Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Georges Lemaître: Preparing for the ATV's 5th and Final Flight...

The ATV-5 'Georges Lemaître' is placed on its Ariane 5 launch vehicle in the Final Assembly Building at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana...on July 11, 2014.
ESA – M. Pedoussaut, 2014

ATV-5: Loaded and Locked (Press Release)

ESA’s fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle is now scheduled for launch to the International Space Station at 23:44 GMT on 29 July (01:44 CEST 30 July) on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

ATV-5 will deliver more than six tonnes of cargo to the Station, again breaking the record for the heaviest spacecraft launched on Ariane. Everything has been loaded and the ferry is now sealed until it reaches the orbital outpost.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will be the first to open the hatch of ATV Georges Lemaître in space when he takes responsibility for the cargo as ‘loadmaster’.

Alexander will manage the unloading of 6.6 tonnes of experiments, spare parts, clothing, food, fuel, air, oxygen and water for the six astronauts living in the weightless laboratory.

Cargo for Science

The star of the manifest is ESA’s Electromagnetic Levitator, which will study metals suspended in weightlessness as it heats them to 1600°C and then allows them to cool. The 400 kg unit was carefully loaded into ATV-5 in Kourou before the vessel’s propulsion module was attached.

ATV’s two main sections were then mated, leaving access to the cargo hold only through the forward hatch used by the astronauts. A special lift allowed technicians to enter the hold from above through this hatch, weeks before final closing time. Fifty-seven bags were loaded this way, including last-minute spare parts such as a pump to help recycle water on the Station.

Since the Station does not have a washing machine, cargo ships often bring fresh changes of clothes for the crews. This time, ATV-5 is also carrying high-tech ESA Spacetex t-shirts that promise to stay fresher for longer.

Also aboard is the Haptics-1 touchy-feely joystick, which will investigate how people feel tactile feedback in space, preparing for remote robotic operations from orbit.

Cargo for Life

Georges Lemaître is carrying many more experiments from Station partners in Japan and USA, from Zebrafish muscles to body-motion analysers, and even the mundane equipment any self-respecting laboratory stocks such as gloves, wipes, blood tubes and sample kits.

ATV-5 will also deliver more drinking water than ever before, as well as replenishing the astronauts’ food store.

Alexander and his crewmates will spend many hours unloading the cargo, but there is no rush – Georges Lemaître will stay attached to the Station for around six months.

Source: European Space Agency


The ATV-5 Georges Lemaître is placed on its Ariane 5 launch vehicle in the Final Assembly Building at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana...on July 11, 2014.
ESA – M. Pedoussaut, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

45 Years After Apollo 11: Honoring A National Hero...

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is on display inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on July 21, 2014.

Orion Crew Module at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Kennedy Space Center (Press Release)

NASA's Orion spacecraft crew module has been stacked on the service module inside the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center -- renamed on July 21, 2014 as the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building in honor of the legendary astronaut and first man to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong.

The Operations and Checkout Building was built in 1964. The facility has played a vital role in NASA’s spaceflight history. The high bay was used during the Apollo program to process and test the command, service and lunar modules. The facility is being used today to process and assemble NASA’s Orion spacecraft as the agency prepares to embark on the next giant leap in space exploration, sending astronauts to an asteroid and Mars.

Source: NASA.Gov


Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Apollo astronauts Michael Collins, Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin, as well as NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden pose in front of the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on July 21, 2014.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Sunday, July 20, 2014

45 Years Ago Today!

As seen from the Apollo 11 command module Columbia, the lunar module Eagle prepares to head towards the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969.

The Eagle Prepares to Land (Press Release)

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle, in a landing configuration was photographed in lunar orbit from the Command and Service Module Columbia. Inside the module were Commander Neil A. Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin. The long rod-like protrusions under the landing pods are lunar surface sensing probes. Upon contact with the lunar surface, the probes sent a signal to the crew to shut down the descent engine.

Source: NASA.Gov


A footprint is left on the surface of the Moon by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

RS-25, No. 0525: A Space Shuttle Main Engine Starts A New Life...

An RS-25 engine that will be flown aboard the Space Launch System rocket is placed on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi...on July 17, 2014.

NASA Begins Engine Test Project for Space Launch System Rocket (Press Release)

Engineers have taken a crucial step in preparing to test parts of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will send humans to new destinations in the solar system. They installed on Thursday an RS-25 engine on the A-1 Test Stand at the agency's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The Stennis team will perform developmental and flight certification testing of the RS-25 engine, a modified version of the space shuttle main engine that powered missions into space from 1981 to 2011. The SLS's core stage will be powered by a configuration of four RS-25 engines, like the one recently installed on the A-1 stand.

"This test series is a major milestone because it will be our first opportunity to operate the engine with a new controller and to test propellant inlet conditions for SLS that are different than the space shuttle," said Steve Wofford, SLS Liquid Engines Element manager. "This testing will confirm the RS-25 will be successful at powering SLS."

Early tests on the engine will collect data on the performance of its new advanced engine controller and other modifications. The controller regulates valves that direct the flow of propellant to the engine, which determines the amount of thrust generated during an engine test, known as a hotfire test. In flight, propellant flow and engine thrust determine the speed and trajectory of a spacecraft. The controller also regulates the engine startup sequence, which is especially important on an engine as sophisticated as the RS-25. Likewise, the controller determines the engine shutdown sequence, ensuring it will proceed properly under both normal and emergency conditions.

"Installation of RS-25 engine No. 0525 signals the launch of another major rocket engine test project for human space exploration on the A-1 Test Stand," said Gary Benton, RS-25 rocket engine test project manager at Stennis.

The SLS is designed to carry astronauts in NASA's Orion spacecraft deeper into space than ever before, to destinations including an asteroid and Mars. NASA is using existing and in-development hardware and infrastructure, including the RS-25 engine, to the maximum extent possible to enable NASA to begin deep space missions sooner.

Testing of engine No. 0525 begins in the coming weeks on a test stand originally built in the 1960s for Apollo-era engines that helped launch the lunar missions. The stand has since been used for several major testing projects, and NASA spent almost a year modifying the structure to accommodate the RS-25 engine.

The SLS Program is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, is on contract with NASA to adapt the RS-25 engines for SLS missions.

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

45 Years Ago Today!

The five F-1 engines on the mammoth Saturn V rocket ignite...sending Apollo 11 on its way to the Moon on July 16, 1969.

Launch of Apollo 11 (Press Release)

On July 16, 1969, the huge, 363-feet tall Saturn V rocket launches on the Apollo 11 mission from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, at 9:32 a.m. EDT. Onboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft are astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 was the United States' first lunar landing mission. While astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the Lunar Module Eagle to explore the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon, astronaut Collins remained with the Command and Service Modules Columbia in lunar orbit.

Source: NASA.Gov


The Saturn V rocket's second stage motor ignites as the first stage falls away at an altitude of about 38 miles...55 miles downrange from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

SLS Artwork of the Day...

An artist's concept depicting the Space Launch System (SLS) undergoing processing inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

As tomorrow marks the 45-year anniversary since Apollo 11's launch to the Moon, just thought I'd share these two great illustrations of NASA's next manned rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS looks very much like its predecessor, the Saturn V, but the core stage of the actual vehicle will be covered in orange spray-on foam (the same type of thermal insulation that enshrouded the space shuttle's external tank since STS-3 in 1982) and not be completely white like the workhorse rocket of the Apollo program. Despite this, it will be a sight to see once this 321-foot-tall behemoth (and eventually its 400-foot-tall variant) rolls from Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39B in 2017. Can't wait.

An artist's concept depicting the SLS rolling out towards its pad at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cygnus Begins Its Orbital-2 Mission...

An Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft launches from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on July 13, 2014...beginning the Orb-2 mission.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Antares Rocket Launches Cargo to Space Station (Press Release)

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket launches from Pad-0A with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, Sunday, July 13, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus spacecraft is filled with over 3,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station, including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions. The Orbital-2 mission is Orbital Sciences' second contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA.

Source: NASA.Gov


A full moon lights up the night sky as the Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus Orb-2 spacecraft stands poised for launch at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on July 12, 2014.
NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Quick Post: Space Launch System Milestones...

At NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana, work has begun on fabricating the core stage that will embark on the Space Launch System's (SLS) first flight in 2017, Exploration Mission 1. Tasks completed include:

• 34 primary structure components have been welded
• 20 rings have been welded, including all rings for SLS’s first flight
• Nine barrels have been welded, including first three LH2 qualification barrels
• Three domes have been completed, including two weld confidence domes

In all, nearly 1/2 mile worth of friction-stir welds have been achieved on SLS core stage components as NASA gears up to make America's newest and most powerful rocket ever a reality. Go progress!

Information courtesy of NASA's Space Launch System -

At NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana, welding is completed on a barrel that will comprise the core stage of the first Space Launch System rocket...scheduled to lift off in 2017.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Shuttle and SLS: Marking an Anniversary and Preparing for the Future...

Today marks three years since Atlantis embarked on the final mission of the space shuttle program, STS-135, and three more years till NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) begins its maiden flight, Exploration Mission 1. The Facebook fan-page for SLS honored the occasion by connecting the last shuttle mission with the first flight of America's next launch vehicle—set to take place in 2017. Who would've thought a liquid-fueled rocket engine would be so symbolic...

Marking three years since the last space shuttle flight and three years till the first flight of the Space Launch System.
Image courtesy of NASA's Space Launch System -

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July, Everyone!

An artist's concept of the Space Launch System.

America's Next Rocket (Press Release)

NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, will be the most powerful rocket in history. The flexible, evolvable design of this advanced, heavy-lift launch vehicle will meet a variety of crew and cargo mission needs.

In addition to carrying the Orion spacecraft, SLS will transfer important cargo, equipment and science experiments to deep space, providing the nation with a safe, affordable and sustainable means to expand our reach in the solar system. It will allow astronauts aboard Orion to explore multiple deep-space destinations including an asteroid and ultimately Mars.

The first configuration of the SLS launch vehicle will have 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 be 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.

Source: NASA.Gov