Aeroshells Prepped for Vital Orion Launch Abort System Test

The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion's Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at Kennedy Space Center after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island.
The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at Kennedy Space Center after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island.

The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island. In the photo above, technicians prepare the aeroshell to be lifted off of the flatbed truck and transferred to slats. All three aeroshells will be stacked and prepared for a full-stress test of the LAS, called Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test, scheduled for April 2019.

During the test, a booster will launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a fully functional LAS and a 22,000-pound Orion test vehicle to an altitude of 31,000 feet and traveling at more than 1,000 miles per hour. The test will verify the LAS can steer the crew module and astronauts aboard to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during a rapid climb into space.

NASA’s Orion is being prepared for its first integrated uncrewed flight atop the SLS on Exploration Mission-1.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Last of the Big Swing Arm Umbilicals Installed on Mobile Launcher

A heavy-lift crane and rigging lines are used to install the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage Umbilical high up on the tower of the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Nearly the last of several large connection lines, called umbilicals, was installed on the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The umbilical was lifted by crane and attached high on the tower of the mobile launcher at about the 240-foot level, bringing the steel structure one step closer to supporting processing and launch of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The launcher is designed to support the assembly, testing, check out and servicing of the rocket, as well as transfer it to the pad and provide the platform from which it will launch.

This particular umbilical will supply propellants, environmental control systems, pneumatics and electrical connections to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) of the SLS rocket and will swing away before launch. The umbilical also will provide hazardous gas leak detection while the rocket is on the pad. The ICPS is located between the core stage of the rocket and the Orion capsule, and will provide propulsion for Orion while in space and give the spacecraft the big push needed to fly beyond the moon.

To install the umbilical, construction workers with JP Donovan prepared the rigging lines and attached the umbilical to a large crane. The ICPS umbilical was slowly lifted up and bolted to the mobile launcher. The entire process took about four hours.

With the umbilical in place, workers will install additional equipment on the tower, as well as electrical wiring, environmental control system tubing, hydraulics and other commodities will be routed to the umbilical arm before testing. Tests of the swing arm also will be performed as part of the verification and validation process.

Exploration Ground Systems is overseeing installation of the launch umbilicals and launch accessories on the mobile launcher to prepare for the first integrated test flight of Orion atop the SLS on Exploration Mission-1. A pair of tail service mast umbilicals are slated for installation later this year and will be the last of the twenty umbilicals and launch accessories to be installed on the mobile launcher. With this test flight, NASA is preparing for missions to send astronauts to deep space destinations, including the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Crew Access Arm for Space Launch System Arrives at Kennedy

Two heavy-lift cranes are used to tilt and lower the Orion crew access arm onto a work stand in a storage location Oct. 17, 2017, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Two heavy-lift cranes are used to tilt and lower the Orion crew access arm onto a work stand in a storage location Oct. 17, 2017, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The access arm was transported from Precision Fabricating and Cleaning in Cocoa, Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

When astronauts depart for missions to deep space, they will cross the Crew Access Arm about 300 feet above the ground to board their spacecraft. The access arm was delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 17, 2017, to install on the mobile launcher in preparation for the first flight of the Space Launch System rocket, or SLS, and the Orion spacecraft.

The SLS will be the largest rocket in the world and will be stacked with Orion inside the historic Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, on the mobile launcher and rolled out to the pad prior to launch. The access arm will be one of 11 connection points to the rocket and spacecraft from the tower on the mobile launcher. After technicians install the arm, the mobile launcher will be rolled into the VAB for validation and verification tests.

For the first launch without crew, the access arm will provide a bridge to Orion for personnel and equipment entering the spacecraft during processing and prelaunch integrated testing while in the VAB and at the launch site. The arm is made up of two major components: the truss assembly and the environmental enclosure, or the white room. The arm will provide entry and emergency egress for astronauts and technicians into the Orion spacecraft. On future human missions, astronauts outfitted with newly designed space suits will enter the white room, where they will be assisted by technicians into the spacecraft for launch. The arm will retract before launch, and the other connections will release at liftoff, allowing the rocket and spacecraft to safely clear the launch pad.

New Umbilical Fitted for Mobile Launcher to Support NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Missions

A fit check of the core stage inter-tank umbilical is in progress on the mobile launcher tower at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
High up on the mobile launcher tower at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, construction workers assist as a crane moves the Core Stage Inter-tank Umbilical (CSITU) into place for a fit check of the attachment hardware. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Engineers lifted and installed a third umbilical on the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a fit check. The tower on the mobile launcher will be equipped with several connections or launch umbilicals like this one. After the fit check was completed, the umbilical was lowered down and will be installed permanently at a later date.

The umbilicals will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel. They will be used to connect the mobile launcher to the agency’s Space Launch System (made up of the core stage, twin solid rocket boosters, and the interim cryogenic propulsion stage) and the Orion spacecraft mounted on top of SLS.

An area on the SLS between the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks is known as the core stage inter-tank. The core-stage inter-tank umbilical is the third in a series of five new umbilicals for the mobile launcher. Its main function is to vent excess gaseous hydrogen from the rocket’s core stage. This umbilical also will provide conditioned air, pressurized gases, and power and data connection to the core stage.

The Orion service module umbilical and the core stage forward skirt umbilical were previously installed on the tower. The service module umbilical will connect from the mobile launch tower to the Orion service module. Prior to launch, the umbilical will transfer liquid coolant for the electronics and purge air/gaseous nitrogen for environmental control. The SLS core stage forward skirt is near the top of the core stage, and the forward skirt umbilical provides connections and conditioned air/gaseous nitrogen to the core stage of the rocket. All these umbilicals will swing away from the rocket and spacecraft just before launch.

Several other umbilicals were previously installed on the mobile launcher. These include two aft skirt purge umbilicals, which will connect to the SLS rocket at the bottom outer edge of each booster and provide electrical power and data connections, remove hazardous gases, and maintain the right temperature range with a nitrogen purge in the boosters until SLS lifts off from the launch pad.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program at Kennedy is preparing ground support equipment, including the launch umbilicals, for NASA’s deep space exploration missions.

Service Platforms Arrive for Space Launch System Booster Engines

SLS booster engine platforms arrive at Kennedy Space Center in Florida
A flatbed truck carrying one of two new service platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System booster engines arrives at the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 31, 2017. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

New service platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) booster engines arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The platforms were transported on two flatbed trucks from fabricator Met-Con Inc. in Cocoa, Florida. They were offloaded and stored inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

The platforms will be used for processing and checkout of the engines for the SLS’ twin five-segment solid rocket boosters for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The boosters, in combination with the rocket’s four RS-25 engines, will produce more than 8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The first SLS mission, EM-1, will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to a stable orbit beyond the Moon and bring it back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will demonstrate the integrated system performance of the rocket, Orion spacecraft and ground support teams prior to a crewed flight.

Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage Moves to Space Station Processing Facility

The ICPS is moved to the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, packed in its canister, exits the Delta Operations Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for transport to the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) is the first segment for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to arrive at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was transported from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it had been undergoing final testing and checkout since arriving in February, to the Space Station Processing Facility at the center.

Stacking of the rocket will occur in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The ICPS will be located at the very top of the SLS, just below the Orion capsule. During Exploration Mission-1, NASA’s first test mission of the SLS rocket and Orion, the ICPS, filled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, will give Orion the big in-space push needed to fly beyond the Moon before returning to Earth.

The ICPS was designed and built by ULA in Decatur, Alabama, and Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama. The propulsion stage will be cleaned and maintained and remain in the high bay at the Space Station Processing Facility and moved to the VAB when it is time for stacking operations.

Core Stage Forward Skirt Umbilical Installed on Mobile Launcher

Just north of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians install the core stage forward skirt umbilical on the mobile launcher.
Just north of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians install the core stage forward skirt umbilical on the mobile launcher.

Just north of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians install the core stage forward skirt umbilical on the mobile launcher.The Core Stage Forward Skirt Umbilical (CSFSU) recently was installed on the tower of the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to prepare for the first launch of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft atop.

The mobile launcher tower will be equipped with a number of lines, called umbilicals, which will connect to the SLS and Orion spacecraft and provide commodities during processing and preparation for launch of Exploration Mission-1.

Cranes and rigging were used to lift the CSFSU and install it at about the 220-foot-level on the tower. The CSFSU will swing into position to provide connections to the core stage forward skirt of the SLS rocket, and then swing away before launch. Its main purpose is to provide conditioned air and gaseous nitrogen to the SLS core stage forward skirt cavity.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing installation of the umbilicals on the tower.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Kennedy Engineers to Support Liftoff of World’s Most Powerful Rocket

The Kennedy Ground Control System team poses after signing a banner at Kennedy Space Center's Operations Support Building II.
The Kennedy Ground Control System team poses at Kennedy Space Center’s Operations Support Building II after signing a banner to celebrate receiving authorization to operate. Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Liftoff of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft from Launch Complex 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will require a symphony of tightly coordinated commands for processing and launch. Kennedy engineers recently achieved authorization to operate the Kennedy Ground Control Subsystem, which is a network of controls, during hazardous operations at the Multi-Payload Processing Facility. The processing facility is used to prepare Orion for its test flight atop the SLS.

To gain authorization to operate, Kennedy updated access to the subsystem network and equipment, ensuring the network is secure from all malicious threats, whether internal or external. Kennedy now is prepared to support hazardous operations and ensure that the network meets agency standards for network and physical protection.

According to Reggie Martin, a NASA electrical engineer in the Engineering Development Lab at the center, an authorization is good for only one year.

“Each subsequent authorization is a review to ensure we continue to operate at the level first certified to operate,” Martin said. “It also includes a review of any new equipment or operations to ensure they are properly incorporated as we get closer to the launch of NASA’s Space Launch System on Exploration Mission-1.”

The subsystem of the Spaceport Command and Control System is the main integration network system between ground support equipment at various locations around Kennedy and the Launch Control Center. The network interfaces with ground support equipment, such as sensors, valves and heaters, with systems in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the mobile launcher, the Launch Abort System Facility, the processing facility and on Launch Pad 39B to facilitate monitoring and control of subsystem processes.

“We’re responsible for ensuring all ground operations are transmitted to ground support equipment to ensure timely launch processing and vehicle launch from the launch pad,” said Martin.

Martin led a team of NASA and contractor engineers in the integrated design, fabrication, installation, verification and validation of the mission’s operational information and security requirements in support of hazardous operations.

The subsystem is monitored by NASA and contractor engineers from consoles located in the Launch Control Center’s Firing Room 1.

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First Umbilical Installed on Mobile Launcher for NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion

The OSMU is installed on the mobile launcher.The first launch umbilical for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft was installed on the mobile launcher tower March 16 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Orion Service Module Umbilical, or OSMU, was installed high up on the tower at about the 260-foot level.

“Installation of the OSMU is a major milestone for the mobile launcher team,” said Sam Talluto, deputy project manager. “This is the first of multiple umbilicals and launch accessories that will be installed.”

The tower on the mobile launcher will be equipped with several connections, called launch umbilicals, which will connect to the SLS core stage and twin solid rocket boosters, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the Orion spacecraft. They will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel.

The OSMU will connect from the mobile launcher tower to the Orion service module. Prior to launch, the umbilical will transfer liquid coolant for the electronics and purge air/ GN2 for environmental control to the Orion service module that houses these critical systems to support the spacecraft. The umbilical also will provide purge air/GN2 for environmental control to the Launch Abort System. Before launch, the OSMU will tilt up and the umbilical lines will disconnect.

The first integrated launch of SLS and Orion, Exploration Mission 1, will send the spacecraft to a stable orbit beyond the moon. Orion will return to Earth and be recovered from the Pacific Ocean. The mission will demonstrate the integrated performance of the SLS rocket, Orion and ground support teams.

Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

First Integrated Flight Hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System Arrives in Florida

The ICPS for NASA's Space Launch System arrives in Florida.The first integrated piece of flight hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, or ICPS, arrived March 8 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The ICPS was shipped from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) facility in Decatur, Alabama aboard the Mariner barge.

The ICPS was offloaded and transported to the ULA Horizontal Integration Facility where it will be removed from its flight case to begin processing for launch at the ULA Delta Operations Center.

The ICPS is the in-space stage that is located toward the top of the rocket, between the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter and the Orion Spacecraft Adapter, and will provide some of the in-space propulsion. Its single RL-10 engine, powered by liquid hydrogen and oxygen, will generate 24,750 pounds of thrust to propel the Orion spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit during Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1).

The initial configuration of the SLS rocket with the ICPS will stand 322 feet tall, which is higher than the Statue of Liberty. The rocket will weigh 5.75 million pounds fueled and produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The first integrated launch of SLS and Orion will send the spacecraft to a stable orbit beyond the moon. Orion will return to Earth and be recovered from the Pacific Ocean. The mission will demonstrate the integrated performance of the SLS rocket, Orion and ground support teams.

Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky