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


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.

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


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.

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 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


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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


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.

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:

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

Source: NASA.Gov


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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

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

A glimpse of our Milky Way galaxy and Earth's Sahara 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