Solar Orbiter Arrives at Kennedy from Europe

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is placed on a truck for transportation from the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville on Nov. 1, 2019.
The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is placed on a truck for transportation from the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville on Nov. 1, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrived at the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly known as the Shuttle Landing Facility, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard an Antonov cargo plane from Munich, Germany, on Nov. 1. Upon arrival at the Florida spaceport, the spacecraft was offloaded and transported to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville, where it will spend the next few months undergoing final preparations, tests and checkouts for liftoff.

Solar Orbiter is an ESA mission that will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar winds. Using high spatial resolution telescopes, the spacecraft will observe the Sun’s atmosphere up close and compare these observations with measurements taken around the spacecraft. Due to its unique orbit, Solar Orbiter will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

Although developed independently, ESA’s Solar Orbiter and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which launched Aug. 12, 2018, are natural teammates. Solar Orbiter’s comprehensive science instruments and unique orbit will help scientists place NASA’s Parker Solar Probe’s measurements in context. By working together in this way, the two spacecraft will collect complementary data sets allowing more science to be gathered from the two missions than either could manage on its own.

The spacecraft’s mission to the Sun is planned for launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-411 rocket from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 5, 2020, at 11:15 p.m. EST.

Core Stage Pathfinder Departs Kennedy

Backdropped by clouds lit by sunrise, NASA’s Pegasus barge departs the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf.
Backdropped by clouds lit with sunrise, NASA’s Pegasus barge departs the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf. Photo credit: Cory Huston

NASA’s Pegasus barge, with the 212-foot-long Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage pathfinder secured inside, departed the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 31, 2019.

The 212-foot-long Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage pathfinder is moved inside the Pegasus barge on Oct. 28, 2019, in preparation for departure.
The 212-foot-long Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage pathfinder is moved inside the Pegasus barge on Oct. 28, 2019, in preparation for departure. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The pathfinder is a full-scale mock-up of the rocket’s core stage. It was used by the Exploration Ground Systems Program and its contractor, Jacobs, to practice offloading, moving and stacking maneuvers inside the Vehicle Assembly Building using ground support equipment to train employees and certify all the equipment works properly. The pathfinder was at Kennedy for about a month.

The barge is carrying the pathfinder back to the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.

Kennedy’s Senior Management Team Honored at Sammies Awards Gala

Senior leaders are photographed at the Partnership for Public Service’s 18th annual Service to America Medals awards gala in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 16, 2019, after receiving the Management Excellence Medal. Holding the award is Center Director Bob Cabana. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and senior management’s forward-facing vision of transforming Kennedy into the multi-user spaceport it is today has led them to receive one of six Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medals.

Named after the Partnership for Public Service’s late founder, Samuel J. Heyman, the “Sammies” awards gala took place Oct. 16, 2019, in Washington, D.C., honoring six of our nation’s career civil servants and showcasing their remarkable achievements in tackling America’s most pressing challenges. Cabana and senior leaders were presented with the Management Excellence Medal for ushering in a new era of space exploration by opening Kennedy up to both government and commercial organizations.

This year’s award recipients were chosen from a group of 26 finalists, narrowed down from more than 300 nominations. Cabana and Kennedy’s team of senior leaders also were chosen as a crowd favorite, winning the Service to America Medals People’s Choice award in July – voted on by the public once the 26 finalists were selected.

Read the full story at https://go.nasa.gov/2qfv0mm.

ICON Successfully Launches from Pegasus XL Rocket

Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft, with the company’s Pegasus XL rocket attached beneath, takes off from the Skid Strip runway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 10, 2019. NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) is secured inside the rocket's payload fairing
Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft, with the company’s Pegasus XL rocket attached beneath, takes off from the Skid Strip runway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 10, 2019. NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) is secured inside the rocket’s payload fairing. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

A Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket launched NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite at 9:59 p.m. EDT on Oct. 10 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) to study the dynamic zone in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above.

The satellite was attached to the Pegasus XL rocket, which hitched a ride on the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft. Once the aircraft reached an altitude of 39,000 feet, the rocket was dropped, with ignition occurring five seconds after.

ICON is expected to improve the forecasts of extreme space weather by utilizing in-situ and remote-sensing instruments to survey the variability of Earth’s ionosphere. The mission also will help determine the physics of our space environment, paving the way for mitigating its effects on our technology, communications systems and society.

For more, visit https://www.nasa.gov/icon.

Teams Prepare for ICON Launch Tonight

Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019.
Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019. The company’s Pegasus XL rocket, containing NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), is attached beneath the aircraft. ICON will study the frontier of space – the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) will launch tonight on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from the company’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft. The Stargazer will take off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:33 p.m. EDT.

The first launch attempt for ICON is 9:30 p.m. EDT. Follow live coverage here on the blog as well as on NASA TV and on the web at http://nasa.gov/live beginning at 9:15 p.m. EDT.

ICON Launch Moved Back 24 Hours

Due to weather in the area, NASA and Northrop Grumman have decided to move the Pegasus XL and ICON launch 24-hours to October 10 at 9:30 p.m., with takeoff of the Stargazer L-1011 at 8:32 p.m.

NASA’s live broadcast will begin tomorrow at 9:15 p.m. on www.nasa.gov/live.

The teams are not working any issues.  The rocket, airplane and spacecraft are ready to launch tomorrow.  As always, safety of the crew and mission success are our main focus.

NASA, Northrop Grumman Prepare for Launch of ICON

Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019.
Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019. The company’s Pegasus XL rocket, containing NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), is attached beneath the aircraft. ICON will study the frontier of space – the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and Northrop Grumman will hold a mission briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in preparation for the launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite. Tune in to NASA TV and the agency’s website to watch the mission briefing live.

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft, carrying a Pegasus XL rocket with the agency’s ICON satellite, will take off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Skid Strip on Oct. 9. The launch window will be open from 9:25 to 10:55 p.m., with a targeted release at 9:30 p.m. Ignition of the Pegasus XL rocket will occur five seconds after release from the Stargazer.

ICON is designed to study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above.

Be sure to follow our blog for launch updates. Live launch coverage here and on NASA TV will begin at 9:15 p.m. on Oct. 9.

Large and on a Barge: SLS Core Stage Pathfinder Arrives at Kennedy

NASA’s Pegasus Barge arrives at the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 27 to make its first delivery to Kennedy in support of the agency’s Artemis missions. Photo credit: NASA/Mike Downs

NASA’s Pegasus Barge arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 27, carrying the 212-foot-long core stage pathfinder for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Weighing in at 228,000 pounds, the pathfinder is a full-scale mock-up of the rocket’s core stage and will be used to validate ground support equipment and demonstrate it can be integrated with Kennedy facilities.

NASA’s Pegasus Barge makes its way along the intercoastal waterway to its destination at the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf on Sept. 27, to make its first delivery to Kennedy in support of the agency’s Artemis missions. Photo credit: NASA/Mike Downs

After arriving at the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf – a docking area initially used during the Space Shuttle Program that has been modified to accommodate SLS hardware deliveries – the pathfinder was moved into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on Sept. 30, where it will remain for testing for about one month.

While in the VAB, pathfinder will provide NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and contractor Jacobs with the opportunity to practice stacking maneuvers in the VAB’s High Bay 3 prior to the arrival of the SLS flight hardware that will be processed for the agency’s Artemis I mission.

“This will help ensure that all core stage engineers and technicians are trained and certified in preparation for the flight core stage processing,” said Jim Bolton, EGS core stage element operations manager at Kennedy. “It’s a very significant milestone that will demonstrate the capabilities and ability for KSC to receive, process and integrate that flight hardware.”

The core stage – the largest rocket stage in the world and the backbone of SLS – will provide the power necessary to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit and to the Moon. Before it can be brought to Kennedy for processing, the core stage will undergo its first full test with all flight hardware, known as a green run, at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Following this, Pegasus will make its return journey to Kennedy in 2020 – this time, delivering the SLS core stage for launch.

Learn more about the SLS rocket’s pathfinders at: https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/pathfinders-prepare-teams-for-one-of-a-kind-hardware.html

Oklahoma College Students Blossom During Tour of Florida Spaceport

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Courtney Miller, a student at Langston University in Oklahoma, participates in a hands-on experience inside a Space Station Processing Facility lab at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 18, 2019. Miller was part of a tour of the Florida spaceport organized by NASA’s Office of Education and Langston professor Byron Quinn, Ph.D. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

A small group of undergraduate students from Langston University in Oklahoma soaked up an extraordinary experience during a tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Traveling with Byron Quinn, Ph.D., Langston’s director of the Science Research Institute, the students were making their first trip to Kennedy — and to the Sunshine State — on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The tour included stops at SwampWorks, Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) labs, the microgravity simulator in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Visitor Complex. The students also met with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) leads at the Center for Space Education to explore internship possibilities.

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA Veggie project lead, addresses Langston University students, from left, Sherman Cravens, Kashia Cha, Courtney Miller and Makyah Farris, along with Langston professor Byron Quinn, Ph.D., at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

“It was definitely eye-opening,” said Sherman Cravens, who attended with fellow Langston students Kashia Cha, Makyah Farris and Courtney Miller. “It’s very exciting to see the work they are doing here firsthand. And they’re reaching out to students and saying ‘you can do this work, too.’”

Kennedy’s Dr. Gioia Massa, the NASA Veggie project lead, along with Lashelle Spencer, research and development scientist, guided the students through SSPF areas featuring International Space Station environmental simulator chambers; Veggie; Greenwerks, which studies plant growth in space; and food production innovation.

Cha, whose family owns a wholesale produce business, was particularly interested in hydroponics, a method with which she has some experience.

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center Veggie Project Manager Trent Smith talks with students from Langston University during their Sept. 18 trip to the Florida spaceport. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

“It’s exciting to see NASA using the same thing; it’s also very intriguing to see the differences in it as well,” Cha said. “I’m here to learn and to see. I loved it all — especially the hydroponics.”

Langston, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), is a NASA Office of STEM Engagement grantee under the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO). Wednesday’s trip addressed a main focus of research being done at the university by Quinn and his students: to develop natural countermeasures — through extracts from plants — that will benefit astronauts’ immune systems.

“For the students to be able to learn from the scientists here … it’s so beneficial for their growth,” Quinn said. “NASA really pushes the bounds of science. It’s just amazing to have this opportunity.”

ICON Launch Now Targeted for Oct. 9

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft lands on Oct. 19, 2018 at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A Pegasus XL rocket is attached to the underside of the aircraft with NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft lands on Oct. 19, 2018 at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A Pegasus XL rocket is attached to the underside of the aircraft with NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Northrop Grumman coordinated with the U.S. Air Force Eastern Range for an earlier launch date for the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. ICON is now targeted for launch on Oct. 9, 2019, aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carried by the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft.