Category Archives: Launch Services Program

Pegasus Rocket Prepared for NASA’s ICON Mission

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The Pegasus XL rocket second and third stages arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The second and third stages of the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket were offloaded from a transport vehicle at Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: Randy Beaudoin

Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket is being prepared to launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON mission. The rocket is being prepared in a facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.

The rocket’s second and third stages, first stage motor and wing arrived at VAFB and were transported to Building 1555 for processing.

ICON will launch aboard Pegasus from the Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, on Dec. 9, 2017 (in the continental United States the launch date is Dec. 8).

ICON will study the frontier of space — the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. The explorer will help determine the physics of Earth’s space environment and pave the way for mitigating its effects on our technology, communications systems and society.

The Pegasus XL wing arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Workers transfer the wing for the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket from a truck to a forklift at Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: Randy Beaudoin

JPSS-1 Begins Final Preflight Processing

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NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, remains wrapped in a protective covering after removal from its shipping container at the Astrotech Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The spacecraft is being prepared for its upcoming liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex-2W. JPSS-1 is the first in a series four next-generation environmental satellites in a collaborative program between NOAA and NASA.

NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, remains wrapped in a protective covering after removal from its shipping container at the Astrotech Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The spacecraft is being prepared for its upcoming liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-2W. JPSS-1 is the first in a series four next-generation environmental satellites in a collaborative program between NOAA and NASA. Photo credit: NASA/Rodney Speed

NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1 spacecraft has been removed from its shipping container in the Astrotech Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where it is being prepared for its upcoming launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

The JPSS-1 satellite will go through a series of routine inspections, checkouts and testing before it is sealed inside the payload fairing and placed atop the Delta II rocket, already standing at Space Launch Complex-2W. Launch remains scheduled for Nov. 10.

NOAA’s JPSS-1 Satellite Arrives in California for Launch

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Above and below right: The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, arrives at the Astrotech Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. JPSS is the first in a series four next-generation environmental satellites in a collaborative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. The satellite is scheduled to liftoff later this year atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. Photo credits: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) satellite arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sept. 1, 2017, to begin preparations for a November launch.

After its arrival, the JPSS-1 spacecraft was pulled from its shipping container, and is being prepared for encapsulation on top of the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket that will take it to its polar orbit at an altitude of 512 miles (824 km) above Earth. JPSS-1 is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-2 on Nov. 10 at 1:47 a.m. PST.

NOAA partnered with NASA to implement the JPSS series of U.S. civilian polar-orbiting environmental remote sensing satellites and sensors. JPSS-1 has a seven-year design life and is the first in a series of NOAA’s four next-generation, polar-orbiting weather satellites.

For more information, please visit www.jpss.noaa.gov.

NASA’s Newest Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Arrives in Orbit

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A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph

The constellation of satellites charged with maintaining critical communications between NASA’s Space Network and Earth-orbiting spacecraft is about to be expanded by one.

Joining the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) System is TDRS-M, the third and final in a series of third-generation TDRS spacecraft that have taken their places in orbit in recent years. TDRS-M launched this morning aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with a liftoff at 8:29 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. (Read NASA’s Launch Blog)

With light winds, few clouds and temperatures in the low 80s, weather posed no threat to launch. The countdown proceeded smoothly throughout the early morning hours and into propellant-loading operations, when engineers noted an issue with the Centaur upper stage’s liquid oxygen (LOX) chilldown system.

“As we were chilling the Centaur engine down, we noticed one of the chilldown parameters on the thermal conditioning for the LOX side was not quite getting cold enough” in time to permit liftoff at 8:03 a.m., when the 40-minute launch window opened, NASA Launch Manager Tim Dunn explained.

Just before sunrise at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket vents liquid oxygen propellant vapors during fueling for the lift off of NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M. The team methodically worked to resolve the issue while maximizing that window of opportunity, and the issue was resolved in time for launch officials to set up for a successful liftoff at 8:29 a.m.

Photo at right: Just before sunrise at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket vents liquid oxygen propellant vapors during fueling for the lift off of NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M. Photo credit: NASA/Kenneth Allen

TDRS-M’s predecessors, TDRS-K and TDRS-L, also launched on Atlas V rockets from the same launch complex in January 2013 and January 2014, respectively. Today’s launch marked the 72nd liftoff of an Atlas V.

More than an hour and a half after launch, the TDRS-M spacecraft separated from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage, heralding the end of the launch effort and the mission’s beginning. Following several months of calibration and testing, TDRS-M will be renamed TDRS-13, and it will be eligible to begin supporting NASA’s Space Network.

“Spacecraft separation is the best part of the launch campaign,” Dunn said. “So many hours are put into getting to this exact point when you know you have a healthy satellite that just separated from the launch vehicle, about to go do its intended mission.”

For further updates, visit http://www.nasa.gov/tdrs.

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Launch Day Arrives for Atlas V, TDRS-M

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's TDRS-M spacecraft is lit by the rising sun at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41 on Thursday, Aug. 17.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s TDRS-M spacecraft is lit by the rising sun at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 on Thursday, Aug. 17. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

The countdown is underway for today’s planned liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M). Launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 is scheduled for 8:03 a.m. EDT at the opening of a 40-minute launch window.

Launch coverage will begin at 7:30 a.m. on NASA’s Launch Blog and on NASA TV.

TDRS-M Prelaunch Programs Today; Weather 80 Percent ‘Go’ for Friday Launch

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket rolled out to the pad Wednesday, Aug. 16.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket rolled out to the pad Wednesday, Aug. 16. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA TV will broadcast two programs today from Kennedy Space Center in support of the launch of NASA’s next Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) mission atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The programs will be carried live on NASA TV.

A prelaunch news conference will air live on NASA TV at 9 a.m. EDT Launch and mission managers will provide the current status of liftoff preparations and the launch weather forecast, as well as a look ahead at the satellite’s mission to come. This will be followed at 2 p.m. by a prelaunch Social Live briefing at 2 p.m. featuring some of the speakers, as well as NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Nicole Mann, among other guests.

Launch coverage will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Friday with commentary leading up to the 8:03 a.m. start of a 40-minute launch window. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron are expecting good weather conditions tomorrow morning, with thick clouds the primary concern. The probability of favorable conditions has been upgraded to 80 percent.

Atlas V Rocket with TDRS-M In Place at Launch Pad

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) is in place on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) is in place on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.

TDRS-M is the newest in a series of spacecraft to join the agency’s constellation of communications satellites that allows nearly continuous contact with orbiting spacecraft, including the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope and more. Liftoff is scheduled for Friday at 8:03 a.m. EDT.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

TDRS-M Launch Weather Remains Favorable for Friday; Atlas V Moves to Pad

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A sign at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida notes that a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch in two days. Liftoff of the Atlas V carrying Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) is slated for Friday morning at 8:03 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A sign at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida notes that a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch in two days. Liftoff of the Atlas V carrying Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) is slated for Friday morning at 8:03 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Only two days remain until the scheduled launch of NASA’s newest addition to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. The TDRS-M satellite is in place atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and final prelaunch milestones are being checked off in preparation for liftoff Friday morning at 8:03 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron has issued today’s launch weather forecast. Meteorologists continue to predict a 70 percent chance of “go” weather at liftoff time, with thick clouds and cumulus clouds the primary concerns.

The Atlas V rocket is on the move this morning, making the short trek from the launch complex’s Vertical Integration Facility, where it was stacked and tested ahead of the flight, to the launch pad. The rollout is the final preflight move for the rocket and spacecraft, which will finish out the day in position for launch on Friday morning.

TDRS-M Spacecraft Secured in Payload Fairing, Delivered to Launch Complex

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Inside the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Florida, the payload fairing for NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M, is moved into position to encapsulate the spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Inside the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Florida, the payload fairing for NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M, is moved into position to encapsulate the spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) has passed two more milestones as preparations continue toward liftoff. Launch of the newest addition to the agency’s TDRS constellation is slated for Aug. 18 at 8:03 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Processing activities at the Astrotech payload processing facility in nearby Titusville wrapped up with the TDRS-M spacecraft safely encapsulated in the payload fairing that will protect it through the early minutes of liftoff. The fairing arrived at the launch complex Aug. 9 after an early morning move from Astrotech. Now in position atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the vehicle and spacecraft will undergo additional testing ahead of launch.

TDRS-M Flight Ready, Aug. 18 Launch Date Approved

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The Omni S-band antenna on NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-M) has been successfully removed and replaced at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida.  An unrelated electrostatic discharge incident has also been resolved, and launch processing has resumed.  The spacecraft has been moved from the fueling stand and is now mated to the launch vehicle adapter as part of integrated operations with ULA.

The TDRS-M spacecraft is flight ready, and the Eastern Range has recently approved Aug. 18 as the launch date.  NASA, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are targeting a 40-minute launch window that would open at 8:03 a.m. EDT. TDRS-M will launch on an ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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