Mars 2020 Rover’s Heat Shield, Back Shell Arrive at Florida Spaceport

Mars 2020 heat shield and back shell
The heat shield and back shell for the Mars 2020 rover are unboxed inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Two vital pieces of equipment for the Mars 2020 rover were flown from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado and recently delivered to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center.

The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) on Dec. 11, 2019, and were then transported to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Built by Lockheed Martin Space, these two essential parts of the spacecraft will protect the rover during its passage to Mars. The Mars 2020 rover is being manufactured at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and, once complete, will be delivered to Kennedy in mid-February, 2020.

Mars 2020 rover heat shield and back shell unboxing
The heat shield and back shell will protect the Mars 2020 rover during its passage to Mars. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

As the spacecraft descends through the Martian atmosphere, the heat shield will encounter extreme amounts of friction, creating temperatures as high as about 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The back shell contains several elements critical to landing the rover, including the parachute and antennas for communication. Some of these key components will be integrated in the months to come by the NASA-JPL team at Kennedy.

The mission is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, procured by NASA’s Launch Services Program. It will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will carry seven different scientific instruments. Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the mission aims to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

Visit the mission website for more information.

Starliner Ready for its Inaugural Flight

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 20, 2019.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 18, 2019. Photo credit: ULA

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 earlier today. Starliner now stands poised at the launch pad awaiting its maiden flight on Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20. The flight test will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket, Starliner spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, and landing operations. The data will be used as part of NASA’s process of certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron continue to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather for launch on Friday morning. Primary concerns for launch day are the Cumulus Cloud Rule and User Ground Winds violations during the instantaneous launch window.

Launch Readiness Review Complete, Boeing Orbital Flight Test ‘Go’ for Launch

The ULA Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stand on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at CCAFS on Dec. 6, during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing's Orbital Flight Test.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday, Dec. 6, during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test. Image credit: NASA

Teams from NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance are “go” for a launch following today’s launch readiness review ahead of the Orbital Flight Test mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Launch is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather with the primary concerns for launch day are the Cumulus Cloud Rule and User Ground Winds violations during the instantaneous launch window.

At 2 p.m., NASA will host a prelaunch news briefing at Kennedy Space Center. Participants are:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, deputy manager, International Space Station Program
  • John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • John Elbon, chief operating officer, United Launch Alliance
  • Pat Forrester, astronaut office chief, Johnson Space Center
  • Will Ulrich, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

Televised Prelaunch Briefing Set for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft sits atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida on Dec. 5, 2019, for the program’s first-ever Integrated Day of Launch Test the following day.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft sits atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida on Dec. 5, 2019, for the program’s first-ever Integrated Day of Launch Test the following day. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

NASA will hold a prelaunch briefing on Tuesday, Dec. 17, no earlier than 2 p.m. EST, following the completion of the Launch Readiness Review for Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Briefing participants are:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, deputy manager, International Space Station Program
  • John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • John Elbon, chief operating officer, United Launch Alliance
  • Pat Forrester, astronaut office chief, Johnson Space Center
  • Will Ulrich, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

Watch the briefing live on NASA TV. More details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found in the online press kit and by following the @commercial_crew on Twitter and commercial crew on Facebook.

View all of the prelaunch briefings and events at https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-boeing-oft-briefings-events-and-broadcasts.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for launch on Friday morning, with the possibility of cumulus clouds posing the main concern.

Flight Readiness Concludes for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test

Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, speaks during the flight readiness review for Boeing’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test in Operations Support Building 2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dec. 12, 2019.
Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, speaks during the flight readiness review for Boeing’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test in Operations Support Building 2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dec. 12, 2019. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The uncrewed Orbital Flight Test will be the Starliner’s first flight to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, speaks during the flight readiness review for Boeing’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test in Operations Support Building 2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dec. 12, 2019.
Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, speaks during the flight readiness review for Boeing’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test in Operations Support Building 2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dec. 12, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Boeing are proceeding with plans for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test following a full day of briefings and discussion called a Flight Readiness Review that took place at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The uncrewed flight test will be Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA is working with its commercial partners to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. Safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation to and from the space station will allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration.

NASA will hold a post-flight readiness review teleconference at 3 p.m. EST for media from Kennedy with the following representatives:

  • Jim Morhard, NASA Deputy Administrator
  • Phil McAlister, director, NASA Commercial Spaceflight Development
  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
  • John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • Steve Koerner, director, Flight Operations

Flight Readiness Review Begins for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing's Orbital Flight Test.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

NASA and Boeing are holding a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) today at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The review provides NASA and Boeing the opportunity to assess the mission status and work that needs to be completed prior to the critical flight test.

Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, is leading the meeting. The senior Boeing official at the review is Jim Chilton, senior vice president, Boeing Space and Launch.

Teams have gathered from across the agency and Boeing to hear presentations from key mission managers. The FRR is an in-depth assessment on the readiness of flight for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and systems, mission operations, support functions and readiness of the space station program to support Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station. The meeting will conclude with a poll of all members of the review board.

Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to rendezvous and dock with the orbiting laboratory. Launch is targeted for Friday, Dec. 20.

The flight test will provide valuable data NASA will review as part of the process to certify Boeing’s crew transportation system is as safe as possible for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner in Place at Space Launch Complex 41

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft rolls out from the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft rolls out from the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft arrives at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 21, 2019.
A transporter carrying the spacecraft arrives at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that will launch to the International Space Station on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has taken a significant step toward launch. Starliner rolled out of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, making the trek on a transport vehicle to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

At the pad, Starliner was hoisted up at the Vertical Integration Facility and secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for the flight test to the space station.

The Atlas V rocket that will carry Starliner comprises a booster stage and dual-engine Centaur upper stage, as well as a pair of solid rocket boosters.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019.
The spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The uncrewed flight test, targeted to launch Dec. 17, will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket, Starliner spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

The data will be used as part of NASA’s process of certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

NASA is working in partnership with Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. Safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation to and from the space station will allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration.

Read the full story

OFT Mission Taking Shape at Space Launch Complex 41

A Centaur upper stage is lifted at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 8, 2019.
A Centaur upper stage is lifted at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 8, 2019, for mating to the United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage in preparation for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT). The uncrewed OFT mission will rendezvous and dock Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Starliner will launch atop the Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket set to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is ready for the mating of Starliner to the top of the launch vehicle.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted to the vertical position on Nov. 4, 2019, in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted to the vertical position on Nov. 4, 2019, in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

On Monday, Nov. 4, the Atlas V’s first stage was lifted to the vertical position inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, followed by the mating of two solid rocket boosters to the booster. ULA teams then attached the Centaur upper stage and launch vehicle adapter atop the Atlas V first stage.

Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission will rendezvous and dock the Starliner spacecraft with the space station. OFT will help set the stage for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT), which will carry NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson to the space station and return them safely home.

As aerospace industry providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

NASA Gearing up for July 2 Morning Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test

Prelaunch news conference for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test
From left, Derrol Nail, NASA Communications, moderates a prelaunch news conference on July 1, 2019, for the agency’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test, with Jenny Devolites, AA-2 Crew Module manager; Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager; and Randy Bresnik, NASA astronaut, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With weather at 80 percent go for launch and everything proceeding as planned, optimism and enthusiasm were high at Monday morning’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test preview news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“We are incredibly excited,” said Jenny Devolites, Ascent Abort-2 crew module manager and test conductor. “It’s such an honor to be a part of this activity and to have this opportunity.”

The Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, featuring a test version of the crew module, will lift off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Tuesday, July 2. The four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast launch activities, starting at 6:40 a.m. A postlaunch briefing is  scheduled for approximately two hours after launch. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.

Orion will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.

“This test is extremely important,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager. “Our Launch Abort System is a key safety feature of the spacecraft — it will protect the crew members who fly onboard Orion during the most challenging part of the mission, which is the ascent phase.”

Ascent Abort-2 will verify Orion’s abort system can pull the crew module away from an emergency during its ascent to space. The two main objectives: execute the abort by demonstrating it can be completed end to end, and collect key data. There are approximately 900 sensors — including temperature sensors, pressure sensors and microphones —located throughout the vehicle.

At liftoff, the booster will provide about 500,000 pounds of thrust. It will take 55 seconds to ascend to 31,000 feet, traveling more than 800 mph, at which point the abort will be initiated and the abort motor will ignite. Also igniting will be the attitude control motor, which provides steering.

Twenty-seven seconds after the abort, the jettison motor will ignite, pulling away the Launch Abort System from the crew module. The crew module will then free-fall and descend back to the ocean. As a backup communication system, 12 ejectable data recorders eject into the water in pairs. The highest altitude reached will be about 45,000 feet.

“It’s certainly a very exciting test for us tomorrow because it is so important,” NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik said. “The neat part is the next time this whole Launch Abort System flies, there will be crew underneath it in Artemis 2.”

Preview News Conference for Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test Today at 11:30 a.m. EDT

AA-2 mission patchNASA will host a preview news conference for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft at 11:30 a.m. Monday, July 1, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight test will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.

The launch and preview news conference will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Participants include:

  • Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager
  • Jenny Devolites, Ascent Abort-2 test conductor
  • Randy Bresnik, NASA astronaut

The blog will feature highlights from the preview news conference.

The AA-2 flight test’s four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 2. A test version of the crew module will launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA TV coverage will begin at 6:40 a.m.