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

Media View New Work Platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System

Media view new work platforms in Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay 3.Members of the news media recently viewed the ten levels of new work platforms inside High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Work to install the platforms came to conclusion Jan. 12 as the final work platform, A north, was lifted, installed and secured on its rail beam on the north wall of the high bay inside the iconic facility.

Twenty platform halves will surround NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft atop the mobile launcher and allow access during processing for missions, including the first flight test of Orion atop the SLS.

With the goal of being a multi-user facility, the new platforms were designed to be adjusted up and down, and in and out on their rail beams in order to accommodate the SLS and its solid rocket boosters, as well as other vehicles.

Design of the new platforms began in 2010. NASA awarded a contract to modify High Bay 3 to the Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Greeley, Colorado, in March 2014. Hundreds of NASA and contractor workers were involved in the design, manufacture and installation of the platforms.

The platform levels are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J and K. With the K-level being the lowest and the A-level the highest platforms.

The mobile launcher will be rolled into High Bay 3 in the fall for multi-element verification and validation testing with the platforms.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

First Solid Rocket Booster Forward Skirt for NASA’s Space Launch System Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

The left-hand forward skirt for the Space Launch System solid rocket boosters arrives at Hangar AF.The forward skirt for the left-hand solid rocket booster of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida from booster prime contractor Orbital ATK’s facilities in Promontory, Utah on February 1, 2017. The left-hand forward skirt was transported to Hangar AF where it will continue refurbishment to support the first uncrewed flight test of the Orion spacecraft atop the SLS rocket from Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center.

The forward skirts for the left- and right-hand solid rocket boosters are located near the top, or forward assembly, of the boosters. The solid rocket boosters will generate a combined 7.2 million pounds of thrust to help power the massive SLS rocket off the launch pad.

The large hangar and several support buildings — as well as Orbital ATK and NASA engineers and technicians — provide the capabilities and expertise to prepare booster hardware for flight. Other parts of the right and left booster structures for the SLS rocket also are being readied for the first flight.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA, Contractor Workers Sign Final Platform in Vehicle Assembly Building

Workers sign final platform in the Vehicle Assembly Building.NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Engineering Directorate coordinated a platform beam signing event to celebrate the NASA and contractor team’s last several years of study, design, construction and installation of 20 new work platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

Workers involved in the High Bay 3 platform project had the opportunity to sign one of the beams of the final work platform, A North, in the transfer aisle of the VAB.

The A platforms are the topmost and final level of 10 levels of work platforms that will surround and provide access to the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Orion’s first uncrewed flight atop the rocket is scheduled for late 2018.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, with support from the Engineering Directorate, is overseeing upgrades and modifications to the VAB, including installation and testing of the new work platforms.

Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

Space Launch System Core Stage Umbilical Ready for Tests at Launch Equipment Test Facility

The Core Stage Inter-tank Umbilical is ready for tests at the Launch Equipment Test Facility.
The Core Stage Inter-Tank Umbilical being installed at the LETF.

Testing of several of the umbilical lines that will attach to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from the tower on the mobile launcher continues at the Launch Equipment Test Facility (LETF) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Core Stage Inter-tank Umbilical (CSITU) arrived at the LETF and was attached to the “C” tower of the Vehicle Motion Simulator 2 test fixture. Engineers with the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program and the Engineering Directorate will prepare the umbilical for a series of tests to confirm it is functioning properly and ready to support the SLS rocket for launch.

The tests will begin in January 2017 and are scheduled to be completed by the end of February. Testing will include hydraulic system controller tuning, umbilical plate mate and leak checks, primary and secondary disconnect testing at ambient temperatures, and fire suppression system functional checks. Also, a series of primary and secondary disconnect testing at liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen temperatures, minus 321 and minus 421 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, will be performed.

The CSITU is a swing arm umbilical that will connect to the SLS core stage inter-tank. The umbilical’s main function is to vent gaseous hydrogen from the core stage. The arm also provides conditioned air, pressurized gases, and power and data connection to the core stage.

The CSITU will be located at about the 140-foot-level on the mobile launcher tower, between the Core Stage liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks, and will swing away before launch. The umbilical is one of several umbilicals that will be installed on the mobile launcher tower and attach to the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.

The Orion spacecraft is scheduled to launch in late 2018 atop the SLS rocket on a three-week mission that will take it thousands of miles beyond the moon and back during Exploration Mission 1.

Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

 

Upgrades Establish Kennedy’s Future

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More than five years of careful thought, in-depth planning and detailed refurbishments have set up Kennedy Space Center for diverse exploration missions that will push astronauts and robotic spacecraft into new areas of accomplishment, said, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center director, Bob Cabana at the National Space Club Florida Committee meeting today in Cape Canaveral.

“We’re not just making a difference for Kennedy or even the nation, we’ve got a meaningful mission and we are making a difference for all of humankind,” Cabana, a former astronaut, told the group of about 375 in attendance.

By focusing on piloted missions to the International Space Station using Commercial Crew Program spacecraft, followed by Space Launch System and Orion flight tests, Kennedy has established a ground support network of launch pads and associated infrastructure needed to support missions to Mars by astronauts in the future. All of this while maintaining the center’s unique ability to launch historic robotic exploration missions such as Osiris-Rex that will bring back a sample from an asteroid. Other flights in the future will continue to decipher the mysteries of Mars as well as taking close looks at other planetary networks in the solar system.

The center has seen complete upgrades in many areas including the Launch Control Center, Launch Complex 39B and modifications to the Mobile Launcher tailored to the needs of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. Other facilities have been upgraded for commercial partners. The center’s new headquarters campus is under construction to deliver an environmentally friendly, energy efficient structure.

“Our future is absolutely outstanding,” Cabana said. “I believe the years we have ahead of us will be our best ever.”

View Mr. Cabana’s complete presentation here.

Test Versions of Space Launch System Booster Segments Arrive at Kennedy Space Center

Arrival by train of Pathfinder SLS Booster Segments
A train hauls two pathfinder solid rocket booster segments to Kennedy Space Center. The segments are test versions of those that will be used on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Two pathfinders, or test versions, of solid rocket booster segments for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The booster segments were transported from Promontory, Utah, for pathfinder operations at the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) to prepare for Exploration Mission-1.

The boosters, which are inert, were stored at the Jay Jay rail yard in Titusville, Florida, to prepare for the final move. The first booster was transported onto the center Feb. 23 by rail aboard a train service provided by Goodloe Transportation and was delivered to the RPSF. Inside the RPSF, the booster segment was offloaded and inspected. Its cover was removed, and the segment will undergo additional inspections to confirm it is ready for testing. The second booster segment which arrived later in the day will undergo the same preparations.

During the pathfinder operations, engineers and technicians with NASA and industry partners will conduct a series of lifts, moves and stacking operations using the booster segments and an aft skirt, with aft motor and aft exit cone attached, to simulate how the boosters will be processed in the RPSF to prepare for an SLS/Orion mission. The stacking operations will help train ground personnel before they handle flight hardware for the most powerful rocket in the world that will start to arrive at Kennedy in less than two years.

The pathfinder operations also will help to test recent upgrades to the RPSF facility as the center continues to prepare for the EM-1 mission, deep-space missions, and the journey to Mars.

Processing Begins on Orion Crew Module at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1

The Orion crew module pressure vessel is secured on a birdcage test stand in the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center.
The Orion crew module pressure vessel is secured on a test stand called the birdcage inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) has been secured in an upgraded version of a test stand called the birdcage in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The pressure vessel is the underlying structure of the Orion crew module. It arrived at Kennedy on Feb. 1 aboard NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at Kennedy. It was offloaded and transported to the O&C.

In the high bay, NASA and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin will prepare the vehicle for its mission. Over the next 18 months, more than 100,000 components will arrive at Kennedy and be integrated with the spacecraft by the team. It will be outfitted with its systems and subsystems necessary for flight, including its heat-shielding thermal protection system.

The Orion spacecraft will launch aboard NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on EM-1, a test flight that will take it thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.

For more information on EM-1, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/1SD5oVk.

Orion Crew module for Exploration Mission-1 Arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA's Super Guppy aircraft arrives at Kennedy Space Center.
NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft, carrying the Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, arrived at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Brittney Mostert

The Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) arrived today at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Arrival of the module marks an important milestone toward the agency’s journey to Mars.

The crew module arrived aboard the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Welding work on the pressure vessel, which is the underlying structure of the crew module, was completed at Michoud.

The crew module was offloaded from the Super Guppy and readied for transport to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay for processing. In the high bay, NASA and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin will outfit the crew module with its systems and subsystems necessary for flight, including its heat-shielding thermal protection system.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket will be the largest rocket ever built. It will carry the Orion spacecraft on EM-1, a test flight scheduled for 2018. During EM-1, Orion will travel thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of a three-week mission.

Veteran Shuttle Controller to Helm SLS/Orion Launches

Charlie Blackwell-ThompsonCharlie Blackwell-Thompson will be the first woman to oversee a NASA liftoff and launch team when the EM-1 mission launches in 2018 to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon on the strength of the Space Launch System rocket. Read Blackwell-Thompson’s perspective on the work already under way to prep the launch team for the historic day at http://go.nasa.gov/1Txf5p9