Cygnus Pressurized Module Arrives for Launch Processing

ORB-4The pressurized cargo module of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday at 7:20 p.m. to begin processing ahead of a launch slated for Dec. 3 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Teams of Orbital ATK and NASA engineers will inspect the module in the coming days and then ready it for loading.

The cylindrical cargo module, which will carry about four tons of research materials and supplies for the International Space Station, will be joined in October to the Cygnus’ service module. The service module houses a pair of power-generating solar arrays along with a maneuvering thruster and instrumentation for the automated spacecraft. The spacecraft will guide itself to within reach of the station’s 57-foot-long robotic arm. The arm will pull the Cygnus to a connecting point on the station so astronauts can unload the spacecraft. At the end of the mission, the Cygnus will be released from the station to safely burn up in the atmosphere.

Astronauts Sample Freshly Grown Lettuce

That’s one small bite for a man, one giant leaf for mankind: Astronauts Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of Japan sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce from the Veggie plant growth system on the International Space Station.

Learn more about Veggie and its implications for future spaceflight at:

Partnership May Lead to Advanced Communication Technology

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, right, signed a Space Act agreement with John Pederson, Board Chairman and CEO of Light Visually Transceiving (LVX) System Corp., to facilitate a collaboration in developing a potentially ground-breaking technology in electronic communications. Photo credit: NASA/ Kim Shiflett
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, right, signed a Space Act agreement with John Pederson, Board Chairman and CEO of Light Visually Transceiving (LVX) System Corp., to facilitate a collaboration in developing a potentially ground-breaking technology in electronic communications. Photo credit: NASA/ Kim Shiflett

NASA at the Kennedy Space Center has entered into a partnership with Light Visually Transceiving (LVX) System Corp. to collaborate in developing a potentially ground-breaking technology in electronic communications. Similar to high-speed communication known as Wi-Fi, visible light communication, or VLC, is a wireless method using light-emitting diodes referred to as Li-Fi.

On July 30, 2015, Kennedy Director Bob Cabana signed a Space Act agreement with LVX Board Chairman and CEO John Pederson to license researchers at Kennedy to study and develop new applications for visual light communication. Space Act Agreements are legal understandings empowering NASA to work with any organization that helps fulfill the agency’s mandate. This effort, coordinated by Center Planning and Development, is a continuation of Kennedy’s transition to a diverse, multi-user spaceport.

With LVX System now headquartered at Kennedy, the Space Act Agreement will facilitate their researchers and NASA experts to study and develop new applications for VLC, including use on future deep-space missions and innovations that have the potential to benefit daily life.

During the five year agreement between NASA and LVX, Kennedy will perform reimbursable services to further research and technology development of VLC and lighting system augmentation. NASA will provide a final prototype at its conclusion consisting of a camera, microphone and speaker technologies. Additionally, NASA and LVX are studying enhancements to lighting system capabilities in hopes of improving Global Positioning Satellite routing systems.

Pederson has been working with lighting specialist Eirik Holbert of Kennedy’s Flight Technology Branch and other scientists and engineers in the space center’s Swamp Works laboratory. Together, they are evolving the technology of visible light communication fixtures for ground and potential space-based applications.

Kennedy’s Swamp Works establishes rapid, innovative and cost-effective exploration mission solutions through leveraging of partnerships across NASA, industry and academia. Concepts start small and build up fast, with lean development processes and a hands-on approach.

Li-Fi can be used as standalone communication technology, as well as a supplement to radio-frequency or cellular networks. One of the primary advantages of VLC over radio-frequency bandwidth limitations is the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger.

A VLC network provides a wireless or “fibreless” light photon medium with virtually unlimited data transfer and significantly reduced security risks. VLC also operates with reduced energy requirements, thus making it a “green” technology.

Innovations such as VLC and Li-Fi are additional ways NASA is investing in the future. The agency continually seeks technology solutions that dramatically improve its capabilities while generating tangible benefits that create jobs, earn revenue and save lives.

Exploration Goes Airborne with Swamp Works Craft

LTFF_EDF_30The exact form of the Extreme Access Flyer isn’t known yet, but engineers at Swamp Works are steadily progressing through prototype designs to invent a flying robotic prospector that can be launched to other worlds and take samples from areas rovers can’t reach. The craft would fly hundreds of short sorties from a lander to gather samples from surrounding areas to find out where the valuable resources are on Mars, asteroids or the moon. The Flyer could also explore giant lava tubes on other worlds to find out whether they are suitable for astronauts and habitation modules. Find out the details in this feature story out today, and take a look at the video below to see an Asteroid Prospector Flyer prototype in testing.

Wayward Green Sea Turtle Rescued, Returned to Lagoon

The track of a green sea turtle is visible in the mud of a pond between the Banana River and Atlantic Ocean.
A thin, dark line – the track of a green turtle – winds across the mud of an impoundment between the Banana River, below right, and the Atlantic Ocean, top left, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Biologists Russ Lowers, left, and Tim Kozuko of InoMedic Health Applications assist a green turtle
Biologists Russ Lowers, left, and Tim Kozuko of InoMedic Health Applications assist the disoriented turtle.

A routine helicopter flight to survey manatees at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge took an unusual turn July 8. From their viewpoint in the air above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which shares boundaries with the wildlife refuge, team members with the spaceport’s Ecological Program spotted a lengthy trail of turtle tracks meandering across a dried-out pond between the Banana River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean.

The pilot lowered the helicopter, giving the wildlife scientists on board a better view. The tracks led to an adult female green sea turtle who apparently had emerged from the Banana River and wandered at least 500 meters across the dry sand in an attempt to nest. The team concluded the manatee survey, then took to an airboat to help the wayward turtle.

Kennedy’s Ecological Program team coordinated the rescue effort with the refuge, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Close-up of the turtle track with airboat in background.
Close-up of the turtle track. The airboat is visible in the background.

Although the turtle was relatively healthy, she was exhausted from her journey and far from the water, and might not have survived without help. It took five staffers to lift her onto a backboard and into the airboat. She was returned to the waters of the Banana River.

The endangered green turtle is one of several species found along the Florida coast. The large reptiles are known to inhabit the lagoon during the early stages of their life cycle and outside of nesting season once they become adults. Since adults normally nest from the ocean, it’s unusual for one to nest from the river. Disoriented females typically are discovered when tracks are found on the beach during routine surveys conducted during nesting season.

First Test Complete on New Umbilical Arm

Load test #1 on the Interim Cryogenic Propulsive Stage Umbilical arm at Coastal Steel in Cocoa, Florida.Load test #1 on the Interim Cryogenic Propulsive Stage Umbilical (ICPSU) arm for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) was completed July 23 at Coastal Steel in Cocoa, Florida. The test consisted of applying six vertical loads and eight horizontal loads onto the truss in the retracted position to simulate the effects of a launch on the structure.

A load test tower was designed and fabricated at Coastal Steel for the test. Engineers and technicians from NASA Kennedy Space Center and Coastal applied the loads by hanging weights off the ICPSU structure. Vertical loads were applied by hanging the weights directly, and horizontal loads were applied by a rope that wrapped over an adjacent pipe on the load test tower.

The ICPSU is one of the umbilical arms that will be attached to the mobile launcher. The umbilical will be located at 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.

Domes Arrive for CST-100 Test Article Assembly

The first two domes that will form the pressure shell of the Structural Test Article, or STA, for Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft have arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
Image Credit: Boeing

The first two domes that will form the pressure shell of the Structural Test Article, or STA, for Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft have arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The STA Crew Module will be assembled inside the former space shuttle hangar, known as Orbiter Processing Facility-3, so the company can validate the manufacturing and processing methods it plans to use for flight-ready CST-100 vehicles. While the STA will not fly with people aboard, it will be used to determine the effectiveness of the design and prove its escape system during a pad abort test. The ability to abort from an emergency and safely carry crew members out of harm’s way is a critical element for NASA’s next generation of crew spacecraft.

The main structure of the STA was friction-stir welded into a single upper and lower hull in mid-2015 and then machined to its final thickness. Throughout the next few months, it will be outfitted with critical components and systems required for testing. Once completed at Kennedy, the test article will be taken to Boeing’s facility in Huntington Beach, California, for evaluations. The “structural test” is one of many that will verify the capabilities and worthiness of the spacecraft, which is being designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station in the near future for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Boeing plans to launch its spacecraft on United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is only a few miles away from the CST-100 processing facility at Kennedy. A human-rated crew access tower that will give astronauts and ground support crews access to the CST-100 standing at the pad is currently is under construction near the launch site.

‘EPIC’ Earth as Viewed from DSCOVR

Earth as photographed by DSCOVR

A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.

This color image of Earth was taken by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope. The image was taken July 6 and shows North and Central America. The central turquoise areas are shallow seas around the Caribbean islands. Once the instrument begins regular data acquisition, EPIC will provide a daily series of Earth images allowing for the first time study of daily variations over the entire globe. These images, available 12 to 36 hours after they are acquired, will be posted to a dedicated web page by September 2015.

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying DSCOVR

The refrigerator-sized spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 on Feb. 11 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.

Students Test Rover at Kennedy for Potential Lunar Mission


KSC-315D-0308_0093KSC-315D-0308_0117A team of students working with Earthrise Space Foundation evaluated a rover of their own design in the regolith simulant bin at Swamp Works at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently as the team pushes toward a flight-ready version they hope to launch to the moon on a private mission competing for the Google Lunar X Prize. The rover, parts of which are 3D printed, is 18 inches long and uses four wheels for movement. It also features a pair of lenses and a head that lifts and lowers. It is powered by batteries and solar arrays built into it its chassis.

The regolith simulant bin offers a lunar-like environment for evaluating a myriad of machines Kennedy researchers are developing that could be incorporated into future designs or exploration projects such as those required for astronauts to safely make the eventual journey to Mars.

The students that designed and assembled the rover are from the University of Central Florida and are part of the Omega Envoy Team competing to be the first privately-funded and operated mission to land an automated exploration craft on the moon. They came to Kennedy to test their machine in a massive box filled with material that has the same properties and behavior as lunar soil, known as regolith. The rover’s traction over the regolith was evaluated as well as its optical system. An engineer wrapped in protective garb to prevent breathing in the dusty soil was on-hand in case the rover ran into trouble. The little vehicle was also driven up an incline during the evaluation.

The team’s proposal is to launch a lander with the rover inside. Once on the moon, the rover would ride down a ramp and look around the lunar surface. A number of teams are official competitors in the contest which offers $30 million awards for the first privately funded and run group to land a robot on the moon and traverse the surface.

Photos credit: NASA/Glenn Benson



Commercial Crew Astronauts Named

NASA has selected four astronauts who will train to fly Commercial Crew flight tests in 2017 aboard the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon. Greg Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken, and Suni Williams have been selected to be the first astronauts to board those spacecraft.

Commercial Crew Astronauts

“What comes with our assignment is a fair amount of responsibility because there will be a legacy of astronauts for years and years to come who will have to live with the decisions that we in the agency are making with Boeing and SpaceX now,” said Bob Behnken of he and his fellow Commercial Crew astronauts.

Follow the Commercial Crew Program progress, at