The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission recently completed fueling and servicing checks while inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The capsule has now made it to its next stop on the path to the pad – the spaceport’s Launch Abort System Facility.
Crowning the spacecraft with its aerodynamic shape, the launch abort system is designed to pull crew away to safety from the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in the event of an emergency during launch. This capability was successfully tested during the Orion Pad Abort and Ascent Abort-2 tests and approved for use during crewed missions.
Teams with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs will work to add parts of the launch abort system onto the spacecraft. Technicians will install four panels that make up the fairing assembly and protect the spacecraft from heat, air, and acoustic environments during launch and ascent. A launch tower will top the fairing assembly to house the pyrotechnics and a jettison motor. The system will also be outfitted with instruments to record key flight data for later study.
With successful demonstration of the system during previous tests, the abort motor that pulls the spacecraft away from the rocket and attitude control motor that steers the spacecraft for a splashdown during an abort will not be functional for the uncrewed Artemis I mission. The jettison motor will be equipped to separate the system from Orion in flight once it is no longer needed, making Orion thousands of pounds lighter for the journey to the Moon.
Launching in 2021, Artemis I will be a test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under Artemis, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and establish long-term lunar exploration.
The CubeSat, Ionosphere-Thermosphere Scanning Photometer for Ion-Neutral Studies (IT-SPINS), was stowed within the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer (eNRCSD) mounted on the exterior of the S.S. Katherine Johnson Cygnus spacecraft. Once the Cygnus departed the space station, it remained in orbit to deploy a total of 5 cube satellites, including IT-SPINS, which was deployed into a free-flying orbit at an altitude between 304 and 210 miles (490 and 500 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.
This mission aims to improve space weather forecasting related to dynamic processes in Earth’s ionosphere. The 3U CubeSat is equipped with a sensitive photometric instrument to remotely sense ultraviolet emissions produced when oxygen ions combine with electrons in the ionosphere. This investigation plans to reveal the dynamics of a physical boundary region in Earth’s ionosphere where the oxygen-dominated ionosphere becomes proton dominated with increasing altitude, in a layer known as the Topside Transition Region (TTR).
IT-SPINS launched aboard Northrop Grumman’s 15th NASA contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on February 20.
IT-SPINS is the twelfth in a series of CubeSats developed by Montana State University’s Space Science and Engineering Laboratory to advance CubeSat capabilities and conduct scientific investigations to answer question in the Geospace sciences. This mission is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, which has supported it during its development and is supporting the beginning of operations. IT-SPINS was selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), which is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) based at Kennedy Space Center. Since its inception in 2010, CSLI has selected 202 CubeSat missions from 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and 119 CubeSat projects have launched into space through ELaNa rideshare opportunities.
Stay connected with the ELaNa mission on social media by following LSP at @NASA_LSP on Twitter and @NASALSP on Facebook.
The core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for NASA’s Artemis I mission has been placed on the mobile launcher in between the twin solid rocket boosters inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The boosters attach at the engine and intertank sections of the core stage. Serving as the backbone of the rocket, the core stage supports the weight of the payload, upper stage, and crew vehicle, as well as carrying the thrust of its four engines and two five-segment solid rocket boosters.
After the core stage arrived on April 27, engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs brought the core stage into the VAB for processing work and then lifted it into place with one of the five overhead cranes in the facility.
Once the core stage is stacked alongside the boosters, the launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the core stage to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), will be stacked atop the core stage and quickly followed by the ICPS.
Artemis I will be an uncrewed test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon in 2024 and establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.
NASA’s virtual passport program started in 2020 as a way for the public to commemorate its virtual engagement in NASA launches and milestones with the NASA Virtual Guest Program.
The stamp for the NASA SpaceX 22nd commercial resupply mission will be the eighth stamp offered through the program and the fourth stamp for a launch from Kennedy Space Center.
The Falcon-9 rocket with Cargo Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on June 3, carrying supplies and science payloads to the International Space Station.
Anyone can receive a stamp by registering to let NASA know they’re participating virtually. Those who register will receive emails with curated launch resources, notifications about NASA activities, and updates on any launch time or date changes.
Whether it’s your first stamp or your eighth, NASA hopes you’ll print, fold, and get ready to fill your virtual passport. Stamps will be emailed following docking to all virtual attendees who registered by email.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting 1:29 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 3, for the company’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped by the uncrewed Cargo Dragon spacecraft, is scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
This will be the second SpaceX mission to deliver science investigations, supplies, and equipment for NASA under the agency’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract. To date, SpaceX has completed 21 cargo resupply missions to and from the space station, providing more than 100,000 pounds of supplies and approximately 80,000 pounds of return mass.
Tune in to NASA TV and the agency’s website for live coverage, beginning Wednesday, June 2, with prelaunch activities.
What goes into telling the NASA story? At the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, it’s more than pointing a camera and letting it roll. Behind the cameras are dedicated men and women continuously preparing to tell captivating stories like never before. With astronauts once again launching from American soil through the Commercial Crew Program, and preparations underway to send the first woman and first person of color to the Moon as part of the Artemis program, we want you to have a first-class seat to all the action!
NASA has remained committed to capturing and sharing some of our nation’s greatest achievements with the rest of the world, and recent technology upgrades have allowed us to bring those to you in a whole new way.
Technical Upgrades for TV
A new fiber circuit, connecting video feeds from Kennedy’s historic Launch Complex 39A to the NASA News Center, provides different camera views to better showcase human spaceflight and future launches. Along with being the first launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission in May 2020 also marked the first time this circuit was used. Additionally, teams at Kennedy implemented a live feed system just before launch, providing live footage of NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on their 10-mile ride to the launch pad prior to liftoff.
New fiber optic communication lines allow us to bring you UHD (ultra-high definition) coverage from unique locations, such as the Launch Control Center, countdown clock, crew quarters, crew walkout, Banana Creek viewing site, and even the launch pads. With these connections in place, commentators can host launch broadcasts and briefings outdoors in 4K resolution, placing you right in the middle of the action. We’ve used exterior sets to bring you some of our biggest launches, including Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test, NASA’s Mars 2020 launch, SpaceX’s Demo-1 mission – which earned NASA and SpaceX an Emmy – as well as Demo-2, Crew-1, and Crew-2.
Additional video and visual upgrades include a UHDTV video router that supports existing HD and future UHDTV imagery, painting a crystal-clear picture of everything going on, and a character generator that TV crews can use to create and display graphics showcasing the health of the rockets in real-time. Extra circuits also provide KSCTV (Kennedy Space Center TV) personnel with UHD video feeds of launch crews and VIP guest interviews.
While the visuals are important, what you see isn’t the whole story. More partnerships and collaborations throughout the country make behind-the-scenes communication critical to providing seamless coverage. With an expanded intercom system, we’re now able to communicate with teams at remote locations such as NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston or SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The system connects the TV producer, on-camera talent, camera operators, and master control team to bring you joint coverage from every angle.
Through these expanded capabilities, people all over the world can observe and be a part of NASA launches, missions, and scientific discoveries – an experience that is truly out of this world. This may not be rocket science, but it brings the rocket science to the palm of your hand.
NASA and SpaceX agreed to move Crew-1’s undocking and splashdown from Wednesday, April 28, following a review of forecast weather conditions in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida, which currently predict wind speeds above the recovery criteria. Teams will continue to monitor weather conditions for splashdown ahead of Friday’s planned undocking.
The return to Earth – and activities leading up to the return – will air live on NASA Television, the NASA App, and the agency’s website.
As NASA prepares for the uncrewed Artemis I test flight, teams at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center are also hard at work getting ready for the Artemis II mission that will send astronauts on a trip around the Moon ahead of a crewed lunar landing.
This includes assessing a new prototype “rainbird” system designed to protect the mobile launcher – as well as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) – when the engines roar to life. The March 24 tests included running various water pressures through small-scale, 3D-printed nozzles to capture data that can be used to develop full-scale hardware.
The rainbirds will release enough water to fill 40 swimming pools in 40 seconds. This massive volume will help absorb the heat and energy when SLS, the most powerful rocket the agency has ever built, lifts off with the Orion spacecraft from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B.
While upgraded rainbirds – large-scale water nozzles – have already been tested and installed on the mobile launcher for the Artemis I launch, Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) found room for improvement. This led teams from EGS and supporting contractors to start testing another prototype system to distribute water more evenly to maximize performance ahead of the Artemis II launch.
“By running our prototype through a range of pressures, we can simulate what each of the rainbirds will see on the mobile launcher on launch day and have a better understanding of how they will perform when we scale them back up to full size,” said Dave Valletta, a design engineer at Kennedy working on the ignition overpressure protection and sound suppression (IOPSS) system.
A critical piece of the IOPSS system, the rainbird got its name decades ago when space shuttle developers noted that it looked like a garden sprayer.
“When we saw the pattern of the water discharge during the first test flow in the shuttle program, it reminded us of your common lawn sprinkler, only it did not rotate and was 100 times the size,” said Jerry Smith, a design engineer for mechanical-fluid systems at Kennedy.
Once prototype testing is complete, allowing better prediction of future spray patterns, the team will move forward with designing a preferred concept. That concept will be built and installed on the mobile launcher to undergo verification and validation testing, where the newly installed nozzles will be fully integrated with the launch pad to ensure they work as expected.
“The confidence check gained from these tests will lead us to developing full-scale nozzles for the mobile launcher,” said Gerald Patterson, IOPSS and fire suppression system operations engineer and test lead. “Once installed, they’ll provide more efficient water distribution across the deck and, ultimately, better protection to ground systems, the SLS rocket, and its crew for Artemis II and beyond.”
During Women’s History Month, we reflect on the contributions of trailblazers at NASA who inspire the next generation of women. As we continue to celebrate women’s accomplishments, meet Notlim Burgos, Mechanical Interface Systems Team Lead for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Burgos supports NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission, which is the agency’s first planetary defense mission, and Landsat 9, the ninth Earth-observing satellite mission in the Landsat series. She was inspired from a young age to pursue STEM, leading to her 15-year career at NASA. Hear Burgos’ story and her advice for future generations.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love working alongside a range of amazing people who bring diverse expertise and perspectives, which provide a wide variety of solutions for the challenges that we face daily I learn something new from everybody every day. I enjoy having the opportunity to follow the spacecraft and the launch vehicles through the whole mission lifecycle.
Who inspires you most?
My family – especially my nieces and goddaughter. At a young age, they are demonstrating a special interest in STEM and space. One wants to be an astronaut and dreams of going to the Moon and to Mars. When I see their enthusiasm and think of the possibilities of what they can become, it inspires me to want to be the best role model that I can be. I want them to feel encouraged to follow their dreams and see the many career opportunities that women can pursue.
When did you first realize you had a passion for STEM?
I found my passion for STEM when I was in the ninth grade on an educational trip during which we visited Disney World and Kennedy. We got behind-the-scene tours where we met Disney “Imagineers,” the park’s engineers, who explained how they used the power of science to develop park attractions. That gave me a glance for the first time at how much you can do with STEM.
At Kennedy, I saw the Shuttle at Launch Pad 39A, and I was flabbergasted. We slept under the 363-foot Saturn V moon rocket at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Also, we met astronaut Charles Duke, the youngest person to walk on the Moon. These experiences convinced me that traveling through space was possible. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to be part of NASA’s team to see how far we can reach. When I returned from the trip, I told my parents I wanted to be a NASA engineer!
What advice would you give to young girls considering a STEM career?
Challenge yourself and don’t be afraid of failure. Always be yourself, be passionate, and always do your best. You may face challenges that seem impossible to conquer, but believe that you can do anything that you set your mind to. After failing a math course early in engineering school, I told my dad I didn’t think engineering was for me. I will never forget my dad’s words. He said, “You knew engineering wasn’t going to be easy. Remember where you want to be – NASA! I know you can do it; you just need to study harder.”
I appreciated his kind words and unconditional support. I retook and passed the course the following semester, and I graduated engineering school with honors. The easy route was giving up; the hardest was facing the challenges with conviction in pursuit of my dreams. I will forever be grateful for my father’s encouragement during those challenging times.
What advice would you give someone who wants to work at NASA?
A common misconception is that NASA only hires STEM professionals. My advice is to research the different opportunities that NASA offers. There are opportunities for professionals with various levels of expertise and experience. Become familiar with the NASA centers, the Pathways Program, and usajobs.com. The Pathways Program offers opportunities to work at NASA while attending school, and through usajobs.com you can build your resume and apply for positions. Lastly, do not give up, be patient but persistent; you never know when you are going to receive that call for an interview.
What is your favorite part about working for NASA?
My favorite part is that I can leverage my experiences to mentor others. I owe part of my success to my mentors. It is important to me to share what I have learned so that others achieve their goals. There is nothing more rewarding than to see somebody succeed and see how they evolve into influential mentors for others. I also enjoy supporting educational outreach, which is a great platform to inspire others to pursue careers in STEM.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission with astronauts is targeted to launch no earlier than 6:11 a.m. EDT Thursday, April 22, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Members of the public can participate in the launch by registering for NASA’s virtual guest program. Organizations coordinating launch events also are encouraged to register. Registrants receive mission updates, interactive opportunities, and a stamp for your NASA virtual passport following launch. All resources, participation, and registration are FREE.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission is headed to the International Space Station. It will carry NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur – who will serve as the mission’s spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively – along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who will serve as mission specialists.
Whether it’s your first stamp or your eighth, NASA hopes you’ll print, fold, and get ready to fill your virtual passport. Following launch, stamps will be emailed to all registered virtual attendees.
NASA’s virtual guest program started in 2020 as a way for the public to join the excitement and inspiration of NASA launches and milestones.
Click here to learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program.