NASA Shows Perseverance with Helicopter, Cruise Stage Testing

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020.
NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The Mars 2020 mission involving NASA’s newly named rover — Perseverance — received a significant boost following the completion of important testing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Activities to measure mass properties of the Cruise Stage vehicle were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Successful testing also was performed on NASA’s Mars Helicopter, which will be attached to Perseverance. The functional test (50 RPM spin) was executed on the stand in the airlock. This marked the last time the rotor blades will be operated until the rover reaches the Martian surface.

The NASA Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will remain encapsulated after landing, deploying once mission managers determine an acceptable area to conduct test flights.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020.
The NASA Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

On March 5, 2020, NASA announced Perseverance as the new name for the ars 2020 rover. Alexander Mather, a seventh-grader from Virginia, provided the winning name for the rover with his entry in the agency’s Name the Rover essay contest.

Perseverance will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket is targeted for mid-July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance was 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.

For more in-depth information, visit the mission’s website.

Mars 2020 Rover Undergoing Processing at Florida Spaceport

Mars 2020 rover at Kennedy Space Center
The launch of the Mars 2020 rover is targeted for mid-July. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Soon after its arrival to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week, the Mars 2020 rover was moved to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, where it has been undergoing processing for its mission later this year. The spacecraft was flown to Kennedy from California aboard a C-17 aircraft on Feb. 12.

Targeted for mid-July 2020, the mission will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch is managed by the Launch Services Program.

The Mars 2020 rover will 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.

New Solar Orbiter Launch Date

Solar Orbiter graphicNASA, ESA (European Space Agency), Airbus and United Launch Alliance now are targeting 11:03 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 9, for the launch of the Solar Orbiter mission on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  The launch has a two-hour window.

The two-day launch delay was caused by two items that delayed transport of the spacecraft to the pad. The first item was a schedule conflict on Wednesday with a commercial mission launch from a nearby launch pad. The second item was the weather Thursday morning.

The transport of the spacecraft from the processing facility to the launch complex for mate operations now is planned for Friday, Jan. 31.

Mars 2020 Rover Lift Activities Performed at Kennedy Space Center

Mars 2020 rover aeroshell lift activities
Lift activities for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell are conducted inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on Jan. 14, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Lift activities for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell were conducted inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. The activities included installing the inverted lift fixture and lifting the aeroshell assembly to the spin table for mass properties measurements.

The Mars 2020 rover mission will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this summer. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy will manage the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

Visit the mission website for more information.

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.

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.

Boeing and NASA Approach Milestone Orbital Flight Test

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stand on Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 4, 2019.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stand on Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 4, 2019. The vehicle was in place on the launch pad for Boeing’s wet dress rehearsal ahead of the upcoming Orbital Flight Test, an uncrewed mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: Boeing

When Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) launches on Dec. 20, 2019, it will be a major step toward returning human spaceflight capability to the U.S.

The uncrewed mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will rendezvous and dock Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with the International Space Station and return to Earth on Dec. 28. Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“This test flight will give us valuable data about Starliner’s performance in the actual environment through each phase of flight and demonstrate its capability to transport crew to the space station and bring them home safely,” said Trip Healey, NASA’s mission manager for OFT. “Being on the cusp of this huge moment in history is really exciting.”

Data from the mission will validate spacecraft system performance and will move Starliner farther down the path toward its first flight with astronauts aboard — Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT).

NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson will be onboard Starliner for CFT. All three were on hand when the spacecraft for this flight test rolled out of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, making the roughly six mile trek on a transport vehicle to SLC-41 to be mated atop the Atlas V rocket.

Read the full story at https://www.nasa.gov/feature/boeing-and-nasa-approach-milestone-orbital-flight-test.

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

Teams Working Through Boeing Orbital Flight Test Review

NASA and Boeing managers take part in 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.
NASA and Boeing managers take part in 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

Boeing, International Space Station Program and Commercial Crew Program (CCP) managers are reviewing the work their teams have done to be ready for launch of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT). The team is midway through the Flight Readiness Review, assessing various items discussed and closed to meet mission requirements.

The board had a productive discussion with the Boeing, CCP and station engineering communities regarding the flight plan and redundancies built into the spacecraft systems and procedures. They also discussed how the data from this flight test will help the teams prepare for the first crewed flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson.

This afternoon, the board will hear more detailed briefings focused on special topics for consideration and discuss human health and performance. The space station program also will have the opportunity to speak with the teams. Toward the end of the review, Kathy Lueders, manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program, will lead a concluding discussion amongst the participants. A readiness poll will be led by Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Launch is targeted for Friday, Dec. 20.