Inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians have extended one of the Artemis I solar array wings on Sept. 10, 2020. Prior to installation on the Orion spacecraft, the team performed an inspection to confirm proper extension and to ensure all of the mechanisms functioned as expected. The pictured solar array is one of four panels that will generate 11 kilowatts of power and span about 63 feet. The array is a component of Orion’s service module, which is provided by the European Space Agency and built by Airbus Defence and Space to supply Orion’s power, propulsion, air and water.
The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will test the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.
The launch team for Artemis I is back in the firing room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for more practice. The team conducted a simulation on the procedures for cryogenic loading, or fueling the Space Launch System rocket with super cold propellants. During simulations potential problems are introduced to the team to test the application of firing room tools, processes, and procedures.
The Exploration Ground Systems team of launch controllers who will oversee the countdown and liftoff of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft will be practicing the procedures several more times ahead of launch. Special protocols have been put in place to keep personnel safe and healthy, including limiting personnel in the firing room, using acrylic dividers and adjusting assigned seating for the cryo team.
Kennedy Space Center has received a critical piece of hardware in support of the Artemis II crewed mission. The launch abort motor for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) arrived in Florida April 13 from Northrop Grumman in Promontory, Utah, and was transported to the Launch Abort System Facility where it will undergo testing in preparation for use on the second Artemis mission.
The launch abort motor is one of three motors on the LAS and is capable of producing about 400,000 pounds of thrust to steer and pull the crew module away from the rocket. The attitude control motor and the jettison motor complete the trio of motors responsible for controlling the LAS.
The LAS weighs about 16,000 pounds and is installed on top of the Orion crew module. It is designed to protect astronauts in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch or ascent. The system pulls the spacecraft away from a falling rocket and reorients the crew module to provide a safe landing for the crew.
Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon. Orion will launch atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket to carry astronauts to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. NASA will develop a sustainable presence at the Moon and apply knowledge gained to pave the way for human exploration of Mars.
Augmented reality, also known as AR, is a powerful tool that engineers are using to enable NASA to send humans to the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program. Lockheed Martin, lead contractor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, is currently using AR to increase efficiency in building the spacecraft for Artemis II, the first crewed mission aboard Orion.
Mary Lakaszcyck, a technician with ASRC Federal Data Solutions, a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin, wears a pair of AR goggles as she places tape in locations where technicians will install parts on Orion’s crew module adapter. The work is taking place in the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The goggle technology provides a unique function for understanding the dynamic work environment of assembling complex hardware, such as a spacecraft that will fly humans to deep space. Instead of interpreting the work procedure from text or models on a 2-D screen, the instructions appear overlaid in 3-dimensional space onto the physical spacecraft while wearing the goggles.
“I honestly cannot express how helpful, time-saving, and fun, the AR goggles are to use,” Lakaszcyck said. “For something we are used to doing in at least a week’s time, or eight to 12 shifts, we were able to complete in one shift.”
Lakaszcyck said looking through the goggles and seeing exactly where to place items on the spacecraft, what orientation to place them, and the reference number that accompanies them, makes the process more efficient than ever.
The goggles are not a passing fad. They are one of the specialized tools in Lockheed Martin’s repertoire used by the processing team to prepare the Orion spacecraft for its flight. The company started using the technology in 2017.
“We used the goggles on manufacturing activities for the Orion that will fly on Artemis I,” said Shelley Peterson, who specializes in augmented and mixed reality with Lockheed Martin. “Augmented reality is helping us push the boundaries to perform activities much more rapidly than with traditional methods.”
Carlos Garcia, NASA crew module adapter assembly, integration and test lead for Orion production operations, is pleased with the time-saving results from using AR technology for click bonds. Click bonds are fasteners that secure the miles of wiring harnesses to the spacecraft structure.
“For the crew module adapter effort, using this technology for locating click bonds for securing harnesses equated to up to a three week savings,” said Garcia.
AR goggle-wearers will place several critical spaceflight components on the Orion hardware, including the crew module and heat shield for Artemis II. They also will use augmented reality work instructions to assemble the crew seats for the spacecraft.
“Across four sites, we use augmented reality to complete spacecraft manufacturing activities in 90% less time than with traditional methods. For example, an activity that normally takes 8 hours could be completed in 45 minutes,” Peterson said. “If we look just at fasteners, one Orion space vehicle has more than 57,000 cable harness fasteners. Saving time per fastener adds up quickly!”
Peterson says using augmented reality work instructions removes almost all of the interpretation, and workers understand the task at hand immediately.
Manufactured by Microsoft, the HoloLens 2 is the second iteration of the goggles used by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed builds the content for the goggles in-house using WorkLink, an augmented reality software platform developed by Scope AR.
“Looking back even four years ago, I never would have pictured myself working hands-on with a spacecraft going into deep space,” Lakaszcyck said. “I’ve worked on three different vehicles, including the current one for Artemis II that will take humans into space. Now that I am a part of the Artemis generation, it is an irreplaceable feeling of not just excitement, but responsibility.”
Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon. Orion will launch on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket to carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. NASA will develop a sustainable presence at the Moon and apply knowledge gained to send astronauts to Mars.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft for Artemis I returned to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 25 after engineers put it through the rigors of environmental testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. At Kennedy, the spacecraft will undergo final processing and preparations prior to launching on the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon that will ultimately lead to the exploration of Mars.
The spacecraft – comprised of the crew module and service module – arrived in Ohio during the fall of 2019, where two phases of testing occurred inside the world’s largest space simulation vacuum chamber. First, the spacecraft demonstrated it could handle the extreme temperatures of space during thermal vacuum testing, simulating sunlight and shadow Orion will encounter during flight. During this test, the spacecraft was exposed to temperatures ranging from -250 to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, an electromagnetic interference and compatibility test verified all of Orion’s electronics work correctly when operating simultaneously and in the electromagnetic environments it will encounter during its mission.
“The test went exceptionally well, especially considering we were doing all of this for the first time,” said Nicole Smith, testing project manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “We found a lot of efficiencies throughout the thermal vacuum phase, and overcame a few facility equipment challenges early during electromagnetic interference testing, but our combined NASA, Lockheed Martin, ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus team was able to complete the testing ahead of schedule.”
Arriving at Kennedy in the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft, Orion is now ready to undergo its next phase of processing. Before it can be integrated with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the Orion spacecraft will go through a final round of testing and assembly, including end-to-end performance verification of the vehicle’s subsystems, checking for leaks in the spacecraft’s propulsion systems, installing its solar array wings, performing spacecraft closeouts and pressurizing a subset of its tanks in preparation for flight.
Orion will then begin its ground processing journey with Exploration Ground Systems. The first stop on the journey will be at Kennedy’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility for fueling and pressurizing of its remaining tanks, and after this, to the Launch Abort System Facility for integration with the spacecraft’s launch abort system (LAS). After installation of the LAS, engineers will transport Orion to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where they will stack the spacecraft atop SLS when the rocket arrives to Kennedy. Once integrated with SLS, a team of technicians and engineers will perform additional tests and checkouts to verify Orion and SLS operate as expected together.
“The Artemis program is the future of human space exploration, and to be a part of the design, assembly and testing of NASA’s newest spacecraft is an incredible, once-in-a-career opportunity,” said Amy Marasia, spacecraft assembly operations lead in Orion production operations at Kennedy. “Witnessing the daily transformation of numerous individual flight hardware components and parts into a fully equipped and operational spacecraft is one of my favorite parts of this job.”
NASA’s Super Guppy transport was assisted by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), who provide specialized equipment and services to load and offload the spacecraft from the Super Guppy, and the Ohio Air National Guard, who provided supplemental air cargo transport services for support equipment and overnight hangar storage for the spacecraft prior to the Super Guppy airlift. NASA, DoD and the Ohio Air National Guard made the decision to continue with the transport operation after a full assessment determined that the risks to personnel due to COVID-19 would be low and could be reduced by steps taken during the operation.
“NASA sincerely thanks the DoD personnel from the United States Air Force’s Air Mobility Command who helped us accomplish this mission essential operation during these trying times,” said Mark Kirasich, manager for the Orion Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Specifically, we’d like to thank the 437th Aerial Port Squadron from Joint Base Charleston and the 305th Aerial Port Squadron/87th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst of the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command, the 45th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Patrick Air Force Base of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, and the 179th Airlift Wing from Mansfield-Lahm of the Ohio Air National Guard.”
Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. Through the Gateway – an outpost in lunar orbit – the agency will develop a sustainable presence in deep space, taking what crew members learn on the lunar surface and applying that to the journey on to Mars. As the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion, Artemis I is critical to providing the foundation for human deep-space exploration.
“With Orion back at Kennedy, we’re ready,” said Scott Wilson, NASA Orion production operations manager. “Ready to finalize the vehicle and send it to be integrated for its voyage to deep space, tackling the next era of human space exploration.”
Community leaders, business executives, partners, educators and government representatives gathered at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Feb. 18, 2020, for an update on Kennedy Space Center’s accomplishments and what’s ahead for this year. Center Director Robert Cabana greeted the group and served as moderator of a panel discussion with senior leaders of NASA programs based at the center.
Gateway is NASA’s permanent lunar outpost that will be positioned in orbit around the Moon. Gateway will include a power and propulsion element and habitation modules, and eventually airlock capabilities. The center’s piece of the Gateway is logistics services, which will be used to deliver cargo, consumables and supplies for scientific research and technology demonstrations and commercial use.
“This center assignment leverages Kennedy’s extensive experience in enabling commercial services, as well as our spacecraft and payload integration and processing expertise,” Lyons said.
Spaceport Integration and Services is maintaining an integrated master schedule of all launches and processing activities. Kennedy and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are on track to manage more than 40 launches this year. The team continues to build relationships with commercial and government partners. The future includes keeping up with the launch demand and operating in non-traditional roles.
“We can only be successful when commercial and government space are integrated,” Cabana said.
CPD is working on attracting more businesses to the spaceport. The goal is to enable companies to be successful; but the companies need to work on achieving that success. They are supporting one of the center’s core missions: enable companies to fly what they have to space. Currently, Boeing, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin are doing just that.
Food production–plants and habitats–and dust mitigation are two of the technologies being developed by ER&T. “Plant production has to be compact,” Brown said. Two growth chambers developed here are currently on the International Space Station: Veggie and the Advanced Plant Habitat. The team also is looking at regolith operations and how to dampen the effect of dust that is kicked-up as landers touchdown on surfaces such as the Moon.
“We have an amazing year ahead of us,” Cabana said. “It’s our community working together that makes it so successful.”
NASA successfully demonstrated the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system can outrun a speeding rocket and pull astronauts to safety during an emergency during launch. During the approximately three-minute test, called Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a modified Peacekeeper missile procured through the U.S. Air Force and built by Northrop Grumman.
The Orion test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of about six miles, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent. The abort sequence triggered and, within milliseconds, the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket. Its attitude control motor flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
A team is collecting the 12 data recorders that were ejected during the test capsule’s descent. Analysis of the information will provide insight into the abort system’s performance.
A postlaunch briefing will be held approximately two hours after launch reviewing initial insights from the test data. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.
The test is another milestone in the agency’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon that will lead to astronaut missions to Mars.
The Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, featuring a test version of the crew module, is scheduled to lift off this morning from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Follow on the AA-2 Launch Blog.
The four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast launch activities, starting at 6:40 a.m. Updates also can be found on this blog. A postlaunch briefing is scheduled for approximately two hours after launch. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.
Orion will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.
NASA will host a preview news conference for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft at 11:30 a.m. Monday, July 1, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight test will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.
The launch and preview news conference will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Participants include:
Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager
Jenny Devolites, Ascent Abort-2 test conductor
Randy Bresnik, NASA astronaut
The blog will feature highlights from the preview news conference.
The AA-2 flight test’s four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 2. A test version of the crew module will launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA TV coverage will begin at 6:40 a.m.
The 46,000-pound flight test article that will be used for a test of Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) was lifted and mated to its transportation pallet inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 18, 2019. The flight test article includes the Orion test article, a separation ring created for this test, and the LAS. This operation marks the completion of the flight test article integration and checkout operations necessary for NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test scheduled for July. Next, the system will roll to Pad 46 where the team will be stacking all the AA-2 elements together at the launch pad over the next several weeks.
AA-2 will demonstrate the abort system can activate, steer the spacecraft, and carry astronauts to a safe distance if an emergency arises during Orion’s climb to orbit as the spacecraft faces the greatest aerodynamic pressure during ascent. AA-2 is an important test to verify Orion’s design to safely carry astronauts on deep space missions as NASA works to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024
During the three-minute test, the LAS with the Orion test article will launch atop a booster from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to an altitude of about six miles and traveling at more than 1,000 mph. The abort motor will quickly whisk the crew module away from the booster, and the attitude control motor will maneuver the assembly into position to jettison the crew module. Test data from 890 sensors will be sent in real-time to ground sites as well as recorded on board by 12 data recorders. The 12 data recorders will eject from the crew module before Orion reaches the water and will be retrieved after the test.
With no astronauts on board, the test concludes after the data recorders are ejected and does not include parachutes or recovery of the test capsule. AA-2 is focused on testing Orion’s ability to abort during ascent, and NASA has already fully qualified the parachute system for flights with crew through an extensive series of 17 developmental tests and 8 qualification tests completed at the end of 2018.
The LAS was designed and built by NASA and Lockheed Martin with motors provided by Northrop Grumman and Aerojet Rocketdyne. NASA’s Orion and Exploration Ground Systems programs, contractors Jacob’s, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, in conjunction with the Air Force Space and Missile Center’s Launch Operations branch and the 45th Space Wing will perform flight operations for AA-2.