Flight Readiness Concludes for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2

NASA and Boeing leadership conduct the flight readiness review for Boeing's OFT-2 mission.
The Flight Readiness Review for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) mission was held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 22. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Boeing are proceeding with plans for the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station following a full day of briefings and discussion during a Flight Readiness Review that took place at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A photo of Kathy Lueders during the flight readiness review for Boeing's uncrewed OFT-2 mission.
Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, chaired the Flight Readiness Review for Boeing’s OFT-2 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

OFT-2 will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station.

At 6 p.m., NASA and Boeing will hold a flight readiness review media teleconference at Kennedy with the following representatives:

  • Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA
  • Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program
  • John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • Norm Knight, director, NASA’s Flight Operations Directorate

The teleconference will be streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

More details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook

Flight Readiness Review Begins for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2

The Flight Readiness Review is underway for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 22.
The Flight Readiness Review is underway for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 22. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Boeing are holding a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) today at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson kicks off the Flight Readiness Review for Boeing’s upcoming OFT-2 mission.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson kicks off the Flight Readiness Review for Boeing’s upcoming OFT-2 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Teams have gathered to hear presentations from key mission managers as part of 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 mission to the microgravity laboratory.

Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s human exploration and operations, is leading the meeting. The senior Boeing official at the review is John Vollmer, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. The meeting will conclude with a poll of all members of the review board.

At 6 p.m. or one hour after the readiness review, NASA and Boeing will hold a media teleconference to discuss the review and status to flight with the following participants:

  • Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA
  • Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program
  • John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • Norm Knight, director, NASA’s Flight Operations Directorate
NASA astronauts for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Pilot Nicole Mann, and Joint Ops Commander Mike Fincke addressed the Flight Readiness Review for the uncrewed OFT-2 mission. Their flight currently is targeted for late 2021.
NASA astronauts for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Pilot Nicole Mann, and Joint Ops Commander Mike Fincke addressed the Flight Readiness Review for the uncrewed OFT-2 mission. Their flight currently is targeted for late 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The teleconference will be streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

Launch of Starliner is targeted at 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida; the spacecraft will rendezvous and dock with the orbiting laboratory about a day later.

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.

More details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Space Test Program-3 Launch Update

The launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket carrying the Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center has been delayed to evaluate launch vehicle readiness. A new launch date will be released when it is available. NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) is a payload on STPSat-6, the primary spacecraft on STP-3, and will demonstrate laser communications technologies from geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles above Earth upon launch.

To stay updated about LCRD and laser communications, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lasercomms.

To learn more about STP-3, visit: www.ulalaunch.com.

Kennedy Engineers Play Major Role in Mars 2020 Mission Success

Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lift off
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30, 2020, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Powers

When NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover roared off the pad aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m., there were a lot of energized engineers on the ground at Kennedy Space Center.

Following the successful launch, the Florida spaceport’s Director of Engineering, Shawn Quinn, offered praise to the team’s support of Kennedy’s Launch Services Program (LSP).

“Our LSP engineering team diligently worked through multiple milestones to achieve launch readiness,” Quinn said. “Every mission presents its own unique challenges, including Mars 2020. The engineering team’s response to these challenges was outstanding.”

The team supported critical reviews and tests, such as: the LSP pre-Flight Readiness Review (FRR) Risk Control Board, FRR Launch Management Coordination meeting, systems certification review, and mission dress rehearsal. Engineering technical experts worked through 247 engineering review summaries in support of the historic mission.

Quinn also recognized the Engineering’s Construction of Facilities (COF) team for its contributions to facility and infrastructure support.

“The real-time support to the Spaceport Integration and Services directorate in addressing operations and maintenance-related issues and concerns during processing was a critical piece to the success of the mission,” Quinn said.

The team performed facility repairs and upgrades — including replacing obsolete substations, switch gears, chillers, air ventilation and conditioning systems, facility electrical, lighting, and fire protection systems at the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility Mission Operations Support Building, the Multi-Operation Support Building, the Radiothermalisotopic Generator Facility, and Hangar AE — all in support of this historic mission.

Perseverance is now on its way to seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth. Along with the rover is the Ingenuity helicopter, a technology demonstration that will be the first powered flight on Mars.The rover will arrive on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

The mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key astrobiology questions concerning the potential for life on Mars. It not only seeks signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also will search for signs of past microbial life.

Successful Launch Sends Perseverance on Seven-Month Journey to Mars

Mars 2020 Perseverance launch
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket climbs upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30, 2020, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Not obstacles, not complexity — not even a worldwide pandemic — could keep NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover from blasting off on its historic mission to the Red Planet.

On Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, Perseverance lifted off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, bound for a Feb. 18, 2021, arrival to Mars, where it will touch down on the surface of Jezero Crater.

“It was an amazing launch; very successful,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Thursday’s post-launch news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “It went right on time, it is on a trajectory now that has been done with pinpoint accuracy, and it is, in fact, on its way to Mars.”

Perseverance, which will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, is carrying seven different scientific instruments. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

Due to the alignment of Earth and Mars, the mission’s launch period would have expired on Aug. 15. That placed increased importance on hitting the window; otherwise, the rover would have needed to be stored for two years, until the next favorable alignment.

“(The ULA and Launch Services team) gave us a perfect launch this morning — right down the middle; couldn’t have aimed us any better,” said Matt Wallace, deputy project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “They really pushed hard to keep us on this limited planetary launch window in 2020.”

With its unique and distinct challenges, COVID-19 certainly threatened that timeline. Wallace admitted there have been “very strenuous moments” in the past few months dealing with the pandemic.

“It really took the entire agency to step up and help us; and they didn’t hesitate,” he said. “The team out there — thousands of people — have really made this a special mission. As people have eluded to, ‘Perseverance’ has become a pretty good name for this mission.”

Launch Director Omar Baez of NASA’s Launch Services Program beamed with pride following his team’s flawless effort.

Derrol Nail, left, NASA Communications, and Moogega Cooper, Planetary Protection engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, provide live coverage during Thursday’s launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin

“Fantastic, honored, proud, ecstatic — those are the kind of words I can think of right now,” Baez said. “We hit right at the beginning of the window, and the vehicle performed perfectly. It’s just a proud moment, and I’m glad our program provided what was needed to get this on the way.”

ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno said before the launch that the rocket would leap off of the pad. On a calm, clear, and beautiful Florida day, that’s exactly what happened.

“We ignited, the Atlas performed nominally throughout the mission, and we ended with just an extraordinarily accurate orbital insertion,” Bruno said.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance carries seven different scientific instruments. The rover’s astrobiology mission, developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will search for signs of past microbial life. It will characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

The mission marks the first time in history that samples will be collected to bring back to Earth from another planet. Another first: Ingenuity, a twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to the belly of the rover, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

Perseverance will spend at least one Martian year, or approximately two Earth years, exploring the landing site region on the Red Planet. Though the mission has a long way to go, Thursday’s launch sent it off to a terrific start.

“I loved it,” said NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen. “It’s like punching a hole in the sky.”

Today’s the Day: Perseverance Being Prepped for Liftoff!

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover aboard sits on the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 on July 30, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

Good morning, and welcome to today’s live blog coverage of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch! It is a beautiful morning here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

We are just over an hour away from today’s scheduled 7:50 a.m. EDT liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. There is a two-hour launch window. Perseverance will blast off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket to embark on its seven-month journey to the Red Planet. NASA’s Launch Services Program, (LSP) based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Weather reports have been positive — the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicted an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch. An updated weather report is expected shortly.

This mission is the culmination of years of dedicated work by thousands of people, including teams from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the spacecraft was designed and built; Kennedy, where it was assembled; ULA, Lockheed Martin, and scientists from around the world. In the U.S., flight hardware was built in 44 states, involving more than 550 cities, towns and communities.

Perseverance, which will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, is carrying seven different scientific instruments. The rover’s astrobiology mission, developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will search for signs of past microbial life. Ingenuity, a twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to the belly of the rover, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live launch coverage starting at 7 a.m. Stay tuned as the mission eclipses multiple milestones — including stage separation, main engine cutoff, and spacecraft separation — or follow along right here at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020. NASA will broadcast a post-launch news conference, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

NASA Administrator ‘Exceptionally Excited’ for Mars-Bound Mission

NASA Administrator's briefing for Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, far left, conducts a briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 29, 2020, in advance of the launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover scheduled for July 30. Joining him, from left are Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro, NASA astronaut Zena Cardman, partially hidden, and NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Bursts of Florida afternoon rain showers could not dampen the spirts of NASA leaders on the eve of a much-anticipated mission to Mars.

“I’m exceptionally excited about what we’re about to do because we’re going to launch Mars 2020 with the Perseverance robot,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Wednesday’s briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. “But there is so much more going on here. This is the first time in history where we’re going to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world — ancient life on Mars.”

The briefing was held outdoors near the Florida spaceport’s iconic countdown clock. A temporary structure installed on the Press Site lawn shielded participants and limited media from the typical Sunshine State summer downpour.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket on Thursday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Despite dealing with significant challenges associated with COVID-19, Kennedy (and its surrounding area) is hosting the second major launch in two months. SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, carrying NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station, lifted off from Launch Complex 39A on May 30.

“When we started 2020, we knew we were going to have a big year at the spaceport,” Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro said. “And I think the events and the milestones of the next couple days are really going to demonstrate that.”

Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover will search for signs of past microbial life. Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater.

Attached to the belly of the rover and weighing less than four pounds is NASA’s Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” Bridenstine said.

The rover will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by future Mars sample return missions. It also will test new technologies to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars.

“In 2026, we’re going to launch a mission from Earth to Mars to go pick up those samples and bring them back to Earth,” Bridenstine said. “For the first time in history, we’re doing a Mars sample return mission.”

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live launch coverage tomorrow morning, starting at 7. Stay tuned as the mission eclipses multiple milestones — including stage separation, main engine cutoff, and spacecraft separation — or follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020. NASA will broadcast a post-launch news conference, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Weather Outlook Remains Positive for Tomorrow Morning’s Liftoff

Students who named Perseverance and Ingenuity
Students Alex Mather, at left, and Vaneeza Rupani, stand near the countdown clock at the News Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 28, 2020. Mather named the Perseverance rover, and Rupani named the Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With less than 24 hours to go until launch, the weather is doing its part to cooperate.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is continuing to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for the Thursday, July 30, liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, carrying NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Primary weather concerns for launch are cumulus and thick clouds.

Perseverance is scheduled to blast off tomorrow morning from Space Launch Complex 41 at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, is managing the launch.

Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website today at noon to view a briefing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, live from Kennedy. Follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020 for a recap of this afternoon’s event, as well as a preview of live countdown and launch coverage, starting tomorrow at 7 a.m.

Bridenstine Leads Briefing Today on Eve of Perseverance Launch

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at Mars 2020 Perseverance rollout
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine attends the rollout of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, as it rolls along to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 28, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will conduct a briefing today at noon at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in advance of Thursday’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch.

Also participating in the briefing are: NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro and NASA astronaut Zena Cardman. The event, scheduled for one hour, will be held outdoors, near NASA’s historic countdown clock. It can be viewed on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

The rover is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket on Thursday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Arriving on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, Perseverance will search for signs of past microbial life and help scientists better understand the geology and climate of Mars. The mission is part of America’s larger Moon to Mars exploration approach that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Perseverance Remains on Track for Thursday Launch

Mars 2020 Sample Return briefing
Jia-Rui Cook with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory moderates a Mars 2020 Sample Return briefing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 28, 2020. NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

With two days to go until NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover blasts off on its seven-month journey to the Red Planet, everything is proceeding as planned.

On Tuesday, July 28, the rover made the one-third-mile trek from United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vertical Integration Facility to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Now positioned at the pad, Perseverance is scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket on Thursday, July 30. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, (LSP) based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Weather reports are positive. The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is predicting an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch. The primary weather concerns are cumulus and thick clouds.

Several obstacles — including navigating a worldwide pandemic — have been overcome to keep the mission on schedule.

“COVID has placed a heck of a burden on us to get through this,” Launch Director Omar Baez, LSP, said during Tuesday’s NASA Edge Rollout show. “So it lives up to its name, Perseverance, and we’re living it every day.”

“It has been quite the learning experience for the whole program — and the agency,” Baez continued. “But now, we’re really excited.”

Also Tuesday, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center hosted a pair of live shows highlighting the importance and impact of Perseverance’s mission: a Mars Sample Return briefing and a Mission Technology and Humans to Mars briefing. The rover will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by future Mars sample return missions.

“We’re looking to accomplish one of the most complex things humanity has ever attempted,” Mars Sample Return Program Director Jeff Gramling said. “With the launch of Perseverance will be the first step in a mission to bring back samples from another planet.”

Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover will search for signs of past microbial life and help scientists better understand the geology and climate of Mars. Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater. Lessons learned from the mission will pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.