2018: A Big Year for NASA’s Launch Services Program

Artist illustration of six missions patches for Launch Services Program 2018 missions.The magic number for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida could be six. That’s because there are six primary missions scheduled to launch from two different coasts, within about six months, atop six different rocket configurations.

“Not since 2003 has the Launch Services Program had a denser and more diverse manifest as it will this year,” said Chuck Dovale, the program’s deputy manager. “We are poised and ready for the challenges ahead.”

LSP is preparing for the following missions:
NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S)
Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2)
Iconospheric Connection Explorer (ICON)
Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight)
Parker Solar Probe
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

Read the full feature at https://go.nasa.gov/2GzP86u.
View the Launch Services Program 2018 video at https://youtu.be/RdWPclPyzis.

Anniversary Event Marks Start of U.S. Space Exploration

During a ceremony at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space launch Complex 26, a historical marker is unveiled noting the launch of America's firs satellite, Explorer 1. From the left, Ray Sands, chairman of the Air Force Space and Missile Foundation, Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and director of the Eastern Range and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. The Explorer 1 satellite was launched atop a Jupiter C rocket on Jan. 31, 1958. Photo credit: NASA/ Kim Shiflett
During a ceremony at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space launch Complex 26, a historical marker is unveiled noting the launch of America’s firs satellite, Explorer 1. From the left, Ray Sands, chairman of the Air Force Space and Missile Foundation; Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and director of the Eastern Range; and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. The Explorer 1 satellite was launched atop a Jupiter C rocket on Jan. 31, 1958.
Photo credit: NASA/ Kim Shiflett

NASA and other government officials gathered at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 26 to mark the beginning of U.S. space exploration. From that location, on Jan. 31, 1958, a Jupiter C rocket lifted off with America’s first satellite — Explorer 1.

The launch site now is part of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Museum, where the ceremony took place on the 60th anniversary of the event in which the United States was in a Cold War competition with the Soviet Union to orbit satellites.

Technicians and engineers monitor the countdown for the liftoff of Explorer 1 in the control room of the blockhouse at Space Launch Complex 26 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex (now Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.) Photo credit: NASA
Technicians and engineers monitor the countdown for the liftoff of Explorer 1 in the control room of the blockhouse at Space Launch Complex 26 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex (now Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.)
Photo credit: NASA

Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and director of the Eastern Range, noted that America’s first satellite paved the way for more achievements in the years to come.

“The U.S. had finally entered the race to the Moon and beyond,” he said. “We are now leading the world. We have launched 3,568 rockets from the Eastern Range. With our partners at NASA, we are the busiest spaceport in the world.”

Also on hand was Dr. John Meisenheimer, launch weather officer for Explorer 1. Due to high upper-level winds on Jan. 29 and again on Jan. 30, he gave a “no-go” forecast.

“My calculation showed that the jet stream would come close to the Cape and cause extreme wind shears around 200 mph,” he said. “The (Jupiter C rocket’s) guidance system couldn’t handle it. On Jan. 31, there was a wave on the jet stream that would move it away and that gave us a window of opportunity to launch Explorer 1.”

According to Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, the years since Explorer 1 have brought many achievements.

The United States' first satellite, Explorer 1, is launched into orbit by a Jupiter C rocket at 10:48 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1958. Explorer 1 confirmed existence of high-radiation bands above the Earth's atmosphere. Photo credit: NASA
The United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1, is launched into orbit by a Jupiter C rocket at 10:48 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1958. Explorer 1 confirmed existence of high-radiation bands above the Earth’s atmosphere.
Photo credit: NASA

“Continuing the legacy of scientific exploration that began 60 years ago, our Launch Services Program this year marks its 20th anniversary,” he said. “LSP has been responsible for some of NASA’s most memorable scientific missions, including the Curiosity rover to Mars, Cassini to Saturn, Juno to Jupiter and New Horizons to Pluto.”

Following the successful launch of Explorer 1, the satellite’s cosmic ray detector discovered radiation belts around Earth held in place by the planet’s magnetic field. The belts later were named for Dr. James Van Allen, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. As the principal investigator, he developed the instruments for the Explorer 1 satellite.

Since opening to the public in 1966, the Air Force Space and Missile Museum has introduced millions of visitors to the history of rocketry and spaceflight. Inside the blockhouse, much of the instrumentation remains as it was in the 1950s when America was taking its first steps into space.

For more historical photographs and pictures of the Jan. 31, 2018, event, check out the Explorer 1 60th Anniversary Flickr album.

Wreath Honors Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttle Astronaut John Young

In memory of NASA astronaut John Young, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana placed a memorial wreath at the Heroes and Legends exhibit at the center’s visitor complex. The brief ceremony took place on the afternoon of Jan. 11, 2018. Young died Jan. 5, 2018, at the age of 87 in Houston. He was the only astronaut to fly in NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs.

Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle astronaut John Young in a portrait taken in 2002. Photo credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle astronaut John Young in a portrait taken in 2002.
Photo credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

“NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.”

Cabana also praised Young for his constant focus on flight safety.

“He tried bringing attention to technical problems so they could be dealt with,” Cabana said. “Safety was foremost in his mind. He knew we are in a very risky business, but he also knew the importance of paying attention to detail and always doing things right.”

Apollo 16 commander John Young leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the United States flag at the Descartes landing site during the mission's first moon walk. The Lunar Module is on the left and the Lunar Roving Vehicle is parked in front. Photo credit: NASA/Charlie Duke
Apollo 16 commander John Young leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the United States flag at the Descartes landing site during the mission’s first moon walk. The lunar module is on the left and the lunar roving vehicle is parked in front.
Photo credit: NASA/Charlie Duke

Young served as pilot on Gemini III, command pilot on Gemini 10, command module pilot for Apollo 10 and commander of the Apollo 16 moon landing mission.

Young was selected to command the first flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-1. He later was commander of STS-9, the first shuttle mission to carry the European Space Agency’s Spacelab module. During STS-9, Young became the first person to fly in space a sixth time.

Among his many awards and honors, Young was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on March 19, 1993.

“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space,” Lightfoot said. “But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights.”

Photo credit: NASA/ Frank Michaux

 

Successful Launch of JPSS-1, CubeSats

Liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NOAA's JPSS-1 satellite at 1:47 a.m. PST on Nov. 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1 spacecraft and a host of small satellites known as CubeSats are beginning their missions following this morning’s successful launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The on-time liftoff occurred at 1:47:36 a.m. PST (4:47:36 EST) from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

“Things went absolutely perfect today. The weather cooperated, the upper-level winds cooperated, and so did the vehicle, spacecraft and range instruments,” said NASA Launch Manager Omar Baez after launch and ascent activities were complete. “We couldn’t ask for better.”

JPSS-1 is the first in NOAA’s series of four, next-generation operational environmental satellites designed to circle the Earth in a polar orbit. JPSS represents significant technological and scientific advancements in observations used for severe weather prediction and environmental monitoring. This data is used by NOAA’s National Weather Service for numerical forecast models, ultimately helping emergency managers make timely decisions on life-saving early warnings and evacuations. JPSS-1 was Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado.

“The nation has another wonderful weather asset in space,” Baez said.

Read the Launch Blog and visit the JPSS-1 site for more.

 

Free Flight Completes Crucial Milestone for Dream Chaser

Having been dropped from an altitude of 12,500 feet, Sierra Nevada Corp’s Dream Chaser lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, as part of a successful free flight on Nov. 11, 2017. It was a crucial milestone to help finalize the design for the cargo version of the spacecraft for future resupply missions to the International Space Station.
Having been dropped from an altitude of 12,500 feet, Sierra Nevada Corp’s Dream Chaser lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, as part of a successful free flight on Nov. 11, 2017. It was a crucial milestone to help finalize the design for the cargo version of the spacecraft for future resupply missions to the International Space Station.
Photo credit: NASA/Carla Thomas

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft recently glided to a successful landing at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center located on Edwards Air Force Base in California. Completion of Dream Chaser’s free flight test on Nov. 11, 2017, was a major milestone under a space act agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA selected Sierra Nevada Corporation, along with Orbital ATK and SpaceX, for the agency’s second commercial resupply contracts to deliver critical science, research and technology demonstrations to the International Space Station from 2019 to 2024.

For the free flight test, a Columbia Helicopters model 234-UT heavy-lift helicopter carried aloft an uncrewed Dream Chaser test article, suspended at the end of a cable. The lifting-body, winged spacecraft had all the same outer mold line specifications as a flight-ready vehicle. A lifting body is a fixed-wing aircraft or spacecraft shaped so that the vehicle body itself produces lift.

After release, Dream Chaser glided on its own and landed in a manner similar to NASA’s space shuttles.

“It is very exciting that Sierra Nevada Corporation successfully completed this important free-flight test,” said Steve Stich, deputy manager NASA Commercial Crew Program. “The Dream Chaser team has done an amazing job preparing for and executing this test and the Commercial Crew Program has been with them along the way. The Flight computers and avionics systems are the same as the orbital vehicle so this test will pave the way for future landings for the International Space Station missions.”

For the complete story on Dream Chaser’s first free flight, read the full article at: https://go.nasa.gov/2huQdVo .

Wreath Honors Gemini, Apollo Astronaut Richard Gordon

At the Heroes and Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, a memorial wreath was placed following a ceremony to honor the memory of former NASA astronaut Richard Gordon. He performed two spacewalks during Gemini XI in 1966 and was command module pilot for Apollo 12 in 1969. Photo credit: NASA/Michelle Stone
At the Heroes and Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, a memorial wreath was placed following a ceremony to honor the memory of former NASA astronaut Richard Gordon. He performed two spacewalks during Gemini XI in 1966 and was command module pilot for Apollo 12 in 1969.
Photo credit: NASA/Michelle Stone

In memory of NASA astronaut Richard Gordon, a memorial wreath was placed in the Heroes and Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The brief ceremony took place on the morning of Nov. 9, 2017. Gordon died Nov. 6, 2017, in San Marcos, California at the age of 88.

“NASA and the nation have lost one of our early space pioneers,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “We send our condolences to the family and loved ones of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Richard Gordon, a hero from NASA’s third class of astronauts.”

"Ride 'em cowboy!" "Ride 'em cowboy," said Gemini XI command pilot Pete Conrad as pilot Richard Gordon attaches a tether from the Agena target vehicle to his spacecraft. The tether was later used in an experiment to test the feasibility of creating artificial gravity. Photo credit: NASA
“Ride ’em cowboy,” said Gemini XI command pilot Pete Conrad as pilot Richard Gordon attaches a tether from the Agena target vehicle to his spacecraft. The tether was later used in an experiment to test the feasibility of creating artificial gravity.
Photo credit: NASA

Gordon served as pilot with Pete Conrad on Gemini XI during Sept. 12-15, 1966. On that mission he performed two spacewalks during which he attached a tether from the Agena target vehicle to his spacecraft. Gordon and Conrad also set what was then a world altitude record of 850 miles.

Three years later, Gordon was command module pilot on the Apollo 12 Moon landing mission with Conrad as commander and Alan Bean as lunar module pilot. As Conrad and Bean landed on the Moon on Nov. 19, 1969, Gordon remained in lunar orbit just 60 miles above the surface, taking photographs and conducting experiments. Altogether, he spent more than 316 hours in space during his two space flights.

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Apollo 12 command module pilot Richard Gordon works in a simulator during training for the lunar mission. Photo credit: NASA
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Apollo 12 command module pilot Richard Gordon works in a simulator during training for the lunar mission.
Photo credit: NASA

Gordon was born in Seattle, Washington in 1929. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Washington in 1951.

In 1953, Gordon became a naval aviator and attended the All-Weather Flight School and jet transitional training. Gordon attended the Navy’s Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland, in 1957, serving as a flight test pilot until 1960.

Gordon was a member of the group of astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963.

After retiring from the agency and the U.S. Navy in 1972, Gordon served as executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League and held executive positions at several companies in the oil and gas, engineering and technology industries.

Gordon was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in March 1993. In November 2005, he was honored by NASA with an Ambassador of Exploration Award. NASA presented this prestigious recognition to those who flew in the nation’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs from 1961 to 1972. Ambassadors of Exploration help NASA communicate the benefits and excitement of space exploration.

Energy Action Day Focuses on Harnessing Solar Power

Energy Action Day Panel Discussion at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Chuck Tatro of NASA’s Launch Services Program discusses the use of solar arrays on space science missions during the Energy Action Day employee event held Oct. 25, 2017, in Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility. Part of Energy Awareness Month, the event featured subject matter experts in the area of solar energy, its connections to the space program and options for residential solar power. Photo credit: NASA/Michelle Stone

The solar focus of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Energy Action Day was a perfect fit for a facility located in the middle of the Sunshine State.

Employees from the Florida spaceport spent their lunchtime in the center’s Space Station Processing Facility conference room on Oct. 25 to hear from a panel of subject-matter experts from NASA, power utilities and other institutions regarding the use of solar energy in space, at Kennedy and even at home.

Chuck Tatro of NASA’s Launch Services Program explained the role of solar arrays in spaceflight, such as the Juno mission to Jupiter, and Kennedy Space Center’s Sam Ball discussed the 1.5-megawatt solar expansion in progress at the center. Bill McMullen of Southern Power, John Sherwin of the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa, and Lorraine Koss of the Brevard County Solar Co-op spoke about community and residential solar energy, as well as ways to reduce energy loads at home.

“On Juno, there are almost 19,000 solar cells on three array wings,” Tatro said of the Juno spacecraft, which launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug. 5, 2011, and slipped into orbit around our solar system’s largest planet on July 4, 2016. “These are the largest solar arrays ever deployed on a far-reaching planetary probe.”

The event was held in conjunction with Energy Action Month, historically a nationwide effort to underscore how important energy management is to our national prosperity, security and environmental sustainability.

Sherwin pointed out that homeowners can evaluate and reduce their power usage even if they haven’t made the switch to solar.

“It’s no surprise that, here in Florida, most of it is in cooling,” Sherwin said. “But homeowners should look beyond air conditioners and appliances, because even small items such as DVRs, aquariums or landscape fountains outside will contribute to the energy load.

“You should look at all of this and say, where is my energy being used? And look for ways to reduce loads,” he said.

Rocket Coming Together for Boeing’s First Commercial Crew Flight Test

The Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is coming together inside a United Launch Alliance facility in Decatur, Alabama. The flight test is intended to prove the design of the integrated space system prior to the Crew Flight Test. These events are part of NASA’s required certification process as the company works to regularly fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing's Starliner will launch on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is coming together inside a United Launch Alliance facility in Decatur, Alabama. The flight test is intended to prove the design of the integrated space system prior to the Crew Flight Test. These events are part of NASA’s required certification process as the company works to regularly fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing’s Starliner will launch on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is coming together inside a United Launch Alliance facility in Decatur, Alabama.

The uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is intended to prove the design of the integrated space system prior to the Crew Flight Test. These events are part of NASA’s required certification process as the company works to regularly fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing and United Launch Alliance have begun conducting integrated reviews of components, software and systems along with decades of Atlas data to ensure integrated vehicle test simulations are similar to real-life conditions during missions. Starliners for the uncrewed and crew test flights, including for the pad abort test, are in various stages of production and testing.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with private companies, Boeing and SpaceX, as they each develop unique systems to fly astronauts for the agency to and from the space station. SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon, or Dragon 2, spacecraft to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing’s Starliner will liftoff on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA Night Gives Dreamflight Kids Opportunity of a Lifetime

Dreamflight Participant on a hoverboard at NASA NightA group of seriously ill or disabled children and their caregivers from the United Kingdom recently had an opportunity for a special vacation in Orlando, Florida. For the past 30 years, UK-based Dreamflight has chartered a 747 jumbo jet for 192 children facing a disability. The children spent 10 days in exciting events, including an evening of space-themed activities with NASA.

While in Central Florida, the children, ages 8 to 14, spent time at Orlando’s theme and water parks. For the past five years, NASA has been part of the experience for these youngsters with an interactive NASA Night created by volunteers from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Dreamflight was co-founded in 1986 by Patricia Pearce and Derek Pereira, both of whom worked for British Airways. They began raising funds to take deserving children to Orlando theme parks and Dreamflight was born. The program’s goal is to change the kids’ young lives. But to the Kennedy employees who spent a few hours with these special children, Dreamflight and the children made a lasting impact.

Peter Karikas is 14 years old and is a member of the Stargazing Club at his school in Scotland. He stated that NASA Night was his favorite activity of the entire trip.

“I would love to work for NASA – that’s my dream job,” he said. “I’m quite interested in this as I aspire to do something like that,”

A total of 40 participants from Kennedy included employees from the center’s Education Projects and Youth Engagement Office, Commercial Crew Program, Launch Services Program, Ground Systems Development and Operations, as well as contractor representatives from Jacobs and Delaware North at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

In addition to Kennedy employees, the Orlando Science School’s “Clockwork Mania” FIRST Robotics team, including five students and two mentors, presented a robotic demonstration and answered questions.

While there were many fun activities, the young people were thrilled to hear from someone who had flown aboard the space shuttle. Florida Tech professor of physics and space sciences, Dr. Sam Durrance, gave a presentation called “Astronaut Talk.” He was a payload specialist on STS-35 in 1990 and STS-67 in 1995.

Karikas said he enjoyed meeting and talking to Durrance.

“I loved hearing his stories and seeing the pictures from space,” he said. “There is so much out there to do and learn about. It’s all fascinating to me.”

After hearing about what it’s like to fly in space, the young people participated in a virtual reality demonstration, gee-whiz science presentation, rode a hovercraft and had their picture taken with the “SpacePerson” from the Kennedy visitor complex.

Dreamflight team leader Jason Beamish-Knight has been volunteering with the organization for 15 years.

“I enjoy the satisfaction of working with the kids,” he said. “It’s all about helping them have the holiday of a lifetime.”

Photo credit: Dreamflight