SLS Rocket Stage and Orion Share Space at Kennedy ahead of Artemis I

The ICPS is inside the Multi-Payload Process Facility at Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 18, 2021.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) moved into the Multi-Payload Processing Facility February 18, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) moved into the Multi-Payload Processing Facility February 18, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida alongside one of its flight partners for the Artemis I mission, the Orion spacecraft. Both pieces of hardware will undergo fueling and servicing in the facility ahead of launch by teams from NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and their primary contractor, Jacobs Technology. The rocket stage and Orion will remain close during their journey to space.

The ICPS is moved into the Multi-Payload Process Facility on Feb. 18, 2021 at Kennedy Space Center.
The interim cryogenic propulsion stage is in view inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility on Feb. 18, 2021, at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Built by United Launch Alliance and Boeing, the ICPS will be positioned above the core stage and will provide the power needed to give Orion the big push it needs to break out of Earth orbit on a precise trajectory toward the Moon during Artemis I.

This is the first time since the shuttle program that two pieces of flight hardware have been processed inside this facility at the same time. Once final checkouts are complete, the ICPS and Orion will part ways on the ground and be reunited in the Vehicle Assembly Building for integration onto the SLS rocket.

Artemis I will be an integrated flight test of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft ahead of the crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface and establish a sustainable presence at the Moon to prepare for human missions to Mars.

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Kennedy Headquarters Sign Ties Spaceport’s History and Future

The refurbished sign from the original Headquarters building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is installed by the main entrance of the new Central Campus Headquarters, Feb. 18, 2021.
The refurbished sign from the original Headquarters building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is installed by the main entrance of the new Central Campus Headquarters, Feb. 18, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Glen Benson

Employees and visitors entering the new Central Campus Headquarters building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be welcomed by a piece of history at the facility’s main door.

Kennedy’s original headquarters was completed in May 1965. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

The sign originally marked the entrance to Kennedy’s first headquarters building, dating back to the facility’s completion in May 1965. At the time, the Florida spaceport was focused on Gemini, the program that paved the way for the Moon landings of Apollo.

In February, the refurbished sign was installed at the front entrance to Kennedy’s new, modern headquarters. It reads: “National Aeronautics and Space Administration – Kennedy Space Center Headquarters.”

Kennedy's new headquarters
Kennedy Space Center’s new seven-story Central Campus Headquarters building opened in May 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The new facility opened in May 2019 with a variety of sustainability features and space for more than 500 NASA and contractor employees. Like the original building, the Central Campus Headquarters is the administrative center of all Kennedy activities, housing offices for center leadership, several directorates and programs, and shared services.

The 200,000-square-foot building is the hub of the center’s growing Central Campus, a symbol of Kennedy’s status as the nation’s premier, multi-user spaceport. The new headquarters opened at the start of another new era in spaceflight as Kennedy ramps up for flights to the Moon, this time with the Artemis program.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Named Federal Engineer of the Year

Steve Stich is the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
Steve Stich, now manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, monitors the countdown during a dress rehearsal in preparation for the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in firing room four of the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has named Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), as the agency’s Federal Engineer of the Year. Sponsored by Professional Engineers in Government, the award honors engineers of federal agencies that employ at least 50 engineers worldwide.

Stich was recognized during a virtual award ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 24, alongside recipients from the National Park Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and others.

“This is such an honor and one granted based on the tremendous team with which I am privileged to work,” Stich said. “I’m so proud of everything that we’ve accomplished together, and I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead this year for CCP and NASA as a whole.”

Stich oversees the development of commercial spacecraft and the certification required to safely send astronauts to the International Space Station. As the CCP manager, Stich played a role in returning human spaceflight capability to the United States following the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

He led the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission that carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the space station and returned them safely to Earth, validating SpaceX’s transportation system for recurring, operational missions to the orbiting laboratory. Leading up to the mission, Stich provided final approval on vehicle design changes and system and vehicle component certifications. He also oversaw additional testing as required to reduce technical risk.

In the citation released from NASA Johnson Space Center’s Award Office, Stich is recognized for his “exceptional leadership, vehicle design expertise, and risk-mitigation, paving the way for NASA to enable commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) space transportation and for expanding access to space for users across the government, commercial customers, and academia.”

He first started his career at NASA in 1987 and, since then, has led teams within multiple organizations and programs, including Johnson’s Engineering, NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, the shuttle program, and Johnson’s Advanced Exploration Systems. His more than 33 years of expertise at NASA has allowed the agency to continue conducting technology and research investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory and also helped lay the framework for future deep space exploration missions under the Artemis program.

For a full list of award recipients, as well as the top 10 finalists for the NSPE 2021 Federal Engineer of the Year, visit https://www.nspe.org/resources/interest-groups/government/federal-engineer-the-year.

NASA “Meatball” Insignia and ESA Logo Added to Artemis I Fairings

The NASA and ESA insignias are in view on the Orion spacecraft adapter jettison fairings in the MPPF at Kennedy Space Center.
Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s (European Space Agency) strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions, as the ESA logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

NASA’s Artemis I Orion spacecraft is being outfitted with additional artwork as technicians began installing the logo for ESA (European Space Agency). ESA provided the European-built service module, which provides power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, and will also provide water and air for astronauts on future missions.

The NASA and ESA insignias are in view on the Orion spacecraft adapter jettison fairings in the MPPF at Kennedy Space Center.
The ESA (European Space Agency) logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch. Orion is currently stationed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions. The ESA logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch.

Orion is currently stationed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility, where it will undergo fueling and servicing by NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs Technology teams in preparation for the upcoming flight test with the Space Launch System rocket under the agency’s Artemis program.

Shoreline Restoration Protects Kennedy Infrastructure, Wildlife

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center occupies a scenic stretch of land along Florida’s east coast, including miles of pristine beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. A restoration project has shored up the dunes that create a natural barrier from the waves. Native coastal vegetation has been added to stabilize the rebuilt dune and offer a habitat for Kennedy’s coastal wildlife. Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Situated beside the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of central Florida, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has critical space facilities, launch infrastructure, a world-class workforce, and wildlife to protect from the unique weather threats posed by tropical cyclones. The elevated sandbank along the spaceport’s shoreline is the crucial first line of defense against these storms and the resulting erosion.

Click the photo to view full size. This aerial view of Kennedy’s Atlantic Ocean coastline reveals the rebuilt sand dune planted with rows of native vegetation. Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Kennedy recently completed the second phase of an ongoing project to plant vegetation on the dune, which has been replenished with additional sand to rebuild its natural structure. The addition of native plants helps prevent erosion while providing habitats for some of the vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species that have settled at the Florida spaceport.

The shoreline restoration project successfully rebuilt about four-and-a-half miles of dune during two construction phases. Workers trucked in nearly 38,000 loads of sand to strengthen the dune and roads around the space center, which has frequent brushes with severe weather, especially during the June to November hurricane season. Added vegetation provided the finishing touch to help protect the dunes.

Native coastal plants such as sea oats, sea grape, and railroad vine were selected because they’re specifically adapted to grow in the coastal environment, which includes loose, shifting, sandy soils, along with salt water and salt spray. Additionally, their deep root systems serve as an anchor, stabilizing dune systems. The plantings were carefully planned and installed as each section of dune replenishment was completed.

“It takes a year or so for the plants to reach maturity, and that’s also dependent on rainfall once they’re established,” said Don Dankert, technical lead for Kennedy Space Center Environmental Planning. “You can see the succession of plants as you look down the dune from north to south. The vegetation in the northern section is much more robust – it was planted first.”

Kennedy’s Environmental Management Branch, part of the center’s Spaceport Integration and Services directorate, planned the placement of the vegetation to mimic the clusters and open spaces found in a natural dune system.

“Some of the federally threatened and endangered species that live in our coastal areas are gopher tortoises, southeastern beach mice, indigo snakes, and sea turtles,” Dankert said. “The newly created dune provides habitat for these species. For example, for sea turtles, the dune helps to protect our beach from light intrusion, which in turn aids nesting and hatchling turtles by reducing disorientation during the nesting season.”

The dune has held up well since the restoration project began in 2018, with only minor loss of sand on the dune’s eastern side when Hurricane Dorian passed along the coast.

The Environmental Management Branch will continue to monitor the dune for signs of erosion, including pre- and post-storm assessments during hurricane season. The team also will track the health of the vegetation as well as the use of the dune environment by wildlife throughout the next two years.

Artemis I Boosters Take Shape

The Space Launch System solid rocket boosters are being stacked on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The twin solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) are being stacked on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The boosters will power SLS on the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Booster stacking continues! The second to last set of segments for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters were placed on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs transported the segments from the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility, where they have been since June. Once fully stacked, each booster will stand nearly 17 stories tall. The twin boosters will power the first flight of the agency’s new deep space rocket during the Artemis I mission. This uncrewed flight later this year will test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights.

NASA’s Space Launch System Receives Another Major Boost

SLS solid rocket boosters
The solid rocket boosters will power the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The third of five sets of solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket were placed on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The middle segments, painted with the iconic “worm” logo, were lifted onto the launcher by Jacobs and Exploration Ground Systems engineers using the VAB’s 325-ton crane.

The twin boosters will power the first flight of the agency’s new deep space rocket on its first Artemis Program mission. Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight to test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights.

NASA, SpaceX to Launch Second Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station

Members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station participated in training in Hawthorne, California on Jan. 11, 20201. Pictured from left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Photo Credit: SpaceX
Members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station participated in training in Hawthorne, California, on Jan. 11, 2021. Pictured from left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Photo Credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Tuesday, April 20, for launch of the second crew rotation mission with astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from the United States to the International Space Station.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission will launch four astronauts aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the space station. It will be the first mission to fly two international partner crew members as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join as mission specialists.

The mission will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long-duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.

Crew-2 also is expected to arrive at the space station to overlap with the astronauts that flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

Return of Crew-1 with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, is currently scheduled for late April or early May. Crew-2 astronauts are set to return in fall 2021.

NASA and SpaceX also continue preparations for the launch of the agency’s Crew-3 mission, which currently is targeted for fall of this year.

Kennedy Space Center Honors Fallen Heroes of Human Spaceflight

Kennedy Space Center’s Day of Remembrance ceremony will take place Jan. 28, 2021, at the Kennedy Visitor Complex’s Space Mirror Memorial. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

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The crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other fallen astronauts who lost their lives in the name of space exploration and discovery, will be honored by NASA Kennedy Space Center employees and guests with a ceremony at the Kennedy Visitor Complex’s Space Mirror Memorial.

The Day of Remembrance ceremony is set for Thursday, Jan. 28, at 11 a.m. Honoree family member Sheryl Chaffee (daughter of former  NASA astronaut Roger Chaffee) will be in attendance. Speakers include Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro, retired Space Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach, and Astronauts Memorial Foundation President and CEO Thad Altman.

“From Apollo 1 to the crews of Challenger and Columbia, we are humbled as we recall the sacrifices of the brave men and woman who gave their lives for the broader cause of exploring and understanding our universe,” Cabana said. “Each year, on this day, we commit to not only remembering their legacies but dedicate ourselves to ensuring the safety of those who come in the future.”

The date marks the 35th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy. NASA centers throughout the country participate in the agency’s annual memorial event.

All CDC and local health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus — including physical distancing and face coverings — will be followed at the event, which is limited to 100 guests. Click here to view the ceremony live on Kennedy’s Facebook page.

Following the commemoration, a wreath laying ceremony will take place at the Space Mirror Memorial. Attendees will be given flowers to pay respects to our fallen heroes.

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization that built and maintains the Space Mirror Memorial. The mirror was dedicated in 1991 to honor all astronauts who lost their lives on missions or during training. It has been designated a National Memorial by Congress.

Click here for more information about Kennedy Space Center.

ELaNa 20 CubeSats Deployed

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system undergoes final preparations on a taxiway at Mojave Air and Space Port ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. Taken in late December 2020. Photo: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system undergoes final preparations on a taxiway at Mojave Air and Space Port ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. Taken in late December 2020. Photo: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.

Today at approximately 3:35 p.m. ET (12:35 p.m. PT), 10 CubeSats began deploying from Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Rocket into low-Earth Orbit as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) 20 mission. Virgin Orbit’s 747-00 carrier, Cosmic Girl, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 1:38 p.m. ET (10:38 a.m. PT) today carrying the LauncherOne Rocket and the 10 small research satellites.

CubeSats are a cornerstone in the development of cutting-edge technologies like laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications, and autonomous movement. The nine CubeSat missions in this launch were developed by the following universities and one NASA center:

  • CACTUS-1 – Capitol Technology University, Laurel, Md.
  • CAPE-3 – University of Louisiana at Lafayette
  • EXOCUBE – California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • MiTEE – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • PICS (two CubeSats) – Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
  • PolarCube – University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Q-PACE – University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla.
  • RadFXSat-2 – Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
  • TechEdSat-7 – NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

CSLI is an initiative created by NASA to attract and retain students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Missions are selected through the CubeSat Launch Initiative and managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Visit our website to learn more and follow us on Twitter at NASA_LSP and Facebook at NASA LSP.