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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Edoardo Amaldi Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) fires its thrusters as it approaches the International Space Station (ISS) for docking on March 28, 2012.
NASA / Don Pettit

Edoardo Amaldi docks with the ISS... Above and below are spectacular photos of the Automated Transfer Vehicle before and after it docked with the International Space Station (ISS) two days ago. Edoardo Amaldi will stay at the orbital outpost till late August, when it will re-enter and burn up in Earth's atmosphere after providing thousands of pounds of food and cargo to the crew aboard the ISS.

The Edoardo Amaldi ATV soars against the blackness of space as it approaches the ISS for docking on March 28, 2012.
NASA

The Edoardo Amaldi ATV slowly approaches the ISS for docking on March 28, 2012.
NASA

The Edoardo Amaldi ATV docks with the ISS on March 28, 2012.
NASA

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Endeavour's right Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod is re-installed onto the vehicle on March 28, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Endeavour: Retirement Update #3... A little more than a week since the left Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod was re-installed onto Endeavour at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the shuttle's right OMS pod was reattached to the vehicle today. This milestone comes a week after technicians inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (where Endeavour currently resides) began removing Main Propulsion System (MPS) tanks from the payload bay of the youngest spaceplane in NASA's retired fleet. The three main Auxiliary Power Units were removed from the orbiter on the same day the MPS tanks were uninstalled.

Endeavour's three main Auxiliary Power Units are inspected after they were removed from the orbiter on March 21, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The last major items that make up Endeavour's transition and retirement operation include the removal of additional MPS components from her engine compartment (for future use on NASA's Space Launch System), the installation of three Replica Shuttle Main Engines, the closing of her twin payload bay doors for the final time, and of course, the permanent powering-down of Endeavour's electrical systems. She is set to head to the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles this September.

The right OMS pod is lifted from its trailer for re-installation onto Endeavour on March 28, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The right OMS pod is lifted from its trailer for re-installation onto Endeavour on March 28, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The right OMS pod is re-installed onto Endeavour via crane on March 28, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Three of Endeavour's Main Propulsion System (MPS) tanks are ready to be placed in storage for future use on NASA's Space Launch System, on March 21, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Endeavour: Retirement Update #2... Last Wednesday, technicians inside Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF)-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida began removing Main Propulsion System tanks from the mid-body of Endeavour. After the tanks were lifted via crane from the payload bay of the shuttle, they will be secured and placed in storage for future use on NASA's next heavy-lift vehicle, the Space Launch System. Endeavour herself, meanwhile, continues to undergo transition and retirement processing inside OPF-2. By the end of next month, she and Atlantis will be the only orbiters left at KSC...as Discovery is less than a month away from being transported to her final home at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

Two of Endeavour's MPS tanks are ready to be removed from the orbiter and placed in temporary storage, on March 21, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Technicians inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 secure one of Endeavour's MPS tanks prior to being removed from the shuttle, on March 21, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

An MPS tank, which will be placed in temporary storage, is slowly lifted out of Endeavour's payload bay on March 21, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Edoardo Amaldi Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) undergoes launch preparations at the European Space Agency's launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.
ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Optique Video du CSG

Edoardo Amaldi is Station-Bound... At 9:34 PM, Pacific Daylight Time yesterday, an Ariane 5 rocket carrying the European Space Agency's (ESA) third and newest Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) blasted off from ESA's launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. Named after a late Italian physicist, Edoardo Amaldi will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) next Wednesday (March 28)...bringing to the outpost more than 4,800 pounds of fresh food, clothing and other cargo. Also, the ATV will transfer 1,900 pounds of propellant (out of 12,000 pounds of fuel the spacecraft has stored aboard) to the ISS’ onboard tanks that will allow it to re-boost to a higher orbit, as well as conduct collision avoidance maneuvers in case a piece of space junk poses a threat to the station. Edoardo Amaldi will also transfer 220 pounds of oxygen and air to the ISS, and replenish the outpost with 75 gallons of potable water.

Edoardo Amaldi is scheduled to undock from the ISS in late August, and will re-enter and burn up in Earth's atmosphere as designed shortly thereafter.

With the Edoardo Amaldi ATV aboard, an Ariane 5 rocket blasts off for space on March 23, 2012.
ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Endeavour's left Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod is prepared for re-installation onto the vehicle on March 19, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Endeavour: Retirement Update... Last Monday, the left Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod for Endeavour was prepared for re-installation onto the vehicle inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The pod's final attachment to Endeavour took place yesterday. Once the starboard OMS pod is reattached to the winged spaceship, the last major items to be installed onto Endeavour next should be her three Replica Shuttle Main Engines and the twin OMS nozzles. However, just like her sister ship Discovery—who will have her two OMS thrusters re-attached after she arrives at the Udvar-Hazy Center (Discovery's final home) in Virginia next month—Endeavour probably won't have her OMS engines back till after she arrives at her final port of call, the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles, in mid-September.

The left OMS pod is lifted from its trailer for re-installation onto Endeavour on March 19, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The left OMS pod is lifted from its trailer for re-installation onto Endeavour on March 19, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The left OMS pod heads toward Endeavour via crane in preparation for re-installation on March 20, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Monday, March 19, 2012

A computer-generated illustration showing where the barrel section is located on the Orion spacecraft.
NASA

Orion Update... Earlier today, the crew module barrel section for the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft arrived at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. The barrel section, which is 12.2 feet in diameter, will be attached to the EFT-1 vehicle prior to workers shipping the capsule to NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida this May. Once it arrives in Florida, final assembly work will be done on Orion at KSC's Operations and Checkout Building (as per the agreement that Lockheed Martin made with NASA when Lockheed won the Orion contract in 2006). Once construction is complete, 2013 will see Orion undergoing a multitude of post-assembly and pre-launch tests before it is mated to its Delta IV Heavy rocket for its much-anticipated test flight in 2014.

Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) personnel work on the Orion barrel section after it arrives at the New Orleans facility on March 19, 2012.
NASA

MAF personnel work on the Orion barrel section after it arrives at the New Orleans facility on March 19, 2012.
NASA

Saturday, March 17, 2012

SpaceX and NASA personnel enter a Dragon capsule mock-up to test new seats that would accommodate 7 astronauts during an actual mission.
SpaceX

SpaceX update... SpaceX recently tested new seats on its Dragon capsule that the company hopes will accommodate 7 astronauts once Dragon becomes human-rated for spaceflight. As you can see with the photos at the very bottom of this entry, the interior of the vehicle is quite roomy...and the 7 crew members should feel pretty comfortable if the day soon comes that the Dragon ferries them to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Dragon C2+/Falcon 9 vehicle that will hopefully head to the International Space Station on April 30.
Courtesy of Facebook

In terms of Dragon heading to the ISS on its next flight, the historic launch is still scheduled for April 30. If things go well during NASA's Flight Readiness Review for this mission on April 16, Dragon C2+ (formerly known as Dragon C2... NASA recently changed the designation since this mission is a combination of two test flights that SpaceX was originally supposed to conduct this year) will lift off on its Falcon 9 rocket at 9:22 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on the 30th...and arrive and berth with the orbital outpost that is the space shuttle’s legacy on May 3. Exciting times lay ahead.

SpaceX and NASA personnel plus a couple of astronauts show how comfortable it is inside the Dragon capsule.
Space X / Roger Gilbertson

4 of the Dragon capsule's 7 seats.
SpaceX

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Robonaut 2.
NASA

Photos of the Day... Robonaut 2 strikes a pose—which included a nice little moment where it spelled out "Hello world" in sign language on March 13.

Robonaut 2.
NASA

Robonaut 2.
NASA

Robonaut 2.
NASA

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Launch Abort Engine for Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft is tested in California on March 9, 2012.
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

Commercial Crew update... A significant milestone in regards to Boeing's attempt to send its own vehicle to the International Space Station took place last Friday.

****

NASA's Commercial Crew Partner Hot-Fires Launch Abort Engine (Press Release)

CANOGA PARK, Calif. -- Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which is supporting The Boeing Company during the development of its CST-100 spacecraft in NASA's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2), completed mission-duration hot-fire tests on a launch abort engine on Friday, March 9. The demonstration in California is one of many milestones Boeing is meeting for its funded Space Act Agreement during CCDev2.

"Boeing and its contractor, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, continue to make good progress on milestones supporting the development of their commercial crew transportation capabilities," said Ed Mango, Commercial Crew Program program manager. "The eventual availability of these capabilities from a U.S. domestic provider will enhance U.S. competitiveness and open new markets for the U.S. aerospace industry."

Boeing's Crew Space Transportation system is a reusable, capsule-shaped spacecraft designed to take up to seven people, or a combination of people and cargo, to low Earth orbit, including the International Space Station. Its service module and integrated launch abort propulsion system are designed to push the crew capsule to safety if an abort becomes necessary during launch or ascent. If an abort is not necessary, the system's propellant could be used for other portions of a mission, including re-boosting the orbit of the space station.

"We achieved full thrust on the 40,000-pound thrust-class engine while validating key operating conditions during engine start-up and shut down," said Terry Lorier, Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne's Commercial Crew Development program manager, who supports Boeing's program.

Under its fixed-price contract with Boeing, Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne is combining its Attitude Control Propulsion System thrusters from heritage spaceflight programs, Bantam abort engine design and storable propellant engineering capabilities. "The tests provided key thermal and analytical data," Lorier said. "We are well on our way to providing an important propulsion system for safe, reliable human spaceflight."

All of NASA's industry partners under CCDev2 continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

The Launch Abort Engine for Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft is tested in California on March 9, 2012.
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Space Launch System Update... Last week, workers at NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Mississippi returned the J-2X engine back to the A-2 Test Stand to begin a second round of testing. The J-2X had a successful test-firing at SSC last November. In that test, the J-2X provided continuous thrust for exactly 499.97 seconds.

The J-2X engine is designed to provide upper-stage power to the Space Launch System (SLS)...which should see its first flight take place in 2017. However, the J-2X itself will not be ready by then, and J-2X development will temporarily come to a halt (due to budget and schedule issues) while NASA employs other readily-available upper stage engines—most likely from Delta IV Heavy rockets—to provide thrust that will help send the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle to the Moon during the SLS flights of 2017 and 2021. 2017 will see an unmanned Orion vehicle conduct a lunar flyby while 2021 should see another Orion capsule, this time with astronauts aboard, circle the Moon once more.

The J-2X should be ready for the SLS' third voyage into space...sometime in the mid-2020s.

Workers at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi prepare to place the J-2X engine back onto the A-2 Test Stand for a second round of testing.
NASA / SSC

Workers at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi prepare to place the J-2X engine back onto the A-2 Test Stand for a second round of testing.
NASA / SSC

Friday, March 9, 2012

Space shuttle Discovery is rolled into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for temporary storage on March 9, 2012.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Discovery: Officially Ready for Retirement… Earlier this morning, NASA's veteran shuttle Discovery was rolled out of Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF)-1 at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida for the final time. Her next destination was the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where Discovery will stay for more than a month or so before being prepped and flown (via a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) to the Udvar-Hazy Center, Discovery's final home, in Virginia on April 17. Taking up residence in OPF-1 now is Atlantis, which was in storage inside the VAB for more than a month before today's shuttle swap. Atlantis will continue her transition and retirement operations inside the processing hangar...prior to being transported (via side streets) to her final home, the KSC Visitor Complex, as early as this November or as late as February of next year. Either way, the day will come when America's Spaceport no longer has historic winged spaceships on its main premises.

Space shuttle Discovery is rolled out of Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF)-1 on March 9, 2012, after her transition and retirement operations were completed.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Space shuttle Discovery is about to come head-to-head with sister ship Atlantis after she was rolled out of the VAB on March 9, 2012.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

KSC workers towing Discovery wait while Atlantis heads for OPF-1 on March 9, 2012.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Space shuttle Discovery heads for the VAB while Atlantis prepares to enter OPF-1 on March 9, 2012.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Space shuttle Discovery is about to enter the VAB for temporary storage on March 9, 2012.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Forward Reaction Control System (FRCS) is about to be re-installed onto space shuttle Endeavour on February 8, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Snapshots of Endeavour... Inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Endeavour continues to undergo transition and retirement activities prior to being sent to her final retirement home in downtown Los Angeles later this fall. Endeavour is scheduled to be flown to Southern California and transported (via side streets from Los Angeles International Airport) to the California Science Center, the museum where NASA's youngest orbiter will go on permanent public display, by this September.

Members of the news media take a look at Endeavour's payload bay during a special photo op for the shuttle on March 7, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

A news reporter interviews a KSC worker in front of Endeavour's engine compartment during a special photo op for the shuttle on March 7, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The FRCS is about to be re-installed onto space shuttle Endeavour on February 8, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The FRCS is re-installed onto space shuttle Endeavour on February 8, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The FRCS is re-installed onto space shuttle Endeavour on February 8, 2012.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Monday, March 5, 2012

Image of the Day... Here's a nice, simple illustration depicting the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle soaring in orbit above Mars.

An artist's concept depicting the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle soaring in orbit above Mars.
NASA

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Orion Update... Here are more photos from February 29's successful parachute test:

An Orion model is deployed from a C-17 aircraft for a parachute deployment test on February 29, 2012.
NASA

The Orion model falls away from the C-17 as parachutes begin to deploy from the spacecraft on February 29, 2012.
NASA

Parachutes deploy from the Orion model as it free falls to the ground on February 29, 2012.
NASA

The three main chutes are about to be deployed from the Orion model on February 29, 2012.
NASA

The three main chutes successfully deploy from the Orion model on February 29, 2012.
NASA

The Orion model safely touches down at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona following the successful parachute deployment test on February 29, 2012.
NASA