from orbit this morning at 10:05 eastern on NASA TV. Although placed in orbit in 1998, the station did not welcome its first three residents until Nov. 2, 2000. That was the day NASA astronaut Bill Shepard and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev docked with the fledgling orbital outpost.

It would take dozens more astronauts and cosmonauts along with space shuttle missions and more than 180 spacewalks to turn the station into the functioning, cutting-edge laboratory it is today. Expedition 45 crew members will talk to the world’s news media about the space exploration milestone and what it means for research for those on the Earth and how it will help our goals for deep-space exploration in the future. The anniversary also comes as NASA stands at the cusp of launching a new generation of human-rated spacecraft to the station with partners Boeing and SpaceX.

Well-suited for years more research from its unique place in space, the International Space Station will host twice as much research time when the new spacecraft – called the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon – begin making operational flights to orbit carrying four station crew members at a time.