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.

JPSS-1 Marches Toward Launch

Packaged in a protective container, the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft is about to be mated atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket at Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Packaged in a protective container, the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft is about to be mated atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket at Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, JPSS is the first in a series four next-generation environmental satellites in a collaborative program between the NOAA and NASA. Liftoff is scheduled to take place from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 2. Photo credit: NASA/USAF 30th Space Wing

Mission and launch officials for NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) have convened today at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in preparation for the satellite’s upcoming launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

Packaged in a protective container, the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft is about to be mated atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket at Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Photo credit: NASA/USAF 30th Space Wing

During its time in the Astrotech Payload Processing Facility, JPSS-1 has undergone a series of routine prelaunch tests and checkouts, followed by mating to the Payload Attach Fitting and transport to the launch pad, where the Delta II rocket stood already assembled. The spacecraft then was hoisted into  position atop the rocket. Also installed were a trio of Poly-Picosat Orbital Deployers, or P-PODs, which will deploy a host of small CubeSat payloads after the JPSS-1 satellite is released to begin its mission. The entire payload has been enclosed within the two-piece fairing that will protect it during the climb to space.

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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.

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

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.

NASA Employees Share Successes in National Disability Employment Awareness Month Webcast

With the challenges involved in space exploration, NASA understands the need to fill its workforce with innovative employees and to help them maximize their capabilities.

On Oct. 5, schools, organizations and individuals from around the globe participated in a special webcast to learn from NASA employees with disabilities who have found rewarding, successful careers in the space program, including the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme — “Inclusion Drives Innovation” — is exemplified by NASA.

“We need people of different backgrounds and different experiences to help create innovation to solve those challenging problems that will allow us to go to the Moon, Mars and beyond,” said Kennedy Space Center Associate Director Kelvin Manning.

Employees shared their backgrounds, challenges and triumphs in pursuit of their dreams, highlighting how they have pushed NASA to meet the needs of every individual.

“In all my life, I never imagined that I would be working for NASA. I have been here for 26 years and I can say how proud I am to work here,” said Nicole Delvesco, a NASA systems accountant. Delvesco is co-chair of Kennedy’s Disability Awareness and Action Working Group, currently in its 25th year at the spaceport. “The agency is wonderful about hiring people with disabilities, and helping people with disabilities so that they can be successful in their jobs.”

According to the final tally, there were 456 webcast views from 23 states, Washington, D.C., and eight countries. Using a standard classroom ratio, it’s estimated the event reached 11,400 people.

“The best part of this event was that most of the questions coming in were from students who had disabilities similar to our experts, who never thought NASA was within their reach,” said NASA Project Coordinator Bethanne Hull. “I am still in awe of the amazing people across our agency. We reached the audience we hoped to inspire.”