Sunday, March 2, 2014
Photo courtesy of Gravity - Facebook.com
In honor of Gravity winning the most Oscars of any film during the 86th annual Academy Awards tonight, NASA marked the occasion by tweeting actual photos taken in space under the hashtag #RealGravity on Twitter. This public relations effort paid off...with each of the images posted (five of them are shown below) getting retweeted by thousands of people during the Oscar telecast. Gravity won seven Academy Awards...with Alfonso Cuarón taking home the trophy for Best Director, and his critically-acclaimed sci-fi hit winning for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. However, like 1995's Apollo 13 before it, Gravity was the latest space-themed movie to fall short of winning Best Picture—with that honor going to Steve McQueen's historical epic, 12 Years A Slave.
Friday, February 28, 2014
NASA Honors Astronaut Neil Armstrong with Center Renaming (Press Release)
Two generations of aerospace engineering excellence will come together Saturday, March 1 when NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., is redesignated NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center.
The agency's center of excellence for atmospheric flight research is being renamed in honor of the late Neil A. Armstrong, a former research test pilot at the center and the first man to step on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
The late Hugh L. Dryden, the center's namesake since 1976, will continue to be memorialized in the renaming of the center's 12,000-square-mile Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Dryden Aeronautical Test Range.
"I cannot think of a more appropriate way to honor these two leaders who broadened our understanding of aeronautics and space exploration," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
"Both Dryden and Armstrong are pioneers whose contributions to NASA and our nation still resonate today. Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. Dryden's expertise at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and then at NASA established America's leadership in aerospace, and his vision paved the way for Armstrong to take those first steps."
The redesignation of the center, which is located on Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, was directed in legislation authored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California's 22nd district. The resolution was passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives in early 2013, with the Senate concurring in early January, followed by President Obama's signing it into law Jan. 16.
Armstrong had significant ties to the center, both before and after his days as a NASA astronaut. He served as a research test pilot at the center from 1955 to 1962, amassing more than 2,400 flight hours in 48 different models of aircraft at the center, including seven flights in the rocket-powered hypersonic X-15. Armstrong was part of a team that conceptualized the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, a flight test craft that evolved into the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle. Armstrong and the other commanders of Apollo lunar landing missions trained in that vehicle for their descents from lunar orbit down to the surface of the moon.
Following Apollo 11, Armstrong left the astronaut corps and became NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, overseeing aeronautical research programs being conducted at the center, particularly its pioneering work on developing digital electronic flight control systems.
Dryden, considered an aeronautical engineering genius, focused on high-speed flight during his tenure as an aeronautical scientist with the National Bureau of Standards. Involved in NACA research from his doctoral research days, Dryden's first NACA Technical Report was published in 1924 and after World War II he moved from the Bureau of Standards to take charge of the NACA in 1947. Under his deft leadership, the NACA rapidly pushed the boundaries of high speed flight and organized the research that led to our first steps into space. Dryden continued with the agency after NACA became NASA in late 1958, serving as deputy administrator of NASA until his death in 1965.
Dryden's quiet, but visionary leadership of the NACA is what prepared that organization to become NASA in 1958, and to have an achievable plan for a human expedition to the moon when President John F. Kennedy called for it in 1961. The organizational genius of Dryden was at the root of Armstrong's most spectacular flight achievements, from the X-15 to Tranquility Base.
The renaming of a NASA center is not without precedent. In 1999, the Lewis Research Center in Cleveland was renamed in honor of Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth in the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule in 1962.
A formal public ceremony to mark the redesignation of the center and its test range is planned for this spring.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
NASA / Kim Shiflett
Crawler-Transporter Passes Milestone Test at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (Press Release)
The crawler-transporter that will carry NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft to Launch Pad 39B for launch on Exploration Mission-1 in 2017 recently passed the first phase of an important milestone test at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program completed testing of new traction roller bearings on crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2), on two of the massive vehicle’s truck sections, A and C, in late January. The new roller bearing assemblies that were installed on one side of the crawler are visible in this Jan. 31, 2014 image. CT-2 returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center, where work continues to install new roller bearing assemblies on the B and D truck sections.
For more than 45 years the crawler-transporters were used to transport the mobile launcher platform and the Apollo-Saturn V rockets and, later, space shuttles to Launch Pads 39A and B. Upgrades to CT-2 are necessary in order to increase the lifted-load capacity from 12 million to 18 million pounds to support the weight of the mobile launcher and future launch vehicles, including the SLS and Orion.
NASA / Kim Shiflett
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Solar Array Panels on Russian Segment of Space Station (Press Release)
Solar array panels on the Russian segment of the International Space Station and a blue and white part of Earth are photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member while the crew watches for the arrival of the ISS Progress 54 cargo spacecraft, loaded with 2.8 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station crew. The new Progress, which docked to the station at 5:22 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 5, is loaded with 1,764 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water and 2,897 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies. Progress 54 is slated to spend about two months docked to the complex before departing to make way for ISS Progress 55.
Friday, January 31, 2014
NASA / Bill Ingalls
Day of Remembrance (Press Release)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden participates in a wreath laying ceremony as part of NASA's Day of Remembrance, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, at Arlington National Cemetery. The wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration.
President Barack Obama on NASA's Day of Remembrance
On this Day of Remembrance, we join the American people in honoring the men and women of NASA who have given their lives in our nation’s space program. Our exploration of space has expanded our knowledge of the universe, improved our lives here on Earth and been a source of inspiration and pride for generations of Americans. Today, we remember all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in these endeavors.
We hope that the families, friends and colleagues of those we’ve lost will find some comfort in knowing that their loved ones will always be heroes to a grateful nation – that their passion and courage continue to inspire us to push the boundaries of our imagination and meet grand challenges with joy, here on Earth and among the heavens. Guided by their brave example, the United States will remain a nation of explorers, now and forever.
Message from the Administrator: Day of Remembrance
Today we pause in our normal routines and reflect on the contributions of those who lost their lives trying to take our nation farther into space. On our annual Day of Remembrance, please join me in giving thanks for the legacy of the STS-107 Columbia crew; the STS-51L Challenger crew; the Apollo 1 crew; and Mike Adams, the first in-flight fatality of the space program as he piloted the X-15 No. 3 on a research flight.
These men and women were our friends, family and colleagues, and we will never forget their lives and passion to push us farther and achieve more. They have our everlasting love, respect and gratitude.
Today, their legacy lives on as the International Space Station fulfills its promise to help us learn to live and work in space and move farther into the solar system. We see our lost friends in the strivings of so many missions to take humans to new destinations and to unlock the secrets of our universe. And we honor them by making our dreams of a better tomorrow reality and by acting to improve life for all of humanity.
Let us join together as one NASA Family, along with the entire world, in paying our respects, and honoring the memories of our dear friends. They are with us still on this grand journey.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
NASA / MSFC / David Olive
NASA Ramps Up Space Launch System Sound Suppression Testing (Press Release - January 28)
The first round of acoustic tests on a scale model of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is underway. The tests will allow engineers to verify the design of the sound suppression system being developed for the agency's new deep space rocket.
The testing, which began Jan. 16 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will focus on how low- and high-frequency sound waves affect the rocket on the launch pad. This testing will provide critical data about how the powerful noise generated by the engines and boosters may affect the rocket and crew, especially during liftoff.
"We can verify the launch environments the SLS vehicle was designed around and determine the effectiveness of the sound suppression systems," said Doug Counter, technical lead for the acoustic testing. "Scale model testing on the space shuttle was very comparable to what actually happened to the vehicle at liftoff. That's why we do the scale test."
During the tests, a 5-percent scale model of the SLS is ignited for five seconds at a time while microphones, located on the vehicle and similarly scaled mobile launcher, tower and exhaust duct, collect acoustic data. A thrust plate, side restraints and cables keep the model secure.
Engineers are running many of the evaluations with a system known as rainbirds, huge water nozzles on the mobile launcher at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During launch, 450,000 gallons of water will be released from five rainbirds just seconds before booster ignition. Water is the main component of the sound suppression system because it helps protect the launch vehicle and its payload from damage caused by acoustical energy. SLS with NASA's new Orion spacecraft on top will be launched from Kennedy on deep space missions to destinations such as an asteroid and Mars.
A series of acoustics tests also is taking place at the University of Texas at Austin. Engineers are evaluating the strong sounds and vibrations that occur during the ignition process for the RS-25 engines that will power SLS.
First to be tested is the rocket's core stage, which houses many of the launch vehicle's critical pieces including the flight computer and avionics. The test of the fully assembled vehicle, which will include the solid rocket motors, will be conducted later this year.
The SLS core stage model has four liquid oxygen-hydrogen thrusters that simulate the four RS-25 engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif. Two Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) Rocket Assisted Take-Off (RATO) motors represent the five-segment solid rocket motors on SLS. ATK, based in Promontory, Utah, is building the boosters. The motors burn similarly to how a solid motor would burn for the initial SLS vehicle configuration.
The first flight test of the SLS in 2017 will be configured for a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit to test the performance of the integrated system. As the SLS is evolved, it will the most powerful rocket ever built and provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions even farther into our solar system.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Sierra Nevada Corp.
Sierra Nevada Corporation Announces New Space Plans for NASA's Kennedy Space Center (Press Release)
In the latest example of NASA Kennedy Space Center's transformation into a multi-user spaceport, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo., announced Thursday steps it will take to prepare for a November 2016 orbital flight of its Dream Chaser spacecraft from Florida's Space Coast.
The announcement included the purchase of an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) for the launch, sharing the Operations and Checkout (O&C) development and testing facility with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, establishing an operation center at Kennedy Space Center and using the former Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) runway at Kennedy. The steps are considered substantial for SNC and important to plans by NASA and Space Florida for Kennedy's new availability to both commercial and government customers.
"Today's announcement is the latest major milestone in the transformation of the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st century launch complex, serving both private sector and government users," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "I salute Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana for his leadership in transitioning the space coast for the future, and applaud Sierra Nevada Corporation on their decision to carry out their ground-breaking work at Kennedy."
SNC said it plans to work with ULA to launch the company's winged Dream Chaser spacecraft into orbit from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
"SNC is thrilled to confirm a launch date for our country’s return to orbital human spaceflight and the restart of human spaceflight operations from Florida’s Space Coast," said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. "We could not have done this without the spirit and engagement from our national and state governments, the best aerospace companies in the industry, and several major universities, which all hail from over 30 states. Together these passionate people will return our astronauts to space on American spacecraft and rockets launched from America’s space coast right here in Florida."
The Dream Chaser spacecraft is designed to carry crew and critical cargo to destinations, as well as perform servicing and science in low-Earth orbit. SNC said intends to complete Dream Chaser missions with a landing on the 3.5-mile runway at the SLF. Space Florida, which will operate the SLF in the future, will negotiate the terms and conditions for the runway's use with SNC.
"We are pleased to see continued growth of the State's investment into KSC facilities like the O&C," said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. "It is clear that the future of commercial space growth is happening right now in Florida and we couldn't be happier to work with companies like Sierra Nevada to realize their Florida-based expansion goals."
The company said it plans to prepare the Dream Chaser spacecraft in the high bay of the O&C building at Kennedy, with Lockheed Martin performing the work. The facility also is used for the development, assembly and testing of NASA's deep space Orion spacecraft. Dream Chaser testing will take place without disrupting Orion, NASA's flagship human exploration vehicle.
"The O&C is a state-of-the-art facility that will greatly enhance Dream Chaser’s future operations through an innovative co-use plan with Orion," said Vice President and General Manager, Civil Space, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, James H. Crocker. "The result will maximize efficiency for both the Dream Chaser spacecraft and Orion and will provide continuity for our highly trained, motivated and certified workforce."
SNC also plans to lease office space at Exploration Park, located just outside Kennedy’s gates.
"We have been diligent in our efforts, and I consider this a strong vote of confidence from a company that expects to be a major force in the future of human spaceflight," said Bob Cabana, Kennedy center director. "Sierra Nevada Corporation will find in our workforce and facilities the same dynamic and professional people who have made successful missions from here for more than 50 years."
Cabana said SNC's involvement with the Florida spaceport shows the conversion to a 21st Century spaceport is succeeding, although work remains to keep the transformation on pace.
"We are honored that Sierra Nevada Corporation has reserved a proven Atlas V to launch its first flight test in 2016,” said Michael Gass, United Launch Alliance president and CEO. “With 42 successful missions spanning a decade of operational service, the commercially-developed Atlas V is uniquely qualified to provide launch services for the Crew Transportation System. Because Atlas is already certified by NASA to fly the nation’s most complex exploration missions, ULA is able to provide a wealth of flight data, design implementation, detailed system and sub-system analysis, qualification and certification documentation to support the Atlas V for human spaceflight."
The Dream Chaser spacecraft is deep into development of flight hardware and specific plans ranging from ground support equipment to what to include in a mission operations center.
"I had the privilege of piloting and commanding five space shuttle flights as a NASA astronaut," said Steve Lindsey, former NASA astronaut and SNC’s senior director and Dream Chaser program manager. "This included the last flight of Discovery which was processed, launched, and on March 9, 2011, made its final landing at the SLF after 39 flights and 148 million space miles. Mark, the entire SNC Dream Chaser team, and I look forward to seeing Dream Chaser continue this legacy from Discovery when it flies in 2016."
NASA / Sierra Nevada Corporation
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
At Your Service: Orion Service Module Complete (Press Release)
The second of three major parts of the spacecraft that will launch into orbit on Orion’s first mission this fall is complete.
Work has been progressing steadily on all three main parts of Orion – the service module, the crew module and the launch abort system – and this month the service module joined the launch abort system in crossing the finish line.
Orion’s service module sits below the crew module and above the rocket that will launch Orion into space. The recently completed service module, which will fly during Orion's first test flight, is a structural representation and will lack many of the key capabilities of the final service module. Service modules on future missions will provide power, heat rejection, the in-space propulsion capability for orbital transfer, attitude control and high-altitude ascent aborts. It will also house water, oxygen and nitrogen for the trip. But because Orion’s first mission will be a four-hour-long, unmanned flight test, many of those systems aren’t needed just yet. Instead, this first service module will primarily be responsible for the structural support involved in carrying the crew module and launch abort system as they’re launched into space.
Since the crew module and launch abort system together weigh more than 37,000 pounds at liftoff, that’s no easy task. The crew module gets some help with it from three massive panels, called fairings, that encase the service module and shield it from heat, wind and acoustics. They support half of the crew module and launch abort system’s weight during launch and ascent, before they’re jettisoned more than 100 miles up. After that, the loads on Orion are much lower and can be carried by the service module alone.
To ensure that the service module and its fairings are up to the challenge, it will spend two weeks in February undergoing tests. Engineers will carefully apply small amounts of stress to the structure to test its stiffness and verify it reacts as predicted. If it does, they’ll up the ante, pushing and twisting it from multiple directions.
If it can withstand the strain, the engineers will know it’s ready for flight.
The launch abort system was completed in December, and the crew module is coming right along. Engineers at Kennedy Space Center recently completed the complex welding that’s required to make sure Orion’s propulsion and life support fluid systems are leak tight.
To minimize the number of mechanical joints, which are invitations for leaks, the fluid systems are welded together as one piece into a virtual spaghetti bowl that surrounds the Orion pressure vessel. The process required more than 260 individual welds in complicated geometries, each of which was then X-rayed to ensure that it was good.
Over the next three months, Orion’s thermal protection system will be installed – tiles on the top of the crew module and the largest heat shield of its kind ever built. With that in place, the crew module, service module and launch abort system will be ready to mate this spring.
Friday, January 17, 2014
NASA Center Renamed in Honor of Neil A. Armstrong (Press Release)
This photograph shows Neil Armstrong next to the X-15 rocket-powered aircraft after a research flight. President Barack Obama has signed HR 667, the congressional resolution that redesignates NASA's Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, into law. The resolution also names Dryden's Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. Both Hugh Dryden and Neil Armstrong are aerospace pioneers whose contributions are historic to NASA and the nation as a whole. NASA is developing a timeline to implement the name change.
Neil A. Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Purdue University and a master's in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He was a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952. During the Korean War he flew 78 combat missions. In 1955 he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA's predecessor, as a research pilot at Lewis Laboratory in Cleveland.
Armstrong later transferred to NACA's High Speed Flight Research Station at Edwards AFB, Calif., later named NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. As a research project test pilot over the course of seven years at the center from 1955 through 1962, he was in the forefront of the development of many high-speed aircraft. He was one of only 12 pilots to fly the hypersonic X-15 as well as the first of 12 men to later walk on the moon. In all, he flew more than 200 different types of aircraft.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
NASA Tests Orion Spacecraft Parachute Jettison over Arizona (Press Release)
Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA's Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight.
The test was the first to give engineers in-air data on the performance of the system that jettisons Orion's forward bay cover. The cover is a shell that fits over Orion's crew module to protect the spacecraft during launch, orbital flight and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. When Orion returns from space, the cover must come off before the spacecraft's parachutes can deploy. It must be jettisoned high above the ground in order for the parachutes to unfurl.
"This was a tough one," said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. "We'd done our homework, of course, but there were elements here that could only be tested in the air, with the entire system working together. It's one of the most complicated tests that we'll do, so we were all excited to see it work just as it was meant to."
Previous parachute tests at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona tested the performance of the parachutes in various conditions without a forward bay cover. Adding the cover and its jettison, along with the deployment of three additional parachutes to pull the cover away from the crew module and lower it to the ground, added a level of complexity to the testing.
"The parachute deployment and forward bay cover jettisons are two of the most difficult things for us to model on computers," said Chris Johnson, project manager for the parachutes. "That's why we test them so extensively. These systems have to work for Orion to make it safely to the ground, and every bit of data we can gather in tests like these helps us improve our models and gives us more confidence that when we do it for real, we can count on them."
The forward bay cover is jettisoned using a thruster separation system built by Systima Technologies Inc. of Bothell, Wash. Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for Orion, tested the system for the first time on the ground in December. Two more ground tests will simulate different types of stresses on the cover, such as a potential parachute failure or loads on the spacecraft. NASA also plans a second airborne test with the forward bay cover to evaluate its performance with a failed parachute.
Orion will be put to its first test in space during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), in September. EFT-1 will have an uncrewed Orion launch to an orbit 3,600 miles above Earth, well beyond the distance traveled by spacecraft built for humans in more than 40 years. After circling Earth twice, Orion will re-enter the atmosphere at speeds as fast as 20,000 mph before the parachute system slows it down for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.