Atlas V Team Conducts Wet Dress Rehearsal

OSIRIS-REx Atlas V Wet Dress Rehearsal

The booster and Centaur upper stage of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V vent gaseous propellant during a “wet dress rehearsal” test at Space Launch Complex 41 on Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket will boost NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on its way to the asteroid Bennu. Short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, OSIRIS-REx is to survey the asteroid closely before taking a sample from its surface and sending that small sample back to Earth for study.

Targeted for liftoff Sept. 8, 2016, OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid, retrieve at least two ounces of surface material and return it to Earth for study. The asteroid may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules found on Earth. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

GOES-R Spacecraft Arrives in Florida to Begin Prelaunch Preps

A truck with a specialized transporter drives out of the cargo hold of an Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport plane at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deliver the GOES-R spacecraft for launch processing.NOAA’s GOES-R advanced weather satellite arrived in Florida on Aug. 22 aboard an Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft, touching down at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. GOES-R then was transported to the Astrotech payload processing facility in nearby Titusville, where it was carefully removed from its shipping container, rotated, and placed into a test stand to begin prelaunch processing.

GOES-R will be the first satellite in a series of next-generation NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), which will also include GOES-S, T, and U. These satellites will provide significant enhancements for weather forecasters at NOAA’s National Weather Service, giving them the ability to observe the Western Hemisphere in near-real time. GOES-R will offer three times more spectral channels, four times better resolution, and provide five times faster scans of the Earth compared with current GOES satellites.

The spacecraft is slated to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in November.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Growing Potatoes in ‘Martian Gardens’

A potato grows in simulated Martian regolith. Photo credit: NASAEven when he isn’t officially studying how food production could work on Mars, NASA’s Ralph Fritsche still spends his free time looking into it. He’s seriously committed to the cause.

Here you see a potato plant Fritsche grew in a Martian soil simulant in a small incubator from February to June. The real meat and potatoes of Fritsche’s official work is helping to baseline, document and publish scientific data on growing plants in a medium other than Earth soil so it may be used for future studies.

Just recently, Fritsche has joined forces with the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne to grow various plants in a Martian soil simulant in order to figure out what blend of nutrients will be best suited for growing plants on the planet in the coming decades.

Photo credit: NASA

SAGE III to Look Back at Earth’s Atmospheric ‘Sunscreen’

SAGE III checked out at NASA's Kennedy Space Center
In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, operations are underway to close out processing of NASA’s Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III, or SAGE, III instrument. On May 16, 2016, an engineer is working in a super-clean ‘tent’ built in the SSPF high bay to protect SAGE III’s special optics. The class ’10K,’ or 10,000, clean room provides an environment in which there is less than 10,000 particles of less than a half micron inside. That’s about 150 times cleaner than the air in the average living room.
Photo credit: NASA/Charles Babir

On the upcoming SpaceX CRS-10 resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), a Dragon spacecraft will deliver the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III instrument to further study ozone in the atmosphere.

Once mounted on the space station, SAGE III will measure the Earth’s sunscreen, or ozone, along with other gases and aerosols, or tiny particles in the atmosphere. SAGE will make its measurements by locking onto the sun or moon and scanning the limb, or thin profile of the atmosphere from that unique vantage point.

During the late 1970s, scientists began tracking a steady decline of ozone in the Earth’s stratosphere. It was determined this was caused by extensive use of human-produced chemicals. Following years of global efforts to significantly reduce the number of ozone-depleting substances, experts now are optimistic the ozone layer will recover.

Launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket currently is scheduled for late fall this year.

Since the instrument arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, engineers at the Florida spaceport have assisted SAGE team members from the Langley Research Center in Virginia in preparing it for launch.

According to Rob Kuczajda, a Kennedy project manager in the ISS Utilization and Life Sciences Office, this SAGE III effort has been underway for several years.

“Our role actually began back in September 2011,” he said. “We sent a small delegation of engineers to Langley to meet with the SAGE team and learn about the payload. Our message was that Kennedy had years of expertise processing ISS payloads and that we were available to assist with SAGE III. Over the next four years, Kennedy engineers helped assemble and test parts of the payload.”

SAGE III now is being stored in the high bay of Kennedy’s Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF), a world-class processing laboratory. Every American-launched element for construction of the ISS, all cargo and each experiment is prepared and checked out in the SSPF, a crucial part of a premier multi-user spaceport.

To ensure SAGE III will be ready to go to work once it arrives at the ISS, extensive checkouts have been taking place in the special processing area of the SSPF.

“The processing has included functional testing on the payload, to verify everything is operating correctly after shipment of the payload from Langley to Florida,” Kuczajda said.

Jennifer Wahlberg, also a Kennedy utilization project manager, has played a key role in helping coordinate the Langley team’s testing.

“We have been assisting the SAGE III team from Langley with our ISS simulators,” she said. “They have performed command and data handling checkouts to make sure everything is going to transmit the data correctly, that commands go up and data can come down.”

Kuczajda pointed out that after the SAGE III team returns in September and hardware inspections are complete, the instrument will go back into the shipping container.

“The Kennedy Logistics team will deliver the instrument to the SpaceX payload processing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where it will be prepared for flight aboard the Dragon spacecraft,” he said.

Wahlberg had high praise for the team from Langley.

“It’s been great to work with the SAGE III team for the past several years,” she said. “It’s really amazing to see how many people can work together to bring successful science to bear.”

“And the feeling is mutual,” said Mike Cisewski, SAGE III/ISS project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center. “Support from the KSC team has been exemplary through our payload development and processing at KSC. From logistics, to assembly of portions of our Nadir Viewing Platform and vibration testing fixture, for outstanding support at the Space Station Processing Facility, they have been great partners.”

Randy Wade, support manager of off-line labs in Kennedy’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs Directorate, is hoping the instrument will send back data that the ozone layer is improving.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in fluorocarbon use,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of things here at the Kennedy Space Center to reduce the use of fluorocarbons, and automobile cooling systems have changed. So they are going to try to verify if those efforts made on Earth have helped improve the ozone layer.”

Wahlberg sees long-term benefits in the SAGE III research.

“I wish all the payload teams and the science teams great success,” she said. “I know they are doing important work for our future generations.”

Platform C South Arrives at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Space Launch System

The first segment of the C-level work platforms, C South, arrives at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.The first half of the C-level work platforms for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), C South, arrived in two segments at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center this week. The first segment arrived Aug. 4, and the second segment arrived today. The C work platforms are the eighth of 10 levels of platforms that will surround the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and provide access for processing.

The platform segments were transported from Sauer Corp. in Orlando, Florida, by Tillett Heavy Haul of Titusville, Florida. Sauer is a subcontractor to VAB general contractor Hensel Phelps. Tillett Heavy Haul is a subcontractor to Sauer. The platform was placed on a stand in a staging area near the VAB, where some final assembly will be performed before it is transferred into the building.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to the VAB, including installation of the new platforms, to prepare for Exploration Mission 1, deep-space missions and the journey to Mars.

Photo credit: NASA/Glen Benson

KSC Roundtable Highlights Partnerships, ‘Vibrant’ Spaceport

CPD Roundtable in Headquarters: Personnel composed of government representatives, discussing KSC land use for commerical space customers.
Roundtable participants from left to right: Nancy Potts of Kennedy’s Center Planning and Development Directorate (CPD); Trey Carlson of CPD; Marshall Heard, retired Boeing senior executive; Steve Crisafulli, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives; Moataz Hassan, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5; Tom Engler of CPD; David Pierce of CPD; Rich Biter, former assistant secretary of Intermodal Systems Development, FDOT; Charles Lee, Florida Audubon Society; Greg Weiner of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast; Todd Pokrywa of The Viera Co.; and Ashley Guinn, legislative assistant to Rep. Crisafulli. Also attending, not pictured, were CPD’s Steve Gilmore, David Thorpe, Vicki Johnston, Wendy Neuerburg and Tim Pirlo.

NASA, local and state officials gathered at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida today to spaceport’s share their visions of the spaceport’s future and discuss ways to work together to give these plans the best chance at success.

“Working with the state of Florida, we’ve already created a very vibrant multi-user spaceport here,” said Tom Engler, acting director of Kennedy’s Center Planning and Development Directorate, or CPD.

“Our intent today is to engage with state partners on the things we’re doing here, and also to get ideas about how we could do things differently, better or more effectively.”

The KSC Roundtable is a semi-annual meeting hosted by CPD. The goal is to bring together agency insiders, government officials, and Florida representatives from a wide variety of industries to review Kennedy’s current plans and strengthen communications between all parties.

Thursday’s gathering is the sixth held at the spaceport in recent years. This meeting focused on the center’s land use for commercial space customers and sought feedback on Kennedy’s Master Plan, partnerships and more.

“In the past five years, significant upgrades to our infrastructure have prepared the center for the next 50 years of spaceflight,” Engler said. “I believe this to my core: The progress we have made here would not have been possible without the help of our partners in the state of Florida.”

“It’s up to people like us to tell this story,” said Rep. Steve Crisafulli, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, referring to the benefits of working together to solve challenges. “There are a lot of ways to accomplish things.”

State and local government participants included Rep. Steve Crisafulli, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives; Rich Biter, former Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) assistant secretary, Intermodal Systems Development; Alan Hyman, director, Transportation Operations, FDOT District 5; and and Moataz Hassan, Brevard operations engineer, FDOT District 5.

Industry participants featured Marshall Heard, retired Boeing senior executive; Greg Weiner, senior director of business development with the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast; Charles Lee, director of advocacy, Florida Audubon Society; and Todd Pokrywa, senior vice president, The Viera Co.

“I just want to say thank you for being here. We’re all about partnerships, and these relationships go a long way,” Kelvin Manning, associate center director, told those in attendance.

“People look at Kennedy Space Center and how far we’ve come in the past five years, and they are impressed,” he added. “And it happens because of activities like this: people sitting around the table, talking to each other eye to eye.”

First Tail Service Mast Umbilical Arrives for Testing at Kennedy Space Center

The first Tail Service Mast Umbilical arrives at Kennedy Space Center for Testing.The first of two Tail Service Mast Umbilicals (TSMUs) for NASA’s Space Launch System arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida from Precision Fabrication and Cleaning in Cocoa. The TSMU was moved to the Launch Equipment Test Facility, where it will undergo testing to ensure it functions properly.

Both TSMUs will connect from the zero-level deck on the mobile launcher to the SLS rocket core stage aft section. The 33-feet-tall umbilicals will provide liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fluid lines and electrical cable connections to the SLS core stage engine section to support propellant handling during prelaunch operations. Before launch, both TSMUs will tilt back to ensure a safe and reliable disconnect and retract of all umbilical hardware away from the rocket during liftoff.

Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate, along with the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, are supporting testing of all of the umbilicals that will attach from the tower on the mobile launcher to the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1 and deep-space missions, including the journey to Mars.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Boeing Debuts Modernized High Bay at Kennedy

Boeing unveils its modernized high bay in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space CenterBoeing on Tuesday unveiled its clean-floor facility that serves as the hub for its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as they are manufactured and prepared for flight to and from the International Space Station, and where they’ll refurbished between missions. The high bay in the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, formerly known as Orbiter Processing Facility 3, is now modernized and ready to support the Starliner program.

It was once filled with about 1,000 tons of steel work platforms that enshrouded the space shuttle orbiters as they were refurbished and prepared for flight. Today, the facility contains several pieces of hardware and a mock-up that are key to Boeing’s and NASA’s efforts to launch astronauts from Florida’s Space Coast through the Commercial Crew Program.

Read the full story here.

(Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

KickStart Showcase Celebrates Innovators, Technologies

NASA scientists and engineers demonstrate concepts for inducing artificial gravity on plant growth experiments.NASA’s accomplishments are built on a foundation of innovation. The seeds of new ideas and the painstaking development of new technologies are critically important to the agency and to Kennedy Space Center, which celebrated the spirit of innovation by hosting a KickStart Showcase on July 12.

NASA scientists and engineers demonstrate new concepts being developed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.Center Director Bob Cabana kicked off the event by presenting plaques to each of the 22 Kennedy employees listed on issued patents during the past two years:
Andrew J. Nick, Jacqueline W. Quinn, James E. Fesmire, Janine E. Captain, Jared P. Sass, Jason M. Schuler, Jerry W. Buhrow, Jonathan D. Smith, Luke B. Roberson, Luz M. Calle and Mark E. Lewis.

The KickStart Showcase was a roundup of the more than 50 winners of KickStart competitions since they began in 2012.

The purpose of the KickStart Showcase was to display all past and present KickStart projects. The showcase was the first of its kind, bringing together innovators from the past four years of competitions. The KickStart Competition is held annually at KSC’s Innovation Expo. The Competition gives teams a chance to compete for up to $5,000 to advance their innovative ideas.

During these annual competitions, innovators show off their technologies, and visitors in attendance vote for their favorite project(s). Each project received up to $5,000 to fund their innovative ideas. Funding has been provided by the following programs: International Space Station, Commercial Crew, Ground Systems Development and Operations, Launch Services, and Research and Technology (Royalty Funds).

Similar to the KickStart competition format, the KickStart Showcase encouraged visitors to vote for their favorite. The winners will have the opportunity to star in their own short video that will be shared throughout the agency.

The KickStart “Top Ten – People’s Choice” projects were:

  • VeggieGoRound – Morgan Simpson, Chris Blakeley, Gioia Massa, Ray Wheeler
  • Virtual Control Panel/ Natural User Interface – Bill Little
  • Teleworking Vanpool – Matt Nugent
  • US National Grid additions to KSC Maps – Al Studt
  • Cryo-Fluid Capacitor – Adam Swanger, James Fesmire
  • UV Cured 3D Printing using Regolith – Evan Bell, Tom Lippitt
  • FAST CARS – Car Application for Reservations & Scheduling – Kyle Otsuka, Kelvin Ruiz, Allan Villorin, Joshua Johnson
  • Aerogel Infused Concrete – Adam Swanger
  • The Employees Guide on How to be Innovative at KSC – David Miranda, Brad Hill, Josh Manning, Billy McMillan, Martin Steele, Margaret Truitt
  • Virtual Engineering Dashboard – Tyler Ensey, Abner Coimbre-Rodriguez

The next KickStart Competition will be held in November in conjunction with Kennedy’s annual Innovation Expo.

(Photo credits: NASA/Bill White)

Zinnia Flowers from International Space Station Yield Seeds for Future Experiments

Zinnia flowers are dissected in the SSPF at Kennedy Space Center.
Zinnia flowers were dissected inside the Veggie flight laboratory in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

A baker’s dozen of zinnia flowers that were grown on the International Space Station were unpacked and recently dissected inside the Veggie flight laboratory in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. An additional dozen zinnias were given to the six crew members on the space station as souvenirs.

A team of NASA and contractor scientists in the ISS Ground Processing and Research Project Office carefully removed the seeds from each of the thirteen zinnia plants and the zinnias from a ground control experiment. The seeds were examined under a microscope and then packaged in small vials and labeled for further analysis.

At Kennedy, the seeds will undergo a microbial analysis and a germination test to determine if they could be sent to the space station for another growth cycle in the Veggie system.

The zinnia seeds were delivered to the space station as part of the Veg-01 experiment in April 2014. The plant pillows containing the zinnia seeds were activated Nov. 16, 2015, in the Veggie plant growth system by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly during his one-year mission. The zinnias were watered and their growth was monitored for 90 days. The plants were harvested on Feb. 14, 2016, packaged and returned to Earth on the SpaceX CRS-8 Commercial Resupply Services Mission. Funding for Veggie is provided by the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research Applications Division at NASA Headquarters.

NASA is maturing Veggie technology aboard the space station to provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement – a critical part of NASA’s Journey to Mars. As NASA moves toward long-duration exploration missions farther into the solar system, Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption. It also could be used by astronauts for recreational gardening activities during long-duration space missions.