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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Paving The Way for 2014...

With about 12 months to go before the Orion capsule makes its debut voyage into space on Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 next September, works continues at a feverish pace to assemble the vehicle and make it flight-worthy for its 2014 demonstration. In the pic below, two technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida work on a thruster that will soon be installed onto Orion...as part of its Reaction Control System that will stir the capsule in deep space.

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, two technicians work on a set of thrusters that will be installed onto the Orion capsule...in preparation for Exploration Flight Test 1 in September of 2014.
NASA

Monday, August 26, 2013

Exploration Mission 1

A computer-generated image depicting solid rocket booster separation during the Space Launch System's maiden flight on Exploration Mission 1...scheduled for December 17, 2017.
NASA

Images of the Day... Just thought I'd share these video screenshots depicting the maiden flight of the Space Launch System as NASA plans to use its new heavy-lift rocket to send an unmanned Orion spacecraft on a lunar flyby of the Moon. Exploration Mission 1 is scheduled to occur on December 17, 2017.

A computer-generated image depicting the Space Launch System about to lift off from its pad at LC-39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...beginning Exploration Mission 1 in 2017.
NASA

A computer-generated image depicting the Space Launch System soaring in the air as it begins Exploration Mission 1...scheduled for December 17, 2017.
NASA

A computer-generated image depicting the Orion spacecraft and its Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage separating from the Space Launch System's first stage motor...beginning Exploration Mission 1 on December 17, 2017.
NASA

A computer-generated image depicting the Orion spacecraft as its flies past the Moon several days after the launch of Exploration Mission 1...on December 17, 2017.
NASA

A computer-generated image depicting the Orion spacecraft firing its main engine as it heads back to Earth...following a flyby of the Moon during Exploration Mission 1 in 2017.
NASA

A computer-generated image depicting the Orion spacecraft separating from its service module prior to re-entering Earth's atmosphere...following a flyby of the Moon during Exploration Mission 1 in 2017.
NASA

A computer-generated image depicting the Orion spacecraft as it is about to splash down into the Pacific Ocean following parachute deployment...concluding Exploration Mission 1 in 2017.
NASA

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Dream Chaser Is Airborne Once More...

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser vehicle is hoisted into the air by an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter during a captive-carry test conducted at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California...on August 22, 2013.
NASA / Carla Thomas

NASA Partner Completes Second Dream Chaser Captive-Carry Test (Press Release - August 22)

NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo., successfully completed a captive-carry test of the Dream Chaser spacecraft Thursday, Aug. 22, at the agency's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.

During the two-hour test, an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter picked up a test version of the Dream Chaser flight vehicle and flew it a distance of three miles over a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base at a maximum altitude of approximately 12,400 feet. The spacecraft followed the projected path it will fly during future approach and landing tests at Dryden. Dream Chaser's flight computer, along with its guidance, navigation and control systems were tested. The landing gear and nose skid also were deployed during flight.

"Today is the first time we have flown a fully functional Dream Chaser flight vehicle, and we are very pleased with the results," said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC's Space Systems. "Our team represents the very best in collaboration between industry and government. We have worked closely with NASA, Dryden and the Air Force to reach this important milestone in our flight test program. We look forward to seeing Dream Chaser land on the same runway as the space shuttle orbiters once did as we move forward in the development of the next-generation crew transportation vehicle."

This was the second captive-carry test of the Dream Chaser flight vehicle and its first captive-carry at Dryden. Data obtained from the test will provide SNC valuable information about the Dream Chaser hardware and ground operations. The test paves the way for upcoming free-flight tests at Dryden this fall as part of the company's agreements with NASA.

SNC is working with NASA to develop Dream Chaser, planned to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, through the agency's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) and Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiatives. New commercial spaceflight capabilities being developed by NASA partners through these initiatives eventually could provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

"It's great to see real American-made hardware taking flight right here in the U.S.," said Ed Mango, NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) manager. "This is just the start of an exciting flight test campaign for SNC's Dream Chaser at Dryden." Work leading up to the captive-carry test included an evaluation of the performance of Dream Chaser's braking and landing systems, during ground tow tests, at increasing speeds. SNC engineers also verified the spacecraft's computer and software systems, instrumentation and steering performance. The company held a thorough flight test readiness review with engineers, technical experts and representatives from NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

SNC's CCDev2 Space Act Agreement with NASA is set to culminate with an upcoming approach-and-landing free-flight test at Dryden. SNC also is on track to complete all 12 of its CCiCap milestones by the summer of 2014. All of NASA's industry partners, including SNC, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser vehicle is hoisted into the air by an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter (not shown) during a captive-carry test conducted at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California...on August 22, 2013.
NASA / Carla Thomas

Thursday, August 22, 2013

NASA's New Take On The Asteroid Initiative

Computer animation depicting an Orion vehicle about to dock with the asteroid retrieval spacecraft.
NASA

Check out these new illustrations plus a video depicting the asteroid retrieval mission that NASA is planning to undertake about a decade from now. Funding for this endeavor has yet to be secured, but this flight promises to be an intriguing mission (even if it's still not on the same level as setting foot on the Moon once more, or traveling to a Near-Earth Object that is in its natural, more distant orbit) if it actually gets off the ground.

Computer animation depicting an Orion vehicle flying past the Moon as it heads for the asteroid retrieval spacecraft.
NASA

Computer animation depicting an Orion vehicle about to dock with the asteroid retrieval spacecraft.
NASA

Computer animation depicting an astronaut exiting the Orion vehicle to head to the captured asteroid.
NASA

Computer animation depicting two spacewalking astronauts about to extract samples from the captured asteroid.
NASA

Computer animation depicting a spacewalking astronaut extracting samples from the captured asteroid.
NASA


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Space Explorers of Tomorrow...

Introducing the 2013 Astronaut Class (Media Release)

Members of NASA's newest astronaut class pose with an Orion capsule at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. Pictured back row, left to right: Tyler (Nick) Hague, Jessica Meir, Christina Hammock, Nicole Mann, Victor Glover. Picture front row, left to right: Andrew Morgan, Anne McClain, Josh Cassada.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The newest members of NASA's Astronaut Corps pose for a group photo in front of an Orion mockup at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas...on August 20, 2013.
NASA

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Grasshopper Continues Its High-Flying Act...

The Grasshopper does a lateral maneuver shortly after launch on August 13, 2013.
SpaceX

Check out this amazing video showing SpaceX's Grasshopper test vehicle as it soared 250 meters (820 feet) above its pad at the Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas on August 13. While the altitude for this latest demonstration was a bit lower than the 325 meters (1,066 feet) the Grasshopper achieved in a test two months ago, the craft enjoyed a new milestone when it conducted a 100-meter lateral maneuver in the air before making a pinpoint landing at the center of its pad. The steering capability that the Grasshopper showed last Tuesday will be an integral part of landing a reusable rocket precisely back at its pad after reentering Earth's atmosphere following launch. Yet another amazing accomplishment achieved by SpaceX this year.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Recovering Orion at Sea...

A mockup of the Orion spacecraft is brought into the well deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington during recovery tests on August 13, 2013.
NASA / U.S. Navy

A few days ago, U.S. Navy teams practiced recovery operations for the Orion spacecraft when they towed a mockup of the vehicle into the well deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington. Unlike past NASA capsules like Apollo, Orion will not rely on helicopters to recover it from the sea after re-entering Earth's atmosphere at the end of a mission. With the demonstration taking place at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the Navy is preparing for next year's Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1...which will see Orion venturing more than 3,000 miles into space before returning to Earth and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. EFT-1 is set for September of 2014.

U.S. Navy teams prepare to secure a mockup of the Orion spacecraft during recovery tests at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, on August 13, 2013.
NASA / U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy teams prepare to secure a mockup of the Orion spacecraft during recovery tests at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, on August 13, 2013.
NASA / U.S. Navy

Members of the media watch as a mockup of the Orion spacecraft is secured inside the well deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia...on August 15, 2013.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

U.S. Navy recovery teams return to the USS Arlington after successfully securing a mockup of the Orion spacecraft inside the well deck of the amphibious transport dock...on August 13, 2013.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The Orion mockup after it was brought into the well deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington during recovery tests at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia...on August 13, 2013.
NASA / U.S. Navy

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Milestone Reached for the Dream Chaser...

Dusk falls on NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California after Sierra Nevada completed tow testing for its Dream Chaser vehicle, on August 13, 2013.
NASA / Ken Ulbrich

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser Completes Ground Tow Tests in Preparation for Upcoming Approach and Landing Test (Press Release)

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces the completion of the Dream Chaser Space System tow testing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The ground tow tests were conducted in preparation for the upcoming approach and landing test scheduled for the third quarter 2013.

The tow tests were performed in preparation for pre-negotiated, paid-for-performance milestones with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which is facilitating U.S. companies' development of spacecraft and rockets that can launch from American soil.

"We are very excited to complete this series of tests and achieve another critical milestone for our Dream Chaser flight test program," said Steve Lindsey, SNC's Space Systems senior director of programs and former NASA astronaut. "Watching Dream Chaser undergo tow testing on the same runway where we landed several space shuttle orbiters brings a great amount of pride to our Dream Chaser team. We are another step closer to restoring America’s capability to return U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station."

The Dream Chaser performed four sets of sequential low and high speed ground tow tests over the course of two months. The test sequences were completed at 10 mph, 20 mph, 40 mph and 60 mph to verify integrated spacecraft performance under landing and rollout conditions. The systems verifications included: flight computer and flight software, instrumentation, guidance, navigation, and control, braking and steering performance, flight control surface actuation, mission control and remote commanding capability, and landing gear dynamics.

The tests ensure the Dream Chaser would operate properly upon landing and that the spacecraft will come to a controlled stop after touching down on the runway. SNC's Dream Chaser team is now preparing for the next CCP tests including a captive carry test, and an approach and landing free flight test, all of which are scheduled for later this fall.

SNC is one of three companies funded under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiative to develop a next generation crew transportation vehicle. The Dream Chaser is on the forefront of the commercial human spaceflight industry, offering safe, reliable, and cost effective crew and critical cargo transportation to low-Earth orbit.

Source: Sierra Nevada Corporation

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Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser vehicle undergoes a 60-mph tow test at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California, on August 13, 2013.
NASA / Ken Ulbrich

Saturday, August 10, 2013

KOUNOTORI 4 Arrives at the Space Station...

Japan's KOUNOTORI 4 spacecraft floats in orbital darkness prior to being berthed to the International Space Station on August 9, 2013.
NASA

Here are photos of Japan's latest H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) before and after it was successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday. The HTV-4 will stay at the ISS for at least 35 days...and then conclude its mission with a fiery and destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

Space station crew members Chris Cassidy and Karen Nyberg pose for a snapshot while KOUNOTORI 4 is seen floating outside of the Cupola, on August 9, 2013.
NASA

KOUNOTORI 4 floats above the Earth prior to being berthed to the International Space Station on August 9, 2013.
NASA

KOUNOTORI 4 is about to be grappled by the space station's robotic arm prior to being berthed to the orbital outpost on August 9, 2013.
NASA

KOUNOTORI 4 is grappled by the space station's robotic arm prior to being berthed to the orbital outpost on August 9, 2013.
NASA

KOUNOTORI 4 is successfully berthed to the International Space Station on August 9, 2013.
NASA

Monday, August 5, 2013

NASA's SLS: Visualizing 2017...

An illustration depicting the Space Launch System (SLS) undergoing assembly inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / MSFC

NASA recently released these various illustrations depicting the Space Launch System (SLS) undergoing assembly and then being transported to its pad at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B in Florida. Very interesting concept artwork... Here's hoping that the SLS will make these a reality four years from now.

An illustration depicting the SLS being transported from the VAB to Launch Complex (LC)-39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / MSFC

An illustration depicting the SLS poised for launch at LC-39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / MSFC

An illustration depicting the SLS lifting off from LC-39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / MSFC

Saturday, August 3, 2013

KOUNOTORI 4 Lifts Off!

JAXA's KOUNOTORI 4 spacecraft is launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan towards the International Space Station (ISS), on August 4, 2013 (Japan Standard Time).
JAXA

Earlier today, the fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) to be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) departed from the Tanegashima Space Center in the southern part of the country. Carrying 11,900 pounds worth of cargo, HTV-4 will arrive and be berthed at the International Space Station this Friday, August 9.

JAXA's KOUNOTORI 4 spacecraft is about to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan towards the ISS, on August 4, 2013 (JST).
JAXA

JAXA's KOUNOTORI 4 spacecraft is launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan towards the ISS, on August 4, 2013 (JST).
JAXA

With dawn arriving, JAXA's KOUNOTORI 4 spacecraft is launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan towards the ISS...on August 4, 2013 (JST).
Photo courtesy of Itaimecom - Twitter.com

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Space Launch System Reaches A Milestone...

A composite image of the 'Block I' crew version of the Space Launch System (SLS), with the Moon looming high above, lifting off from its pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
NASA

NASA's Space Launch System Completes Preliminary Design Review (Press Release)

NASA has achieved a major milestone in its effort to build the nation's next heavy-lift launch vehicle by successfully completing the Space Launch System (SLS) preliminary design review.

Senior experts and engineers from across the agency concluded Wednesday the design, associated production and ground support plans for the SLS heavy-lift rocket are technically and programmatically capable of fulfilling the launch vehicle's mission objectives. NASA is developing the SLS and Orion spacecraft to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, with the flexibility to launch spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, including to an asteroid and Mars.

"The review had to be incredibly detailed, so our plans for vehicle integration, flight software, test, verification and operations will result in a safe, affordable and sustainable vehicle design," said Todd May, manager of the SLS Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

This review concludes the initial design and technology development phase. The next milestone in the continuing verification process is Key Decision Point-C, in which NASA will grant the program authority to move from formulation to implementation.

"The agency not only reviews the program internally, but also seeks help from many external sources," said LeRoy Cain, head of the independent standing review board for SLS. "There are several external NASA stakeholders and organizations -- including Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and the public -- who require a thorough, truly independent look at these programs as they transition through their lifecycle."

People from across the country, including experts on 11 different review teams, participated in the design review process, which included analysis of approximately 200 documents and 15 terabytes of data. NASA's industry partners -- The Boeing Company of Chicago, ATK of Brigham City, Utah, and Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif. -- also contributed to this successful checkpoint, and will continue to work to meet all program milestones.

In July 2012, the SLS Program completed a combined system requirements review and system definition review, which set requirements of the overall launch vehicle system. That successful completion confirmed the SLS was ready to move from concept to design. All element-level preliminary design reviews for the SLS core stage, boosters, engines and spacecraft and payload integration have been completed successfully.

"In two short years from the first announcement of the Space Launch System, we are at a milestone that validates the detailed design and integration of the system," said Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "You can feel the momentum of the workforce as we produce test hardware today. We are creating a national capability, and we will get this country, and the world, exploring deep space."

The initial 70-metric-ton version of SLS will stand 321 feet tall, provide 8.4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, and carry 154,000 pounds of payload. The rocket is scheduled for its first mission, Exploration Mission 1, in 2017 at which time it will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft. The mission's goal is to demonstrate the integrated system performance of the SLS rocket and spacecraft before a crewed flight in 2021.

The SLS will be modified from the 70-metric-ton version into the most powerful rocket ever built, a 130-metric-ton version, which will be capable of lifting 286,000 pounds. NASA plans to engage industry peers to further refine the 130-metric-ton design to support any destination, any payload and any mission to deep space.

Source: NASA.Gov

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A composite image of the 'Block II' cargo version of the SLS, with the Moon looming high above, lifting off from its pad at NASA's KSC in Florida.
NASA / MSFC