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.

Cygnus Spacecraft Moves to PHSF, Begins Early Preps for Propellant Loading

The Cygnus spacecraft that will carry nearly 6,000 pounds of cargo on the next U.S. resupply flight to the International Space Station moved late yesterday from the Space Station Processing Facility to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Today it moves into the building’s high bay, where it will be uncovered, removed from atop its transporter, and placed into a work stand to begin preparations for propellant loading next week.

Developed and built by Orbital ATK, the Cygnus comprises the pressurized cargo module and attached service module, which houses the solar arrays and propulsion system. The spacecraft is set to deliver equipment, supplies and research to the station on the company’s fourth Commercial Resupply Services flight.

Launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V is scheduled for Dec. 3 from Space Launch Complex 41 at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Centaur Upper Stage Arrives Ahead of Next Station Commercial Resupply Flight

A truck delivers the United Launch Alliance Centaur upper stage to the Horizontal Integration FacilityThe Centaur upper stage slated to help deliver the next U.S. cargo delivery to the International Space Station is on site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The upper stage will top the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket set to launch Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft on a flight to carry equipment, supplies and research to the orbiting laboratory in December.

Following its Tuesday afternoon arrival, the single-engine Centaur was transported into the Horizontal Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 37 to begin prelaunch processing.

The uncrewed flight will be Orbital’s fourth commercial resupply mission to the station. It is targeted for liftoff Dec. 3 from Space Launch Complex 41.

Cygnus Joined to Service Module

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Engineers completed connecting the Pressurized Cargo Module with the Service Module to form the Cygnus spacecraft that will ferry more than 7,000 pounds of supplies, equipment and experiments to the International Space Station during its December mission.

Working inside the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, crews lifted the cargo module off its work stand and lowered it precisely onto the service module before completing the connections of fasteners and systems. The service module contains the power-producing solar arrays, propulsion system and instrumentation to steer the spacecraft once it reaches orbit.

Not carrying any crew, the Cygnus will fly autonomously to the station where astronauts there will use the robotic arm to latch onto the spacecraft and berth it to a port for unloading. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V will lift the Cygnus into space from Space Launch Complex 41.