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.

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.

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.