Astronauts to Join Hall of Fame on May 30

In this image from March 2002, John M. Grunsfeld is shown in space shuttle Columbia's cargo bay.Four accomplished NASA astronauts soon will be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Joining the hall of fame this year are NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld, and former astronauts Steve Lindsey, Kent Rominger, and M. Rhea Seddon. Their induction brings the total number of space explorers enshrined to 91.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the induction ceremony at 2 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 30.

For more information, go to http://go.nasa.gov/1QalTnm.

Robotic Miners Compete at Kennedy

Inside the robot pit preparation facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, college team members look over their custom-made robot in preparation for NASA's Robotic Mining Competition.
Inside the robot pit preparation facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, college team members look over their custom-made robot in preparation for NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition.

University teams and their mining robots have descended on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex this week for the 2015 NASA Robotic Mining Competition.

Teams have designed and built remote-controlled mining robots that can traverse the simulated Martian terrain features and excavate simulated regolith. During the competition, the teams’ robots will go head-to-head to determine which machine can collect and move the most regolith within a specified amount of time.

The competition is a NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate project designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields by expanding opportunities for student research and design. The project provides a competitive environment to foster innovative ideas and solutions that potentially could be applied to future NASA missions.

NASA Seeks CubeSat Launchers

CubeSat artist conceptNASA’s Launch Services Program is looking for a couple of launch vehicles suited to the needs of CubeSats, small spacecraft that fit inside a 4-inch cube. After five years of launching cubes as secondary payloads on larger missions, the industry has matured to the point that designers and scientists are able to perform significant science in Earth and space studies. Along the way, a backlog of about 50 CubeSat missions has built up, so the agency wants to put a new small rocket to use that is capable of sending an assortment of the small satellites into orbit at one time. Read more about the draft proposal at http://go.nasa.gov/1JTwRPz

Sieck Enjoys Launch Sans Rocket

Legendary former launch director Bob Sieck has seen countless launches of all sorts from Florida’s Space Coast during a distinguished career that began during Gemini and lasted through most of the space shuttle era. But watching today’s test of the SpaceX Crew Dragon from Kennedy Space Center was substantially different, he said.

“First time I watched the launch of a spacecraft – without the benefit of a rocket!”

In case you are wondering where prior crew escape systems were tested, the launch escape systems for Mercury capsules were tested at Wallops Island, Virginia, and the Apollo escape tower was tested at White Sands, New Mexico. Gemini used ejection seats for its astronauts. None have been tested at Cape Canaveral until today.

SpaceX Demonstrates Astronaut Escape System for Crew Dragon Spacecraft

17364986436_93808ae456_oA loud whoosh, faint smoke trail and billowing parachutes marked a successful demonstration Wednesday by SpaceX of its Crew Dragon spacecraft abort system – an important step in NASA’s endeavor to launch crews to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. The successful test of the spacecraft’s launch escape capabilities proved the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of a life-threatening situation on the launch pad.

The Crew Dragon simultaneously fired its eight SuperDraco engines at 9 a.m. EDT and leapt off a specially built platform at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The engines fired for about six seconds, instantly producing about 15,000 pounds of thrust each and lifting the spacecraft out over the Atlantic Ocean before jettisoning its trunk, as planned, and parachuting safely into the ocean. The test lasted about two minutes from engine ignition to splashdown.

“This is a critical step toward ensuring crew safety for government and commercial endeavors in low-Earth orbit,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Congratulations to SpaceX on what appears to have been a successful test on the company’s road toward achieving NASA certification of the Crew Dragon spacecraft for missions to and from the International Space Station.”

The flight test is a vital milestone in the company’s development effort and furthers its plan to meet a major requirement for the next generation of piloted spacecraft — an escape system that can quickly and safely take crew members away from their rocket while on the pad and through their ascent to orbit. SpaceX can use the test data to help refine its aerodynamic and performance models, and its design, to help ensure crew safety throughout all phases of flight.

SpaceX was founded with the goal of carrying people to space, and today’s pad abort test represented an important milestone in that effort,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer. “Our partnership with NASA has been essential for developing Crew Dragon, a spacecraft that we believe will be the safest ever flown. Today’s successful test will provide critical data as we continue toward crewed flights in 2017.”

The test was the first with a full-size developmental spacecraft using a complete set of eight SuperDraco engines in the demanding real-world conditions of a pad abort situation. SpaceX built the SuperDracos for pad and launch abort use. Each engine, the chambers of which are 3-D printed, burns hypergolic propellants monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.

More than 270 special instruments, including temperature sensors and accelerometers, which are instruments that measure acceleration, were strategically placed in and around the vehicle to measure a variety of stresses and acceleration effects. A test dummy, equipped with sensors, went along for the ride to measure the effects on the human body. To further maximize the value of the test, weights were placed inside the capsule at crew seat locations to replicate the mass of a crewed launch.

The trunk, an unpowered cylinder with stabilizing fins, detached from the spacecraft when it reached maximum altitude and fell back to Earth, while the capsule rotated on as planned for a couple seconds before unfurling its drogue parachutes, which then deployed the main parachutes. Boat crews have begun the process of retrieving the Crew Dragon from the ocean and returning it to land for further analysis.

Spacecraft development and certification through the Commercial Crew Program is performed through a new arrangement that encourages innovation and efficiency in the aerospace industry, bringing to the process the space agency’s expertise in the form of safety and performance requirements for the spacecraft, boosters and related systems.

The pad abort test is a payment milestone funded by the Commercial Crew Program under a partnership agreement established with the company in 2012. The agency awarded contracts last year to Boeing and SpaceX to build their respective systems for flight tests and operational missions to the space station. Known as Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, the awards allow continued work on Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at a pace that is determined by their respective builders, but that also meets NASA’s requirements and its goal of flying crews in 2017.

“Our partners have met many significant milestones and key development activities so far, and this pad abort test provides visual proof of one of the most critical safety requirements — protecting a crew in the event of a major system failure,” Lueders said.

NASA already is preparing the space station for commercial crew spacecraft and the larger station crews that will be enabled by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100. NASA plans to use the new generation of privately developed and operated spacecraft to carry as many as four astronauts each mission, increasing the station crew to seven and doubling the amount of science that can be performed off the Earth, for the Earth.

SpaceX Pad Abort Test Window Begins Two Hours Later at 9 a.m. EDT

SpaceX reported this evening that it has moved the start of its Pad Abort Test window two hours to 9 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 6, from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The test will see a Crew Dragon and trunk – together about 20 feet tall – fly on the power of eight SuperDraco engines. There will be no crew members aboard the spacecraft during the test, which will simulate an emergency escape from the launch pad in the unlikely case of booster failing at liftoff or other scenario that would threaten astronauts inside the spacecraft.

NASA will provide updates about the test on the Commercial Crew Blog and air the test live on NASA Television. To join the online conversation about the SpaceX Pad Abort Test, follow the hashtag #LaunchAmerica.spacex_pad_abort_vehicle_split

Weather Forecast 70 Percent ‘Go’ for Wednesday Test

Pad_Abort_1.30_15The weather forecast remains 70 percent favorable for the SpaceX Pad Abort Test on Wednesday, May 6, from a platform at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The test window will open at 7 a.m. and extend until 2:30 p.m. EDT. NASA will provide updates about the test on the Commercial Crew Blog and air the test live on NASA Television. The flight test is to see a Crew Dragon and trunk – together about 20 feet tall – fly on the power of eight SuperDraco engines.

Learn more at http://go.nasa.gov/1bmETRS.

Pad Abort Test a Unique Evaluation Opportunity

Pad Abort Test Briefing SpaceX and NASA teams will gain important insight into how the Crew Dragon spacecraft and its abort system perform during a test slated for Wednesday, May 6, engineers said today.

Next week’s flight test is to see a Crew Dragon and trunk – together about 20 feet tall – fly on the power of eight SuperDraco engines from a platform at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, simulating an emergency escape from the launch pad.

“This is what SpaceX was basically founded for, human spaceflight,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Mission Assurance with SpaceX. “The pad abort is going to show that we’ve developed a revolutionary system for the safety of the astronauts, and this test is going to show how it works. It’s our first big test on the Crew Dragon.”

The test window will open at 7 a.m. May 6 and extend until 2:30 p.m. EDT. NASA will provide updates about the test on our Commercial Crew Blog and air the test live on NASA Television.

“No matter what happens on test day, SpaceX is going to learn a lot,” said Jon Cowart, NASA’s partner manager for SpaceX. “One test is worth a thousand good analyses.”

Learn more at http://go.nasa.gov/1bmETRS.

Preview Briefing Backdrop

SpaceX Targets May 6 for Pad Abort Test of New Crew Spacecraft

Pad_Abort_1.30_15SpaceX now is targeting Wednesday, May 6, for a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon, a spacecraft under final development and certification through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The test window will open at 7 a.m. EDT.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the test, which will simulate an emergency abort from a test stand on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.

Read more

SpaceX Preparing for Commercial Crew Pad Abort Test

Pad_Abort_1.30_15

SpaceX currently is targeting no earlier than Tuesday, May 5, for a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon development spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The ability to abort from a launch or pad emergency and safely carry crew members out of harm’s way is a critical element for NASA’s next generation of crew spacecraft.

The company will have a four-hour window to conduct the test, beginning at about 9:30 a.m. EDT. SpaceX has an additional test opportunity on Wednesday, May 6. NASA TV will provide live coverage of the test. NASA TV also will air a media briefing previewing the test with SpaceX and NASA representatives at 10 a.m. Friday, May 1.

SpaceX will perform the test under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, but can use the data gathered during the development flight as it continues on the path to certification. Under a separate Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will certify SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 rocket, ground and mission operations systems to fly crews to and from the International Space Station.

More about media credentialing and coverage details available here.