Platform Arrivals Offer Glimpse of VAB Modifications

2015-2867Platform J arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week and was positioned in an area outside the Vehicle Assembly Building where workers will prepare the platform and a host of others just like it for installation inside the massive processing building.  The platforms will replace work stands that were installed in the VAB when it was first built in the 1960s.

The new generation of platforms are designed for the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. More than simply fitting the mammoth new rocket, the platforms will be outfitted with modern communications, consumables, power and other lines. The platforms will make up 10 levels where engineers and technicians will prep the 32-story-tall rocket and spacecraft stack.

The SLS and Orion are in development to provide NASA with a deep-space capable spacecraft and booster that can carry astronauts on trips beyond low-Earth orbit. The first flight of SLS and Orion is slated for 2018 on a mission that will not launch astronauts but rather check out rocket and spacecraft systems during a full mission profile.

Umbilical Arm Load Testing Prep

A crane lifts the Interim Cryogenic Propulsive Stage Umbilical arm for NASA's Space Launch System at the Launch Equipment Test Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A crane lifts the Interim Cryogenic Propulsive Stage Umbilical (ICPSU) arm for NASA’s Space Launch System at the Launch Equipment Test Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The ICPSU is one of the umbilical arms that will be attached to the mobile launcher. The umbilical will be located at the about the 240-foot-level of the mobile launcher and will supply fuel, oxidizer, pneumatics, hazard gas leak detection, electrical commodities and environmental control systems to the interim cryogenic propulsive stage of the SLS rocket during launch.

Boeing Wraps Up C3PF Mural Work

C3PF_partial_wrapThe new face of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) is complete. Workers placed the finishing touches of the building-sized mural on the rounded edges of the former Orbiter Processing Facility-3 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this week.

The image of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner orbiting above Florida highlights the C3PF’s role as the assembly and processing home for the company’s next-generation human-rated spacecraft. The Starliner is being built in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to re-establish America’s ability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from Florida’s Space Coast.

Spacecraft built in the C3PF will be launched into space from nearby Space Launch Complex-41 aboard United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets. NASA also is working with SpaceX on the Crew Dragon to take astronauts to the station.

Crew Access Tower Stacking Begins

2015-2795The first new Crew Access Tower at Cape2015-27922015-2793Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida since the Apollo 2015-2799era will take shape at Space Launch Complex-41 in the coming days as workers moved the first two tiers from a nearby construction yard to the pad surface. The tiers will be lifted into place atop each other at the foot of the launch pad starting next week.

Boeing and United Launch Alliance are building the tower which is a critical element for the launch pad as it is converted from a pad that serves only uncrewed missions to a complex that can safely accommodate the needs of flight crews along with their ground support teams for CST-100 Starliner missions. The Starliner is under development in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, along with the SpaceX Crew Dragon, to take astronauts to the International Space Station from Florida’s Space Coast.

Designed with modern data systems, communications and power networks integrated and protected from blast and vibration, plus an elevator, the Crew Access Tower has been built with several features only a fully suited astronaut could appreciate, such as wider walkways, snag-free railings and corners that are easy to navigate without running into someone. The tower will also be equipped with slide wire baskets for emergency evacuation to a staged blast-resistant vehicle.

The segments were assembled about four miles away from the launch pad so workers wouldn’t be idled by launch preps for United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets. The tower will be stacked just to the side of the hard stand at SLC-41 where the boosters lift off. It will take seven tiers to complete the more than 200-foot-tall tower. A swing-out walkway bridge will be added later to connect the tower to the hatch of the Starliner so astronauts can climb aboard the ship as it stands at the pad before launch.

The tower construction marks the latest in a quick succession of events for Boeing’s Starliner program. The company opened the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility last week for use as the Starliner production and processing base and just completed the mural on the front of the building showing the spacecraft orbiting above Florida. The upper and lower dome assemblies arrived earlier this year for the Starliner’s Structural Test Article which is being built and processed as a pathfinder for the program and will be put together just as an operational spacecraft would before it goes into exhaustive testing to the prove the design.


Meet the Starliner!

The wait is over! Boeing’s next-generation spacecraft has a new name! A fleet of CST-100 Starliners will give the United States crew access to the International Space Station, launching from Florida’s Space Coast atop United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets on NASA Commercial Crew Program flights. Read details about the spacecraft and today’s grand opening of the C3PF, where the Starliners will be assembled and processed for flight.

Artist concept of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft

NASA Experts Engage, Inspire America’s Interest in STEM Education

Over the Labor Day weekend, NASA’s Education Project and Youth Engagement Office at the Kennedy Space Center is reaching out to thousands of guests at the annual Tom Joyner Family Reunion staged at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Florida. Exhibits, demonstrations and educational activities are designed to inspire young students to consider careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.

Taking place Sept. 3-7, the Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion is an annual event, now in its 12th year. It is designed to present uplifting programs, entertainment and educational information about growing, diverse communities.

As host of The Tom Joyner Morning Show, the nationally syndicated radio personality also is the founder of REACH Media Inc. and the Tom Joyner Foundation.

For the eighth year, agency representatives are on hand to explain exhibits focusing on NASA’s current efforts with the International Space Station, Commercial Crew Program, Ground Systems Development and Operations, as well as the Launch Services Programs. At the same time, participants are being given an opportunity to talk to NASA experts and ask questions about space, education and careers.

During the five-day reunion, visitors also are being given an opportunity to take part in hands-on science projects such as building rockets and launching them, operating small robots, answering trivia questions about NASA activities, and talking with former NASA astronaut Winston Scott.

Wrapping Up The Future

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

One of the former processing bays for the space shuttles at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is getting a facelift this week as Boeing wraps the building that will be the production and processing home of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft. The interior of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, better known as the C3PF, is being outfitted for the precision demanded in assembling human-rated spacecraft and then processing the craft for flight.  The wrap, which will cover the front of the processing bay, will showcase the future Boeing intends to pursue with the CST-100 line. It is expected to take more than a week to complete the detailed illustration. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and Boeing have been working together to develop the spacecraft that would provide transportation for up to four astronauts at a time to the International Space Station. The company can also use the CST-100 to carry equipment and supplies to the orbiting laboratory. The payoff for NASA is an American-made and operated vehicle that will launch from Florida and allow crew research time on the station to double.

First Look at Modified Mobile Launcher

ML-1ML-2The modified Mobile Launcher that will host NASA’s Space Launch System rocket was shown this morning to the news media following the completion of a series of modifications which strengthened the platform and tower to the demands of the booster that will be tasked with sending astronauts on a journey to Mars in the future.

Read the full story here:
Mobile Launcher Mods Will Support NASA’s Next-Generation Rocket and Spacecraft

Somber Procession Delivers Piece of American History to Kennedy

World Trade Center I-beam is visible after the top of its container is removed.A section of I-beam that once strengthened the World Trade Center in New York has made its way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will serve as a memorial to the 343 fire/rescue personnel who gave their lives to save others on Sept. 11, 2001.

Kennedy Space Center Fire Department officials traveled to New York to escort the artifact to Florida. Weighing in at about one ton, the 7-foot-long, 16-by-16-inch steel beam was flown from New York to Miami in a specially built wooden container manufactured by American Airlines.

Flag removed from container carrying World Trade Center I-beam.After its arrival in Miami, the American flag-draped container was loaded onto a truck for the  drive north to Kennedy. Current and former firefighters from across Florida took part in the procession. Along the way, local residents, veterans and emergency responders lined roadways and overpasses to pay tribute to those lost in the attacks.

Kennedy firefighters removed the top of the container just outside the Kennedy gates, revealing the beam for the first time on its journey.

The beam is slated to become the centerpiece of a permanent memorial at Fire Station No. 1, located in the heart of Kennedy Space Center’s industrial complex. The memorial features scaled replicas of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, which will be topped by the newly arrived beam. A formal dedication is planned for Sept. 11.

Veggie Success Benefits Journey to Mars – and Eaters on Earth

Veggie plant growth system containing cabbage at Kennedy Space CenterThe future for space gardening is bright. And while the ability to grow food in microgravity is an important step on the path to Mars, it also has big implications for farmers – and eaters – here on Earth.

Astronauts Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui got the first taste of space-grown food Aug. 10 when they harvested and then sampled lettuce leaves grown on the International Space Station. The “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce was cultivated in orbit inside the Veggie plant growth system. This morning, the Veggie team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center harvested lettuce from a ground-based system that otherwise was identical to the small crop grown on the station.

“Veggie has shown us we can grow plants in space pretty darn similarly to how we do on Earth,” Dr. Gioia Massa, the Veggie lead scientist for NASA at Kennedy, said at an employee briefing that included several members of the Veggie team.

“NASA has a huge heritage and legacy of innovation; we have a culture of innovation,” said the center’s deputy director, Janet Petro. “We know the ISS is a great research platform in low-Earth orbit. As we move out to Mars we’re going to have to be ‘Earth-independent.’”

In addition to the benefit to future space explorers, there are clear benefits on Earth, too. As the global population increases, the capability to grow more food crops in tighter spaces becomes more and more important.

“NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working hand-in-hand, connected with the research aboard ISS and the agency’s efforts to take humans to Mars,” said Lisa Colloredo, associate director of the program. She pointed out that once commercial spacecraft are flying people to the station, the four-person crews will extend the amount time astronauts will be able to spend on research.

Veggie’s success up to this point has provided a lot of confidence that it is possible for space crews to grow their own food, Massa added. Future crews on the International Space Station and on an eventual journey to Mars will be able to rely on freshly grown produce to enhance their diet and provide the psychological boost that comes from tending to a small crop in the otherwise sterile environment of a spacecraft.

“It’s off the Earth, for the Earth – and for the future,” Massa said.