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Sunday, October 19, 2014

CTS-100 Update

An artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 capsule and the Atlas V rocket on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Boeing

Boeing Concludes Commercial Crew Space Act Agreement for CST-100 / Atlas V (Press Release - October 17)

Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket.

NASA in July approved the Critical Design Review Board milestone for Boeing’s crew transportation system, confirming the detailed designs and plans for test and evaluation form a satisfactory basis to proceed with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and testing. It is the culmination of four years of development work by Boeing beginning when the company partnered with NASA during the first round of agreements to develop commercial crew transportation systems. To get to this point, extensive spacecraft subsystem, systems, and integrated vehicle design work has been performed, along with extensive component and wind tunnel testing.

Boeing is one of eight companies NASA partnered with during the last four years to develop a human-rated transportation system capable of flying people to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. NASA’s unique approach encouraged companies to invest their own financial resources in the effort and open up a new industry of private space travel. Other current NASA partners Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX all are deep in development of their own commercial crew transportation systems under separate Space Act Agreements.

NASA's spaceflight specialists from a variety of technical expertise areas not only assisted the companies but also worked closely with them in judging progress and deciding whether milestones in the Space Act Agreements were met.

The partnership with Boeing began in 2010 when NASA selected the company as one of five awardees for the first phase of commercial crew development. NASA’s second round of development awards in April 2011 also included Boeing and called for the CST-100 crew transportation system design to be advanced to the preliminary design review point.

The CCiCap initiative, the third phase of development, began in August 2012 when NASA announced an agreement with Boeing totaling $460 million to advance the design of the integrated transportation system. NASA added an optional milestone in 2013, bringing the total level of NASA investment in Boeing for CCiCap to $480 million.

Development work aligned with milestone goals of the initiative, and work took place at numerous locations across the country to take advantage of unique facilities.

Engineering teams tested and modified mission flight software, including launch, docking, on-orbit, and re-entry and landing maneuvers. Teams conducted mission simulations to advance communications and mission operations planning.

Models of the CST-100 and the Atlas V launch vehicle were tested in wind tunnels. Launch abort engines and thrusters the spacecraft will use for maneuvering in space were test-fired. Work was done to refine the spacecraft and service module designs and make modifications required for human rating the existing commercially available United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Ground systems design and operation included launch site modification plans for crews and pad workers. Landing and recovery details also were conceived, reviewed, tested and approved.

All this work ensured Boeing’s crew transportation system matured to the verge of flight test article construction.

NASA's goal for the Commercial Crew Program is to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. The next and final phase of commercial crew development was announced recently with the award of Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts to Boeing and SpaceX. With the new contracts, NASA’s goal is to certify crew transportation systems in 2017 that will return the ability to launch astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station using privately built spacecraft.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 capsule approaching the International Space Station.
Boeing

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mother Nature's Fury As Seen From Space...

Hurricane Gonzalo as seen from aboard the International Space Station on October 16, 2014.
Alexander Gerst / ESA / NASA

Hurricane Gonzalo Viewed From the International Space Station (Press Release - October 17)

This image of Hurricane Gonzalo was taken from the International Space Station by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst on Oct. 16, 2014. In addition to the crew Earth observations from the space station, NASA and NOAA satellites have been providing continuous coverage of Hurricane Gonzalo as it moves toward Bermuda.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

EFT-1 Update: The Ogives Are Now Attached!

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

Engineers inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida have attached the final pieces of hardware to the Orion spacecraft as it gets ever so closer to its December 4 lift-off date. The four ogive panels of the Launch Abort System (LAS) now enshroud the capsule...allowing viewers to get a preview of how the very top of the Space Launch System will look once Orion and the LAS are mated to NASA's future rocket a few years from now. Orion will be transported to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in mid-November before it is finally attached to the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle that will send the capsule to Earth orbit on Exploration Flight Test-1. Stay tuned.

The four ogive panels of the Launch Abort System are about to be attached to the Orion EFT-1 capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on October 14, 2014.
NASA

The four ogive panels of the Launch Abort System are about to be attached to the Orion EFT-1 capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on October 14, 2014.
NASA

The four ogive panels of the Launch Abort System are about to be attached to the Orion EFT-1 capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on October 14, 2014.
NASA

The four ogive panels of the Launch Abort System are about to be attached to the Orion EFT-1 capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on October 14, 2014.
NASA

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

Go for Payload...

Space shuttle Endeavour's cargo bay doors are opened for the 'Go for Payoad' event at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 9, 2014.

Yesterday morning, I had the privilege of attending a social media event at Los Angeles' California Science Center (CSC) that involved watching previously-flown hardware being installed within the cargo bay of space shuttle Endeavour. Known as Go for Payload, this event is one of three that will chronicle Endeavour's progress as she gets prepped for her permanent home at the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center...which begins construction next year and is slated to open in 2018. Go for Payload involved a SPACEHAB module—which launched into space on a total of eight shuttle flights—getting placed inside Endeavour's bay. The occasion was marked by a speech given by retired astronaut Barbara Morgan, who was Christa McAuliffe's back-up for the ill-fated Challenger flight in January of 1986, and flew aboard Endeavour on STS-118 in 2007. To honor Morgan's involvement in this space shuttle mission, every component (all of them, except SPACEHAB, are replicas) that will be placed inside Endeavour's bay will be configured to look the way the actual ones did during the 2007 flight.

A SPACEHAB module is about to be placed inside space shuttle Endeavour's cargo bay during the 'Go for Payoad' event at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 9, 2014.

The next phase of CSC's plan for Endeavour is Go for Stack...which will take place in 2017 and involve the orbiter being mated to her twin solid rocket boosters (which are currently in storage at Edwards Air Force Base 100 miles north of Los Angeles) and an external fuel tank replica prior to getting positioned inside the Air and Space Center (which would still be under construction at that time). The third and final phase of this project is 2018's Go for Launch—which involves opening one of Endeavour's payload bay doors so museum visitors can see the cargo inside the vehicle just as she stands in vertical position, like she did for all 25 launches during her career from 1992 to 2011. Hopefully I'll be on-hand to witness these next two exciting milestones!

Space shuttle Endeavour's cargo bay doors are opened for the 'Go for Payoad' event at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 9, 2014.

The SPACEHAB module is about to be placed inside space shuttle Endeavour's cargo bay during the 'Go for Payoad' event at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 9, 2014.

A panorama that I took of space shuttle Endeavour during the 'Go for Payoad' event at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 9, 2014.

Posing with STS-118 astronaut Barbara Morgan during the 'Go for Payoad' event at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 9, 2014.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Preparing Kennedy Space Center for the Future...

An aerial view of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA

NASA Partners with X-37B Program for Use of Former Space Shuttle Hangars (Press Release)

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Air Force's X-37B Program for use of the center’s Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) Bays 1 and 2 to process the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle for launch.

The OPF bays were last used during NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. With the agency’s transition to the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, the agency currently does not have a mission requirement for the facilities. This agreement ensures the facilities will again be used for their originally-intended purpose -- processing spacecraft.

"Kennedy is positioning itself for the future, transitioning to a multi-user launch facility for both commercial and government customers, while embarking on NASA's new deep space exploration plans," said Kennedy Center Director Robert Cabana. "A dynamic infrastructure is taking shape, designed to host many kinds of spacecraft and rockets."

In addition to vehicle preparation for launch, the X-37B Program conducted testing at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility to demonstrate that landing the vehicle at the former shuttle runway is a technically feasible option.

The Boeing Company is performing construction upgrades in the OPFs on behalf of the X-37B Program. These upgrades are targeted to be complete in December.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Orbiter Test Vehicle-2 is towed into a hangar at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, after returning home from space on June 16, 2012.
U.S. Air Force

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

EFT-1 Update: Fly Your Name Aboard Orion!

An artist's concept of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle soaring in Earth orbit atop a Delta IV upper stage motor.
NASA

Send Your Name on NASA’s Journey to Mars, Starting with Orion’s First Flight (Press Release)

If only your name could collect frequent flyer miles. NASA is inviting the public to send their names on a microchip to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.

Your name will begin its journey on a dime-sized microchip when the agency’s Orion spacecraft launches Dec. 4 on its first flight, designated Exploration Flight Test-1. After a 4.5 hour, two-orbit mission around Earth to test Orion’s systems, the spacecraft will travel back through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

But the journey for your name doesn’t end there. After returning to Earth, the names will fly on future NASA exploration flights and missions to Mars. With each flight, selected individuals will accrue more miles as members of a global space-faring society.

"NASA is pushing the boundaries of exploration and working hard to send people to Mars in the future,” said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. "When we set foot on the Red Planet, we’ll be exploring for all of humanity. Flying these names will enable people to be part of our journey."

The deadline for receiving a personal “boarding pass” on Orion’s test flight closes Friday Oct. 31. The public will have an opportunity to keep submitting names beyond Oct. 31 to be included on future test flights and future NASA missions to Mars.

To submit your name to fly on Orion’s flight test, visit:

http://go.usa.gov/vcpz

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #JourneyToMars.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Get your boarding pass after submitting your name to fly aboard the Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test-1!
NASA

Sunday, October 5, 2014

ISS Update: An Amazing View of Our Galaxy...

A glimpse of our Milky Way galaxy and Earth's Sahara desert...as seen by International Space Station crew member Reid Wiseman on September 28, 2014.
NASA / Reid Wiseman

Milky Way Viewed From the International Space Station (Press Release - October 1)

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this image from the International Space Station and posted it to social media on Sept. 28, 2014, writing, "The Milky Way steals the show from Sahara sands that make the Earth glow orange."

Aboard the space station, the six-person Expedition 41 crew is currently preparing for two spacewalks set for Oct. 7 and 15. During the first six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, slated to begin on Oct. 7 around 8:10 a.m. EDT, Wiseman and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst will transfer a previously uninstalled pump module from its temporary stowage location to the External Stowage Platform-2. The two spacewalkers also will install the Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly that adds the capability to provide “keep-alive” power to the system that moves the station’s robotic arm between worksites. NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore will join Wiseman for the second Expedition 41 spacewalk on Oct. 15.

Source: NASA.Gov

Friday, October 3, 2014

EFT-1 Update: Orion Gets Its Launch Abort Motor...

Inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Launch Abort Motor is attached to the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft...on October 3, 2014.
NASA / Cory Huston

Earlier today, technicians inside the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida installed the Launch Abort Motor atop of Orion as it gets closer to its December 4 flight date. All that needs to be done now is to attach the four ogive panels around the spacecraft...thus completing its Launch Abort System [whose jettison motors will be the only thrusters active during the launch of Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 less than nine weeks from now]. Orion will remain inside LASF till mid-November—when the capsule finally reaches the huge milestone of being transported to Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy rocket. The clock is ticking down towards lift-off of this momentous flight for NASA's human spaceflight program.

Inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Launch Abort Motor is about to be attached to the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft...on October 3, 2014.
NASA / Cory Huston

Inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Launch Abort Motor is about to be attached to the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft...on October 3, 2014.
NASA / Cory Huston

Inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Launch Abort Motor is attached to the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft...on October 3, 2014.
NASA / Cory Huston

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

EFT-1 Update: The Delta IV Heavy Reaches Its Launch Pad!

The Delta IV Heavy rocket that will be used on EFT-1 is lifted into vertical position at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on October 1, 2014.
NASA / Daniel Casper

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft, Rocket Move Closer to First Flight (Press Release)

NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into space are at their penultimate stops in Florida on their path to a December flight test.

Orion was moved Sunday out of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Delta IV Heavy rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, made its move Tuesday night, to nearby Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was raised Wednesday from the horizontal position into its vertical launch configuration.

“We’ve been working toward this launch for months, and we’re in the final stretch,” said Kennedy Director Bob Cabana. “Orion is almost complete and the rocket that will send it into space is on the launch pad. We’re 64 days away from taking the next step in deep space exploration.”

Orion now is ready for the installation of its last component -- the launch abort system. This system is designed to protect astronauts if a problem arises during launch by pulling the spacecraft away from the failing rocket. During the December, uncrewed flight, the jettison motor, which separates the launch abort system from the crew module in both normal operations and emergency, will be tested.

Once the launch abort system is stacked on the completed crew and service modules, and the three systems are tested together, the Orion spacecraft will be considered complete. It then will wait inside the launch abort system facility until mid-November, when the Delta IV Heavy rocket is ready for integration with the spacecraft.

The rocket’s three Common Booster Cores were tested, processed and attached to each other to form the first stage that will connect to Orion’s service module.

Following its targeted Dec. 4 launch, the Delta IV Heavy will send Orion 3,600 miles above Earth to test the spacecraft’s systems most critical to crew safety. After orbiting Earth twice, Orion will reenter Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour, generating temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

Orion is being built to send humans farther than ever before, including to an asteroid and Mars. Although the spacecraft will be uncrewed during its December flight, which is designated Exploration Flight Test-1, the crew module will be used to transport astronauts safely to and from space on future missions. Orion will provide living quarters for up to 21 days, while longer missions will incorporate an additional habitat to provide extra space.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Delta IV Heavy rocket that will be used on EFT-1 arrives at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on September 30, 2014.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The Delta IV Heavy rocket that will be used on EFT-1 is lifted into vertical position at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on October 1, 2014.
NASA / Daniel Casper

The Delta IV Heavy rocket that will be used on EFT-1 is lifted into vertical position at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on October 1, 2014.
NASA / Daniel Casper

Monday, September 29, 2014

Photos of the Day #2: Orion Finishes Fueling Up for EFT-1!

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft arrives at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Abort System Facility to be mated to its Launch Abort Motor, on September 28, 2014.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

After spending more than two weeks in Kennedy Space Center's (KSC) Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility getting loaded up with fuel for Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1, Orion is now inside KSC's Launch Abort System Facility...the capsule's final stop before heading to the launch pad for its maiden flight to Earth orbit on December 4. Orion's Delta IV Heavy rocket is now assembled at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with the clock soon ticking down on NASA's return to deep space with its own manned vehicle—even though Orion won't have any astronauts aboard for this inaugural mission.

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is about to depart from Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to be mated with its Launch Abort Motor, on September 28, 2014.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is about to arrive at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Abort System Facility to be mated to its Launch Abort Motor, on September 28, 2014.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft arrives at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Abort System Facility to be mated to its Launch Abort Motor, on September 28, 2014.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis