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Saturday, January 31, 2009

The space shuttle Discovery sets on her launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (January 31, 2009).

A WEEK FROM TODAY, I will hopefully be leaving for Florida to go to Spaceport USA. Woohoo— Can’t wait...


The second of three lightning towers to protect the future Ares 1 rocket at its launch pad is completed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (January 26, 2009).
NASA / Jack Pfaller

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Assembly continues on the upper stage simulator of the Ares I-X rocket, inside Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
NASA / Jack Pfaller

AS PROMISED in this previous journal entry, here are more photos of Ares I-X as it continues to be prepared at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

The boilerplate mockup of the Orion spacecraft is driven away after being transported to Kennedy Space Center by a C-5 Galaxy military aircraft.
NASA / Jack Pfaller

Yesterday, a boilerplate mockup of the Orion spacecraft arrived at KSC via U.S. Air Force cargo plane (above). The mockup was manufactured at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia (below). This is a huge milestone as Ares I-X gets ready for a test flight that will hopefully take place this July. The next milestone will be the delivery of the vehicle’s first-stage solid rocket booster from its manufacturer (Alliant Techsystems, or ATK) in Utah. It is scheduled to arrive at KSC late next month.

The boilerplate mockup of the Orion spacecraft at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia.
NASA / Sean Smith

Another significant event to take place at KSC this week was Monday's re-opening of a vital processing facility at the spaceport, which will be the site where the Orion spacecraft undergoes final assembly by Lockheed Martin (the aerospace contractor responsible for building Orion) prior to launch. The building (known as the Operations & Checkout Facility), which took about two years to renovate, was the site where the Apollo spacecraft was prepared for launch almost 40 years ago. Orion assembly activity is set to begin at the O&C Facility in 2012...despite the fact the first manned flight of the spacecraft won’t take place till 2015. This is all assuming, of course, that President Obama continues to press ahead with the Constellation program. He has yet to select a new Administrator for NASA after the former chief, Mike Griffin, departed from the space agency earlier this month.

Delegates gather inside the newly-refurbished Operations & Checkout Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Today is NASA’s official Day of Remembrance for those who lost their lives over the course of America's space program, including the 17 astronauts who perished in the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia disasters. Here’s hoping that their legacy will continue to live on as a new era of human spaceflight is about to begin in the next few years. Hopefully.

The Astronaut Memorial in Florida.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sun is about to rise as construction cranes loom around Launch Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

TAKING SHAPE... Just thought I’d share these two cool photos of work being completed on the second of three towers that will provide lightning protection for NASA’s Ares I launch vehicle, which will hopefully become operational by 2015. The third and final tower, which along with the other two will be 600 feet in height once finished, should be completed by March or April...well before the scheduled test flight of the Ares I-X rocket in July. In terms of Ares I-X itself, expect a blog in the near future with photos of the vehicle as it continues to be assembled at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

The Sun is about to rise as construction cranes loom around Launch Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

A boilerplate mock-up of the Orion spacecraft that will be attached to the top of Ares I-X is scheduled to arrive at KSC via cargo plane this Wednesday or Thursday. Nice.

An artist's concept of an ARES I rocket launching into the sky.

All images courtesy of NASA

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The crew of STS-119 pose in front of space shuttle Discovery at Launch Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on January 20, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY, I’ll hopefully be heading back to Florida to see in person space shuttle Discovery (above), and changes that are being made to a nearby launch pad (below) to prepare it for NASA’s next generation launch vehicle, the Ares rocket. Can’t wait...

Construction nears completion on the second of three new lightning towers at Launch Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on January 22, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama and his wife Michelle look on from within the reviewing stand as NASA displays its Lunar Electric Rover, during last night's Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

2009 INAUGURAL PARADE... Thanks to Ronsmytheiii of NASASpaceflight.com, here are a couple of screenshots from yesterday’s parade showing NASA’s contingent in the ceremony. Along with the Moon buggy above (officially called the Lunar Electric Rover), the space shuttle Endeavour crew who flew on last Fall's STS-126 mission also got to march down Pennsylvania Avenue.

President Obama and his wife Michelle look on from within the reviewing stand as the space shuttle astronauts of flight STS-126 march down Pennsylvania Avenue.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

The 7-member crew of space shuttle flight STS-126 wave to the crowd during last night's Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.
NASA / Paul Alers

Unfortunately, all the major U.S. TV networks cut away from their parade coverage well before NASA had its turn in the spotlight at the presidential reviewing stand (where Obama and his wife were viewing the parade from)...but it’s clearly obvious that the organizers were wise in saving the rover’s appearance for last. It probably would've stole the show (you see one marching band, you’ve seen them all).

Screenshots of NASA's Lunar Electric Rover at the Inaugural Parade, on January 20, 2009.
Screenshots of NASA's Lunar Electric Rover at the Inaugural Parade, on January 20, 2009.

CollectSPACE posted up this video on the NASASpaceflight webpage, courtesy of CNN.com.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Space shuttle Discovery arrives at Launch Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on January 14, 2009.
NASA / Troy Cryder

A MILESTONE AT THE PAD... At 9:16 AM, Pacific Time today, space shuttle Discovery arrived at its seaside launch pad in Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The shuttle will now undergo final preparations as it gears up for liftoff on February 12. On a personal note, this is a significant event for me...since, as stated in this previous entry, I will hopefully be there in person to view Discovery on the pad before it rockets its way to the International Space Station a few weeks from now. NASA did its job in providing me the opportunity to view a shuttle live before its heads off into space; now it’s up to me to take advantage of the moment. Can’t wait till February 7!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

GEARING UP FOR FEBRUARY... Yesterday afternoon, the space shuttle Discovery was rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Over the next week or so, Discovery will be mated to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters in preparation for its launch (on mission STS-119) to the International Space Station on February 12.

Space shuttle Discovery is transported from its hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on January 7, 2009.  Preparations continue for its February 12 launch to the International Space Station, on flight STS-119.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

This time around, what makes preparations for NASA’s first space shuttle flight of 2009 significant to me is that I’ll hopefully be in Florida from February 7-10. Ya’ll are probably asking, why not just stay an extra two days to see Discovery actually lift off in person? I’ll elaborate on that in future journal entries (but the main reason why I’m not gonna stay in Florida longer is because of money. Staying at a place for 4 days and not 6 or even 7 days obviously makes a huge difference, spending-wise. And I don’t exactly have a high-paying job right now, haha).

One of three lighning towers stand completed as construction continues at Launch Complex 39-B.  39-B is undergoing modifications as it will become the launch site for the Ares I rocket, which will replace the space shuttle in 2015.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Once mated with its fuel tank and boosters, Discovery will roll over to its launch pad, 39-A, on January 14. Speaking of the other pad, 39-B, construction continues to take place on the three huge lightning towers that will protect the Ares I rocket (shown below... Ares I will launch from 39-B) once it (hopefully) becomes operational around 2015. As you can see from the pic above, one of the towers have already been completed. Yet another thing to look forward to seeing in person exactly a month from now.


An artist's concept of an Ares I rocket at Launch Complex 39-B.
NASA