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Thursday, November 27, 2014

T-Minus One Week and Counting...

Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone!!! Just thought I'd mark this occasion by sharing this photo of the Delta IV Heavy rocket—complete with the Orion spacecraft now sitting atop the vehicle—as it stands visible inside of its Mobile Service Tower at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch of Exploration Flight Test 1 is exactly 7 days away!

The Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft stands poised for launch inside of its Mobile Service Tower at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 24, 2014.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cool Stuff Made on the ISS...

A 3-D printer that was tested at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center prior to being launched to the International Space Station (ISS) last September...aboard a SpaceX Dragon vehicle.
NASA / Emmett Given

International Space Station’s 3-D Printer (Press Release)

The International Space Station’s 3-D printer has manufactured the first 3-D printed object in space, paving the way to future long-term space expeditions. The object, a printhead faceplate, is engraved with names of the organizations that collaborated on this space station technology demonstration: NASA and Made In Space, Inc., the space manufacturing company that worked with NASA to design, build and test the 3-D printer.

This image of the printer, with the Microgravity Science Glovebox Engineering Unit in the background, was taken in April 2014 during flight certification and acceptance testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, prior to its launch to the station aboard a SpaceX commercial resupply mission. The first objects built in space will be returned to Earth in 2015 for detailed analysis and comparison to the identical ground control samples made on the flight printer prior to launch. The goal of this analysis is to verify that the 3-D printing process works the same in microgravity as it does on Earth.

The printer works by extruding heated plastic, which then builds layer upon layer to create three-dimensional objects. Testing this on the station is the first step toward creating a working "machine shop" in space. This capability may decrease cost and risk on the station, which will be critical when space explorers venture far from Earth and will create an on-demand supply chain for needed tools and parts. Long-term missions would benefit greatly from onboard manufacturing capabilities. Data and experience gathered in this demonstration will improve future 3-D manufacturing technology and equipment for the space program, allowing a greater degree of autonomy and flexibility for astronauts.

Source: NASA.Gov

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ISS commander Barry Wilmore shows off the first 3-D printed part made in space. The piece was manufactured on November 24, 2014.
NASA

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another Soyuz Sets Sail for the ISS...

A Soyuz TMA-15M rocket carrying three Expedition 42 space station crew members launches from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on November 24, 2014 (Kazakh Time).
NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

Expedition 42 Launches to the International Space Station (Press Release)

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 as seen in this long exposure carrying Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station.

Source: NASA.Gov

Saturday, November 15, 2014

SLS Update: Construction Begins on the Mammoth Vehicle...

At NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana, welding is completed on a barrel that will house the four RS-25 engines of the first Space Launch System rocket...currently set to take flight in late 2018.
NASA

At NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana, engineers recently completed welding on the first barrel that will comprise the first stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. This barrel is the bottom-most segment of the giant booster—which is where four former Space Shuttle Main Engines (known as RS-25s) will be attached to during the SLS' inaugural flight beyond low-Earth orbit...currently set to take place in late 2018 with Exploration Mission 1.

An infographic showing all of the barrels that will comprise NASA's Space Launch System rocket...currently set to take flight in late 2018.
NASA

Thursday, November 13, 2014

EFT-1 Update: Orion Is Now Poised for Launch Atop Its Delta IV!

Engineers inspect the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft after it is mated to its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 12, 2014.
NASA

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Arrives at Launch Pad, Hoisted onto Rocket Ahead of its First Spaceflight (Press Release - November 12)

NASA’s new Orion spacecraft now is at its launch pad after completing its penultimate journey in the early hours Wednesday. It arrived at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:07 a.m. EST, where the spacecraft then was lifted onto a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in preparation for its first trip to space.

Orion will travel almost 60,000 miles into space Thursday, Dec. 4 during an uncrewed flight designed to test many of the spacecraft’s systems before it begins carrying astronauts on missions to deep space destinations.

The spacecraft, which includes the crew and service modules, launch abort system and the adapter that will connect it to the rocket, was completed in October and has since been awaiting its rollout inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Although storms in the area delayed its move slightly, Orion completed its 22-mile journey with no issues.

“This is the next step on our journey to Mars, and it’s a big one,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations. “In less than a month, Orion will travel farther than any spacecraft built for humans has been in more than 40 years. That’s a huge milestone for NASA, and for all of us who want to see humans go to deep space.”

Once it arrived at Space Launch Complex 37, Orion was hoisted up about 200 feet and placed atop the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into orbit. Over the course of the three weeks that remain until liftoff, the spacecraft will be fully connected to the rocket and powered on for final testing and preparations.

“We’ve put a lot of work into designing, building and testing the spacecraft to get it to this point and I couldn’t be prouder of the whole team,” said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. “Now it’s time to see how it flies. Sending Orion into space will give us data that is going to be critical to improving the spacecraft’s design before we go to an asteroid and Mars.”

Orion is scheduled to lift off at 7:05 a.m. Dec. 4. During its two-orbit, 4.5 hour flight test, Orion will travel 3,600 miles beyond Earth. From this distance, Orion will return through Earth’s atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph, generating temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on its heat shield. The flight will allow engineers to test systems critical to safety, including the heat shield, parachutes, avionics and attitude control.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Engineers prepare to lift the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft up the Space Launch Complex 37 gantry to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 12, 2014.
NASA

Engineers make sure that the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is properly aligned with its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle for mating at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 12, 2014.
NASA

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is mated to its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on November 12, 2014.
NASA

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

EFT-1 Update: The VAB Gets A Visit By Its Future Tenant...

During its 6-hour journey to Launch Complex 37 at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Orion EFT-1 capsule passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on November 11, 2014.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Orion Spacecraft Rolls Past the Vehicle Assembly Building (Press Release)

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the agency's Orion spacecraft passes the spaceport's iconic Vehicle Assembly Building as it is transported to Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. After arrival at the launch pad, United Launch Alliance engineers and technicians will lift Orion and mount it atop its Delta IV Heavy rocket. Orion began its journey to the launch pad at the Launch Abort System Facility, where a 52-foot-tall protective fairing and the launch abort system were attached to the 10-foot, 11-inch-tall crew module. Resting atop a specialized Kamag transporter, Orion was moved to Space Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The move began at 8:54 p.m. EST and concluded at 3:07 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12.

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. Orion is scheduled to launch Dec. 4, 2014 atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in its first unpiloted flight test, and in 2018 on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of the Orion spacecraft orbiting Mars.
Lockheed Martin / NASA

Monday, November 10, 2014

EFT-1 Update: The Delta IV Heavy Awaits!

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is prepped for its move from the Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 37...where it will be mated with its Delta IV Heavy rocket on November 11, 2014.
NASA

Orion Ready for Move to Space Launch Complex 37 (Press Release)

NASA's Orion spacecraft will move Nov. 11 from the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in preparation for its upcoming flight test. The move was postponed 24 hours due to a weather forecast this evening calling for winds and lightning that violate the constraints established for safely moving Orion.

The assembled Orion crew module, service module, launch abort system and adapter that fits the service module to the rocket have remained inside the LASF since Sept. 28 until the scheduled move to the pad.

First motion out of the LASF is scheduled for approximately 8 p.m. EST. Traveling at about 5 mph, the spacecraft will make the trek from Kennedy's Industrial Area north to the Launch Complex 39 area, travel past the Vehicle Assembly Building, and continue to the launch pad at CCAFS. Orion is scheduled to arrive at the pad at about 2 a.m. on Nov. 12.

The Orion spacecraft will be hoisted up for stacking on the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket later in the morning after its arrival at the launch pad.

Orion is scheduled to launch Dec. 4. The flight test will send Orion 3,600 miles in altitude from Earth on a two-orbit flight intended to ensure the spacecraft's critical systems are ready for the challenges of deep-space missions.

During the 4.5-hour flight covering a distance of 66,000 miles, Orion will travel farther than any crewed spacecraft has gone in more than 40 years, before returning to Earth at speeds near 20,000 mph and generating temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

After Orion splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, NASA and the U.S. Navy will recover the crew module and attempt to retrieve the parachutes and forward bay cover.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is prepped for its move from the Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 37...where it will be mated with its Delta IV Heavy rocket on November 11, 2014.
NASA

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Safe Landing for ISS Crew Members

The Soyuz TMA-13M capsule carrying three Expedition 41 crew members touches down in Kazakhstan on November 10, 2014 (Kazakh Time).
NASA TV

Space Station Crew Returns to Earth, Lands Safely in Kazakhstan (Press Release)

Three International Space Station (ISS) crew members returned to Earth Sunday after a 165-day mission that included hundreds of scientific experiments and several spacewalks.

Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency touched down northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 10:58 p.m. EST (9:58 a.m., Nov. 10, Kazakh time). While in space, they traveled more than 70 million miles.

During their time aboard the station, the crew participated in research focusing on Earth remote sensing, advanced manufacturing, and studies of bone and muscle physiology. They set a milestone for station science by completing a record 82 hours of research in a single week in July.

A key research focus during Expedition 41 was human health management for long duration space travel, as NASA and Roscosmos prepare for two crew members to spend one year aboard the space station beginning in 2015.

The crew welcomed five cargo spacecraft during its time aboard the orbiting laboratory. Two Russian ISS Progress cargo vehicles docked to the station, bringing tons of supplies in July and October. The fifth and final European Automated Transfer Vehicle, dubbed the Georges Lemaitre after the Belgian physicist who is considered the father of the big-bang theory, launched to the station in July.

In July, Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft completed its second resupply mission under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract. SpaceX launched its Dragon spacecraft to the station in September, the company's fourth commercial resupply mission.

Wiseman and Gerst ventured outside the confines of the space station for a planned spacewalk to relocate a failed pump module and configure the station for upcoming additions. Wiseman completed a second spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore. Suraev also conducted one spacewalk during Expedition 41.

In addition to being a scientific research platform, the space station also serves as a test bed to demonstrate new technology. The first 3-D printer to be tested in space arrived at the station during Expedition 41. It will be the first step toward establishing an on-demand machine shop in space, which is a critical enabling component for deep space crewed missions and in-space manufacturing.

A new Earth monitoring instrument called RapidScat also was installed and activated on the station during the crew’s time in orbit. RapidScat will measure Earth's ocean surface wind speed and direction, essential measurements used in weather prediction.

Having completed his second space station mission, Suraev now has spent 334 days in space. Wiseman and Gerst have spent 165 days in space with the end of their first flights.

Expedition 42 now is operating aboard the station with Barry Wilmore of NASA in command. Wilmore and his crewmates, Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of Roscosmos, will tend to the station as a three-person crew until the arrival in two weeks of three new crew members: Terry Virts of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency. Virts, Shkaplerov and Cristoforetti are scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan on Nov. 23 (U.S. time).

Source: NASA.Gov

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Expedition 41 crew members Alexander Gerst (of the European Space Agency), left, Max Suraev (of the Russian Federal Space Agency), center, and Reid Wiseman (NASA), sit in chairs outside the Soyuz TMA-13M capsule moments after landing in Kazakhstan on November 10, 2014 (Kazakh Time).
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

EFT-1 Update: One Step Closer to Launch...

One of the four ogive panels that comprise the Launch Abort System is attached to the Orion EFT-1 capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on October 14, 2014.
NASA

Orion Prepares to Move to Launch Pad (Press Release)

On Dec. 4, Orion is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37 in Florida. During the test, Orion will travel 3,600 miles in altitude above Earth. 4 1/2 hours later, the spacecraft will reenter the atmosphere at 20,000 mph and splash down in the Pacific Ocean. Orion’s first flight will verify launch and high-speed reentry systems such as avionics, attitude control, parachutes and the heat shield.

Four recently-installed protective panels make up Orion's Ogive. The Ogive reduces drag and acoustic load on the crew module, making it a smoother ride for the spacecraft. Pictured here, inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a crane brings the fourth and final Ogive panel closer for installation on Orion's Launch Abort System.

The Ogive installation was one of the last pieces of the puzzle for Orion prior to its move to the launch pad on Nov. 10. There, it will be lifted and attached to the rocket for its December launch.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is ready to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle after assembly is completed on the capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as of November 4, 2014.
Jim Grossman

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is ready to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle after assembly is completed on the capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as of November 4, 2014.
Jim Grossman

The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft is ready to be mated with its Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle after assembly is completed on the capsule at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as of November 4, 2014.
Jim Grossman