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Friday, January 31, 2014

Honoring Our Fallen Astronauts...

At Arlington National Cemetery, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden participates in a wreath laying ceremony as part of the agency's Day of Remembrance...on January 31, 2014.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Day of Remembrance (Press Release)

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden participates in a wreath laying ceremony as part of NASA's Day of Remembrance, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, at Arlington National Cemetery. The wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration.

The crew of Apollo 1.

President Barack Obama on NASA's Day of Remembrance

On this Day of Remembrance, we join the American people in honoring the men and women of NASA who have given their lives in our nation’s space program. Our exploration of space has expanded our knowledge of the universe, improved our lives here on Earth and been a source of inspiration and pride for generations of Americans. Today, we remember all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in these endeavors.

We hope that the families, friends and colleagues of those we’ve lost will find some comfort in knowing that their loved ones will always be heroes to a grateful nation – that their passion and courage continue to inspire us to push the boundaries of our imagination and meet grand challenges with joy, here on Earth and among the heavens. Guided by their brave example, the United States will remain a nation of explorers, now and forever.


The crew of mission STS-51L.

Message from the Administrator: Day of Remembrance

Today we pause in our normal routines and reflect on the contributions of those who lost their lives trying to take our nation farther into space. On our annual Day of Remembrance, please join me in giving thanks for the legacy of the STS-107 Columbia crew; the STS-51L Challenger crew; the Apollo 1 crew; and Mike Adams, the first in-flight fatality of the space program as he piloted the X-15 No. 3 on a research flight.

These men and women were our friends, family and colleagues, and we will never forget their lives and passion to push us farther and achieve more. They have our everlasting love, respect and gratitude.

Today, their legacy lives on as the International Space Station fulfills its promise to help us learn to live and work in space and move farther into the solar system. We see our lost friends in the strivings of so many missions to take humans to new destinations and to unlock the secrets of our universe. And we honor them by making our dreams of a better tomorrow reality and by acting to improve life for all of humanity.

Let us join together as one NASA Family, along with the entire world, in paying our respects, and honoring the memories of our dear friends. They are with us still on this grand journey.

Charlie B.


Source: NASA.Gov

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The crew of mission STS-107.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Space Launch System Update...

A scale model of NASA's Space Launch System is ignited for five seconds to measure the affects acoustic noise and pressure will have on the vehicle at liftoff.
NASA / MSFC / David Olive

NASA Ramps Up Space Launch System Sound Suppression Testing (Press Release - January 28)

The first round of acoustic tests on a scale model of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is underway. The tests will allow engineers to verify the design of the sound suppression system being developed for the agency's new deep space rocket.

The testing, which began Jan. 16 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will focus on how low- and high-frequency sound waves affect the rocket on the launch pad. This testing will provide critical data about how the powerful noise generated by the engines and boosters may affect the rocket and crew, especially during liftoff.

"We can verify the launch environments the SLS vehicle was designed around and determine the effectiveness of the sound suppression systems," said Doug Counter, technical lead for the acoustic testing. "Scale model testing on the space shuttle was very comparable to what actually happened to the vehicle at liftoff. That's why we do the scale test."

During the tests, a 5-percent scale model of the SLS is ignited for five seconds at a time while microphones, located on the vehicle and similarly scaled mobile launcher, tower and exhaust duct, collect acoustic data. A thrust plate, side restraints and cables keep the model secure.

Engineers are running many of the evaluations with a system known as rainbirds, huge water nozzles on the mobile launcher at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During launch, 450,000 gallons of water will be released from five rainbirds just seconds before booster ignition. Water is the main component of the sound suppression system because it helps protect the launch vehicle and its payload from damage caused by acoustical energy. SLS with NASA's new Orion spacecraft on top will be launched from Kennedy on deep space missions to destinations such as an asteroid and Mars.

A series of acoustics tests also is taking place at the University of Texas at Austin. Engineers are evaluating the strong sounds and vibrations that occur during the ignition process for the RS-25 engines that will power SLS.

First to be tested is the rocket's core stage, which houses many of the launch vehicle's critical pieces including the flight computer and avionics. The test of the fully assembled vehicle, which will include the solid rocket motors, will be conducted later this year.

The SLS core stage model has four liquid oxygen-hydrogen thrusters that simulate the four RS-25 engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif. Two Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) Rocket Assisted Take-Off (RATO) motors represent the five-segment solid rocket motors on SLS. ATK, based in Promontory, Utah, is building the boosters. The motors burn similarly to how a solid motor would burn for the initial SLS vehicle configuration.

The first flight test of the SLS in 2017 will be configured for 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 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

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Future Plans for the Dream Chaser...

An artist's concept of Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft atop an Atlas V launch vehicle.
Sierra Nevada Corp.

Sierra Nevada Corporation Announces New Space Plans for NASA's Kennedy Space Center (Press Release)

In the latest example of NASA Kennedy Space Center's transformation into a multi-user spaceport, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo., announced Thursday steps it will take to prepare for a November 2016 orbital flight of its Dream Chaser spacecraft from Florida's Space Coast.

The announcement included the purchase of an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) for the launch, sharing the Operations and Checkout (O&C) development and testing facility with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, establishing an operation center at Kennedy Space Center and using the former Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) runway at Kennedy. The steps are considered substantial for SNC and important to plans by NASA and Space Florida for Kennedy's new availability to both commercial and government customers.

"Today's announcement is the latest major milestone in the transformation of the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st century launch complex, serving both private sector and government users," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "I salute Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana for his leadership in transitioning the space coast for the future, and applaud Sierra Nevada Corporation on their decision to carry out their ground-breaking work at Kennedy."

SNC said it plans to work with ULA to launch the company's winged Dream Chaser spacecraft into orbit from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"SNC is thrilled to confirm a launch date for our country’s return to orbital human spaceflight and the restart of human spaceflight operations from Florida’s Space Coast," said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. "We could not have done this without the spirit and engagement from our national and state governments, the best aerospace companies in the industry, and several major universities, which all hail from over 30 states. Together these passionate people will return our astronauts to space on American spacecraft and rockets launched from America’s space coast right here in Florida."

The Dream Chaser spacecraft is designed to carry crew and critical cargo to destinations, as well as perform servicing and science in low-Earth orbit. SNC said intends to complete Dream Chaser missions with a landing on the 3.5-mile runway at the SLF. Space Florida, which will operate the SLF in the future, will negotiate the terms and conditions for the runway's use with SNC.

"We are pleased to see continued growth of the State's investment into KSC facilities like the O&C," said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. "It is clear that the future of commercial space growth is happening right now in Florida and we couldn't be happier to work with companies like Sierra Nevada to realize their Florida-based expansion goals."

The company said it plans to prepare the Dream Chaser spacecraft in the high bay of the O&C building at Kennedy, with Lockheed Martin performing the work. The facility also is used for the development, assembly and testing of NASA's deep space Orion spacecraft. Dream Chaser testing will take place without disrupting Orion, NASA's flagship human exploration vehicle.

"The O&C is a state-of-the-art facility that will greatly enhance Dream Chaser’s future operations through an innovative co-use plan with Orion," said Vice President and General Manager, Civil Space, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, James H. Crocker. "The result will maximize efficiency for both the Dream Chaser spacecraft and Orion and will provide continuity for our highly trained, motivated and certified workforce."

SNC also plans to lease office space at Exploration Park, located just outside Kennedy’s gates.

"We have been diligent in our efforts, and I consider this a strong vote of confidence from a company that expects to be a major force in the future of human spaceflight," said Bob Cabana, Kennedy center director. "Sierra Nevada Corporation will find in our workforce and facilities the same dynamic and professional people who have made successful missions from here for more than 50 years."

Cabana said SNC's involvement with the Florida spaceport shows the conversion to a 21st Century spaceport is succeeding, although work remains to keep the transformation on pace.

"We are honored that Sierra Nevada Corporation has reserved a proven Atlas V to launch its first flight test in 2016,” said Michael Gass, United Launch Alliance president and CEO. “With 42 successful missions spanning a decade of operational service, the commercially-developed Atlas V is uniquely qualified to provide launch services for the Crew Transportation System. Because Atlas is already certified by NASA to fly the nation’s most complex exploration missions, ULA is able to provide a wealth of flight data, design implementation, detailed system and sub-system analysis, qualification and certification documentation to support the Atlas V for human spaceflight."

The Dream Chaser spacecraft is deep into development of flight hardware and specific plans ranging from ground support equipment to what to include in a mission operations center.

"I had the privilege of piloting and commanding five space shuttle flights as a NASA astronaut," said Steve Lindsey, former NASA astronaut and SNC’s senior director and Dream Chaser program manager. "This included the last flight of Discovery which was processed, launched, and on March 9, 2011, made its final landing at the SLF after 39 flights and 148 million space miles. Mark, the entire SNC Dream Chaser team, and I look forward to seeing Dream Chaser continue this legacy from Discovery when it flies in 2016."

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft docked to the International Space Station.
NASA / Sierra Nevada Corporation

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Prepping for EFT-1...

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians prepare Orion’s service module for installation of the three fairings that will protect it during launch this September...when Orion embarks on its first mission, EFT-1.
NASA

At Your Service: Orion Service Module Complete (Press Release)

The second of three major parts of the spacecraft that will launch into orbit on Orion’s first mission this fall is complete.

Work has been progressing steadily on all three main parts of Orion – the service module, the crew module and the launch abort system – and this month the service module joined the launch abort system in crossing the finish line.

Orion’s service module sits below the crew module and above the rocket that will launch Orion into space. The recently completed service module, which will fly during Orion's first test flight, is a structural representation and will lack many of the key capabilities of the final service module. Service modules on future missions will provide power, heat rejection, the in-space propulsion capability for orbital transfer, attitude control and high-altitude ascent aborts. It will also house water, oxygen and nitrogen for the trip. But because Orion’s first mission will be a four-hour-long, unmanned flight test, many of those systems aren’t needed just yet. Instead, this first service module will primarily be responsible for the structural support involved in carrying the crew module and launch abort system as they’re launched into space.

Since the crew module and launch abort system together weigh more than 37,000 pounds at liftoff, that’s no easy task. The crew module gets some help with it from three massive panels, called fairings, that encase the service module and shield it from heat, wind and acoustics. They support half of the crew module and launch abort system’s weight during launch and ascent, before they’re jettisoned more than 100 miles up. After that, the loads on Orion are much lower and can be carried by the service module alone.

To ensure that the service module and its fairings are up to the challenge, it will spend two weeks in February undergoing tests. Engineers will carefully apply small amounts of stress to the structure to test its stiffness and verify it reacts as predicted. If it does, they’ll up the ante, pushing and twisting it from multiple directions.

If it can withstand the strain, the engineers will know it’s ready for flight.

The launch abort system was completed in December, and the crew module is coming right along. Engineers at Kennedy Space Center recently completed the complex welding that’s required to make sure Orion’s propulsion and life support fluid systems are leak tight.

To minimize the number of mechanical joints, which are invitations for leaks, the fluid systems are welded together as one piece into a virtual spaghetti bowl that surrounds the Orion pressure vessel. The process required more than 260 individual welds in complicated geometries, each of which was then X-rayed to ensure that it was good.

Over the next three months, Orion’s thermal protection system will be installed – tiles on the top of the crew module and the largest heat shield of its kind ever built. With that in place, the crew module, service module and launch abort system will be ready to mate this spring.

Source: NASA.Gov

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At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians work on Orion’s crew module inside a temporary clean room at the Operations and Checkout facility.
NASA

Friday, January 17, 2014

Neil Armstrong's Legacy...

Neil Armstrong poses in front of the X-15 aircraft at the Dryden Flight Research Center...which will soon bear the Apollo 11 astronaut's name.
NASA

NASA Center Renamed in Honor of Neil A. Armstrong (Press Release)

This photograph shows Neil Armstrong next to the X-15 rocket-powered aircraft after a research flight. President Barack Obama has signed HR 667, the congressional resolution that redesignates NASA's Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, into law. The resolution also names Dryden's Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. Both Hugh Dryden and Neil Armstrong are aerospace pioneers whose contributions are historic to NASA and the nation as a whole. NASA is developing a timeline to implement the name change.

Neil A. Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Purdue University and a master's in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He was a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952. During the Korean War he flew 78 combat missions. In 1955 he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA's predecessor, as a research pilot at Lewis Laboratory in Cleveland.

Armstrong later transferred to NACA's High Speed Flight Research Station at Edwards AFB, Calif., later named NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. As a research project test pilot over the course of seven years at the center from 1955 through 1962, he was in the forefront of the development of many high-speed aircraft. He was one of only 12 pilots to fly the hypersonic X-15 as well as the first of 12 men to later walk on the moon. In all, he flew more than 200 different types of aircraft.

Source: NASA.Gov

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NASA aircraft on display at the Dryden Flight Research Center...which will soon bear Neil Armstrong's name.
NASA

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Orion Update...

The Orion's parachutes are about to be deployed above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, on January 16, 2014.
NASA

NASA Tests Orion Spacecraft Parachute Jettison over Arizona (Press Release)

Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA's Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight.

The test was the first to give engineers in-air data on the performance of the system that jettisons Orion's forward bay cover. The cover is a shell that fits over Orion's crew module to protect the spacecraft during launch, orbital flight and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. When Orion returns from space, the cover must come off before the spacecraft's parachutes can deploy. It must be jettisoned high above the ground in order for the parachutes to unfurl.

"This was a tough one," said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. "We'd done our homework, of course, but there were elements here that could only be tested in the air, with the entire system working together. It's one of the most complicated tests that we'll do, so we were all excited to see it work just as it was meant to."

Previous parachute tests at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona tested the performance of the parachutes in various conditions without a forward bay cover. Adding the cover and its jettison, along with the deployment of three additional parachutes to pull the cover away from the crew module and lower it to the ground, added a level of complexity to the testing.

"The parachute deployment and forward bay cover jettisons are two of the most difficult things for us to model on computers," said Chris Johnson, project manager for the parachutes. "That's why we test them so extensively. These systems have to work for Orion to make it safely to the ground, and every bit of data we can gather in tests like these helps us improve our models and gives us more confidence that when we do it for real, we can count on them."

The forward bay cover is jettisoned using a thruster separation system built by Systima Technologies Inc. of Bothell, Wash. Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for Orion, tested the system for the first time on the ground in December. Two more ground tests will simulate different types of stresses on the cover, such as a potential parachute failure or loads on the spacecraft. NASA also plans a second airborne test with the forward bay cover to evaluate its performance with a failed parachute.

Orion will be put to its first test in space during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), in September. EFT-1 will have an uncrewed Orion launch to an orbit 3,600 miles above Earth, well beyond the distance traveled by spacecraft built for humans in more than 40 years. After circling Earth twice, Orion will re-enter the atmosphere at speeds as fast as 20,000 mph before the parachute system slows it down for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Orion test article is about to touch down at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona after a successful drop test, on January 16, 2014.
NASA

Monday, January 13, 2014

Space Launch System Update...

With Space Launch System welding machinery in the background, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden addresses a crowd at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana.
NASA / MSFC

NASA Administrator Tours Facility Where New Deep Space Rocket is Being Built (Press Release)

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Monday visited the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to see the progress being made on the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket ever built that will take American astronauts into deep space, first to an asteroid beyond the Moon and eventually on to Mars.

Bolden, who was joined by Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, toured construction of Michoud's advanced welding facility, the Vertical Assembly Center. There, 27.5-foot diameter cylinders, domes, rings and other elements will be brought together to form the fuel tanks and core stage of SLS, which is targeted for its first flight test in 2017. When completed in March, the Vertical Assembly Center will be home to one of the largest welding tools of its kind.

Five of six major robotic welding tools already are installed at Michoud, where SLS's core stage prime contractor, the Boeing Co. of Chicago, is leading a team producing test articles for the rocket. Michoud's advanced manufacturing facilities and workforce also built Orion's structure for its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md.

"American astronauts are living and working in space aboard the International Space Station, preparing for deeper space exploration and the SLS is the rocket that will take them there," Bolden said during the tour. "We’re making tremendous progress on SLS, and I salute the team at Michoud for making sure the United States continues to lead the world in exploration."

Bolden also took time during his tour to place a call to the International Space Station mission control at NASA's Johnson Space Center. He congratulated the flight team there, the International Space Station (ISS) crew and the Orbital Sciences team in Dulles, Va., on the successful installation of Orbital's Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the station Sunday.

"The United States no longer has to rely on others to get cargo and science experiments to the International Space Station," said Bolden following the call. "Thanks to the bold commercial space plan we’ve been pursuing, we now have two American companies to resupply station, launching once again from U.S. soil. My hat’s off to the Orbital and NASA teams who worked so hard over the weekend to successfully capture and berth the Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS."

For more than 50 years, Michoud has built large-scale space systems for NASA, including stages of the Saturn V moon rockets and external tanks for the space shuttles. Michoud has more than 43 acres of advanced manufacturing space under one roof.

"The Space Launch System is becoming a reality thanks to the unique workforce and tools at Michoud and NASA facilities across the country," said SLS Program Manager Todd May, who joined Bolden on the tour. "We're on schedule and looking forward to SLS's first launch."

During his visit, Bolden, a former astronaut, donned part of a spacesuit to make a plaster cast of his boot print to commemorate Michoud's historic role in space exploration. Bolden traveled to orbit four times aboard space shuttles between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions and piloting two others. His flights included deployment of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his crew.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the SLS Program and the Michoud Assembly Facility.

Source: NASA.Gov

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

SpaceShipTwo Goes Supersonic For The Third Time...

An onboard camera shot of SpaceShipTwo (SS2) as she soared 71,000 feet above California's Mojave Desert during SS2's third powered flight on January 10, 2014.
Virgin Galactic

Yesterday, the VSS Enterprise (a.k.a. SpaceShipTwo, or SS2) once again rocketed to new heights as her RocketMotorTwo engine brought the ship to an altitude of 71,000 feet above California's Mojave Desert. Along with setting a new altitude record for SS2 (she previously reached 69,000 feet last September), RM2 also set a new top speed for the craft as the Enterprise cruised at Mach 1.4 on Friday. While Virgin Galactic is aiming for the end of this year to begin sending paying passengers more than 60 miles above the Earth aboard SS2, it has not yet been disclosed as to when Enterprise will finally aim for the threshold of space during its flight test program. Cross our fingers that it will be soon.

SS2 drops away from her mothership, White Knight II, prior to SS2's third powered flight above California's Mojave Desert on January 10, 2014.
Virgin Galactic

SS2 fires her RocketMotorTwo (RM2) engine to begin a third powered flight above California's Mojave Desert on January 10, 2014.
Virgin Galactic

As seen from aboard White Knight II, SS2 embarks on her third powered flight above California's Mojave Desert on January 10, 2014.
Virgin Galactic

An onboard camera shot of SS2 as she soared 71,000 feet above California's Mojave Desert during SS2's third powered flight on January 10, 2014.
Virgin Galactic

An onboard camera shot of SS2 after her RM2 engine shut down...concluding a third successful powered flight above California's Mojave Desert on January 10, 2014.
Virgin Galactic

SS2 adjusts her feathered reentry system as she prepares to return to the Mojave Air and Spaceport following a third successful powered flight on January 10, 2014.
Virgin Galactic

SS2 is towed down the tarmac after safely returning to the Mojave Air and Spaceport, following a third successful powered flight on January 10, 2014.
Virgin Galactic

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cygnus Sets Sail For The ISS Once More...

An Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft launches from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on January 9, 2014...beginning the Orb-1 mission.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Orbital-1 Space Station Resupply Mission Launches From NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (Press Release)

Orbital Sciences Corp. launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket at 1:07 p.m. EST Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, beginning the Orbital-1 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Cygnus spacecraft is now traveling 17,500 mph in Earth's orbit to rendezvous with the space station on Sunday, Jan. 12.

Over the next two and a half days, Cygnus will perform a series of engine firings to put it on track for a rendezvous with the station. When the vehicle reaches the capture point about 30 feet from the complex, Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Mike Hopkins and Koichi Wakata will use Canadarm2, the station’s 57-foot robotic arm, to reach out and grapple Cygnus at 6:02 a.m. The crew then will use the robotic arm to guide Cygnus to its berthing port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node for installation beginning around 6:20 a.m. NASA television coverage of the rendezvous and berthing begins at 5 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 12, followed at 7 a.m. with coverage of the installation.

For its first official commercial resupply mission, designated Orbital-1, Cygnus is delivering 2,780 pounds of supplies to the space station, including vital science experiments for the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory. Orbital Sciences successfully proved the capability of the Cygnus spacecraft during its first and only demonstration flight to the station back in September 2013.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft launches from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on January 9, 2014...beginning the Orb-1 mission.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Space Launch System Update...

An illustration depicting the Space Launch System soaring away from Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA

NASA Powers Up State-of-the-Art Space Launch System Software Avionics (Press Release)

The modern avionics system that will guide NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket ever built, has seen the light.

The flight software and avionics for SLS were integrated and powered for testing Thursday at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., as part of a milestone known as first light.

The milestone enables early integration and testing of avionics and software to help NASA perfect the system and ensure the units communicate together as designed. Avionics tell the rocket where it should fly and how it should pivot its engines to stay on course.

"We continue to make good progress developing SLS," said Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The avionics are like the central nervous system for the launch vehicle. They’re of critical importance and testing them early helps us build a more robust rocket."

The SLS avionics and the flight computer will be housed in the rocket's core stage. When completed, the core stage will be more than 200 feet tall and store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the rocket's RS-25 engines.

The first SLS flight test, targeted for 2017, will feature a configuration for 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 evolves, it will provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions even farther into our solar system to places such as to an asteroid and Mars.

The Boeing Company, prime contractor for the SLS core stage and its avionics, delivered the flight computers and supporting avionics hardware. NASA's Integrated Avionics Test Facilities team provided and installed the structure and simulation capability to model the environments the vehicle will experience during launch. With the avionics hardware units arranged in flight configuration on the structure and with the flight software, the facility will replicate what will actually fly the rocket.

Source: NASA.Gov

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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

Monday, January 6, 2014

Preparing for Cygnus' Next Flight...

The Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus Orb-1 spacecraft is rolled out to its launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on January 5, 2014.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Antares Rocket Rolls Out at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (Press Release)

An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it is rolled out to Launch Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 in advance of a planned Wednesday, Jan. 8th, 1:32 p.m. EST launch, Wallops Island, Va.

The Antares will launch a Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Orbital-1 mission is Orbital Sciences' first contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Among the cargo aboard Cygnus set to launch to the space station are science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and other hardware.

Source: NASA.Gov