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Monday, October 28, 2013

Orion Has Been Activated!

Technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida activate the Orion EFT-1 vehicle for the first time.
NASA

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Comes to Life (Press Release)

NASA's first-ever deep spacecraft, Orion, has been powered on for the first time, marking a major milestone in the final year of preparations for flight.

Orion's avionics system was installed on the crew module and powered up for a series of systems tests at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. Preliminary data indicate Orion's vehicle management computer, as well as its innovative power and data distribution system -- which use state-of-the-art networking capabilities -- performed as expected.

All of Orion's avionics systems will be put to the test during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), targeted to launch in the fall of 2014.

"Orion will take humans farther than we've ever been before, and in just about a year we're going to send the Orion test vehicle into space," said Dan Dumbacher, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development in Washington. "The work we're doing now, the momentum we're building, is going to carry us on our first trip to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. No other vehicle currently being built can do that, but Orion will, and EFT-1 is the first step."

Orion provides the United States an entirely new human space exploration capability -- a flexible system that can launch crew and cargo missions, extend human presence beyond low-Earth orbit, and enable new missions of exploration throughout our solar system.

EFT-1 is a two-orbit, four-hour mission that will send Orion, uncrewed, more than 3,600 miles above the Earth's surface --15 times farther than the International Space Station. During the test, Orion will return to Earth, enduring temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit while traveling 20,000 miles per hour, faster than any current spacecraft capable of carrying humans.

The data gathered during the flight will inform design decisions, validate existing computer models and guide new approaches to space systems development. The information gathered from this test also will aid in reducing the risks and costs of subsequent Orion flights.

"It’s been an exciting ride so far, but we're really getting to the good part now," said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. "This is where we start to see the finish line. Our team across the country has been working hard to build the hardware that goes into Orion, and now the vehicle and all our plans are coming to life."

Throughout the past year, custom-designed components have been arriving at Kennedy for installation on the spacecraft -- more than 66,000 parts so far. The crew module portion already has undergone testing to ensure it will withstand the extremes of the space environment. Preparation also continues on the service module and launch abort system that will be integrated next year with the Orion crew module for the flight test.

The completed Orion spacecraft will be installed on a Delta IV heavy rocket for EFT-1. NASA is also developing a new rocket, the Space Launch System, which will power subsequent missions into deep space, beginning with Exploration Mission-1 in 2017.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Orion ground test article undergoes processing inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 22, 2013.
Dimitri Gerondidakis

Friday, October 25, 2013

Preparing For Orion's Future at Kennedy Space Center...

The Orion ground test article undergoes processing inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 22, 2013.
Dimitri Gerondidakis

Pathfinding Operations for Orion Spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center (Press Release - October 24)

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Orion ground test vehicle has been lifted high in the air by crane in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The ground test vehicle is being used for pathfinding operations, including simulated manufacturing, assembly and stacking procedures.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The first unpiloted test flight of Orion, Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 is scheduled to launch in 2014. EFT-1 will be Orion's first mission, which will send an uncrewed spacecraft 3,600 miles into Earth's orbit. As part of the test flight, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of approximately 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Orion ground test article undergoes processing inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 22, 2013.
Dimitri Gerondidakis

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cygnus Completes Its Mission at the ISS...

The International Space Station's (ISS) robotic arm grapples the Cygnus Orb-D1 spacecraft prior to its unberthing from the outpost on October 22, 2013.
NASA / Karen Nyberg

Cygnus Releases from International Space Station (Press Release - October 22)

Expedition 37 crew members aboard the International Space Station released Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft from the station's robotic arm at 7:31 a.m. EDT on Oct. 22. Orbital Sciences engineers now will conduct a series of planned burns and maneuvers to move Cygnus toward a destructive re-entry in Earth's atmosphere Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Cygnus had been attached to the space station's Harmony module for 23 days. The spacecraft delivered about 1,300 pounds (589 kilograms) of cargo, including food, clothing and student experiments, on a demonstration cargo resupply mission to the station.

Cygnus was launched on Orbital's Antares rocket on Sept. 18 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The ISS' robotic arm grapples Cygnus Orb-D1 prior to its unberthing from the outpost on October 22, 2013.
NASA / Karen Nyberg

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Grasshopper Climbs Higher and Higher...

As an unmanned Hexacopter hovers nearby, the Grasshopper test vehicle soars toward an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) above McGregor, Texas, on October 7, 2013.
SpaceX

Just thought I'd share these screenshots from SpaceX's newest video showing its Grasshopper test vehicle soaring to an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) above McGregor, Texas, on October 7. This remarkable footage was taken by an unmanned Hexacopter that hovered near the experimental Falcon 9 rocket stage during its flight. Good stuff.

As the unmanned Hexacopter hovers above, the Grasshopper test vehicle lifts off from its pad in McGregor, Texas, to fly to an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) on October 7, 2013.
SpaceX

As the unmanned Hexacopter hovers nearby, the Grasshopper test vehicle soars toward an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) above McGregor, Texas, on October 7, 2013.
SpaceX

As the unmanned Hexacopter hovers nearby, the Grasshopper test vehicle soars toward an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) above McGregor, Texas, on October 7, 2013.
SpaceX

As the unmanned Hexacopter hovers nearby, the Grasshopper test vehicle begins to descend after reaching an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) above McGregor, Texas, on October 7, 2013.
SpaceX

As the unmanned Hexacopter hovers nearby, the Grasshopper test vehicle begins to descend after reaching an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) above McGregor, Texas, on October 7, 2013.
SpaceX

As the unmanned Hexacopter hovers nearby, the Grasshopper test vehicle descends after reaching an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) above McGregor, Texas, on October 7, 2013.
SpaceX

As the unmanned Hexacopter hovers nearby, the Grasshopper test vehicle is about to touch down on its pad after reaching an altitude of 744 meters (2,441 feet) above McGregor, Texas, on October 7, 2013.
SpaceX


Monday, October 14, 2013

Endeavour Fest...

Visiting space shuttle Endeavour inside the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, on October 13, 2013.

Yesterday, I went back to the California Science Center in Los Angeles to commemorate the one-year anniversary of space shuttle Endeavour's arrival at her permanent museum home. Along with once again seeing the orbiter in person, the SpaceX Dragon capsule that was on display in downtown L.A. four months ago was also shown at the science center. And so was the Red Bull Stratos capsule as well as the pressure suit worn by Felix Baumgartner during his space jump above New Mexico one year ago today (which is also the exact date that Endeavour rolled into the Samuel Oschin Pavilion after a three-day trip from Los Angeles International Airport). Click here to view images of the Red Bull Stratos exhibit. Needless to say, L.A. was the place to be this weekend to see displays showing off the past, present and future of aerospace and human spaceflight... That is all.

Visiting space shuttle Endeavour inside the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, on October 13, 2013.

Posing with SpaceX's Dragon C1 vehicle at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 13, 2013.

SpaceX's Dragon C1 vehicle on display outside of the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 13, 2013.