Launch is scheduled for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight test is planned to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch.
Watch the pre-test news conference at 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17, on NASA TV and the agency’s website. The participants include:
Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron
Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90% chance of favorable weather, with the primary concerns for launch day being the flight through precipitation rule during the four-hour launch window.
With the launch of SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration three days away, early weather reports are promising. According to Mike McAleenan, a launch weather officer with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, there is a 90 percent chance of favorable weather at liftoff. The primary concern is flight through precipitation, as some shallow coastal rain showers are predicted.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Saturday, Jan. 18, for the In-Flight Abort Test from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The four-hour test window starts at 8 a.m. EST. The test will demonstrate the escape capabilities of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft — showing that the crew system can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch.
In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. For this test, SpaceX will configure Crew Dragon to intentionally trigger a launch escape prior to 1 minute, 30 seconds into flight to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the unlikely event of an in-flight emergency.
Live coverage will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website Friday, Jan. 17, with a pretest briefing. Watch live coverage at www.nasa.gov/nasalive.
Lashelle Spencer, plant scientist with the Laboratory Support Services and Operations (LASSO) contract at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, takes measurements on ‘Red Robin’ dwarf tomato plants on Jan. 10, 2020, inside the Plant Processing Area in the spaceport’s Space Station Processing Facility.
The tomatoes are growing from seeds that have been exposed to simulated solar particle radiation. The plants’ edible mass and nutrients will be measured and compared to those of control plants, grown from non-irradiated seeds.
The project was designed to confirm that nutritious, high-quality produce can be reliably grown in deep space, or to provide a baseline to guide development of countermeasures to protect future crop foods from radiation during missions beyond low-Earth orbit. The investigation on space radiation impact on seeds and crop production also will be carried on the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) platform outside the station, supported NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Space Biology Program, and potentially on future beyond-low-Earth-orbit platforms.
NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems team, including engineers, technicians and crane operators with contractor Jacobs, are practicing lifting and stacking operations with pathfinder segments of Northrup Grumman’s solid rocket boosters, which will provide extra thrust for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. Practice took place in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
”The pathfinder training has gone extremely well,” according to Michael McClure, Jacobs’ lead engineer for the Handling, Mechanical and Structures Engineering Group. “This is part of a series of practice exercises, which are providing great experience, especially for our new technicians, engineers, quality control personnel and crane operators.”
Stacking rehearsals help prepare the team for actual processing of launch hardware for Artemis missions. These specific pathfinder segments are inert, full-scale replicas of the actual solid rocket boosters, with the same weight (300,000 pounds) and center of gravity.
During launch hardware processing, the booster segments will be shipped by train to Kennedy from the Northrup Grumman facility in Utah. They will arrive at a processing facility to be configured for final processing, then move to the VAB, where the launch processing team will stack them vertically on the mobile launcher. After the boosters are stacked, the SLS Core Stage will be lowered onto the mobile launcher and will be mated to the boosters.
At launch, the five-segment, 17-story-tall twin boosters will provide 3.6 million pounds of thrust each at liftoff to help launch the SLS carrying Orion on Artemis I, its first uncrewed mission beyond the Moon.
NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The test, known as in-flight abort, will demonstrate the spacecraft’s escape capabilities — showing that the crew system can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch. The uncrewed flight test is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, at the start of a four-hour test window, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.
SpaceX performed a full-duration static test Saturday, Jan. 11, of the Falcon 9 and completed a static fire of the Crew Dragon on Nov. 13 setting the stage for the critical flight test.
Prior to launch, SpaceX and NASA teams will practice launch day end-to-end operations with NASA astronauts, including final spacecraft inspections and side hatch closeout. Additionally, SpaceX and NASA flight controllers along with support teams will be staged as they will for future Crew Dragon missions, helping the integrated launch team gain additional experience beyond existing simulations and training events.
After liftoff, Falcon 9’s ascent will follow a trajectory that will mimic a Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station matching the physical environments the rocket and spacecraft will encounter during a normal ascent.
The rocket that will launch a new spacecraft to study the Sun is beginning to take shape at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first-stage booster for the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is “on stand,” meaning it has been raised to a vertical position inside the complex’s Vertical Integration Facility. In the coming days, the one solid rocket booster needed for the mission will be added to the booster, followed by the single-engine Centaur upper stage.
Solar Orbiter is an international cooperative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA. The mission aims to study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar wind. The spacecraft will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is managing the launch. Liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2020.
NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) is ringing in the New Year with three planned science missions in 2020, aimed at studying the Sun, Mars and our oceans. The first two missions will be launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, while the third will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Launching in February, Solar Orbiter is a collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, which will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and the solar wind. The spacecraft, developed by Airbus Defence and Space, will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles. The Solar Orbiter spacecraft will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 411 rocket, and liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 5. LSP will manage the launch.
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is targeting to launch in July. Established under the agency’s Mars Exploration Program, the mission will send a rover to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient microbial life. It also will help us better understand the planet’s geology, collect rock and soil samples that can later be returned to Earth and test new technologies that could pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.
The rover is being manufactured at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and will be sent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in mid-February. The rover will launch on a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket, procured by LSP, and is expected to land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.
Sentinel-6/Jason CS (Continuity of Service), the final mission of 2020, is projected to launch later in the year and will observe global sea level changes. The mission – a collaboration between ESA and NASA – aims to collect high-precision ocean altimetry measurements using two consecutive and identical satellites. The Sentinel-6 mission will launch from California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
“LSP is incredibly excited to execute the 2020 launch manifest,” said Tim Dunn, LSP launch director. “Additionally, LSP will provide advisory expertise for four Commercial Crew Program missions and four Commercial Resupply Services program missions – all in support of the International Space Station. Also, throughout the year, LSP will be launching numerous CubeSat missions, focused on making space accessible to educational institutions.”
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed the first land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history Sunday at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, wrapping up the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Starliner settled gently onto its airbags at 7:58 a.m. EST (5:58 a.m. MST) in a pre-dawn landing that helps set the stage for future crewed landings at the same site. The landing followed a deorbit burn at 7:23 a.m., separation of the spacecraft’s service module, and successful deployment of its three main parachutes and six airbags.
After a successful launch at 6:36 a.m. EST Friday on the ULA Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is an unplanned, but stable orbit. The team is assessing what test objectives can be achieved before a safe return of the spacecraft to land in White Sands, New Mexico. NASA and Boeing officials held a post-launch news conference Friday morning.
Despite launching successfully at 6:36 a.m. EST Friday on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is not in its planned orbit. The spacecraft currently is in a stable configuration while flight controllers are troubleshooting.