SpaceX Tests Transporter Erector

SpaceX-transerectorA critical piece of large equipment is being tested at Launch Complex 39A this week as SpaceX raises and lowers the transporter erector that will be used to move the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad for missions. Standing 212 feet high – more than 20 stories – the TE, as SpaceX calls the machine, will move launch-ready rockets and spacecraft from the processing hangar at the base of the pad up to the pad surface and into a vertical position over the flame trench.

The lift and lowering of the transporter erector are part of routine tests conducted on the pad to ensure all ground systems are prepared to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. The TE is a much larger and stronger version of the erector the company uses at Space Launch Complex 40, as it will also be used for processing and launching future Falcon Heavy rockets. Photo credit: SpaceX

Processing Begins on Orion Crew Module at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1

The Orion crew module pressure vessel is secured on a birdcage test stand in the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center.
The Orion crew module pressure vessel is secured on a test stand called the birdcage inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) has been secured in an upgraded version of a test stand called the birdcage in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The pressure vessel is the underlying structure of the Orion crew module. It arrived at Kennedy on Feb. 1 aboard NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at Kennedy. It was offloaded and transported to the O&C.

In the high bay, NASA and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin will prepare the vehicle for its mission. Over the next 18 months, more than 100,000 components will arrive at Kennedy and be integrated with the spacecraft by the team. It will be outfitted with its systems and subsystems necessary for flight, including its heat-shielding thermal protection system.

The Orion spacecraft will launch aboard NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on EM-1, a test flight that will take it thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.

For more information on EM-1, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/1SD5oVk.

Orion Crew module for Exploration Mission-1 Arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA's Super Guppy aircraft arrives at Kennedy Space Center.
NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft, carrying the Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, arrived at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Brittney Mostert

The Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) arrived today at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Arrival of the module marks an important milestone toward the agency’s journey to Mars.

The crew module arrived aboard the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Welding work on the pressure vessel, which is the underlying structure of the crew module, was completed at Michoud.

The crew module was offloaded from the Super Guppy and readied for transport to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay for processing. In the high bay, NASA and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin will outfit the crew module with its systems and subsystems necessary for flight, including its heat-shielding thermal protection system.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket will be the largest rocket ever built. It will carry the Orion spacecraft on EM-1, a test flight scheduled for 2018. During EM-1, Orion will travel thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of a three-week mission.

Veteran Shuttle Controller to Helm SLS/Orion Launches

Charlie Blackwell-ThompsonCharlie Blackwell-Thompson will be the first woman to oversee a NASA liftoff and launch team when the EM-1 mission launches in 2018 to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon on the strength of the Space Launch System rocket. Read Blackwell-Thompson’s perspective on the work already under way to prep the launch team for the historic day at http://go.nasa.gov/1Txf5p9

NASA Honors Fallen Heroes on Day of Remembrance

NASA astronaut Barbara Morgan speaks at Day of Remembrance ceremony as crew family members and officials look on
Former astronaut Barbara Morgan remembers the STS-51L crew of the space shuttle Challenger. Morgan served as backup to Teacher in Space participant Christa McAuliffe. To her left are Kathie Scobee Flugham, daughter of STS-51L commander Dick Scobee, Evelyn Husband-Thompson, widow of STS-107 commander Rick Husband, former astronaut Eileen Collins, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and former astronaut Jon McBride. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA pays tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency’s Day of Remembrance today, the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident.

The annual Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery.

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