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.
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.
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.
As winter storm Xyler approached southern Wisconsin, a group of 15 tribal college teams gathered in the cold to launch high-powered rockets at the 10th annual First Nations Launch in Kansasville, Wisconsin. The competition was bumped up a day early to avoid the storm. On Friday April 26, 2019, in spite of a couple anomalies, all Native American college teams were successful in launching a rocket that they hand-built.
Students were evaluated for rocket aesthetics, team spirit and altitude, among other criteria. The competition was separated into two subcategories, the Tribal Challenge and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Challenge. The Tribal Challenge required students to build a high-powered rocket equipped with a camera and to create a montage of photos and videos showing construction, preparation, flight and recovery. Target apogee was between 2,400 and 3,000 feet above ground level for Tribal teams. The AISES Challenge required students to build a rocket with a microcontroller system installed to capture critical flight data. Target apogee for AISES teams was between 3,500 and 5,000 feet.
The event, which is funded by NASA’s Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, was supported by a number of NASA employees. Rob Cannon and Theresa Martinez, from Kennedy Space Center’s Academic Engagement Office; James Wood, chief engineer of the Launch Services Program at Kennedy; Orson John from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and Joseph Connolly from Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, all attended to oversee the competition and issue awards.
A NASA flag representing the Kennedy Space Center team supporting the Gateway—the agency’s “base camp” for the Moon—is on its way to the base camp for one of the most challenging exploration destinations on Earth: Mount Everest.
Gateway is a lunar outpost that will enable the first woman and next man to set foot on the Moon in 2024. Mark Wiese, Gateway Logistics Element manager at Kennedy, is assembling the team that will provide logistics to the Gateway.
One of those team members, Dr. Paul Hintze of Exploration Research and Technology Programs, is in Kathmandu, Nepal. The flag, signed by Kennedy’s Gateway team members, is among the supplies he’s carrying on his journey. After leaving Florida, Hintze made a stop at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where he took out the flag for a photo op with shuttle Endeavour, on display at the museum. Next stop: Nepal.
According to Wiese, complex exploration campaigns require planning, professionals that know the route, and detailed staging of supplies in order to create a base camp from which the final leg of the trip can be carefully monitored and initiated… not unlike the logistical needs of an Everest adventure.
To keep up with Dr. Hintze, follow him on Twitter @KSCPaul.
Students from around the country convened with NASA scientists in Miami for the Student Research Symposium on April 27 as part of the Growing Beyond Earth program, a partnership between NASA and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
Growing Beyond Earth is an educational outreach and citizen science program that reaches over 170 middle and high schools from Florida, Colorado and Puerto Rico. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center plant production scientists Gioia Massa and Trent Smith train teachers, who then receive plant growth chambers that mimic Veggie, the space garden residing on the International Space Station.
In the fall, students set up their plant growth chambers and conduct experiments designed by Fairchild in conjunction with Kennedy.
“Every year, it’s something different,” Massa explained. “Last year, they were looking at photoperiod, how plants respond to different durations of light. This year, they’re looking at the neighbor effect, how different plants influence each other by growing next to each other.”
Since the beginning of the program, students have tested approximately 130 plant varieties under different conditions. Some schools are in high humidity areas, like Puerto Rico, while others have low humidity, like Colorado. Sometimes students overwater their plants; other times they forget. Sometimes the power goes out over the weekend. Plants that do well across these different environments make good candidates for space.
Both middle and high schools participate in new crop testing. But after getting a good grasp on the system in the fall, high school students can take it a step further and design independent experiments in the spring. These projects were the focus of the Miami symposium; 34 high schools presented their independent research, plus 17 middle schools presented their work on new crop testing.
“We had the students testing some really creative things,” Massa said. One project looked at using nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the substrate. Another 3D printed different containers.
The students created scientific posters, just like a NASA scientist would for a conference, with sections for the abstract, introduction, materials, results, conclusion and references. Fairchild printed out the posters, and the students presented them. Then Massa and her colleagues judged them on their poster, the quality of their project and presentation, the significance to NASA and how well they understood it.
Twelve Kennedy employees supported the event, including Bryan Onate, chief of the Life Sciences and Utilization Division, and Josie Burnett, director of Exploration Research and Technology Programs, along with plant production scientists and interns. Massa, Smith and Ray Wheeler gave talks to the students about Veggie and plant space research.
Four honorees were distinguished as “Chroniclers” during a ceremony May 3, 2019, at Kennedy Space Center’s NASA News Center in Florida among their families and friends, space journalists, and current and former NASA officials.
Jim Banke, Todd Halvorson, Vic Ratner and Peter Cosgrove were recognized for their roles in helping spread the news of American space exploration from Kennedy. To be considered for The Chroniclers, retirees of the news and communications business must have worked in the field for 10 years or more. The group of four was chosen by their peers on March 25.
“These men inspired the world,” said NASA Public Affairs Officer Greg Harland. “These men were the voice of the Kennedy Space Center and the history of space launch. And that’s no easy feat.”
A former journalist with Florida Today, Banke spent more than 20 years covering NASA launches and missions from Kennedy and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). He was the co-creator of Florida Today’s online space news site, Space.com – the first newspaper website dedicated solely to publishing real-time space news. Banke remains active in the local space community and currently works as a contractor at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Halvorson retired as the senior aerospace reporter with Florida Today and Kennedy Bureau Chief in 2013 after reporting space news for more than three decades. During his career, he chronicled 108 space shuttle missions and the journey of the Hubble Space Telescope. Halvorson also is a member of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
Ratner covered the space program for ABC Radio, providing coverage ranging from the early days of Gemini and the Apollo Moon landings to the last space shuttle mission. He was the only radio correspondent on the air live during the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, delivering on-the-scene information for over five hours that day after the tragedy. Some of Ratner’s reports also were seen on ABC TV “World News Tonight” and “Good Morning America.”
Cosgrove’s photojournalism career spanned nearly 50 years for the Associated Press. He covered four Apollo Moon mission crew recoveries at sea and was aboard the recovery ship when the first astronauts to walk on the Moon were picked up after their return to Earth. He also covered both Challenger and Columbia shuttle tragedies.
Cosgrove retired in 2005 and passed away in 2019. His award was accepted by his three children on his behalf, and his granddaughter, Amanda, shared some remarks. “We know how honored he would feel being given this award, as we are honored to be able to accept it for him,” she said. “This is a memory that my family and I will treasure for a lifetime.”
Brass strips engraved with the name of each honoree were added to The Chroniclers wall on display in the news center and unveiled during the ceremony. The addition of Banke, Halvorson, Ratner and Cosgrove bring the total number of Chroniclers to 80.
Two days after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Monday, May 6, at 9:32 a.m. EDT.
The 17th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-17) delivered more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with about 4,200 pounds of cargo and research.
While the International Space Station was traveling over the north Atlantic Ocean, astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA grappled Dragon at 7:01 a.m. EDT using the space station’s robotic arm Canadarm2.
Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.
The Dragon lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Saturday, May 4 with more than 5,500 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Here’s some of the research arriving at station:
NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) examines the complex dynamics of Earth’s atmospheric carbon cycle by collecting measurements to track variations in a specific type of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Understanding carbon sources can aid in forecasting increased atmospheric heat retention and reduce its long-term risks.
The Photobioreactor investigation aims to demonstrate how microalgae can be used together with existing life support systems on the space station to improve recycling of resources. The cultivation of microalgae for food, and as part of a life support system to generate oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, could be helpful in future long-duration exploration missions, as it could reduce the amount of consumables required from Earth.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Friday, May 3, for the launch of the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 3:11 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units (MBSU) that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station. There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station.
Flight controllers are scheduled to perform a series of maneuvers to robotically swap the failed MSBU for a spare on Wednesday, May 1 and Thursday, May 2. After the swap is complete, flight controllers will conduct a series of checkouts on the newly installed MBSU and take steps to return the station to full power capability to support SpaceX capture and berthing.
NASA has requested SpaceX move off from May 1 for the launch of the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.
On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station. There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. Teams are working on a plan to robotically replace the failed unit and restore full power to the station system. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. The earliest possible launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, May 3.