Aft Skirt Moved to RPSF for Solid Rocket Booster Pathfinder Operations at Kennedy Space Center

An aft skirt is moved to the RPSF facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
An aft skirt is moved from the Booster Fabrication Facility to the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility to be prepared for solid rocket booster pathfinder operations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Charles Babir

An aft skirt similar to one that will be used on a solid rocket booster (SRB) that will help launch NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket into space was transported from the Booster Fabrication Facility to the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The aft skirt will remain in the RPSF and be readied for simulated stacking operations with a pathfinder, or test version, of a solid rocket booster. February 1 will mark the official start date for booster pathfinder operations after the aft skirt is inspected and undergoes limited processing.

Segments of the pathfinder SRB will arrive from Promontory, Utah, to Kennedy in mid-February and will be transported to the RPSF.

Engineers and technicians with NASA and industry partners will conduct a series of lifts, moves and stacking operations using the aft skirt and pathfinder SRB to simulate how SRB will be processed in the RPSF to prepare for an SLS/Orion mission.

The pathfinder operations will help to test recent upgrades to the RPSF facility as the center prepares for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, deep-space missions, and the journey to Mars.

Eve of Launch: 2016 Goals Vital to Commercial Crew Success

Commercial Crew AstronautsNASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its aerospace industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are on the eve of America’s return to human spaceflight launches. By the time the year closes, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will be poised for the flight tests that allow our astronauts to travel to the International Space Station lifting off from Florida’s Space Coast.

It won’t be easy. Successful missions will require a comprehensive testing regimen of numerous systems on the ground and in space. That is why the outline of tasks for 2016 is so important. The result of each evaluation will be vital in the design of the systems. From parachute tests, to launch pad certifications, to the completion of spacecraft that will fly into orbit, this year offers both companies opportunities to build on the momentum of 2015 and carry it through to landmark space achievements in 2017. Read the details of what NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its partners will be working on in 2016 to set us up for 2017 at http://go.nasa.gov/1UbVMjk

Successful Liftoff for Jason-3 Aboard Falcon 9 Rocket

Falcon 9 strongback fully retractedJason-3, a U.S.-European oceanography satellite mission with NASA participation that will continue a nearly quarter-century record of tracking global sea level rise, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Sunday at 10:42 a.m. PST (1:42 p.m. EST) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Jason-3 is an international mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with NASA, the French space agency CNES, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

Visit NASA’s Jason-3 website at http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/jason3 and NOAA’s Jason-3 website at http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/jason-3 for further updates on the status of the Jason-3 mission.

Planned Countdown and Launch Highlights

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is almost fully obscured by fog at Space Launch Complex 4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base in CaliforniaPST/EST
8:42 a.m./11:42 a.m.        Flight termination system checks and collision avoidance coordination
9:42 a.m./12:42 p.m.        T-1 hour weather and launch status update
10:12 a.m./1:12 p.m.        Range tracking system check
10:22 a.m./1:22 p.m.        Jason-3 launch readiness poll
10:25 a.m./1:25 p.m.        NASA Launch Manager poll
10:29 a.m./1:29 p.m.        Terminal Countdown poll
10:32 a.m./1:32 p.m.        Terminal Countdown begins
10:38 a.m./1:38 p.m.        NASA go for launch
10:40 a.m./1:40 p.m.        Range Green
10:42:18 a.m./1:42:18 p.m.    Launch
10:44:48 a.m./1:44:48 p.m.    Falcon 9 Main Engine Cutoff (MECO)
10:44:54 a.m./1:44:54 p.m.    Falcon 9 Stage 1/2 Separate
10:45:03 a.m./1:45:03 p.m.     Falcon 9 second stage ignition
10:45:33 a.m./1:45:33 p.m.     Fairing jettisoned
10:51:18 a.m./1:51:18 p.m.     Falcon 9 second stage engine cutoff 1 (SECO 1)
11:37:24 a.m./2:37:24 p.m.     Falcon 9 second stage restart
11:37:36 a.m./2:37:36 p.m.     Falcon 9 second stage engine cutoff 2 (SECO 2)
11:38:06 a.m./2:38:06 p.m.     Jason-3 spacecraft separation
11:40:24 a.m./2:40:24 p.m.     Jason-3 solar array 1 deploy start
11:40:39 a.m./2:40:39 p.m.     Jason-3 solar array 1 deploy end
11:44:04 a.m./2:44:04 p.m.     Jason-3 solar array 2 deploy start
11:44:18 a.m./2:44:18 p.m.     Jason-3 solar array 2 deploy end

Image above: A coastal fog envelops the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket waiting to launch the Jason-3 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The fog is not a concern for launch. Photo credit: NASA Television

Falcon 9 Rolled to Launch Pad for Jason-3

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is rolled to Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California ahead of the Jason-3 launchThe SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is rolled to Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California ahead of the Jason-3 launchThe SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rolled from a hangar at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to Space Launch Complex 4 on Friday, Jan. 15 and was raised into the vertical position on the launch pad at 11:11 a.m. PST today. The launch vehicle will boost the Jason-3 satellite to orbit. It will be the fourth in a series of spacecraft providing scientists with essential information about global and regional changes in the seas. Built by Thales Alenia of France, Jason-3 will measure the topography of the ocean surface for a four-agency international partnership consisting of NOAA, NASA, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, France’s space agency, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

Liftoff is targeted for 10:42:18 a.m. PST / 1:42:18 p.m. EST on Sunday from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Join us right here for updates from the countdown beginning at 8 a.m. PST / 11 a.m. EST.
Photo credit: SpaceX

Orbital ATK Cygnus Pressurized Module Arrives for CRS-6

Orbital ATK CRS-6 Payload Cargo Module arrives by truck at Kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing FacilityA transporter carrying the Orbital ATK Cygnus pressurized cargo module, sealed inside a shipping container, approaches the open door to the high bay of the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The module will soon begin preflight preparations for its upcoming mission to carry hardware and supplies on the company’s Commercial Resupply Services flight to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Charles Babir

Jason-3 Launch Readiness Review Complete

The Jason-3 Launch Readiness Review is complete at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and NASA Television will broadcast two news conferences beginning at 4 p.m. PST/7 p.m. EST. For the full rundown of participants in each event, visit http://go.nasa.gov/1UVuiP3.

Jason-3 is targeted for liftoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 10:42:18 a.m. PST/1:42:18 p.m. EST on Sunday from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg.

Jason-3 Spacecraft Mated to Falcon 9 Rocket

The Jason-3 spacecraft has been mated to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Space Launch Complex 4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The spacecraft and rocket will be rolled horizontally to the launch pad later today and raised to vertical on Saturday. The Launch Readiness Review is under way today at Vandenberg.

Weather forecasters from the U.S. Air Force 30th Weather Squadron continue to predict a 100 percent chance of favorable weather at the opening of a 30-second launch window at 10:42:18 a.m. PST on Sunday, Jan. 17.

Tune in for today’s Jason-3 Mission Science Briefing and prelaunch news conference starting at 4 p.m. PST (7 p.m. EST). Both events will be carried live on NASA Television and streamed online at www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

Bolden: Commercial Market in Low-Earth Orbit Serves Nation’s Journey to Mars

NASA Administrator Charles BoldenToday, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden blogged about the agency’s plan, vision and timetable for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. By building a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit, the agency is able to focus on simultaneously getting our astronauts to deep space. Kennedy, the agency’s premier multi-user spaceport, is home to two programs that are vital to this plan. The Commercial Crew Program will return our astronauts to the International Space Station on American systems launching from the United States. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is upgrading our facilities to support the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for our Journey to Mars.

Competition, innovation and technology – it’s the American way,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “It’s helping us to Launch America.”

Read more of Bolden’s blog at http://go.nasa.gov/1Q8VLNX