Centaur Upper Stage in Place Atop Atlas V

At the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, United Launch Alliance team members mate a Centaur upper stage to an Atlas V booster. The rocket is scheduled to launch the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M.At the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, United Launch Alliance team members mate a Centaur upper stage to an Atlas V booster. The rocket is scheduled to launch the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M.The Centaur upper stage has been installed atop its United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.

The rocket is slated to launch the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M. It will be the latest spacecraft destined for the agency’s constellation of communications satellites that allows nearly continuous contact with orbiting spacecraft ranging from the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope to the array of scientific observatories. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 is scheduled for early August.

Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

TDRS-M Status Update – July 15, 2017

NASA and Boeing are reviewing an incident that occurred with the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-M) on July 14 at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida. The satellite’s Omni S-band antenna was damaged during final spacecraft closeout activities. The mission team is currently assessing flight acceptance and schedule. TDRS-M is planned to launch Aug. 3, 2017, on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

TDRS-M Spacecraft, Atlas V Rocket Take Strides Toward Launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Inside the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Florida, NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M, is undergoing final checkouts prior to encapsulation in its payload fairing.
Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

NASA’s next addition to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System and the rocket that will deliver it to space are achieving significant prelaunch milestones this week.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is coming together in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The first-stage booster was transported to the launch complex and lifted into position yesterday. The Centaur upper stage will be installed today atop the first stage.

Meanwhile, at the Astrotech payload processing facility in nearby Titusville, local news media got a chance to see the TDRS-M spacecraft before it is affixed to the payload attach fitting in preparation for encapsulation inside the Atlas V payload fairing next week.

Atlas V Rocket for TDRS-M Mission Begins Prelaunch Checkouts

NASA's TDRS-M satellite arrives inside its shipping container at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, aboard a U.S. Air Force transport aircraft.
NASA’s TDRS-M satellite arrives inside its shipping container at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, aboard a U.S. Air Force transport aircraft. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

At Port Canaveral in Florida, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage booster and Centaur upper stage are about to be transported from the company's Mariner ship to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will provide a boost for the next in NASA’s constellation of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites has arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The company’s Mariner cargo ship delivered the rocket’s first stage and Centaur upper stage to the Army Wharf at Port Canaveral on Monday afternoon. After unloading Tuesday morning, the components were transported by truck to their respective processing areas on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where they’ll be readied for launch. The first stage now is inside the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center and the Centaur is in the Delta Operations Center.

The TDRS-M spacecraft arrived in Florida on Friday, June 23 and is going through its prelaunch paces at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville. Launch of TDRS-M aboard the Atlas V is slated for August 3 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.

Photo at right: At Port Canaveral in Florida, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage booster and Centaur upper stage are about to be transported from the company’s Mariner ship to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

TDRS-M Spacecraft Arrives in Florida for Prelaunch Preparations

TDRS-M arrives at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida.The next addition to NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) System has arrived in Florida to begin processing for its August launch. The TDRS-M satellite, secured in a shipping container, was delivered Friday aboard a cargo aircraft that touched down at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft then was transported to the Astrotech Space Operations facility to begin preparations for launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

TDRS-M will expand the capabilities of NASA’s Space Network to support space communication for an additional 15 years. The network consists of TDRS satellites that transmit data to and from ground stations on Earth for NASA missions and expendable launch vehicles. The Space Network allows scientists, engineers and control room staff to readily access data from missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, California, built TDRS-M. NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Program, a part of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, is responsible for the TDRS network. Launch management of the Atlas V launch service for TDRS-M is the responsibility of the mission directorate’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

CubeSats Touching New Heights in Space Research

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Part of the scientific cargo packed inside an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft recently launched to the International Space Station is a trio of tiny spacecraft that soon will fly on their own in orbit to look at different aspects of space-based science.

With one examining Earth’s cloud layer, another looking at the cosmic background radiation from the birth of the universe and one evaluating battery storage capacities in space, the three satellites make up NASA’s ELaNa XVII mission, short for Educational Launch of Nanosatellites. The CubeSat Launch Initiative offers launch opportunities for CubeSats proposed and built by teams of engineers and researchers from U.S. educational institutions, non-profits and NASA centers. NASA evaluates each proposal, selects some to fly and then schedules them for a trip into space on an ELaNa mission.

Built to operate on their own and communicate with Earth despite being only a few inches across, the CubeSats are the latest examples from a scientific movement that has seen satellites shrink dramatically to conduct research for far less money while still returning high-quality results.

“The community and industry is growing by leaps and bounds,” said NASA’s Scott Higginbotham, mission manager for ELaNa XVII. “It is amazing what you can do with in a small package at a relatively low price and folks are truly embracing the concept.”

The three ELaNa XVII satellites are:
IceCube – The mission is to demonstrate the technology of a submillimeter-wave radiometer for future cloud ice sensing. This technology will enable cloud ice measurements to be taken in the intermediate altitudes (5 km – 15 km), where no measurements currently exist. It will perform first-of-a-kind measurements of ice particles embedded within clouds. These measurements will advance atmospheric monitoring technology and also fill in critical gaps in understanding how cloud ice affects the weather and how cloud formations process atmospheric radiation.

CXBN-2 – Short for Cosmic X-Ray Background NanoSat-2, the mission will increase the precision of measurements of the Cosmic X-Ray Background in order to constrain models that attempt to explain the relative contribution of proposed sources lending insight into the underlying physics of the early universe. The mission addresses a fundamental science question that is central to our understanding of the structure, origin, and evolution of the universe, by potentially lending insight into high-energy background radiation and the evolution of galaxies.

CSUNSat1 – Short for California State University Northridge Sat1, the primary mission of CSUNSat1 is to test an innovative low-temperature-capable energy storage system in space. The success of this energy storage system will enable future missions, especially those in deep space, to do more science while requiring less energy, mass and volume.

The three satellites flew into orbit inside a small canister tailored to the needs of CubeSats. Astronauts on the station will pull the canister out of the Cygnus and position it at the airlock of the Japanese Experiment Module. Once moved to the outside of the station, the small robotic arm on the Japanese module will point the canister out into space and each spacecraft will be pushed out into its own separate flight path to conduct its mission.

Part of lining up CubeSat missions is evaluating which ones are ready to go when the main payload is ready. Mission planners also work to get as many CubeSats into space with each launch as they can, Higginbotham said.

“We try to match the readiness date and orbital parameter desires of our CubeSats with the vehicles going to those orbits,” Higginbotham said. “We are also always looking for efficient ways to effectively ‘bundle CubeSats together because we often get a volume discount.”

Launch companies are making more room on their launchers for these tiny spacecraft as the interest in them grows. Some companies, such as those contracted under NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services, are building launch vehicles solely for CubeSats and small spacecraft. Those launchers can be sent to many different orbits and are designed to carry dozens of CubeSats into space at a time.

Right now, Higginbotham and his NASA teams are processing eight more ELaNa missions that are in different stages of preparation for their own launches.

“There’s never a dull moment around here,” Higginbotham said.

ULA Atlas V Arrives for Next Orbital ATK Space Station Resupply Mission

OA-7 Atlas V Booster arrives at the Army Wharf, is offloaded and transfered to the ASOC.

NASA recently took another step in preparations for Orbital ATK’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster arrived at the Army Outpost wharf at Port Canaveral, Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center.

The Atlas V rocket was assembled at the ULA plant in Decatur, Alabama, about 20 miles southwest of Huntsville. After completion, the Atlas V was shipped aboard the Mariner cargo ship down the Tennessee River and Tombigbee Waterway, a canal, through the Gulf of Mexico to Port Canaveral.

From the port, the booster was transported to the hangar at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center, located south of Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Atlas V will undergo final testing in that facility. When processing is complete, the Atlas V booster will be moved to the Vertical Integration Facility for stacking approximately .3 miles from SLC-41.

Scheduled for launch at approximately 10:56 p.m. on March 19, 2017, the Atlas V rocket will boost an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft loaded with thousands of pounds of supplies and equipment for the crew aboard the space station. Additionally, scientific experiments will be aboard for research by the crew on the station to improve life on Earth and drive progress toward future space flight.

Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

 

Final Work Platform Arrives for NASA’s Space Launch System

Work platform A north arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13.The final work platform for NASA’s Space Launch System arrived Dec. 13 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The second half of the A-level platforms, A north, was transported to the center by heavy-lift truck from Tillett Heavy Hauling in Titusville, Florida, and delivered to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) staging area.

The platform will remain in the staging area for prep work before it is moved into the transfer aisle of the VAB. The first half of the A-level platforms, A south, arrived at the center Nov. 28. The south platform will be installed in High Bay 3 on Dec. 22. The north platform will be installed in late January 2017.

The A-level platforms are the topmost platforms for High Bay 3. The two halves will provide access to the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS) for Orion Lifting Sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. Testing of the Launch Abort System Antenna also is performed on this level.

A total of 10 levels of new platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft and provide access for testing and processing. NASA is preparing for the launch of Orion atop the SLS rocket from Launch Pad 39B in 2018.

Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

CYGNSS Launches Aboard Pegasus XL Rocket

NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission launched Thursday, Dec. 15 at 8:37 a.m. EST aboard an Orbital ATK air-launched Pegasus XL launch vehicle. The rocket was dropped and launched from Orbital’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, which took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida.

CYGNSS Wednesday Launch Attempt Delayed

The CYGNSS launch planned for Wednesday, Dec. 14 is being delayed due to an issue with flight parameter data used by spacecraft software. The issue was discovered during routine testing Tuesday. The new flight parameter data have undergone verification testing on the engineering model, and will be uploaded to the spacecraft on Wednesday. The uploading of new flight data is a very routine procedure, and is expected correct the issue. The next launch attempt will be determined pending the results of ongoing tests.