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Saturday, November 15, 2014

SLS Update: Construction Begins on the Mammoth Vehicle...

At NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana, welding is completed on a barrel that will house the four RS-25 engines of the first Space Launch System rocket...currently set to take flight in late 2018.
NASA

At NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana, engineers recently completed welding on the first barrel that will comprise the first stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. This barrel is the bottom-most segment of the giant booster—which is where four former Space Shuttle Main Engines (known as RS-25s) will be attached to during the SLS' inaugural flight beyond low-Earth orbit...currently set to take place in late 2018 with Exploration Mission 1.

An infographic showing all of the barrels that will comprise NASA's Space Launch System rocket...currently set to take flight in late 2018.
NASA

Thursday, November 13, 2014

EFT-1 Update: Orion Is Now Poised for Launch Atop Its Delta IV!

Engineers inspect the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft after it is mated to its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 12, 2014.
NASA

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Arrives at Launch Pad, Hoisted onto Rocket Ahead of its First Spaceflight (Press Release - November 12)

NASA’s new Orion spacecraft now is at its launch pad after completing its penultimate journey in the early hours Wednesday. It arrived at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:07 a.m. EST, where the spacecraft then was lifted onto a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in preparation for its first trip to space.

Orion will travel almost 60,000 miles into space Thursday, Dec. 4 during an uncrewed flight designed to test many of the spacecraft’s systems before it begins carrying astronauts on missions to deep space destinations.

The spacecraft, which includes the crew and service modules, launch abort system and the adapter that will connect it to the rocket, was completed in October and has since been awaiting its rollout inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Although storms in the area delayed its move slightly, Orion completed its 22-mile journey with no issues.

“This is the next step on our journey to Mars, and it’s a big one,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations. “In less than a month, Orion will travel farther than any spacecraft built for humans has been in more than 40 years. That’s a huge milestone for NASA, and for all of us who want to see humans go to deep space.”

Once it arrived at Space Launch Complex 37, Orion was hoisted up about 200 feet and placed atop the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into orbit. Over the course of the three weeks that remain until liftoff, the spacecraft will be fully connected to the rocket and powered on for final testing and preparations.

“We’ve put a lot of work into designing, building and testing the spacecraft to get it to this point and I couldn’t be prouder of the whole team,” said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. “Now it’s time to see how it flies. Sending Orion into space will give us data that is going to be critical to improving the spacecraft’s design before we go to an asteroid and Mars.”

Orion is scheduled to lift off at 7:05 a.m. Dec. 4. During its two-orbit, 4.5 hour flight test, Orion will travel 3,600 miles beyond Earth. From this distance, Orion will return through Earth’s atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph, generating temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on its heat shield. The flight will allow engineers to test systems critical to safety, including the heat shield, parachutes, avionics and attitude control.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Engineers prepare to lift the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft up the Space Launch Complex 37 gantry to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 12, 2014.
NASA

Engineers make sure that the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is properly aligned with its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle for mating at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 12, 2014.
NASA

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is mated to its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 12, 2014.
NASA

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

EFT-1 Update: The VAB Gets A Visit By Its Future Tenant...

During its 6-hour journey to Launch Complex 37 at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Orion EFT-1 capsule passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on November 11, 2014.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Orion Spacecraft Rolls Past the Vehicle Assembly Building (Press Release)

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the agency's Orion spacecraft passes the spaceport's iconic Vehicle Assembly Building as it is transported to Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. After arrival at the launch pad, United Launch Alliance engineers and technicians will lift Orion and mount it atop its Delta IV Heavy rocket. Orion began its journey to the launch pad at the Launch Abort System Facility, where a 52-foot-tall protective fairing and the launch abort system were attached to the 10-foot, 11-inch-tall crew module. Resting atop a specialized Kamag transporter, Orion was moved to Space Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The move began at 8:54 p.m. EST and concluded at 3:07 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. Orion is scheduled to launch Dec. 4, 2014 atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in its first unpiloted flight test, and in 2018 on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of the Orion spacecraft orbiting Mars.
Lockheed Martin / NASA

Monday, November 10, 2014

EFT-1 Update: The Delta IV Heavy Awaits!

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is prepped for its move from the Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 37...where it will be mated with its Delta IV Heavy rocket on November 11, 2014.
NASA

Orion Ready for Move to Space Launch Complex 37 (Press Release)

NASA's Orion spacecraft will move Nov. 11 from the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in preparation for its upcoming flight test. The move was postponed 24 hours due to a weather forecast this evening calling for winds and lightning that violate the constraints established for safely moving Orion.

The assembled Orion crew module, service module, launch abort system and adapter that fits the service module to the rocket have remained inside the LASF since Sept. 28 until the scheduled move to the pad.

First motion out of the LASF is scheduled for approximately 8 p.m. EST. Traveling at about 5 mph, the spacecraft will make the trek from Kennedy's Industrial Area north to the Launch Complex 39 area, travel past the Vehicle Assembly Building, and continue to the launch pad at CCAFS. Orion is scheduled to arrive at the pad at about 2 a.m. on Nov. 12.

The Orion spacecraft will be hoisted up for stacking on the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket later in the morning after its arrival at the launch pad.

Orion is scheduled to launch Dec. 4. The flight test will send Orion 3,600 miles in altitude from Earth on a two-orbit flight intended to ensure the spacecraft's critical systems are ready for the challenges of deep-space missions.

During the 4.5-hour flight covering a distance of 66,000 miles, Orion will travel farther than any crewed spacecraft has gone in more than 40 years, before returning to Earth at speeds near 20,000 mph and generating temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

After Orion splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, NASA and the U.S. Navy will recover the crew module and attempt to retrieve the parachutes and forward bay cover.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is prepped for its move from the Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 37...where it will be mated with its Delta IV Heavy rocket on November 11, 2014.
NASA

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Safe Landing for ISS Crew Members

The Soyuz TMA-13M capsule carrying three Expedition 41 crew members touches down in Kazakhstan on November 10, 2014 (Kazakh Time).
NASA TV

Space Station Crew Returns to Earth, Lands Safely in Kazakhstan (Press Release)

Three International Space Station (ISS) crew members returned to Earth Sunday after a 165-day mission that included hundreds of scientific experiments and several spacewalks.

Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency touched down northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 10:58 p.m. EST (9:58 a.m., Nov. 10, Kazakh time). While in space, they traveled more than 70 million miles.

During their time aboard the station, the crew participated in research focusing on Earth remote sensing, advanced manufacturing, and studies of bone and muscle physiology. They set a milestone for station science by completing a record 82 hours of research in a single week in July.

A key research focus during Expedition 41 was human health management for long duration space travel, as NASA and Roscosmos prepare for two crew members to spend one year aboard the space station beginning in 2015.

The crew welcomed five cargo spacecraft during its time aboard the orbiting laboratory. Two Russian ISS Progress cargo vehicles docked to the station, bringing tons of supplies in July and October. The fifth and final European Automated Transfer Vehicle, dubbed the Georges Lemaitre after the Belgian physicist who is considered the father of the big-bang theory, launched to the station in July.

In July, Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft completed its second resupply mission under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract. SpaceX launched its Dragon spacecraft to the station in September, the company's fourth commercial resupply mission.

Wiseman and Gerst ventured outside the confines of the space station for a planned spacewalk to relocate a failed pump module and configure the station for upcoming additions. Wiseman completed a second spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore. Suraev also conducted one spacewalk during Expedition 41.

In addition to being a scientific research platform, the space station also serves as a test bed to demonstrate new technology. The first 3-D printer to be tested in space arrived at the station during Expedition 41. It will be the first step toward establishing an on-demand machine shop in space, which is a critical enabling component for deep space crewed missions and in-space manufacturing.

A new Earth monitoring instrument called RapidScat also was installed and activated on the station during the crew’s time in orbit. RapidScat will measure Earth's ocean surface wind speed and direction, essential measurements used in weather prediction.

Having completed his second space station mission, Suraev now has spent 334 days in space. Wiseman and Gerst have spent 165 days in space with the end of their first flights.

Expedition 42 now is operating aboard the station with Barry Wilmore of NASA in command. Wilmore and his crewmates, Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of Roscosmos, will tend to the station as a three-person crew until the arrival in two weeks of three new crew members: Terry Virts of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency. Virts, Shkaplerov and Cristoforetti are scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan on Nov. 23 (U.S. time).

Source: NASA.Gov

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Expedition 41 crew members Alexander Gerst (of the European Space Agency), left, Max Suraev (of the Russian Federal Space Agency), center, and Reid Wiseman (NASA), sit in chairs outside the Soyuz TMA-13M capsule moments after landing in Kazakhstan on November 10, 2014 (Kazakh Time).
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

EFT-1 Update: One Step Closer to Launch...

One of the four ogive panels that comprise the Launch Abort System is attached to the Orion EFT-1 capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on October 14, 2014.
NASA

Orion Prepares to Move to Launch Pad (Press Release)

On Dec. 4, Orion is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37 in Florida. During the test, Orion will travel 3,600 miles in altitude above Earth. 4 1/2 hours later, the spacecraft will reenter the atmosphere at 20,000 mph and splash down in the Pacific Ocean. Orion’s first flight will verify launch and high-speed reentry systems such as avionics, attitude control, parachutes and the heat shield.

Four recently-installed protective panels make up Orion's Ogive. The Ogive reduces drag and acoustic load on the crew module, making it a smoother ride for the spacecraft. Pictured here, inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a crane brings the fourth and final Ogive panel closer for installation on Orion's Launch Abort System.

The Ogive installation was one of the last pieces of the puzzle for Orion prior to its move to the launch pad on Nov. 10. There, it will be lifted and attached to the rocket for its December launch.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is ready to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle after assembly is completed on the capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as of November 4, 2014.
Jim Grossman

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is ready to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle after assembly is completed on the capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as of November 4, 2014.
Jim Grossman

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is ready to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle after assembly is completed on the capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as of November 4, 2014.
Jim Grossman

Friday, October 31, 2014

Another Bad Day for Commercial Space Flight...

SpaceShipTwo breaks apart in midair after suffering a malfunction on October 31, 2014.
CNN.com

Statement from NASA Administrator on Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Mishap (Press Release)

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:

“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I offer our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the pilot lost in today’s accident involving Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, and we are praying for a speedy recovery of the other pilot.

“While not a NASA mission, the pain of this tragedy will be felt by all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploration. Space flight is incredibly difficult, and we commend the passion of all in the space community who take on risk to push the boundaries of human achievement.”

Source: NASA.Gov

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A piece of wreckage from SpaceShipTwo lies in California's Mojave Desert after the vehicle disintegrated during a test flight on October 31, 2014.
Kern County Live Streaming

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Major Malfunction: The Orb-3 Mission Ends In Explosion...

The Antares rocket suffers a mechanical problem following liftoff at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on October 28, 2014.
NASA / Joel Kowsky

NASA Statement Regarding Oct. 28 Orbital Sciences Corp. Launch Mishap (Press Release)

The following statement is from William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, regarding the mishap that occurred at Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia during the attempted launch of Orbital Sciences Corp’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft at 6:22 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28.

“While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences' third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today's mishap. The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies.

“Orbital has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first two missions to the station earlier this year, and we know they can replicate that success. Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback. Today's launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Antares rocket explodes after crashing into the ground following a launch mishap at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on October 28, 2014.
NASA / Joel Kowsky

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Photo of the Day: Preparing for Cygnus' Next Journey Into Space...

The Sun rises as the Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus Orb-3 spacecraft stands poised for launch on Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on October 26, 2014.
NASA / Joel Kowsky

Antares Rocket at Sunrise (Press Release)

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A during sunrise, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Antares will launch with the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station, including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions. The Orbital-3 mission is Orbital Sciences' third contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Launch is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 27 at 6:45 p.m. EDT.

Source: NASA.Gov

Saturday, October 25, 2014

CRS-4 Update: The Dragon Comes Home!

Screenshots from NASA TV showing SpaceX's Dragon capsule being released from the International Space Station prior to returning to Earth on October 25, 2014.
NASA TV

Critical NASA Science Returns to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft (Press Release)

SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:39 p.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 25, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning 3,276 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station (ISS).

A boat will take the Dragon spacecraft to a port near Los Angeles, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA within 48 hours. Dragon will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.

“This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA’s goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA Headquarters. “The delivery of the ISS RapidScatterometer advances our understanding of Earth science, and the 3-D printer will enable a critical technology demonstration. Investigations in the returned cargo could aid in the development of more efficient solar cells and semiconductor-based electronics, the development of plants better suited for space, and improvements in sustainable agriculture.”

Among the returned investigations was part of the Rodent Research-1 experiment, which also launched last month to space aboard this Dragon. This study supports ongoing research into how microgravity affects animals, providing information relevant to human spaceflight, discoveries in basic biology, and knowledge that may direct affect human health on Earth. NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) are developing spaceflight experiments that will use the Rodent Research Hardware System.

When returned, data from the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) investigation will be processed to help determine the physical principles which play a part in stabilizing different emulsions and the compounds that influenced those emulsions while in orbit. Emulsions are mixtures of two or more liquids where one liquid is present in droplet form and distributed throughout the other liquid; common emulsions include milk, mayonnaise and paint.

NanoRacks-Girl Scouts of Hawai’i-Arugula Plant Growth study was returned to Earth, as well. This study seeks to determine the impact that various nutrients and microgravity have on the growth and nutritious value of arugula seedlings grown in space. The goal of the study is to develop better ways to grow plants with a high nutritional content in the space environment. If the study samples have a high nutrition value, this may enable NASA and astronauts to grow and consume fresh, healthy food during future space travel.

Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft able to return a significant amount of cargo to Earth. The spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 21 carrying almost 5,000 pounds of supplies and elements to support 255 scientific investigations the crew members of Expeditions 41 and 42 will conduct. The mission was the fourth of 12 cargo resupply trips SpaceX will make to the space station through 2016 under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract.

Source: NASA.Gov

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SpaceX's Dragon capsule is about to touch down in the Pacific Ocean after completing the CRS-4 mission at the International Space Station, on October 25, 2014.
SpaceX