Orion Is Calling . . . Come Be A Deep Space Astronaut

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NASA is developing a spacecraft capable of taking astronauts farther than ever before and the agency needs some special individuals to pilot it and conduct the defining work that will be performed by humans far away from their home planet. Orion is the first spacecraft since Apollo that NASA has built with an eye on distant worlds. NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, now in development, will enable humans to reach asteroids beyond lunar orbit, Mars and other potential destinations.

Built with the latest manufacturing technology around systems that are state-of-the-art for safe space travel, the Orion will be able to venture into a three-week flight on its own, and extend its range for a journey to Mars with the use of a habitat module.

The space agency also is guiding an unprecedented transition to commercial spacecraft for crew and cargo transport to the space station. Flights in Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will facilitate adding a seventh crew member to each station mission, effectively doubling the amount of time astronauts will be able to devote to research in space. The science conducted on the orbiting laboratory will be applied to Earthbound uses and to decipher what needs to be done for space explorers headed into deep space.

If the opportunity to explore realms never touched by humans before entices you, circle Dec. 14 on your calendar, because that’s when our astronaut application cycle begins. Gather your credentials, review your transcripts and papers and count down to the chance to join one of the most selective groups of professionals in the nation. Orion is calling!

Cygnus Moved to Launch Pad for Dec. 3 Liftoff

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2015-3363Orbital ATK’s enhanced Cygnus spacecraft was transported to Space Launch Complex 41 early this morning and was lifted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for launch Dec. 3 on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Sealed inside a protective payload fairing, the 20.5-foot-long Cygnus left the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at about 3:20 a.m. EST. It arrived at the pad at about 5:30 a.m. A crane at the Vertical Integration Facility at SLC-41 hoisted the spacecraft and fairing into place on the Atlas V with the first phase of the connection complete around 9:30 a.m.

The spacecraft and fairing will be secured in place and a series of tests run to confirm a proper attachment. The enhanced Cygnus, which carries 25 percent more mass than the previous version, has been loaded with more than 7,100 pounds of equipment and supplies that will be used by the space station crew for daily operations and to conduct cutting edge science on the orbiting laboratory. Launch time Dec. 3 is 5:55 p.m. EST to set up a rendezvous with the station Dec. 6. The launch window extends 30 minutes. Photo credits: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

Kennedy Emergency Response Team Hones Skills at Annual SWAT Round-up International

Members of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team take off running during a challenge at the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International in Orlando, Fla.NASA’s Protective Services organization is tasked with protecting one-of-a-kind facilities and a world-class workforce at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Ensuring the safety and security of this 144,000-acre, multi-user spaceport allows agency programs to stay focused on mission success.

One of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team members scales the outside wall of a concrete tower at the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International in Orlando, Fla.It’s a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year job that demands constant training for any number of real-life scenarios. Last week, eight members of Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team took part in the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International alongside 60 other teams from across the country and around the world.

“The entire week is very physically demanding and challenging. The teams competing in these events are all very good and some dedicate much of their training time specifically for this competition,” explained Emergency Response Team Commander Bill Young of Chenega Security and Support Solutions.

Although the Kennedy team does train specifically for the competition in the weeks leading up to the five-day event, it spends the vast majority of the year focusing on protecting the spaceport.

“Our training time is spent on site preparing for responses to potential critical incidents that might occur here,” Young said, pointing out that the greatest benefit to participating in the annual Round-up is the chance to meet and work with other teams.

“With the threats and challenges that exist for law enforcement today, it’s short sighted to think any SWAT team can handle it all alone,” Young said.

“The ability for our officers to effectively communicate and even integrate with other teams during a crisis is a force multiplier for our Protective Services, which benefits our center and the entire community.”

Photos by NASA/Kim Shiflett

Cygnus Sealed Inside Fairing

23004328681_f754a1c2fd_oThe enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and more than 7,100 pounds of cargo have been enclosed inside a payload fairing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as processing moves ahead on schedule for a Dec. 3 launch. The Orbital ATK Cygnus will be moved to Space Launch Complex 41 early Friday and lifted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The spacecraft, which will carry no people, is to lift off aboard the Atlas V to take equipment, experiments and supplies to the International Space Station for use by the residents there including yearlong-crew member astronaut Scott Kelly. Speaking to the news media last week, Orbital ATK’s Dan Tani – a former astronaut who served as a station resident – said a 22442657874_f07a7bb177_onew round of cargo always brings excitement: “It’s a real morale boost. It’s like coming home from the store and unpacking the trunk full of the things you bought. A lot of stuff you didn’t know you needed along with a lot of things like notes from home and other items that are really meaningful.”

The enhanced Cygnus can carry about 25 percent more mass than its predecessor and features upgraded Ultraflex solar arrays that unfurl like a fan into a circle and are lighter than the previous models. For NASA, the increased capacity brings the obvious benefit of taking more to the station at once, ranging from daily supplies of food and clothing for the station residents to new experiments so astronauts can continue to use the space-based laboratory to the benefit of all on the Earth. For the astronauts, the new round of cargo brings excitement. Photo credits: top – NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis, below – NASA/ Kim Shiflett.

Space-Grown Flowers Will be New Year Blooms on International Space Station

Veggie_Patch_finalFlowers could be blooming on the International Space Station after the New Year.

This morning, Nov. 16, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren activated the Veggie plant growth system and its rooting “pillows” containing zinnia seeds on the space station.

It is the first time that a flowering crop experiment will be grown on the orbiting laboratory. Growing zinnias in orbit will help provide precursory information about other flowering plants that could be grown in space.

“Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce,” said Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center payload scientist for Veggie. “Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical.”

Lindgren will turn on the red, blue and green LED lights, activate the water and nutrient system to Veggie, and monitor the plant growth. The zinnias will grow for 60 days, which is twice as long as the first and second crop of Outredgeous red romaine lettuce that grew on the space station.

During the growth cycle, the LED lights will be on for 10 hours and off for 14 hours in order to stimulate the plants to flower.

“Growing the zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden,” said Trent Smith, Veggie program manager at Kennedy.

Researchers also hope to gather good data regarding long-duration seed stow and germination, whether pollen could be an issue, and the impacts on crew morale. Growing tomato plants on the space station is planned for 2017.

The Veggie system was developed by Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) in Madison, Wisconsin, and tested at Kennedy before flight. Veggie, along with two sets of pillows containing romaine seeds and one set of zinnias, was delivered to the station by SpaceX on the third cargo resupply mission in April 2014.

Ponce De Leon Inlet Tracking Site to Support Space Launch System

PDL-11_05_2015-Dish-Install-(17)Engineers and technicians from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and contractor ViaSat Inc. are completing restoration of a launch communications site at the Ponce De Leon Inlet Tracking Annex. The facility is located in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, 35 miles north of the spaceport. The annex will provide a crucial tracking capability following liftoff of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Carlsbad, California, based ViaSat recently installed the S-band dish antenna site that will provide tracking during the second and third minutes after liftoff. One minute into flight, the line-of-site from Kennedy tracking antennas are obscured because of the highly reflective plume from the SLS solid rocket boosters. The S-band portion of the microwave spectrum combines command, voice and television signals though a single antenna. The Ponce De Leon Inlet Tracking Annex is being reestablished following decommissioning at the end of the Space Shuttle Program.
Photo credit: NASA

Kennedy Space Center Employees Support America Recycles Day

John Ryan of Goodwill Industries loads electronic equipment for recycling
John Ryan of Goodwill Industries loads electronic equipment for recycling. On Nov. 9 and 10, Kennedy Space Center employees turned in no longer needed household items as part of America Recycles Day. The national emphasis focuses on opportunities not to discard items that can be recycled, giving them new life and protecting the environment.
Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

On Nov. 9 and 10, NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida partnered with Keep America Beautiful and Goodwill Industries participating in America Recycles Day. The national emphasis focuses on opportunities not to discard items that can be recycled, giving them new life.

This year, Kennedy’s Spaceport Integration and Services Directorate encouraged employees to bring in personal electronic waste, either working or not, as well as new and “gently used” household articles. These items were collected by Goodwill Industries for reuse.

Altogether, 182 people dropped off more than 7,500 pounds of items to be recycled.

America Recycles Day is a program of Keep America Beautiful and is nationally recognized as a time dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the U.S. Every year on or around Nov. 15, event organizers work to educate neighbors, friends and colleagues about the value of not discarding no-longer-needed items.

According to the website of Keep America Beautiful, the national recycling rate has increased annually for the past 30 years. The current recycling rate in the U.S. is 34.5 percent.

During the two-day event, scores of Kennedy employees turned in goods to be recycled, dropping them off in the parking lots of the Kennedy Learning Institute and Vehicle Assembly Building. While some of the materials turned in were used household items, much of it was electronic waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that electronic products are made from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics and glass, all of which require energy to mine or manufacture. Donating or recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing.

Noting the value of recycling electronics, the EPA reports that recycling one million laptop computers saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used annually by more than 3,500 U.S. homes. For every million cell phones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful provides the expertise, programs and resources to help people end littering, increase recycling and beautify America’s communities. Among the organization’s most effective efforts was their 1971 ad campaign discouraging litter. During the 1950s and 1960s, roadside trash was commonplace.

The public service announcement came to be known as the “Crying Indian ad.” Narrated by actor William Conrad, the message featured actor Iron Eyes Cody, portraying a Native American saddened to see the damage to the Earth’s natural beauty by the thoughtless litter.

A short promotional video for Kennedy employees recently was produced encouraging everyone to avoid throwing recyclable waste into an ordinary trash can, but choose a recycling bin.

Cygnus Prepped for More Cargo Loading

22793270772_21ec1db68f_oEngineers are opening the hatch on the Enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and the spacecraft is being rotated to its horizontal position today in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center during preparations for launch December 3 to the International Space Station.

The Orbital ATK-built spacecraft, which will carry more than 7,000 pounds of equipment, experiments and supplies, is being moved and opened so teams can load the last of the gear slated for this resupply mission. The stowage loading will take place Nov. 8 to 10.

Also on Nov. 8, the Delta Mariner will dock at Port Canaveral to deliver the first stage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will lift the Enhanced Cygnus into orbit. The booster stage will be hoisted into the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Nov. 11. The latest version of the Cygnus is bigger than its predecessors and can carry 25 percent more supplies on unpiloted missions to the space station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Cygnus Propellants Loaded; Team Prepares for Final Cargo Installation

Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft inside the PHSFOrbital ATK technicians have finished loading fuel and oxidizer into the Cygnus service module and are already preparing to remove the hatch and rotate the spacecraft from vertical to horizontal inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The move will allow team members to pack away late-stow cargo items bound for the International Space Station.

The spacecraft will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on the company’s fourth commercial resupply flight to the orbiting laboratory. Photo by NASA/Kim Shiflett.

Astronauts to Mark Station’s 15-Year Anniversary

22588197126_8b6731d892_oHumans have lived aboard the International Space Station continuously for 15 years, a record accomplishment that astronauts and cosmonauts will discuss from orbit this morning at 10:05 eastern on NASA TV. Although placed in orbit in 1998, the station did not welcome its first three residents until Nov. 2, 2000. That was the day NASA astronaut Bill Shepard and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev docked with the fledgling orbital outpost.

It would take dozens more astronauts and cosmonauts along with space shuttle missions and more than 180 spacewalks to turn the station into the functioning, cutting-edge laboratory it is today. Expedition 45 crew members will talk to the world’s news media about the space exploration milestone and what it means for research for those on the Earth and how it will help our goals for deep-space exploration in the future. The anniversary also comes as NASA stands at the cusp of launching a new generation of human-rated spacecraft to the station with partners Boeing and SpaceX.

Well-suited for years more research from its unique place in space, the International Space Station will host twice as much research time when the new spacecraft – called the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon – begin making operational flights to orbit carrying four station crew members at a time.