A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida on June 25, 2019, at 2:30 a.m. EDT for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission. Twenty four satellites were on board, including four NASA payloads:
Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment (E-TBEx) – twin cube satellites (CubeSats) that will measure the disruption of radio signals from natural-forming bubbles in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Understanding these disruptions and how to overcome them ultimately will improve the reliability of radio and GPS signals, which we rely on so heavily.
Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) – a technology demonstration that aims to change the way we navigate our spacecraft by making the spacecraft more autonomous.
Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) – a “green” alternative to hydrazine, a highly toxic propellant currently used. If successful, this low-toxicity fuel and compatible propulsion system could replace hydrazine in future spacecraft and ease handling concerns on Earth.
Space Environment Testbeds (SET) – studies how to protect satellites in space by characterizing the harsh space environment near Earth and how that affects the spacecraft and its instruments. Understanding this can be used to improve design and engineering in order to further protect the spacecraft from harmful radiation derived from the Sun.
As astronauts prepare for trips to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, their last steps before boarding an Orion spacecraft will be across the Crew Access Arm (CAA) on the mobile launcher.
Earlier this year, the CAA was added to the mobile launcher being prepared to support NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the largest in the world. Technicians and engineers in Exploration Ground Systems at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center recently tested the crucial arm, confirming it worked as designed.
The test was designed to determine the functionality and integrity of the CAA and supporting mobile launcher systems.
“This was the first functional swing testing for the Crew Access Arm,” said Cliff Lanham, Mobile Launcher Project Manager at Kennedy. “Prior to testing, we checked the mechanical attachment, hydraulics and cabling to make sure we had confidence it would work properly.”
The CAA is designed to rotate from its retracted position and line up with Orion’s crew hatch. The arm will provide entry and emergency egress for astronauts and technicians into and out of the Orion spacecraft.
In advance of those missions, the Exploration Ground Systems team at Kennedy has been overseeing testing of umbilicals and other launch accessories on the 380-foot-tall mobile launcher in preparation for stacking the first launch of the SLS rocket with Orion.
During the test, there were several moves of the arm controlled by systems on the mobile launcher. The test also was important because of the upcoming move of the mobile launcher from its park site to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
“The CAA will be extended when it goes inside the VAB,” Lanham said. “We cannot rotate the arm once in the VAB due to space constraints.”
Testing inside the VAB is designed to ensure all systems work properly in connection with the building prior to stacking the first SLS and Orion for Exploration Mission-1. EM-1 will be the first unpiloted flight of the new NASA spacecraft traveling 280,000 miles from Earth well beyond the Moon.
Commercial Resupply Services Mission:SpaceX CRS-15 Launch:5:42 a.m. EDT, Friday, June 29, 2018 Launch Weather:Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90 percent chance of favorable weather at launch time. Cumulus and anvil clouds are the primary weather concerns. Lift Off:Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Launch Vehicle:SpaceX Falcon 9, 230 feet-tall Spacecraft:Dragon, 20 feet high, 12 feet-in diameter Payload: Dragon will deliver supplies and payloads, including materials to directly support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the space station’s Expeditions 56. Return to Earth:After about one month attached to the space station, Dragon will return with results of earlier experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. Payloads on Board:https://go.nasa.gov/2LymYKJ
Commercial Resupply Services Mission:SpaceX CRS-15 Launch:5:42 a.m. EDT, Friday, June 29, 2018 Lift Off:Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Launch Vehicle:SpaceX Falcon 9, 230 feet-tall Spacecraft:Dragon, 20 feet high, 12 feet-in diameter Payload:Dragon will deliver supplies and payloads, including materials to directly support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the space station’s Expeditions 56. Return to Earth:After about one month attached to the space station, Dragon will return with results of earlier experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. Payloads on Board:https://go.nasa.gov/2LymYKJ
Two veteran NASA astronauts, who recently passed away, were honored May 30, 2018, in separate wreath laying ceremonies at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Alan Bean, who flew during the Apollo and Skylab programs, was remembered in a ceremony at the Apollo-Saturn V Center. Space shuttle astronaut Don Peterson was honored at the Atlantis exhibit.
Bean was the fourth person to walk on the Moon as lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 in November 1969. He went on to command the 59-day Skylab 3 mission in 1973.
After his retirement from NASA, Bean became an accomplished artist capturing spaceflight from the eyes of one who has flown in space and walked on the lunar surface, He died in Houston on May 26, 2018, at the age of 86.
“After logging 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space, Alan passed the baton to the next generation of astronauts and changed fronts, looking to push the boundaries of his own imagination and ability as an artist,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe.”
Peterson originally was selected for the U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory program, but when that was cancelled, he became a NASA astronaut in September 1969. He served as a mission specialist on the maiden flight of the space shuttle Challenger during STS-6 in April 1983.
Peterson resigned from NASA in November 1984, working after that as a consultant in human aerospace operations. He died on May 27, 2018, in El Lago, Texas. He was 84.
During the six-day STS-6 mission, Peterson and fellow mission specialist Story Musgrave performed a four-hour spacewalk, the first of the shuttle program. Once outside the spacecraft, Peterson was impressed with the view.
“Got a good shot of Mother Earth there Story.” He said. “It’s a fantastic view.”
As a part of the Oral History Project, Peterson explained that the purpose of the spacewalk.
“We tested a few of the tools, wrenches and some of the foot restraints,” he said, “but mainly it was to make sure the suits were OK.”
Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) chilled out recently with a pressurization test of the liquid oxygen (LO2) tank at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – Pad 39B, recently upgraded by the EGS team for the agency’s new Space Launch System rocket.
The six-hour test of the giant sphere checked for leaks in the cryogenic pipes leading from the tank to the block valves, the liquid oxygen sensing cabinet, and new vaporizers recently installed on the tank.
The SLS will use both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. During tanking, some of the liquid oxygen, stored at minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit, boils off and vapor or mist is visible. While the tank can hold up to 900,000 gallons of liquid oxygen; during the test it only contained 590,000 gallons of the super-cooled propellant.
The test was monitored by engineers and technicians inside Firing Room 1 at the Launch Control Center, a heritage KSC facility also upgraded by the EGS team in preparation for the upcoming mission. Results of the test confirmed that the fill rise rate was acceptable, the tank pressurization sequence works and that only one of the two vaporizers was needed to accomplish pressurization.
Another system is “go” for the first integrated launch of SLS and the Orion spacecraft!
Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day are all things associated with May. As many Floridians know, the fifth month signifies another important occurrence: the start of sea turtle nesting and hatching season.
Sea turtles are prevalent along the Space Coast, and Kennedy Space Center is no exception. Experts estimate that more than 5,000 turtles nest each year on Kennedy’s protected beaches and on land near the center, on the Canaveral National Seashore. The two most common species found in this area are the green turtle, which is on the endangered list, and the loggerhead, which is listed as threatened.
People visiting, living or working near the beach, including spaceport employees, can take steps to help these fascinating reptiles during their six-month critical nesting and hatching period. Two words to keep in mind are: dark skies. Sea turtles — and their hatchlings — need them.
Females come up on the beach after dark to lay and bury their eggs. With the cooler temperatures, they are less likely to overheat while laying approximately 100-130 eggs. After 55-60 days, the hatchlings emerge from their nests — also at night.
Sea turtles use the light of the Moon and stars to navigate. Artificial lighting from street lights, buildings and flashlights on the beach can disrupt their ability to find their way back to the water. Wrong turns can be perilous for both adults and hatchlings, which have limited energy to make it offshore.
So what can we do? Be aware of lights from nearby facilities or homes that can illuminate the beach. Turn off the lights, draw the shades and use LED or “turtle-friendly” lighting. Kennedy has been diligently working to improve its performance in following these external lighting guidelines every year.
Experts say one hatchling in a thousand will make it to the reproductive stage. Consequently, ensuring dark skies along the eastern seaboard of Florida is crucial to a sea turtle’s survival.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Launch is scheduled for April 16 at 6:32 p.m. EDT on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On launch day, the primary weather concern are strong winds.
NASA’s TESS satellite is scheduled to launch Monday, April 16, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, on an ambitious mission to search for planets outside our solar system. Tune in Sunday for a series of briefings and events broadcast live on NASA TV.
Catch the NASA Social Mission Overview at 11 a.m., a prelaunch news conference at 1 p.m. and a news conference focusing on the science of the mission beginning at 3 p.m. All times are Eastern. View the TESS Briefings and Events page for the full list of event participants.
Join us here or at NASA TV from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday for live coverage from the countdown. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 is scheduled for 6:32 p.m.
NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) is gearing up for the third annual Swarmathon taking place April 17-19. Students from minority serving universities and community colleges from across the nation will participate in a robotic programming competition at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Their developments may lead to technology which will help astronauts find needed resources when exploring the Moon or Mars.
Students from 12 colleges participated in the spaceport’s first annual Swarmathon. Interest increased last year, with 20 teams joining in. In this year’s Swarmathon, 23 teams representing 24 universities and community colleges are developing software code to operate innovative robots called “Swarmies.”
Swarmies are small robotic vehicles measuring about 12 inches by 8 inches by 8 inches. Each Swarmie is equipped with sensors, a webcam, a GPS system and a Wi-Fi antenna. They operate autonomously and can be programmed to communicate and interact as a collective swarm.
The aspiring computer engineers will be challenged to develop search algorithms for robotic swarms. Algorithms are self-contained, step-by-step operations to perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning. Swarmathon participation will improve students’ skills in robotics and computer science, and further advancing technology for future NASA space exploration missions.
Successful exploration of the Moon and Mars requires the location and retrieval of local resources on the surface of these locations beyond Earth. Technologies are needed to find and collect materials such as ice (convertible into liquid water, hydrogen fuel and oxygen to support human life) and rocks, minerals and construction materials to build human shelters.
NASA’s MUREP selected the University of New Mexico to manage the Swarmathon challenge in a joint effort with the agency. Through the MUREP program, NASA’s goal is to increase the number of NASA-focused science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, experiences that engage underrepresented groups in active education.