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 members Lowell Grissom (brother of former astronaut Gus Grissom) and Sheryl Chaffee (daughter of former astronaut Roger Chaffee) will be in attendance. Speakers include Kennedy Director Bob Cabana, 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.

Takeoff! ELaNa 20 Mission on Its Way to Space

Ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission, Virgin Orbit’s carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl is staged on a taxiway with LauncherOne underwing at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. November 10, 2020.
Ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission, Virgin Orbit’s carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl is staged on a taxiway with LauncherOne underwing at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. November 10, 2020. Credit: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.

Marking the first payload carried by the LauncherOne rocket, 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 today. The LauncherOne rocket, attached to the underside of Cosmic Girl’s left wing, is the carrying CubeSats for the encapsulated Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) 20 mission.

Once the aircraft reaches a specified altitude, the rocket will be released from the wing for a controlled drop over the Pacific Ocean. After dropping, LauncherOne’s NewtonThree first-stage engine will ignite, starting the launch sequence that will send the nine satellite missions into low-Earth orbit.

This is the first time Virgin Orbit has launched NASA payloads. In 2020, Virgin Orbit completed their first launch demo, validating that LauncherOne could be successfully air-launched from the company’s “Cosmic Girl” carrier aircraft.

A low-cost platform for agency missions, CubeSats and other small satellites are beginning to play a larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research, and educational investigations at NASA. Previously only available through pre-existing launch opportunities, dedicated launch opportunities are now available for CubeSats and other small payloads through the contracts managed by NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Services Program (LSP) in Florida.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by tagging these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA,  @NASA_LSP, @Virgin_Orbit

Facebook:  NASA, NASA LSP, Virgin Orbit

Instagram:  @NASA, @virgin.orbit

Launch Window Opens for ELaNa 20 Mission

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.

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl aircraft and LauncherOne rocket are positioned for takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, in preparation to launch 10 small NASA-sponsored research satellites, or CubeSats, as part of the agency’s 20th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission.

Cosmic Girl carries the LauncherOne rocket on the underside of the 747-aircraft’s left wing. When Cosmic Girl reaches its specified altitude over the Pacific Ocean, LauncherOne will be released for a controlled drop until the rocket’s NewtonThree first stage engine ignites to start the launch sequence that will send the satellites into low-Earth orbit. The mission has a three-hour launch window from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT).

Virgin Orbit was one of three companies selected as Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) providers through a contract NASA first awarded in October 2015. This mission, called Launch Demo 2, will be the first time Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket will carry customer payloads. ELaNa missions are managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The 10 CubeSats set to launch on this mission were designed and built by eight different universities in the United States, as well as one NASA center. These include:

  • 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.

NASA selected and sponsored these providers through the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). By offering CubeSat developers a relatively low-cost avenue to conduct science investigations and technology demonstrations in space, NASA gives K-12 schools, universities, and non-profit organizations hands-on flight hardware development experience.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by tagging these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA,  @NASA_LSP, @Virgin_Orbit

Facebook:  NASA, NASA LSP, Virgin Orbit

Instagram:  @NASA, @virgin.orbit

Kennedy’s Top 20 from 2020

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Powers

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center racked up a year of achievements in exploration – even in the midst of a pandemic. The Florida spaceport launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 and Crew-1 missions; sent robotic explorers to study the Sun, Mars, and our home planet’s oceans; made significant strides toward Artemis I in 2021, the first flight of the program slated to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024; and much more.

Click here to read Kennedy’s Top 20 from 2020.

Kennedy Harvests Radish Crop as Part of PH-02 Experiment

Radishes are harvested from the Advanced Plant Habitat ground unit at Kennedy Space Center.
A research scientist harvests radishes grown in the Advanced Plant Habitat ground unit at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 14, 2020. Part of the Plant Habitat-02 (PH-02) experiment, scientists will compare these radishes grown at Kennedy to radish crops growing on the International Space Station. This crop of radishes was grown under similar conditions as those growing in space – the major difference being the absence of microgravity. The comparison will allow researchers to better see how a microgravity environment affects plant growth ahead of long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

A team of researchers and engineers harvested radishes from the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) ground unit as part of the Plant Habitat-02 experiment, or PH-02, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 14, 2020. This crop was a ground control for a similar crop of radishes grown aboard the International Space Station, which Astronaut Kate Rubins harvested on Nov. 30, 2020. Knowledge gained from the PH-02 experiment will enable astronauts to grow crops that will help sustain crews on long-duration space exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Scientists will compare the results of the ground control experiment to the plants grown in space. The nearly identical growing conditions for both crops will make it possible to identify the effects of the space environment by measuring a range of properties including chlorophyll quantities, enzyme activity, mineral uptake, and several other traits. The major difference is the crops grown on the space station experienced microgravity, an environment vastly different from Earth’s. In microgravity, everything from fluids to flames behave differently.

The space station is a unique laboratory enabling long-duration microgravity experiments that lead to a better understanding of fundamental properties of everything from plants to physics. In space, a second crop of radishes is already growing in the APH on station for the second part of PH-02. Astronauts plan to harvest that crop on Dec. 30, 2020, and send samples back to Earth in 2021 on a SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services mission return flight.

The APH is NASA’s largest and most sophisticated growth chamber designed for plant and bioscience research aboard the space station. It has control systems and more than 180 sensors to deliver precise amounts of water while regulating and monitoring moisture levels, temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, and oxygen content. The APH provides high-intensity red, blue, green, broad spectrum white, and far-red LED light to plants in the chamber. APH’s highly automated data and photo interfaces allow researchers on the ground to access photos and real-time data telemetry while also sending remote commands to the chamber.

To stay updated on this and other Biological and Physical Sciences research, please visit https://science.nasa.gov/biological-physical.

NASA to ‘Rock and Roll’ on Crawlerway Ahead of Artemis I Mission

Crawlerway at Kennedy Space Center
Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are working to ensure the crawlerway is strong enough to withstand the weight and provide stability for the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Before the most powerful rocket in existence can lift off for lunar missions, it must first make the 4.2-mile trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For the Artemis I mission, the path from the VAB to Launch Complex 39B must be able to support the behemoth Crawler Transporter-2 — as well as the massive weight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the Orion capsule, and the mobile launcher. Teams at Kennedy are working to ensure the crawlerway is strong enough to withstand the weight and provide stability for the Artemis I mission and then some.

“Conditioning the crawlerway is important to prevent a phenomenon we call liquefaction, in which the crawler transporter, the mobile launcher, and the load on it causes the crawlerway to vibrate and shake the soil,” said Robert Schroeder, design manager of the crawlerway conditioning project and engineer at Kennedy. “Essentially, the soil itself will behave like a liquid instead of a solid, which could cause the crawler to tip to one side or the other.”

The crawlerway is currently required to support 25.5 million pounds for the Artemis I mission. However, as essential payloads will be added on future missions, the teams at Kennedy decided to test additional weight so they would be “ahead of the ballgame,” Schroeder said.

Work to prepare the crawlerway began Nov. 23. Over the next few months, technicians will lift several concrete blocks, each weighing over 40,000 pounds, onto the mobile launcher platform used for the space shuttle and Crawler Transporter-2. They will then drive the loaded transporter up and down the path between the VAB and launch pad, with each pass increasingly compacting the soil. By the time the project ends, the crawlerway will have supported more than 26 million pounds.

Artemis I will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 Mission: Weather 60% Favorable for Saturday Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A after being rolled out as preparations continue for the Crew-1 mission at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA and SpaceX teams continue preparations for a launch Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7:49 p.m. EST of NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on the Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the mission from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is vertical on the launch pad with the Crew Dragon atop, targeting a static fire test today. The Launch Readiness Review meeting now will take place Friday, with a news briefing taking place approximately one hour after the meeting concludes.

Tomorrow, the crew will participate in a countdown dress rehearsal of the launch day events for the first crew rotation flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the space station.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 60% chance of favorable weather conditions at the launch pad for lift off of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission based on Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch weather criteria. Teams will monitor weather conditions both for the launch area and downrange. The primary weather concerns for launch will be cumulus clouds associated with onshore moving showers along a weak frontal boundary as Eta merges with a mid-latitude system as it moves across North Florida and the Atlantic toward the end of this week.

FORECAST DETAILS

Clouds                      Coverage           Bases (feet)             Tops (feet)

Cumulus                    Broken                   3,000                         10,000

Weather/Visibility: Isolated showers/7 miles

Temperature:  78 degrees

Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-1. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew, @space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew Facebook, ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew-1 Flight Readiness Review Underway; Virtual Crew Media Engagement on NASA TV

NASA and SpaceX managers are gathered this morning to begin the Crew-1 mission’s Flight Readiness Review at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The review focuses on the preparedness of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, the International Space Station, and its international partners to support the flight, and the certification of flight readiness.

The SpaceX Crew-1 official crew insignia features a dragon in silhouette, a Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the numeral 1 for Crew-1.Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, is leading the review. Hans Koenigsmann, vice president for Build and Flight Reliability, is the senior SpaceX official.

The teams also have additional time on Tuesday, Nov. 10, to complete the review. Approximately one hour after the review ends, the agency will hold a media teleconference with the following participants:

  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, Kennedy
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station, Johnson
  • Norm Knight, deputy manager, Flight Operations Directorate, Johnson
  • Benji Reed, senior director, Human Spaceflight Programs, SpaceX
  • Junichi Sakai, manager, International Space Station Program, JAXA
  • FAA representative

Also, tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website at 1:15 p.m. EST today for a Virtual Crew Media Engagement at Kennedy with the Crew-1 astronauts who will answer questions live from the Astronaut Crew Quarters inside Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7:49 EST, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy.

Astronauts Enter Quarantine for Upcoming Crew-1 Mission

NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts
The SpaceX Crew-1 crew members (from left) NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Credits: SpaceX

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), entered their official quarantine period beginning Saturday, Oct. 31, in preparation for their flight to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. They will lift off at 7:49 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 14 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon carried by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Crew-1 astronauts participate in a training exercise on July 22, 2020.
Pilot Victor Glover, spacecraft commander Michael Hopkins, mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, and mission specialist Shannon Walker participate in a SpaceX training exercise on July 22, 2020, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Photo credit: SpaceX

For crews preparing to launch, “flight crew health stabilization” is a routine part of the final preparations for all missions to the space station. Spending the final two weeks before liftoff in quarantine will help ensure the Crew-1 crew is healthy, protecting themselves and the astronauts already on the space station.

If they are able to maintain quarantine conditions at home, crew members can choose to quarantine from there until they travel to Kennedy. If they are unable to maintain quarantine conditions at home — for example, if a household member can’t maintain quarantine because of job or school requirements — they have the option of living in the Astronaut Quarantine Facility at Johnson Space Center until they leave for Kennedy.

Some additional safeguards have been added because of the coronavirus. Anyone who will come on site or interact with the crew during the quarantine period, as well as any VIPs, will be screened for temperature and symptoms. Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi, as well as those in direct, close contact with the crew, will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution.

The SpaceX Crew-1 official crew insignia features a dragon in silhouette, a Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the numeral 1 for Crew-1.Crew-1 astronauts will become the first crew to fly a full-duration mission to the space station on Crew Dragon for a six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory. They are scheduled to arrive at the space station Sunday, Nov. 15, to join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, as well as Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, cosmonauts of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

For the first time, the space station’s long-duration crew will expand to seven people with Expedition 64, increasing the amount of crew time available for research.

More details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA, SpaceX Invite Media to Crew-1 Mission Update, Target New Launch Date

The SpaceX Crew-1 official crew insignia features a dragon in silhouette, a Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the numeral 1 for Crew-1.NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 7:49 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 14, for the launch of the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Managers of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will hold a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 28, to discuss the upcoming launch, including results from recent testing of the Falcon 9 Merlin engines following unexpected data SpaceX noted during a recent non-NASA launch. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website.

Click here to read the full advisory.