Monday, February 3, 2020

A Milestone Is Achieved for Future SLS Missions...

Four RL10 rocket engines – shown here at Aerojet Rocketdyne's facility in West Palm Beach, Florida – were recently delivered to NASA to fly aboard the Space Launch System on future missions.
Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne Delivers RL10 Engines That Will Help Send NASA Astronauts to Deep Space (Press Release)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Feb. 03, 2020 -- Aerojet Rocketdyne recently delivered four RL10 upper stage engines to NASA’s Stennis Space Center that will help power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as it carries astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft to deep space. These missions are part of NASA’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and next man on the Moon, and set the stage to send astronauts to Mars.

“Nearly 500 Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engines have powered launches into space,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. “Aerojet Rocketdyne continues to upgrade and improve this highly-reliable, flight-proven engine. The RL10’s we just delivered to NASA will power the SLS upper stage on missions that safely launch our astronauts to explore deep space destinations.”

A single RL10 engine will provide nearly 25,000 pounds of thrust and serve as the main propulsion for the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) that will fly atop the SLS rocket Block 1 in support of each of the first three Artemis missions. Later Artemis missions will use the evolved SLS Block 1B rocket configuration that includes the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) powered by four RL10 engines to send Orion and large cargos to the Moon. The four RL10 engines on EUS provide more than 97,000 pounds of thrust.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is under contract to deliver 10 RL10 engines to NASA to support the Artemis program. One of the four engines that were recently delivered will be used to support the Artemis II mission that will use the ICPS upper stage, while the other three are slated to support future Artemis missions aboard the EUS. Delivery of the remaining six engines will be completed by 2021.

“The EUS is really a game changer for SLS and NASA’s lunar exploration program in terms of payload mass,” said Steve Wofford, Space Launch System Program Liquid Engines manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “These RL10 deliveries are a key stepping stone toward that future success.”

Evolving the SLS rocket to the Block 1B version that uses EUS significantly increases the amount of payload that can be carried to lunar orbit; up to 40 metric tons compared to the 26 metric ton capability provided by the SLS Block 1 configuration. It also provides the option for “co-manifested” payloads such as large components for NASA’s Gateway orbiting lunar outpost, landers, or surface systems.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed engine qualification testing for EUS and all other engineering activities, including providing NASA with the information necessary for the agency to human rate the RL10 engines. Qualification of the engines for ICPS will be completed in 2020.

Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne

Monday, January 27, 2020

The ISS Is About to Get a Temporary Expansion Thanks to Axiom Space...

An artist's concept of Axiom Space's commercial modules attached to the International Space Station.
Axiom Space

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station (Press Release)

NASA has selected Axiom Space of Houston to provide at least one habitable commercial module to be attached to the International Space Station as the agency continues to open the station for commercial use.

“NASA has once again recognized the hard work, talent, and experience of Houstonians as we expand the International Space Station and promote commercial opportunities in space,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “I’m proud Axiom will continue to build upon Texas’ legacy of leading the nation in human space exploration.”

This selection is a significant step toward enabling the development of independent commercial destinations that meet NASA’s long-terms needs in low-Earth orbit, beyond the life of the space station, and continue to foster the growth of a robust low-Earth orbit economy.

"Today’s announcement is an exciting and welcome step forward in the efforts to commercialize low-Earth orbit,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “This partnership between NASA and Axiom Space – a Houston, Texas original – illustrates how critically important the International Space Station is, and will continue to be, for developing new technologies for low-Earth orbit and beyond, and for continuing America’s leadership in space. Congratulations to Axiom Space on this exciting award – Houston is known as Space City for a reason, and I look forward to this great Space City company and NASA turning this announcement into reality."

The element will attach to the space station’s Node 2 forward port to demonstrate its ability to provide products and services and begin the transition to a sustainable economy in which NASA is one of many customers. NASA and Axiom next will begin negotiations on the terms and price of a firm-fixed-price contract with a five-year base performance period and a two-year option.

“Congratulations to Axiom Space! This is not only a win for Texas, Johnson Space Center, and the International Space Station, it is also a great step forward for NASA as we move towards an increased commercial presence in low-Earth orbit,” said Rep. Brian Babin of Texas. “I am proud to see this work coming to Space City – Houston, Texas – as the Lone Star State continues to lead in space exploration well into the future.”

Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of five elements of NASA’s plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA’s long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit.

“Axiom’s work to develop a commercial destination in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research, and technology demonstrations in low-Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration. It is a similar partnership that this year will return the capability of American astronauts to launch to the space station on American rockets from American soil.”

NASA selected Axiom from proposals submitted in response to a solicitation through Appendix I of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 Broad Agency Announcement, which offered private industry use of the station utilities and a port to attach one or more commercial elements to the orbiting laboratory.

Because commercial destinations are considered a key element of a robust economy in low-Earth orbit, NASA also plans to issue a final opportunity to partner with the agency in the development of a free-flying, independent commercial destination. Through these combined efforts to develop commercial destinations, NASA is set to meet its long-term needs in low-Earth orbit well beyond the life of the station.

The agency will continue to need low-Earth orbit microgravity research and testing to enable future missions to the Moon and Mars, including the arrival of the first woman and next man on the Moon with the Artemis III mission as part of the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Artemis 1 Update: The First SLS Core Stage Booster Is Now in Mississippi for the 'Green Run' Test!

The Space Launch System's core stage booster is prepped for installation inside the B-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi...during a process that took place on January 21 and 22, 2020.
NASA / SSC

NASA Artemis Program and Stennis Space Center Set the Stage for Testing in 2020 (News Release)

All eyes are on south Mississippi with this month’s delivery and installation of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s first core stage to Stennis Space Center for a milestone Green Run test series prior to its Artemis I flight.

The Green Run testing will be the first top-to-bottom integrated testing of the stage’s systems prior to its maiden flight. The testing will be conducted on the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis, located near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and the nation’s largest rocket propulsion test site. Green Run testing will take place over several months and culminates with an eight-minute, full-duration hot fire of the stage’s four RS-25 engines to generate 2 million pounds of thrust, as during an actual launch.

“This critical test series will demonstrate the rocket’s core stage propulsion system is ready for launch on missions to deep space,” Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech said. “The countdown to this nation’s next great era of space exploration is moving ahead.”

NASA is building SLS as the world’s most-powerful rocket to return humans to deep space, to such destinations as the Moon and Mars. Through the Artemis program, NASA will send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024. Artemis I will be a test flight without crew of the rocket and its Orion spacecraft. Artemis II will carry astronauts into lunar orbit. Artemis III will send astronauts to the surface of the Moon.

The SLS core stage, the largest rocket stage ever built by NASA, stands 212 feet tall and measures 27.6 feet in diameter. It is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics, miles of cables, propulsion systems and propellant tanks that hold a total of 733,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to fuel the four RS-25 engines during launch. The core stage was designed by NASA and Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama, then manufactured at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans by lead contractor Boeing, with input and contributions from more than 1,100 large and small businesses in 44 states.

“Delivering the Space Launch System rocket core stage to Stennis for testing is an epic historical milestone,” said Julie Bassler, the SLS stages manager. “My team looks forward to bringing this flight hardware to life and conducting this vital test that will demonstrate the ability to provide 2 million pounds of thrust to send the Artemis I mission to space.”

The stage was transported from Michoud to Stennis aboard the specially outfitted Pegasus barge. It arrived at the B-2 dock on Jan. 12 and was rolled out onto the test stand tarmac that night. Crews then began installing ground equipment needed for lifting the stage into a vertical position and onto the stand.

The lift was performed Jan. 21-22, which provided optimal weather and wind conditions. Crews now will fully secure the stage in place and to stand systems for testing.

NASA completed extensive modifications to prepare the B-2 stand for the test series. The stand has a notable history, having been used to test Saturn V stages that helped launch astronauts to the Moon as part of the Apollo Program and the three-engine propulsion system of the space shuttle prior to its first flight.

Preparing the stand for SLS core stage testing required upgrades of every major system on the stand, as well as the high pressure system that provides hundreds of thousands of gallons of water needed during a test. It also involved adding 1 million pounds of fabricated steel to the Main Propulsion Test Article framework that will hold the mounted core stage and extending the large derrick crane atop the stand that will be used to lift the SLS stage into place.

Once installed on the stand, operators will begin testing each of the stage’s sophisticated systems. Among other things, they will power up avionics; conduct main propulsion system and engine leak checks; and check out the hydraulics system and the thrust vector control unit that allows for rotating the engines to direct thrust and “steer” the rocket’s trajectory.

They also will conduct a simulated countdown, as well as a “wet dress rehearsal,” in which propellants are loaded and flow throughout the stage system. The rehearsal exercise will end just prior to engine ignition, with the full four-engine hot fire to come in subsequent days.

After the hot fire test, crews plan to perform refurbishment work on the stage and inspect and configure it for shipment to Kennedy Space Center. The stage will be removed from the stand, lowered to its horizontal position on the tarmac and reloaded into Pegasus for the trip to Florida.

At Kennedy, the stage will be joined with other SLS elements and prepared for launch. The next time its four RS-25 engines fire, Artemis I will be taking flight.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Space Launch System's core stage booster is installed inside the B-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi...during a process that took place on January 21 and 22, 2020.
NASA / SSC

Sunday, January 19, 2020

SpaceX Update: The Crew Dragon Capsule Achieves Its Final Milestone on the Path to a Crewed Flight to the ISS a Few Months from Now...

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule fires its Super Draco thrusters as the vehicle prepares to fly away from its Falcon 9 rocket during the In-Flight Abort test on January 19, 2020.
SpaceX

NASA, SpaceX Complete Final Major Flight Test of Crew Spacecraft (Press Release)

NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The launch escape test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 a.m. just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect," said Elon Musk, Chief Engineer at SpaceX. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

Teams of personnel from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Operations Group's Detachment-3 out of Patrick Air Force Base will recover the spacecraft for return to SpaceX facilities in Florida and begin the recovery effort of the Falcon 9, which broke apart as planned.

“The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “We started with a full dress rehearsal of what Bob and I will do for our mission. Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon.”

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. Commercial human space transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbiting laboratory. The program also has the benefit of facilitating and promoting for America a vibrant economy in low-Earth orbit.

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SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule flies away from its Falcon 9 rocket, whose nine Merlin engines are now shut down, during the In-Flight Abort test on January 19, 2020.
SpaceX

Friday, January 10, 2020

Artemis Update: NASA Unveils the Astronaut Class of 2020!

The 13 members of NASA's Astronaut Class of 2020 take to the stage at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas...on January 10, 2020.
NASA

NASA’s Newest Astronauts Ready for Space Station, Moon, and Mars Missions (Press Release)

NASA welcomed 11 new astronauts to its ranks Friday, increasing the number of those eligible for spaceflight assignments that will expand humanity’s horizons in space for generations to come. The new astronauts successfully completed more than two years of required basic training and are the first to graduate since the agency announced its Artemis program.

The new graduates may be assigned to missions destined for the International Space Station, the Moon, and ultimately, Mars. With a goal of sustainable lunar exploration later this decade, NASA will send the first woman and next man to the surface on the Moon by 2024. Additional lunar missions are planned once a year thereafter and human exploration of Mars is targeted for the mid-2030s.

“These individuals represent the best of America, and what an incredible time for them to join our astronaut corps,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston where the graduation ceremony took place. “2020 will mark the return of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and will be an important year of progress for our Artemis program and missions to the Moon and beyond.”

During Friday’s ceremony, each new astronaut received a silver pin, a tradition dating back to the Mercury 7 astronauts, who were selected in 1959. They will receive a gold pin once they complete their first spaceflights.

This was the first public graduation ceremony for astronauts the agency has ever hosted, and Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas were among the speakers at the event.

“For generations, the United States has been the world leader in space exploration, and Johnson Space Center will always be both the heart and home of human spaceflight activity,” said Cornyn. “I have no doubt the newly minted astronauts will add to that history and accomplish incredible things.”

Selected for training in 2017, the NASA astronaut candidates were chosen from a record-setting pool of more than 18,000 applicants.

“I congratulate these exceptional men and women on being the first graduating class of the Artemis program,” Cruz said. “They are the pioneers of the final frontier whose work will help fortify America's leadership in space for generations to come. I am excited for the opportunities ahead of them, including landing the first woman ever on the surface of the Moon, and having the first boots to step on Mars.”

Including the current class, NASA now has 49 active astronauts in its corps. NASA is also considering plans to open the application process this spring for the next class of astronaut candidates.

Training alongside the NASA astronaut candidates for the past two years were two Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronauts who also participated in the graduation ceremony.

NASA’s newest astronauts are:

Kayla Barron, a U.S. Navy lieutenant, originally is from Richland, Washington. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering. A Gates Cambridge Scholar, Barron earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. As a submarine warfare officer, Barron served aboard the USS Maine (SSBN 741), completing three strategic deterrent patrols. She came to NASA from the U.S. Naval Academy, where she was serving as the flag aide to the superintendent.

Zena Cardman calls Williamsburg, Virginia, home. She completed a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in marine sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Cardman was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, working at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Her field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels as both a scientist and crew member, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho and Hawaii.

Raja Chari, a U.S. Air Force colonel, hails from Cedar Falls, Iowa. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland. Chari served as the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.

Matthew Dominick, a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, was born and grew up in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of San Diego and a master’s degree in systems engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He also graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Dominick served on the USS Ronald Reagan as department head for Strike Fighter Squadron 115.

Bob Hines, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, attended high school in Mountaintop, Pennsylvania, but considers Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, his hometown. He has a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Boston University and a master’s degree in flight test engineering from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB. Hines served as a developmental test pilot on all models of the F-15 while earning a master’s in aerospace engineering from the University of Alabama. He has deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Prior to being selected as an astronaut, he was a Federal Aviation Administration flight test pilot and a NASA research pilot at Johnson.

Warren Hoburg originally is from Pittsburgh. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a commercial pilot, and spent several seasons serving on the Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit and Yosemite Search and Rescue. Hoburg came to NASA from MIT, where he led a research group as an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

Dr. Jonny Kim, a U.S. Navy lieutenant, was born and grew up in Los Angeles. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, then trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat V. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in mathematics at the University of San Diego and a doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Kim was a resident physician in emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Jasmin Moghbeli, a U.S. Marine Corps major, considers Baldwin, New York, her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering with information technology at MIT and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. She also is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Moghbeli came to NASA from Yuma, Arizona, where she tested H-1 helicopters and served as the quality assurance and avionics officer for Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1.

Loral O’Hara was born in Houston. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University. Prior to joining NASA, O’Hara was a Research Engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where she worked on the engineering, test, and operations of deep-ocean research submersibles and robots.

Dr. Francisco “Frank” Rubio, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, originally is from Miami. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Rubio has accumulated more than 1,100 hours as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, including 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time. He was serving as a surgeon for the 3rd Battalion of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado, before coming to NASA.

Jessica Watkins hails from Lafayette, Colorado. She graduated from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, with a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences, then went on to earn a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Watkins has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborated on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

CSA’s astronaut candidates are:

Joshua Kutryk, a Royal Canadian Air Force lieutenant colonel, is from Beauvallon, Alberta. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, as well as master’s degrees in space studies, flight test engineering, and defense studies. Prior to joining CSA, Kutryk worked as an experimental test pilot and a fighter pilot in Cold Lake, Alberta, where he led the unit responsible for the operational flight-testing of fighter aircraft in Canada.

Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons hails from Calgary, Alberta. She holds an honors bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University in Montreal and a doctorate in engineering from the University of Cambridge. While at McGill, she conducted research on flame propagation in microgravity, in collaboration with CSA and the National Research Council Flight Research Laboratory. Prior to joining CSA, Sidey-Gibbons worked as an assistant professor in combustion in the Department of Engineering at Cambridge.

Astronaut candidate training for the new graduates included instruction, practice, and testing in spacewalking, robotics, International Space Station systems, T-38 jet proficiency, and Russian language. As astronauts, they will help develop spacecraft, support the teams currently in space and ultimately join the ranks of only about 500 people who have had the honor of going into space. NASA continues its work aboard the space station, which, in November, will celebrate 20 consecutive years of human occupation. The agency also is on the verge of launching astronauts again from American soil aboard American commercial spacecraft, and is preparing to send humans to the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Onward to Mississippi: The First SLS Core Stage Booster Will Soon Head to Stennis Space Center for the 'Green Run' Test...

Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne personnel gather for a group photo in front of the Space Launch System's first core stage booster at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana...on January 8, 2020.
NASA

First NASA Artemis Rocket Core Stage Loaded on Pegasus Barge (News Release)

The first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage for NASA’s Artemis program completed manufacturing work at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and was loaded onto the agency’s Pegasus barge on Jan. 8 for delivery to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. With NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard in attendance, NASA rolled out the core stage for the SLS rocket onto Pegasus in preparation for the Green Run test series, the final test campaign ahead of the agency’s first Artemis launch.

“NASA’s Space Launch System core stage is part of the Artemis program, which is a national asset,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. “The SLS rocket was built to deliver American astronauts and maximum payloads to the Moon and deep space destinations. Rolling out the completed core stage from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility to go on to NASA’s Stennis Space Center for further testing is an exciting leap forward in the Artemis program as NASA teams make progress toward the launch pad.”

The roughly 1.3-mile trip from the Michoud factory to the barge’s dock is just the start of the SLS flight hardware’s journey. Pegasus will ferry the SLS core stage from Michoud to Stennis, where the core stage will be lifted and placed into the historic B-2 Test Stand for the core stage Green Run test campaign that will begin later this year. The Green Run series is a comprehensive test campaign of the stage — from its avionics and propulsion systems to its four RS-25 engines — that will verify the core stage design ready for launch.

“Completion of this first-time build of the Space Launch System rocket’s core stages puts humans on the cusp of a new era of space exploration,” said John Honeycutt, the SLS Program Manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “NASA’s SLS rocket is designed to evolve so a variety of missions can be accomplished first to the Moon for the Artemis missions and then to Mars and other deep space destinations.”

Before launching NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon, the SLS rocket stage will take the same water route that the first stages of the Saturn V rocket did when it was transported from Michoud to Stennis for testing during the Apollo Program in the 1960s and 1970s. Pegasus, which previously ferried the space shuttle tanks from Michoud to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, was modified to make it longer and stronger to accommodate the core stage and ferry the SLS rocket hardware. Following Green Run, the barge will carry the core stage flight hardware to Kennedy for launch preparations.

The SLS rocket’s core stage is the largest stage NASA has ever built at its Louisiana factory including the Saturn V rocket stages for the agency’s first Moon missions. With a design featuring some of the most sophisticated hardware ever built for spaceflight, the core stage is the powerhouse of the SLS rocket. In addition to its miles of complex cabling, avionics and propulsion systems, its two propellant tanks hold a combined 733,000 gallons of propellant to power the four RS-25 engines.

“This is a historic moment for NASA’s Artemis program and a proud time for the Space Launch System Core Stage team as the first flight article leaves the factory floor,” said Julie Bassler, the NASA SLS Stages manager. “Roll out of the core stage to Stennis ahead of the core stage Green Run test series signals an exciting next phase as NASA prepares for the first Artemis launch. The Green Run test series will verify the stage is ready to ship to the launch site.’”

Manufacturing the SLS rocket’s core stages is a combined effort for NASA and its industry partners. More than 1,100 companies across the United States contributed toward the production of the SLS rocket. Boeing built the core stage at NASA’s facility in New Orleans, and Aerojet Rocketdyne upgraded and supplied the RS-25 engines.

Teams at Michoud are working in tandem to manufacture and assemble core stages for the first three Artemis lunar missions. With the assembly of the core stage for Artemis I complete, NASA is focusing its efforts on building the core stages for Artemis II, the first crewed mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, and Artemis III, the mission that will send American astronauts to the lunar South Pole.

In addition to the progress of the SLS rocket in 2019, NASA and its partners completed production of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The spacecraft is undergoing final testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy has verified the launch pad’s infrastructure and sound suppression system for the first Artemis launch. Kennedy’s launch team held its first formal training simulation, while flight controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston conducted a similar simulation training for Orion’s uncrewed flight to the Moon.

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS, along with Orion and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Space Launch System's first core stage booster is transported to the Pegasus barge for delivery to NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi from the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana...on January 8, 2020.
NASA

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Photo of the Day: The SLS Mobile Launcher Completes Testing Prior to Artemis 1...

After spending a couple of months undergoing testing out at Launch Complex 39B, the Mobile Launcher returns to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on December 20, 2019.
NASA / Ben Smegelsky

Mobile Launcher Returns to Vehicle Assembly Building (News Release - December 20)

On Dec. 19 and 20, 2019, NASA’s mobile launcher, carried atop the crawler-transporter 2, trekked toward the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It arrived at the iconic facility – traveling nearly four miles – on Dec. 20, after spending months at Launch Pad 39B undergoing final validation and verification testing. Standing 380 feet tall, the mobile launcher will be used to assemble, process and launch the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions to the Moon.

The mobile launcher will remain inside the VAB until the Artemis I stack – the Orion spacecraft atop the SLS rocket – is ready to return to the pad for the “wet dress rehearsal” for launch. During this rehearsal, the rocket will roll out to the pad to be completely fueled and drained ahead of that first integrated launch of SLS and Orion.

Source: NASA.Gov

Sunday, December 22, 2019

CST-100 Update #2: Starliner Returns to Earth After Its Shortened But Successful Test Flight...

The Starliner capsule releases its heat shield prior to deploying airbags that aided the spacecraft's landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico...on December 22, 2019.
NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

NASA, Boeing Complete Successful Landing of Starliner Flight Test (Press Release)

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed the first land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history Sunday at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, wrapping up the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Starliner settled gently onto its airbags at 7:58 a.m. EST (5:58 a.m. MST) in a pre-dawn landing that helps set the stage for future crewed landings at the same site. The landing followed a deorbit burn at 7:23 a.m., separation of the spacecraft’s service module, and successful deployment of its three main parachutes and six airbags.

“Congratulations to the NASA and Boeing teams on a bullseye landing of the Starliner. The hardest parts of this orbital flight test were successful,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This is why we conduct these tests, to learn and improve our systems. The information gained from this first mission of Starliner will be critical in our efforts to strengthen NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and return America’s human spaceflight capability.”

Although Starliner did not reach its planned orbit and dock to the International Space Station as planned, Boeing was able to complete a number of test objectives during the flight related to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, including:

- Successful launch of the first human-rated United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket
- Checked out the Starliner propulsion systems
- Tested space-to-space communications
- Confirmed Starliner tracker alignments using its navigation system
- Tested Starliner’s NASA Docking System
- Validated all environment control and life support systems
- Completed a positive command uplink between the International Space Station and Starliner

“Today’s successful landing of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is a testament to the women and men who have dedicated themselves to ensuring Starliner can safely transport crews to low-Earth orbit and back to Earth,” said Boeing Senior Vice President of Space and Launch Jim Chilton. “The Starliner Orbital Flight Test has and will continue to provide incredibly valuable data that we, along with the NASA team, will use to support future Starliner missions launched from and returning to American soil.”

“This mission has only strengthened the resolve of the NASA, ULA, and Boeing teams," said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. "Systems were tested, but more importantly the teams were tested. The hardest parts of this mission were a tremendous success. The Commercial Crew Program is strong. But keep in mind, this is a great reminder that human exploration is not for the faint of heart. We are just getting started!”

The Starliner that landed today will be refurbished for Boeing’s first operational crewed mission, following the Crew Flight Test. NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will fly on that mission, dubbed the spacecraft “Calypso” after the ship of famed explorer Jacques Cousteau.

“I love what the ocean means to this planet,” said Williams. “We would not be this planet without the ocean. There’s so much to discover in the ocean, and there’s so much to discover in space.”

The uncrewed Starliner spacecraft launched on the ULA Atlas V rocket at 6:36 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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The Starliner capsule rests on its airbags after landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico...on December 22, 2019.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Friday, December 20, 2019

CST-100 Update: Starliner Finally Heads to Space! But Will Head Home Early Due to an Orbital Insertion Issue...

An Atlas V rocket carrying the Starliner capsule lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on December 20, 2019.
NASA

NASA Statement on Boeing Orbital Flight Test (Press Release)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement regarding the Boeing Orbital Flight Test:

“I am incredibly proud of the NASA, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance teams and their ongoing work in a dynamic situation to ensure the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is safe on its Orbital Flight Test. The teams continue their work to meet as many mission objectives as possible and return safely to Earth. We continue to gather critical data that will help us ensure safety and reliability for future human space flight missions.

“Early this morning, NASA and Boeing successfully launched Starliner on the first human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

“The plan was for Starliner to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station and return home safely to Earth. While a lot of things went right, the uncrewed spacecraft did not reach the planned orbit and will not dock to the International Space Station.

“This is in fact why we test. Teams worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel to ensure a landing opportunity.

“Boeing, in coordination with NASA, is working to return Starliner to White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday.

“At NASA we do really difficult things, and we do them all the time. I spoke to Vice President Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, and he remains very optimistic in our ability to safely launch American astronauts from American soil. We remain positive even though we did face challenges today. We’ll be getting a lot more data in the coming days.

“One of the biggest successes today was watching NASA, Boeing, ULA teams work to make the right decisions for our astronauts and country. We will continue to share information. It’s in the interest of the nation. We’ll share data as soon as possible.”
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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Artemis 1 Update: More Solid Rocket Booster Segments Arrive in Florida...

The two solid rocket booster aft exit cones that will fly aboard the Space Launch System on Artemis 1 arrives at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Aft Exit Cones for NASA’s Space Launch System Arrive for Artemis I (News Release)

The two Northrop Grumman-manufactured aft exit cones for the Space Launch System’s solid rocket boosters arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The left aft exit cone (in the background) arrived Nov. 4 and the right aft exit cone (in front) arrived Dec. 9, 2019. Both were shipped by truck from Promontory, Utah. Upon arrival, the exit cones were transported to the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) where they will be checked out and prepared for the Artemis I uncrewed test flight.

The aft exit cones sit at the bottommost part of each of the twin boosters and are attached to the nozzle. The exit cones help provide added thrust for the boosters, while protecting the aft skirts from the thermal environment during launch.

Other booster segment hardware currently at Kennedy are the forward assemblies which include: a forward skirt, frustum and nose cap, which house the avionics and the aft skirt assemblies, which contain the thrust vector control system. Each assembly also contains four booster separation motors. The forward and aft assemblies are nearing the end of assembly operations in the Booster Fabrication Facility and will be ready for integration in the RPSF soon.

Source: NASA.Gov