MAIN / INDEX / GAMES / JOURNAL ENTRIES & UPDATES / ASK PARMAN! / VIDEOS / FRIENDS' GALLERY / GALLERY 2 / FAVORITES / FICTION / DRAWINGS / LINKS / AUTOGRAPHS / FILM NOTES / NAME IN SPACE / HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT BLOG / CREDITS


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Photo of the Day: Growing More Edible Plants Aboard the ISS...

Zinnia flowers are grown inside the Veggie facility aboard the International Space Station.
NASA

Zinnia Flowers Starting to Grow on the International Space Station (Press Release)

Zinnia flowers are starting to grow in the International Space Station's Veggie facility as part of the VEG-01 investigation. Veggie provides lighting and nutrient supply for plants in the form of a low-cost growth chamber and planting "pillows” to provide nutrients for the root system. These plants appear larger than their ground-based counterparts and scientists expect buds to form on the larger plants soon.

The Veggie facility supports a variety of plant species that can be cultivated for educational outreach, fresh food and even recreation for crew members on long-duration missions. Previously, the facility has grown lettuce -- which was consumed by the crew earlier this year -- and now investigators are attempting to grow Zinnia flowers. Understanding how flowering plants grow in microgravity can be applied to growing other edible flowering plants, such as tomatoes.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Japan Extends Its Operations Aboard the ISS...

KOUNOTORI 5 is grappled by the space station's robotic arm prior to being unberthed from the orbital outpost on September 28, 2015 (U.S. Time).
NASA

Comments by JAXA President on Japan's Decision to Participate in Extended ISS Operations‏ (Press Release)

On December 22, 2015, the Japanese and U.S. governments agreed on a new cooperation framework for the International Space Station (ISS) Program and, accordingly, Japan decided to extend its participation in the ISS operations until 2024. Through operations and utilizations of the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo and the cargo transporter to the ISS KOUNOTORI, JAXA will responsibly produce commensurate achievements from the extended operations.

The Japan-U.S. Open Platform Partnership Program (Japan-U.S. OP3) newly agreed today will step-up the relationship between both countries to the next phase. In order to realize Japan's space policy, JAXA will produce desirable outcomes by promoting unprecedented utilization of the Kibo and the KOUNOTORI effectively and efficiently leveraging the new framework.

Continuous support and cooperation with the ISS Program from Japanese people and ISS partner countries will be very much appreciated.

Thank you very much.

December 22, 2015
Naoki Okumura
President
National Research and Development Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Friday, December 18, 2015

The CST-100 Is Officially Set to Make Two Flights to the ISS...

An artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 capsule approaching the International Space Station.
Boeing

NASA Orders Second Boeing Crew Mission to International Space Station (Press Release)

NASA took an important step Friday to establish regular crew missions that will launch from the United States to the International Space Station with the order of its second post-certification mission from Boeing Space Exploration of Houston.

"Once certified by NASA, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon each will be capable of two crew launches to the station per year," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "Placing orders for those missions now really sets us up for a sustainable future aboard the International Space Station."

This is the third in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Boeing and SpaceX received their first orders in May and November, respectively, and have started planning for, building and procuring the necessary hardware and assets to carry out their first missions for the agency. NASA will identify at a later time which company will fly a mission to the station first.

Boeing met the criteria for NASA to award the company its second mission with the successful completion of interim developmental milestones and internal design reviews for its Starliner spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and associated ground system.

Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is seeing the buildup of the Starliner structural test article, and nearby, the main column of the crew access tower is in place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. Flight trainers are nearing completion in Boeing’s St. Louis facility and rocket parts are starting to come together in Huntsville, Alabama.

“As our company begins its second century, our Starliner program continues Boeing’s tradition of space industry innovation with commercial service to the space station,” said John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing’s commercial crew program. “We value NASA’s confidence in the Starliner system to keep their crews safe.”

Commercial crew missions to the space station will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research off the Earth, for the Earth and beyond. A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time.

“With the commercial crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX, we will soon add a seventh crew member to International Space Station missions, which will significantly increase the amount of crew time to conduct research,” said Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program. “This will enable NASA and our partners to ramp up the important research being done every day for the benefit of all humanity.”

Orders under the CCtCap contracts are made two to three years prior to actual mission dates in order to provide time for each company to manufacture and assemble the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before NASA will give the final approval for flight. Each provider’s contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manages the CCtCap contracts and is working with each company to ensure commercial transportation system designs and post-certification missions will meet the agency’s safety requirements. Activities that follow the award of missions include a series of mission-related reviews and approvals leading to launch. The program also will be involved in all operational phases of missions to ensure crew safety.

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Photo of the Day: A New Crew Arrives at the ISS...

With one of the Cygnus cargo freighter's solar arrays visible in the foreground, the Soyuz spacecraft carrying the Expedition 46 crew is about to dock to the International Space Station on December 15, 2015.
NASA

Expedition 46 Soyuz Approaches Space Station for Docking (Press Release)

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko manually docked the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft on Dec. 15, 2015 to the International Space Station's Rassvet module after an initial automated attempt was aborted. Malenchenko took control of the Soyuz, backed it away from the station to assess the Soyuz' systems, then re-approached the complex for the manual docking. Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) flanked Malenchenko as he brought the Soyuz to the Rassvet port for the start of a six-month mission. The solar array from the docked Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo vehicle is also in view at right.

After leak checks were conducted on both sides of the docking interface, hatches were opened and Malenchenko, Kopra and Peake were greeted by Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). The arrival of Kopra, Malenchenko and Peake returns the station's crew complement to six. The three join Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Flight Engineers Sergey Volkov and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos. During more than five months on humanity’s only microgravity laboratory, the Expedition 46 crew members will conduct more than 250 science investigation in fields including biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development. Kopra, Malenchenko and Peake will remain aboard the station until early June 2016.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The ISS Crew Expands to Six Members Once More...

A Soyuz TMA-19M rocket carrying three Expedition 46 space station crew members launches from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 15, 2015.
NASA / Roscosmos

American, Russian and Briton Join International Space Station Crew (Press Release)

Hatches between the International Space Station and an arriving Soyuz spacecraft opened at 2:58 p.m. EST Tuesday, signaling the arrival of three new crew members, including NASA astronaut Tim Kopra. They will join other residents on the station to continue important research that advances NASA's journey to Mars, while making discoveries that can benefit all of humanity.

Kopra, Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Tim Peake launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:03 a.m. (5:03 p.m. in Baikonur) and, after orbiting Earth four times, manually docked to the station at 12:33 p.m.

The arrival of Kopra, Malenchenko and Peake returns the station's crew complement to six. The three join Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Flight Engineers Sergey Volkov and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos. During more than five months on humanity’s only microgravity laboratory, the Expedition 46 crew members will conduct more than 250 science investigation in fields including biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

Kopra, Malenchenko and Peake will remain aboard the station until early June 2016. Kelly and Kornienko will return to Earth at the conclusion of their one-year mission on March 1, 2016, along with Volkov. The pair will have spent 340 consecutive days living and working in space to advance understanding of the medical, psychological and biomedical challenges astronauts face during long duration spaceflight, in addition to developing countermeasures to reverse those effects.

Ongoing station research also includes the Microbial Payload Tracking Series project, which uses microbial analysis techniques to establish a census of the microorganisms living on surfaces and in the atmosphere of the space station. Along with crew members and experimental payloads, the space station is home to a variety of microbes, which are a cleaning nuisance and potentially threatening to crew health and station equipment. Analyzing these microbes can help determine whether some are more virulent in space, and which genetic changes might be involved in this response. Results from the investigation can be used to evaluate cleaning strategies, and to mitigate microbe-related risks to crew health and spacecraft system performance.

The crew members are scheduled to receive several cargo spacecraft -- including multiple U.S. commercial resupply vehicles from SpaceX and Orbital ATK -- each delivering tons of food, fuel, supplies and research.

SpaceX will deliver on its eighth commercial resupply services mission an important technology project that could help drive future exploration. Developed under a public-private partnership, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is an expandable habitat technology demonstration for the International Space Station. Expandable habitats can greatly decrease the amount of transport volume for future space missions, weighing less and taking up less room on a rocket. These habitats have the potential to provide a comfortable area for astronauts to live and work, as well as a varying degree of protection from solar and cosmic radiation, space debris and other elements of the space environment. Highly reliable habitation systems will be essential to keep future crews healthy and productive in the deep-space environment during missions in lunar orbit where the systems will be validated for future missions to Mars that could last as long as 1,100 days.

For 15 years, humans have been living continuously aboard the station to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that also will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A truly global endeavor, more than 200 people from 15 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 1,700 research investigations from researchers in more than 80 countries.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

Expedition 46 crew members Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos, Tim Kopra of NASA (center) and Tim Peake of ESA (bottom) wave farewell prior to boarding the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket for launch on December 15, 2015...at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
NASA / Joel Kowsky

Monday, December 14, 2015

Apply Now to Become an Astronaut!

Expedition 45 Commander Scott Kelly takes a selfie during a spacewalk that was successfully conducted outside the International Space Station on October 28, 2015.
NASA

Be an Astronaut: NASA Accepting Applications for Future Explorers (Press Release)

Recently named the best place to work in the federal government for the fourth year in a row, NASA is looking for the best candidates to work in the best job on or off the planet. The astronaut candidate application website now is live and accepting submissions through Feb. 18.

Qualifying U.S. citizens may apply at:

https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/423817000

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker and astronaut selection manager Anne Roemer will answer questions about the job, and the application and selection processes, on Reddit.com beginning at 4 pm EST today. At that time, anyone may submit questions at:

http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/

The agency expects to announce final candidate selections in mid-2017. Those chosen may fly on any of four different U.S. spacecraft during their careers: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by U.S. companies, and NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

“NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars and we’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to help get us there,” said NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden. “Today, we opened the application process for our next class of astronauts, extraordinary Americans who will take the next giant leap in exploration. This group will launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft and blaze the trail on our journey to the Red Planet.”

NASA astronauts will again launch to the International Space Station from Florida’s Space Coast on American-made commercial spacecraft -- Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon. These spacecraft will allow NASA to add a seventh crew member to each station mission, effectively doubling the amount of time astronauts will be able to devote to research in space, expanding scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies.

Astronauts also will lift off again from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard the Orion spacecraft, launched on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, to unprecedented missions in lunar orbit. There, the space agency will learn more about conducting complex operations in a deep space environment before moving on to longer duration missions as it progresses on its journey to Mars.

To help accomplish this work, NASA will select qualified astronaut candidates from a diverse pool of U.S. citizens with a wide variety of backgrounds, including engineers, scientists and physicians. According to the professional networking site LinkedIn, some 3 million of the site’s members working in the United States appear to meet the minimum academic eligibility requirements for the job.

“NASA’s mission, and what we need from the astronauts helping to carry it out, has evolved over the years,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Some people would be surprised to learn they might have what it takes. We want and need a diverse mix of individuals to ensure we have the best astronaut corps possible.”

Astronaut candidates must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. Candidates also must have at least three years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration astronaut physical.

“The Office of Personnel Management is proud to support NASA’s efforts to recruit our country’s next generation of astronauts,” said Beth Cobert, acting director of OPM. “One of this agency's primary goals is to help attract, recruit, hire and retain the best and most talented workforce to serve the American people. We stand ready to help NASA find and support the talent it needs to fulfill its exciting mission to Mars. I’m proud to help agencies across government shape the federal workforce of the future by providing such tools as USAJOBS, our one-stop source for federal job and employment information.”

Source: NASA.Gov

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Huge Milestone for Kennedy Space Center and the Space Launch System!

A composite image showing the Space Launch System at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA

GSDO Critical Design Review Marks Progress for NASA's Journey to Mars (Press Release)

NASA's Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) has successfully completed its critical design review, on the path to preparing for the agency's journey to Mars.

Members of the review board completed their in-depth assessment of the plans for the facilities and ground support systems at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that will be needed to process NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for deep-space exploration missions. A Standing Review Board composed of aerospace experts from NASA and industry also will provide an independent assessment. Results of the review process will be briefed to senior agency officials in the coming months as the last step in the process.

"The completion of this review represents a critical milestone for the GSDO team that clearly demonstrates we are on track with the launch site upgrades required to support SLS and Orion test, checkout and launch in 2018," said Mike Bolger, GSDO program manager.

The SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world and will launch astronauts in the agency's Orion spacecraft to destinations beyond Earth's orbit. Key elements of Kennedy's launch infrastructure will support a new era of human exploration on the journey to Mars. High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building will house the SLS on the mobile launcher before it is rolled out to the launch pad atop the massive crawler-transporter. Engineers will fuel the Orion spacecraft in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility with propellants that astronauts will need to carry out their missions in space. The launch director will prepare for the final countdown with the command and control system in the Launch Control Center firing room before SLS blasts off from Launch Pad 39B on its mission to explore deep space.

Kennedy's Engineering Directorate is responsible for leading the ground system designs. The review of GSDO’s designs will ensure that Kennedy's launch infrastructure will meet the requirements of the SLS and Orion spacecraft when the flight hardware arrives for processing, launch and post-flight recovery of Orion.

"The GSDO critical design review is a key milestone in the engineering design and development process and represents major progress in enabling human exploration hardware to be integrated, processed and launched from Kennedy Space Center," said Pat Simpkins, director of Engineering.

Progress already can be seen around the center with work currently underway to prepare for the arrival of SLS and Orion. Several new work platforms have arrived for the VAB, mobile launcher ground system equipment installation is in progress, re-bricking of the flame trench is underway at Pad 39B, and the Orion Service Module Umbilical, which will attach from the mobile launcher tower to the Orion spacecraft, is being tested at the Launch Equipment Test Facility.

"As I drive around the center, I can see the transformation taking place every day right before my eyes," said Shawn Quinn, Exploration Systems manager. "The work completed by the Kennedy and GSDO team is remarkable and is a reflection of our 'can do' spirit."

This milestone is the final review before moving into fabrication, installation and testing of Kennedy's ground systems.

"I'm really proud of the GSDO team," Bolger said. "We are transforming Kennedy into a multi-user spaceport, and we are preparing for NASA's journey to Mars. The SLS launch will come up fast, and we're going to be ready when the flight hardware begins to arrive."

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Photos of the Day: The 'S.S. Deke Slayton II' Has Arrived at the ISS!

Cygnus Orb-4 (also known as the 'S.S. Deke Slayton II') floats near the ISS as its robotic arm (not visible) waits to grapple the cargo freighter on December 9, 2015.
Scott Kelly / NASA and Sergey Volkov / Roscosmos

Just thought I'd share these great hi-res photos that were taken of the Cygnus Orb-4 cargo freighter before it was successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) earlier today. Named the S.S. Deke Slayton II after the late Apollo-Soyuz Test Project astronaut (the first S.S. Deke Slayton craft was destroyed in last year's Antares launch mishap in Virginia), this Cygnus will stay at the ISS through the end of this January...when it will be unberthed from the outpost and then be intentionally incinerated (along with 3,000 pounds of garbage inside it) upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Flying in Earth's shadow, Cygnus Orb-4 (also known as the 'S.S. Deke Slayton II') floats near the ISS as its robotic arm (not visible) waits to grapple the cargo freighter on December 9, 2015.
Scott Kelly / NASA and Sergey Volkov / Roscosmos

Emerging from Earth's shadow, Cygnus Orb-4 (also known as the 'S.S. Deke Slayton II') floats near the ISS as its robotic arm (not visible) waits to grapple the cargo freighter on December 9, 2015.
Scott Kelly / NASA and Sergey Volkov / Roscosmos

Cygnus Orb-4 (also known as the 'S.S. Deke Slayton II') floats near the ISS as its robotic arm waits to grapple the cargo freighter on December 9, 2015.
Scott Kelly / NASA and Sergey Volkov / Roscosmos

Cygnus Orb-4 (also known as the 'S.S. Deke Slayton II') floats near the ISS as its robotic arm (not visible) waits to grapple the cargo freighter on December 9, 2015.
Scott Kelly / NASA and Sergey Volkov / Roscosmos

Cygnus Orb-4 (also known as the 'S.S. Deke Slayton II') floats near the ISS as its robotic arm (not visible) waits to grapple the cargo freighter on December 9, 2015.
Scott Kelly / NASA and Sergey Volkov / Roscosmos

Sunday, December 6, 2015

ISS Update: Cygnus Returns to Flight!

An Atlas V rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on December 6, 2015...beginning the Orb-4 mission.
United Launch Alliance

NASA Cargo Launches to Space Station Aboard Orbital ATK Resupply Mission (Press Release)

New hardware that will support dozens of NASA investigations and other science experiments from around the world is among the more than 7,000 pounds of cargo on the way to the International Space Station aboard Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft. It launched at 4:44:57 p.m. EST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“NASA is delighted at the continued progress made possible by our investment in commercial space,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman. “As we celebrate Orbital ATK’s success with its fourth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, we look forward to the next milestones of our other commercial partners, including commercial crew launches from American soil in the near future. All these missions are critical to our journey to Mars – a journey we have already begun.”

The mission is Orbital ATK's fourth cargo delivery flight to the station through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. This is the first flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft to the station. The cargo freighter now features a greater payload capacity, new UltraFlex solar arrays and new fuel tanks. Cygnus’ pressurized cargo module has been extended and increases the spacecraft’s interior volume capacity by 25 percent, allowing more cargo to be delivered with each mission. It’s also the first Cygnus mission using the Atlas V launch system.

Science payloads will support science and research investigations that will occur during the space station’s Expeditions 45 and 46, including experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science -- research that impacts life on Earth. Investigations will offer a new life science facility that will support studies on cell cultures, bacteria and other microorganisms, a microsatellite deployer and the first microsatellite that will be deployed from the space station, and experiments that will study the behavior of gases and liquids and clarify the thermo-physical properties of molten steel and evaluations of flame-resistant textiles.

The Space Automated Bioproduct Lab is a new space life science facility that is designed to support a wide variety of fundamental, applied and commercial space life sciences research, as well as education-based investigations for students from kindergarten through university. The facility will support research on microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeast, algae, fungi, and viruses, as well as animal cells and tissues and small plant and animal organisms.

NanoRacks-MicroSat-SIMPL is a modular, hyper integrated satellite designed to provide complete satellite functionality in a nanosatellite scale. It will be the first NanoRacks microsatellite deployed from the space station and the first propulsion-capable satellite deployed from the NanoRacks-MicroSat-Deployer known as Kaber. The commercial deployer system aims to address the growing market of customers wanting to deploy microsatellites in orbit.

The Packed Bed Reactor Experiment studies the behavior of gases and liquids when they flow simultaneously through a column filled with fixed porous media, which is of interest in many chemical and biological processing systems, as well as numerous geophysical applications.

BASS-M (Burning and Suppression of Solids – Milliken) will evaluate flame retardant and resistant textiles as a mode of personal protection from fire-related hazards. Studying flame retardant and resistant behavior of different materials in microgravity will aid in better designs for future textiles and benefit those who wear protective clothing, such as military personnel and civilian workers in the electrical and energy industries.

The Nodes satellites, sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and developed by the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, consist of two CubeSats weighing 4.5 pounds each and measuring 4 inches by 4 inches by 6.5 inches. They are an example of how technology drives innovation, as they will test new network capabilities for operating swarms of spacecraft in the future.

In addition, Cygnus will deliver replacement cargo items including a set of Microsoft HoloLens devices for use in NASA’s Sidekick project, a safety jet pack astronauts wear during spacewalks known as SAFER, and high pressure nitrogen and oxygen tanks to plug into the station’s air supply network.

Cygnus will be grappled at approximately 6:10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, by NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, using the space station's Canadarm2 robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft. Scott Kelly of NASA will support Lindgren in a backup position. The spacecraft will spend more than a month attached to the space station before its destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, disposing of about 3,000 pounds of trash.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. The space station has been continuously occupied since November 2000. In that time, it has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The space station remains the springboard to NASA's next great leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

As seen from aboard the International Space Station, the rocket plume of the Atlas V carrying the Cygnus spacecraft is visible while the launch vehicle leaves Earth's atmosphere on December 6, 2015...beginning the Orb-4 mission.
NASA

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cygnus Set to Make Its Return to the International Space Station...

The Atlas V rocket carrying Orbital's Cygnus cargo freighter stands poised for launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on December 3, 2015.
United Launch Alliance

ULA Atlas V Rocket With Cygnus Spacecraft at the Launch Pad (Press Release)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo spacecraft on top stands at the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Dec. 3, 2015. Launch of Cygnus on the CRS-4 resupply mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for 5:55 p.m. EST on Dec. 3, and the weather forecast is 60 percent favorable. A launch today will result in Cygnus arriving at the space station on Sunday, Dec. 6. NASA crew members Kjell Lindgren and Scott Kelly will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus.

Cygnus will deliver samples and equipment to the station for research investigations in the many science disciplines aboard the orbiting multi-disciplinary laboratory. Research equipment includes the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab (SABL), a single locker-sized facility that will enable a wide variety of fundamental, applied and commercial life sciences research, as well as K-16 education-based investigations. CRS-4 will also carry the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE), an investigation studying the behavior of gases and liquids when they flow simultaneously through a column filled with fixed porous media. Another investigation launching aboard CRS-4 is the Burning and Suppression of Solids – Milliken (BASS-M) investigation, which examines the extinction characteristics of a variety of flame retardant textiles in microgravity when exposed to a controlled flame.

Source: NASA.Gov

Monday, November 30, 2015

Orion Update: Beginning Preps to Test the European Service Module...

Engineers remove the shipping crate from the European Service Module's test article at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio.
NASA

Orion’s Power System To Be Put To the Test (Press Release)

NASA is about to begin testing the heart of Orion’s power systems at the world’s largest, most powerful space environment simulation facility early next year. Test engineers at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Space Power Facility (SPF) in Sandusky, Ohio, are preparing to put a full-size test version of the European Service Module (ESM) for the spacecraft through a series of crucial tests to verify the structural integrity of the hardware to withstand the dynamic environment of launch into space atop the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Engineers will begin to evaluate the integrated stack hardware provided by ESA (European Space Agency) and its partners in February 2016. The hardware brings together new technology and lightweight materials while also taking advantage of spaceflight-proven elements.

“We added new facility capabilities for environmental testing over the last several years to meet the demands of validating the systems on the Orion ESM,” says Jerry Carek, SPF facility manager.

The first test will focus on the deployable solar array wing. Built by ESA partner Airbus DS, the solar arrays span 62 feet and engineers want to ensure the wing fully extends and retracts on command in the proper configuration.

During March and April, the test article will move into the world’s most powerful spacecraft acoustic test chamber to be pummeled with noise equivalent to 20 jet engines at full thrust. Each element of the ESM, at times separately and then fully assembled, will be blasted with at least 152 decibels and 20-10,000 hertz of sound pressure and vibration.

Moving into the Mechanical Vibration Facility, from May through July, the test article will be placed on a vibration table that simulates the shaking the spacecraft will expect when launching on top of its rocket. The table is attached to a 4.5 million pound concrete seismic mass anchored 50 feet into bedrock using 106 tension anchors.

“A series of repeated configuration tests will vibrate the stacked parts of the ESM from every possible angle,” says Robert Overy, chief engineer of the ESM Integration Office at NASA Glenn. “We want to push it past the extremes it might experience in the launch environment.”

The ESM is fitted with three protective fairings built by NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, Lockheed Martin. The fairings protect the avionics and electronics during ascent into space, but will eventually jettison off the spacecraft by a series of pyrotechnic shocks. Engineers will test the effectiveness of the pyro-shock action near the end of August. They will also conduct a pyro-shock test of the spacecraft adaptor to simulate the shock the service module will experience during separation.

Finally, the solar array deployment test will be conducted once again on the fully stacked ESM.

The test campaign aims to analyze and validate every element and function of the structural test article, which represents Orion’s power and life support systems. The tests are critical to ensuring the flight readiness and structural integrity of the module containing all the air, nitrogen and water for the astronaut crew, as well as in-space propulsion, batteries and solar arrays to generate power during deep space missions.

The Orion spacecraft is being developed to send astronauts to destinations including an asteroid placed in lunar orbit and on a journey to Mars. It will launch on the agency’s SLS rocket from a modernized spaceport at the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first exploration mission of Orion and SLS will allow NASA to use the lunar vicinity as a proving ground to test technologies farther from Earth, and demonstrate it can get to a stable orbit in the area of space near the moon in order to support sending humans to deep space.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

The European Service Module's test article is ready to undergo demonstrations at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio.
NASA

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rise of the New Shepard: A HUGE Milestone for Commercial Spaceflight!

A New Shepard rocket lifts off from Blue Origin's launch site in West Texas on a flight that took it 330,000 feet above the Earth on November 23, 2015.
Blue Origin

Blue Origin Makes Historic Rocket Landing (Press Release)

Van Horn, Texas - November 24, 2015 - Blue Origin today announced that its New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reaching its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing a historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas. To receive updates on Blue Origin’s continuing progress and early access to ticketing information, sign up at www.blueorigin.com/interested.

“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts—a used rocket,” said Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. “Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission—soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the center of the pad. Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”

High resolution video and images capturing the historic mission are available for viewing and embedding in stories at www.blueorigin.com/gallery.

Named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, the New Shepard vertical takeoff and vertical landing vehicle will carry six astronauts to altitudes beyond 100 kilometers, the internationally-recognized boundary of space. Blue Origin astronauts will experience the thrill of launch atop a rocket, the freedom of weightlessness, and views through the largest windows to ever fly in space. An animation of the Blue Origin astronaut experience can be found at www.blueorigin.com/astronaut-experience. Astronaut flights will begin following completion of a methodical flight test program.

Details on the Reusable New Shepard Space Vehicle

The New Shepard space vehicle is fully reusable and operated from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. The vehicle is comprised of two elements—a crew capsule in which the astronauts ride and a rocket booster powered by a single American-made BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine. At liftoff, the BE-3 delivers 110,000 pounds of thrust. During ascent, astronauts experience 3x the force of gravity as the spacecraft accelerates through the atmosphere.

Following powered flight, the crew capsule separates from the booster and coasts into space, providing several minutes of weightlessness. As the crew capsule descends, it reenters the atmosphere with astronauts experiencing about 5x the force of gravity before deploying three main parachutes for landing. Meanwhile, the booster descends under guided flight to the landing pad. Just prior to landing, the booster re-ignites its BE-3 engine which slows the vehicle to 4.4 mph for a gentle, powered vertical landing, enabling vehicle reuse.

Flight Details

- Launched at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, November 23, 2015

- Apogee of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) for the crew capsule

- Mach 3.72

- Re-ignition of rocket booster at 4,896 feet above ground level

- Controlled vertical landing of the booster at 4.4 mph

- Deployment of crew capsule drogue parachutes at 20,045 feet above ground level

- Landing of the crew capsule under parachutes at 11:32 a.m. Central Time

- Additional remarks from Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos are available on the Blue Origin blog at www.blueorigin.com/news/blog/historic-rocket-landing

Source: Blue Origin

****

The New Shepard rocket stands idly on the ground in West Texas after successfully completing a flight that took it 330,000 feet above the Earth on November 23, 2015.
Blue Origin


Monday, November 23, 2015

The Immensity of the International Space Station...

A cropped version of a photo showing a spacewalking astronaut working on the exterior of the International Space Station.
NASA

Just thought I'd share original and cropped versions of a great photo I found online of a spacewalking astronaut being dwarfed by the International Space Station (ISS). The solar array wings alone appear mammoth next to the human floating near them (the spacewalker is towards the upper part of the image below)... One wonders when NASA and its global partners will venture to create another spacecraft of this sheer size in the future. And towards what planetary destination this spacecraft—assuming it won't be stuck in low-Earth orbit like the ISS—will be headed.

The original version of a photo showing a spacewalking astronaut working on the exterior of the International Space Station.
NASA

Saturday, November 21, 2015

SpaceX Is Officially on the Books to Send Astronauts to the ISS!

The Crew Dragon capsule is unveiled to the public at SpaceX Headquarters in Hawthorne, California...on May 29, 2014.
SpaceX

NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station (Press Release - November 20)

NASA took a significant step Friday toward expanding research opportunities aboard the International Space Station with its first mission order from Hawthorne, California based-company SpaceX to launch astronauts from U.S. soil.

This is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. The Boeing Company of Houston received its first crew mission order in May.

"It’s really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan."

Determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time. The contracts call for orders to take place prior to certification to support the lead time necessary for missions in late 2017, provided the contractors meet readiness conditions.

Commercial crew missions to the space station, on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research aboard the orbiting laboratory.

SpaceX’s crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, has advanced through several development and certification phases. The company recently performed a critical design review, which demonstrated the transportation system has reached a sufficient level of design maturity to work toward fabrication, assembly, integration and test activities.

"The authority to proceed with Dragon's first operational crew mission is a significant milestone in the Commercial Crew Program and a great source of pride for the entire SpaceX team," said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX. “When Crew Dragon takes NASA astronauts to the space station in 2017, they will be riding in one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. We're honored to be developing this capability for NASA and our country.”

Commercial crew launches will reduce the cost, per seat, of transporting NASA astronauts to the space station compared to what the agency must pay the Russian Federal Space Agency for the same service. If, however, NASA does not receive the full requested funding for CCtCap contracts in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, the agency will be forced to delay future milestones for both U.S. companies and continue its sole reliance on Russia to transport American astronauts to the space station.

Orders under the CCtCap contracts are made two to three years prior to actual mission dates in order to provide time for each company to manufacture and assemble the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before NASA will give the final approval for flight. Each contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.

A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time.

“Commercial crew launches are really important for helping us meet the demand for research on the space station because it allows us to increase the crew to seven,” said Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist. “Over the long term, it also sets the foundation for scientific access to future commercial research platforms in low- Earth orbit.”

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manages the CCtCap contracts and is working with each company to ensure commercial transportation system designs and post-certification missions will meet the agency’s safety requirements. Activities that follow the award of missions include a series of mission-related reviews and approvals leading to launch. The program also will be involved in all operational phases of missions to ensure crew safety.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...where SpaceX will soon launch its Falcon Heavy rocket.
SpaceX

Friday, November 20, 2015

Orion Update: Getting a Shiny New Makeover for 2018...

An artist's concept of the Orion capsule with silver-coated heat titles.
NASA

Engineers Refine Thermal Protection System for Orion’s Next Mission (Press Release - November 19)

When it comes to a spacecraft enduring the extremely hot and fast journey from deep space back to Earth, NASA’s Orion can withstand the heat. Engineers developing Orion’s thermal protection system have been improving the spacecraft’s heat shield design and manufacturing process since the vehicle successfully traveled to space for the first time last year. They are now enhancing the overall system in advance of the spacecraft’s next mission – a flight that will put Orion through the harshest set of conditions yet.

Orion’s thermal protection system is one of the most critical parts of the spacecraft and is responsible for protecting it and the future astronauts it will carry home from deep space destinations. It consists of the spacecraft’s main heat shield that faces into the atmosphere on reentry to slow the spaceship down and also the grid of tiles known as the back shell. During Orion’s next mission atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the spacecraft will be in space for more than three weeks and return to Earth under even faster and hotter conditions than during its last flight.

“Orion’s thermal protection system is essential to successful future missions,” said John Kowal, NASA’s thermal protection system lead for Orion. “As we move toward building the system for EM-1, we’ve been able to take advantage of what we learned from building and flying Orion to refine our processes going forward.”

During EM-1, Orion will endure a more intense re-entry environment. While the spacecraft encountered speeds of 30,000 feet per second during Exploration Flight Test-1 and temperatures of approximately 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, it will experience a faster return from lunar velocity of about 36,000 feet per second. While the speed difference may seem subtle, the heating the vehicle sees increases exponentially as the speed increases. The work engineering teams across the country are doing prepares Orion’s heat shield to perform re-entry during any of missions planned near the moon or in high lunar orbit (NASA’s “Proving Ground”) in the coming years.

For these future Orion missions, a silver, metallic-based thermal control coating will also be bonded to the crew module’s thermal protection system back shell tiles. The coating, similar to what is used on the main heat shield, will reduce heat loss during phases when Orion is pointed to space and therefore experiencing cold temperatures, as well as limit the high temperatures the crew module will be subjected to when the spacecraft faces the sun. The coating will help Orion’s back shell maintain a temperature range from approximately -150 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit prior to entry and also will protect against electrical surface charges in space and during re-entry.

“You’re trying to hit this sweet spot because when you’re looking at the sun, you don’t want to get too hot, and then when you’re not looking at the sun and instead in darkness, you don’t want to lose all the heat that the spacecraft generates,” said Kowal.

Engineers have also refined the design in ways that improve the manufacturing process and reduce the mass of the spacecraft for the upcoming exploration missions. Instead of a monolithic outer layer, the heat shield will be made of approximately 180 blocks that can be made simultaneously with the other heat shield components to streamline the labor-and-time-intensive manufacturing process.

In addition, engineers have found ways to reduce the mass of the heat shield’s underlying structure, which is composed of a titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin. Teams have optimized the thickness of the skeleton and the skin based on the pressures that different areas will experience during flight and reentry, adding more fidelity to the overall structure while allowing it to be lighter.

NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, Lockheed Martin, recently completed a heat shield manufacturing development unit that engineers will use to verify the improved manufacturing process before it is used on hardware for flight. Teams have already begun building Orion’s heat shield for EM-1.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

Protected by silver-coated heat titles, the Orion capsule re-enters Earth's atmosphere in this artist's concept.
NASA

Thursday, November 19, 2015

On This Day: Apollo 12 Prepares to Land on the Moon...

Apollo 12's Lunar Module 'Intrepid' floats above the Moon prior to landing on the surface, on November 19, 1969.
NASA

Nov. 19, 1969, Apollo 12 Lunar Module Intrepid (Press Release)

The Apollo 12 Lunar Module (LM), in a lunar landing configuration, is photographed in lunar orbit from the Command and Service Modules (CSM) on Nov. 19, 1969. The coordinates of the center of the lunar surface shown in picture are 4.5 degrees west longitude and 7 degrees south latitude. The largest crater in the foreground is Ptolemaeus; and the second largest is Herschel. Aboard the LM were astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., commander; and Alan L. Bean, lunar module pilot. Astronaut Richard R. Gordon Jr., command module pilot, remained with the CSM in lunar orbit while Conrad and Bean descended in the LM to explore the surface of the moon.

Source: NASA.Gov

Friday, November 6, 2015

Orion Update: Test Version of European-Built Component About to be Delivered to NASA...

The holding stand for the Orion spacecraft's service module stacking assembly interface ring are about to be loaded into NASA's Super Guppy aircraft at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Orion Service Module Stacking Assembly Secured For Flight (Press Release)

The Orion spacecraft service module stacking assembly interface ring and stack holding stand are secured on a special transportation platform and are being loaded into NASA's Super Guppy aircraft at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On Nov. 3, the Guppy flew from Kennedy to NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station facility in Sandusky, Ohio.

A full-size test version of the Orion service module, provided by ESA (European Space Agency), for Orion will arrive at Plum Brook Station this month, where it will be evaluated in the Space Power Facility during a multi-month test campaign to ensure it can withstand the trip to space. The service module is a critical piece of Orion and provides air, water, in-space propulsion and power for the spacecraft. Testing on the crew module adapter test article for the service module began in July 2015. Engineers are using a “building block” approach to testing, in which they evaluate each piece as the elements composing the service module are stacked atop each other to validate the module.

Orion is the spacecraft that will launch atop NASA's Space Launch System rocket on Exploration Mission-1 in 2018. ESA, along with its contractor Airbus, is providing the service module for Orion’s next mission, a partnership that will bring international cooperation to the journey to Mars.

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

NASA Is Looking for the Next Generation of Astronauts!

A computer-generated image depicting the Orion spacecraft as its flies past the Moon several days after the launch of Exploration Mission-1...in late 2018.
NASA

Be an Astronaut: NASA Seeks Explorers for Future Space Missions (Press Release)

In anticipation of returning human spaceflight launches to American soil, and in preparation for the agency’s journey to Mars, NASA announced it will soon begin accepting applications for the next class of astronaut candidates. With more human spacecraft in development in the United States today than at any other time in history, future astronauts will launch once again from the Space Coast of Florida on American-made commercial spacecraft, and carry out deep-space exploration missions that will advance a future human mission to Mars.

The agency will accept applications from Dec. 14 through mid-February and expects to announce candidates selected in mid-2017. Applications for consideration as a NASA Astronaut will be accepted at:

http://www.usajobs.gov

The next class of astronauts may fly on any of four different U.S. vessels during their careers: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by U.S. companies, and NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

From pilots and engineers, to scientists and medical doctors, NASA selects qualified astronaut candidates from a diverse pool of U.S. citizens with a wide variety of backgrounds.

“This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Those selected for this service will fly on U.S. made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.”

The space agency is guiding an unprecedented transition to commercial spacecraft for crew and cargo transport to the space station. Flights in Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon will facilitate adding a seventh crew member to each station mission, effectively doubling the amount of time astronauts will be able to devote to research in space.

Future station crew members will continue the vital work advanced during the last 15 years of continuous human habitation aboard the orbiting laboratory, expanding scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies. This work will include building on the regular six-month missions and this year's one-year mission, currently underway aboard the station, which is striving for research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space.

In addition, NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, now in development, will launch astronauts on missions to the proving ground of lunar orbit where NASA will learn to conduct complex operations in a deep space environment before moving on to longer duration missions on its journey to Mars.

“This is an exciting time to be a part of America’s human space flight program,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “NASA has taken the next step in the evolution of our nation’s human spaceflight program – and our U.S. astronauts will be at the forefront of these new and challenging space flight missions. We encourage all qualified applicants to learn more about the opportunities for astronauts at NASA and apply to join our flight operations team.”

To date, NASA has selected more than 300 astronauts to fly on its increasingly challenging missions to explore space and benefit life on Earth. There are 47 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, and more will be needed to crew future missions to the space station and destinations in deep space.

Astronaut candidates must have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. Candidates also must have at least three years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

Monday, November 2, 2015

ISS Update: A Significant Day for Human Spaceflight...

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson gazes through the Cupola window at Earth in late September of 2010.
NASA - Douglas Wheelock / Twitpic.com

White House, NASA Administrator Statements on 15 Years of Human Habitation Aboard International Space Station (Press Release)

The following is a statement from Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:

“The International Space Station is a unique laboratory that has enabled groundbreaking research in the life and physical sciences and has provided a test bed for the technologies that will allow NASA to once again send astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit. The international partnership that built and maintains the Station is a shining example, moreover, of what humanity can accomplish when we work together in peace.

“I congratulate all of the men and women at NASA and around the world who have worked so hard to keep the International Space Station operational these past 15 years. Everyone involved can be proud of this incredible achievement.”

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:

“Over the weekend, I called NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who is currently halfway through his one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, to congratulate him on setting the American records for both cumulative and continuous days in space.

“I also took the opportunity to congratulate Commander Kelly -- and the rest of the space station crew -- for being part of a remarkable moment 5,478 days in the making: the 15th anniversary of continuous human presence aboard the space station.

“I believe the station should be considered the blueprint for peaceful global cooperation. For more than a decade and a half, it has taught us about what’s possible when tens of thousands of people across 15 countries collaborate to advance shared goals.

“The International Space Station, which President Obama has extended through 2024, is a testament to the ingenuity and boundless imagination of the human spirit. The work being done on board is an essential part of NASA’s journey to Mars, which will bring American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s.

“For 15 years, humanity’s reach has extended beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Since 2000, human beings have been living continuously aboard the space station, where they have been working off-the-Earth for the benefit of Earth, advancing scientific knowledge, demonstrating new technologies, and making research breakthroughs that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space.”

Source: NASA.Gov

Thursday, October 29, 2015

ISS Update #2: Another Spacewalk Complete...

Expedition 45 Commander Scott Kelly takes a selfie during a spacewalk that was successfully conducted outside the International Space Station on October 28, 2015.
NASA

Spacewalk Selfie (Press Release)

Expedition 45 Commander Scott Kelly took this photograph during a spacewalk on Oct. 28, 2015. Sharing the image on social media, Kelly wrote, "#SpaceWalkSelfie Back on the grid! Great first spacewalk yesterday. Now on to the next one next week. #YearInSpace"

This was the first spacewalk for both Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren; the two will venture outside the International Space Station for the second time on Friday, Nov. 6. The two spacewalks were scheduled around milestones in space. Today, Oct. 29, Kelly becomes the U.S. astronaut who has lived in space the longest during a single U.S. spaceflight, and on Monday, Nov. 2, the crew celebrates the 15th year of a continuous human presence in space aboard the station.

During the 7-hour and 16-minute spacewalk, Kelly and Lindgren applied a thermal cover on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer; applied grease to a number of components in one of the latching ends of the Canadarm2 robotic arm; and began work to rig power and data system cables for the future installation of a docking port to the station that will be used for the arrival of the Boeing Starliner CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

ISS Update: Prepping for Another Extra-Vehicular Activity...

Expedition 45 Commander Scott Kelly prepares for a spacewalk that he and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren will conduct outside the International Space Station on October 28, 2015.
NASA

Scott Kelly Prepares For a Spacewalk (Press Release)

Expedition 45 Commander Scott Kelly tries on his spacesuit inside the U.S. Quest airlock of the International Space Station. Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren will venture outside the station for a pair of spacewalks, the first of their careers, on Wednesday, Oct. 28 and Friday, Nov. 6.

The Oct. 28 spacewalk is set to last six hours and 30 minutes after Kelly and Lindgren set their spacesuits to battery power. It will be the 32nd U.S. spacewalk, and will focus on station upgrades and maintenance tasks, including installing a thermal cover on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which is a state-of-the-art particle physics detector that has been attached to the station since 2011. NASA TV coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. EDT.

Sharing this photograph of the spacesuit fit check with his social media followers, Kelly wrote, "Day 212 Getting my game face on for #spacewalk Thanks for sticking w me #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace"

Source: NASA.Gov

Monday, October 26, 2015

Orion Update: Another Big Milestone Towards Exploration Mission-1...

A computer-generated image depicting the Orion spacecraft as its flies past the Moon several days after the launch of Exploration Mission-1...in late 2018.
NASA

NASA’s Orion Marks Progress With Design Review (Press Release - October 25)

On Oct. 21, NASA held a review to evaluate the design readiness of the Orion spacecraft, the latest in a series of key milestones on the journey to Mars. The results of this review, known as a Critical Design Review, at the Program level will be briefed to agency leaders in the coming months.

The Orion spacecraft is being developed to send astronauts to deep space destinations, such as an asteroid and on the journey to Mars launching on the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

“The Orion team across the country put in many long hours preparing for and participating in this review,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager. “Every aspect of the spacecraft design was closely scrutinized.”

The Critical Design Review was carried out over the past 10 weeks by engineers at NASA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Clearing the Critical Design Review means that the Orion design is mature and ready to move ahead with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and testing. The review was supported by engineers working with the SLS and Ground Systems Development and Operations programs and in the Exploration Systems Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, alongside an independent Standing Review Board.

The evaluation included a review of common aspects of the spacecraft for Exploration Mission (EM)-1 and the spacecraft for EM-2, the first Orion mission with astronauts, such as the spacecraft’s structures, pyrotechnics, launch abort system, guidance, navigation and control and software, among many other elements. Systems unique to EM-2 will be addressed at a later critical design review for the mission in the fall of 2017.

“This is an exciting time for Orion,” Kirasich continued. “We are making strong progress manufacturing the Exploration Mission-1 Orion vehicle. Our dedicated team is making human space exploration a reality.”

Across the country, elements of the Orion spacecraft are coming together for the first integrated mission with SLS and the ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center. At NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, welding began in September on the next Orion destined for space. Next month, NASA will see the arrival of a test version of Orion’s service module, provided by ESA, for testing and analysis at the agency’s Plum Brook Station, near Sandusky, Ohio.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

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 late 2018.
NASA

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The New Look of SLS Unveiled: Artwork #2...

An artist's concept of the Space Launch System soaring through a layer of clouds following lift-off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / MSFC

Artist Concept: Space Launch System Takes Flight (Press Release - October 22)

Artist concept of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1 70-metric-ton configuration launching to space. SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for deep space missions, including to an asteroid and ultimately to Mars. The first SLS mission -- Exploration Mission 1 -- will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to a stable orbit beyond the moon and bring it back to Earth to demonstrate the integrated system performance of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft’s re-entry and landing prior to a crewed flight.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

A cropped version of the artist's concept showing the Space Launch System soaring through a layer of clouds following lift-off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / MSFC

Friday, October 23, 2015

The New Look of SLS Unveiled: Artwork #1...

An artist's concept of the 'Block I' version of the Space Launch System sitting on its pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / MSFC

NASA's Space Launch System Design 'Right on Track' for Journey to Mars (Press Release - October 22)

ABOVE: Artist concept of the SLS Block 1 configuration.

For the first time in almost 40 years, a NASA human-rated rocket has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review (CDR). The agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V.

SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built and, with the agency’s Orion spacecraft, will launch America into a new era of exploration to destinations beyond Earth’s orbit.

Source: NASA.Gov

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Huge Milestone Achieved for America's Next Mega-Rocket!

A composite image showing the Space Launch System at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA

NASA Completes Critical Design Review for Space Launch System (Press Release)

For the first time in almost 40 years, a NASA human-rated rocket has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review (CDR). The agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V.

SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built and, with the agency’s Orion spacecraft, will launch America into a new era of exploration to destinations beyond Earth’s orbit. The CDR provided a final look at the design and development of the integrated launch vehicle before full-scale fabrication begins.

“We’ve nailed down the design of SLS, we’ve successfully completed the first round of testing of the rocket’s engines and boosters, and all the major components for the first flight are now in production,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Division. “There have been challenges, and there will be more ahead, but this review gives us confidence that we are on the right track for the first flight of SLS and using it to extend permanent human presence into deep space.”

The CDR examined the first of three configurations planned for the rocket, referred to as SLS Block 1. The Block I configuration will have a minimum 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capability and be powered by twin boosters and four RS-25 engines. The next planned upgrade of SLS, Block 1B, would use a more powerful exploration upper stage for more ambitious missions with a 105-metric-ton (115-ton) lift capacity. Block 2 will add a pair of advanced solid or liquid propellant boosters to provide a 130-metric-ton (143-ton) lift capacity. In each configuration, SLS will continue to use the same core stage and four RS-25 engines.

The SLS Program completed the review in July, in conjunction with a separate review by the Standing Review Board, which is composed of seasoned experts from NASA and industry who are independent of the program. Throughout the course of 11 weeks, 13 teams – made up of senior engineers and aerospace experts across the agency and industry – reviewed more than 1,000 SLS documents and more than 150 GB of data as part of the comprehensive assessment process at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where SLS is managed for the agency.

The Standing Review Board reviewed and assessed the program’s readiness and confirmed the technical effort is on track to complete system development and meet performance requirements on budget and on schedule.

The program briefed the results of the review in October to the Agency Program Management Council, led by NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, as the final step in the CDR process.

This review is the last of four reviews that examine concepts and designs. The next step for the program is design certification, which will take place in 2017 after manufacturing, integration and testing is complete. The design certification will compare the actual final product to the rocket’s design. The final review, the flight readiness review, will take place just prior to the 2018 flight readiness date.

“This is a major step in the design and readiness of SLS,” said John Honeycutt, SLS program manager. “Our team has worked extremely hard, and we are moving forward with building this rocket. We are qualifying hardware, building structural test articles, and making real progress.”

Critical design reviews for the individual SLS elements of the core stage, boosters and engines were completed successfully as part of this milestone. Also as part of the CDR, the program concluded the core stage of the rocket and Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter will remain orange, the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements, instead of painted white. The core stage, towering more than 200 feet tall and with a diameter of 27.6 feet, will carry cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel for the rocket’s four RS-25 engines.

The integrated spacecraft and payloads are nearing completion on their CDR. Flight hardware currently is in production for every element. NASA is preparing for a second qualification test for the SLS boosters, and structural test articles for the core and upper stages of the rocket are either completed or currently in production. NASA also recently completed the first developmental test series on the RS-25 engines.

Source: NASA.Gov

****

An infographic showing the various components that comprise the Space Launch System.
NASA / MSFC

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Photos of the Day: Endeavour's Final Home...

A concept model and illustration depicting the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour's final home, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 11, 2015.

Earlier today, I drove down to the California Science Center (CSC) in Los Angeles to visit space shuttle Endeavour once more (plus, I watched a documentary called Humpback Whales 3D at the museum's IMAX theater). I didn't take any new photos of the retired orbiter since I already have a whole bunch that's posted on this page, but I did take some images of a cool concept model that shows how Endeavour's final home, the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, will look when it hopefully opens around three years from now. By the way, tomorrow marks three years since Endeavour first departed from a United Airlines hangar at Los Angeles International Airport to begin her much-celebrated street parade towards the CSC, while Wednesday (October 14), marks three years since the shuttle made her way up a ramp into the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, Endeavour's temporary home, at the downtown L.A. museum. Can't wait to see Endeavour in her vertical, launch-like configuration in 2018! That'll be a sight to see.

The illustration depicting the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour's final home, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 11, 2015.

The concept model depicting the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour's final home, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 11, 2015.

The concept model depicting the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour's final home, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles...on October 11, 2015.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Setting Sights on the Red Planet: Visions for the Future...

An illustration depicting the Earth Reliant, Proving Ground and Earth Independent thresholds, showing key capabilities that will be developed as NASA plans for a journey to Mars.
NASA

NASA Releases Plan Outlining Next Steps in the Journey to Mars (Press Release)

NASA is leading our nation and the world on a journey to Mars, and Thursday the agency released a detailed outline of that plan in its report, “NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration.”

“NASA is closer to sending American astronauts to Mars than at any point in our history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today, we are publishing additional details about our journey to Mars plan and how we are aligning all of our work in support of this goal. In the coming weeks, I look forward to continuing to discuss the details of our plan with members of Congress, as well as our commercial and our international and partners, many of whom will be attending the International Astronautical Congress next week.”

The plan can be read online at:

http://go.nasa.gov/1VHDXxg

The journey to Mars crosses three thresholds, each with increasing challenges as humans move farther from Earth. NASA is managing these challenges by developing and demonstrating capabilities in incremental steps:

Earth Reliant exploration is focused on research aboard the International Space Station. From this world-class microgravity laboratory, we are testing technologies and advancing human health and performance research that will enable deep space, long duration missions.

In the Proving Ground, NASA will learn to conduct complex operations in a deep space environment that allows crews to return to Earth in a matter of days. Primarily operating in cislunar space—the volume of space around the moon featuring multiple possible stable staging orbits for future deep space missions—NASA will advance and validate capabilities required for humans to live and work at distances much farther away from our home planet, such as at Mars.

Earth Independent activities build on what we learn on the space station and in deep space to enable human missions to the Mars vicinity, possibly to low-Mars orbit or one of the Martian moons, and eventually the Martian surface. Future Mars missions will represent a collaborative effort between NASA and its partners—a global achievement that marks a transition in humanity’s expansion as we go to Mars to seek the potential for sustainable life beyond Earth.

“NASA’s strategy connects near-term activities and capability development to the journey to Mars and a future with a sustainable human presence in deep space,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters. “This strategy charts a course toward horizon goals, while delivering near-term benefits, and defining a resilient architecture that can accommodate budgetary changes, political priorities, new scientific discoveries, technological breakthroughs, and evolving partnerships.”

NASA is charting new territory, and we will adapt to new scientific discoveries and new opportunities. Our current efforts are focused on pieces of the architecture that we know are needed. In parallel, we continue to refine an evolving architecture for the capabilities that require further investigation. These efforts will define the next two decades on the journey to Mars.

CHALLENGES FOR SPACE PIONEERS

Living and working in space require accepting risks—and the journey to Mars is worth the risks. A new and powerful space transportation system is key to the journey, but NASA also will need to learn new ways of operating in space, based on self-reliance and increased system reliability. We will use proving ground missions to validate transportation and habitation capabilities as well as new operational approaches to stay productive in space while reducing reliance on Earth.

We identify the technological and operational challenges in three categories: transportation, sending humans and cargo through space efficiently, safely, and reliably; working in space, enabling productive operations for crew and robotic systems; and staying healthy, developing habitation systems that provide safe, healthy, and sustainable human exploration. Bridging these three categories are the overarching logistical challenges facing crewed missions lasting up to 1,100 days and exploration campaigns that span decades.

STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS TO ADDRESS PIONEERING CHALLENGES

NASA is investing in powerful capabilities and state-of-the-art technologies that benefit both NASA and our industry partners while minimizing overall costs through innovative partnerships. Through our evolvable transportation infrastructure, ongoing spaceflight architecture studies, and rapid prototyping activities, we are developing resilient architecture concepts that focus on critical capabilities across a range of potential missions. We are investing in technologies that provide large returns, and maximizing flexibility and adaptability through commonality, modularity, and reusability.

On the space station, we are advancing human health and behavioral research for Mars-class missions. We are pushing the state-of-the-art life support systems, printing 3-D parts, and analyzing material handling techniques for in-situ resource utilization. The upcoming eighth SpaceX commercial resupply services mission will launch the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, a capability demonstration for inflatable space habitats.

With the Space Launch System, Orion crewed spacecraft, and revitalized space launch complex, we are developing core transportation capabilities for the journey to Mars and ensuring continued access for our commercial crew and cargo partners to maintain operations and stimulate new economic activity in low-Earth orbit. This secured U.S. commercial access to low-Earth orbit allows NASA to continue leveraging the station as a microgravity test bed while preparing for missions in the proving ground of deep space and beyond.

Through the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), we will demonstrate an advanced solar electric propulsion capability that will be a critical component of our journey to Mars. ARM will also provide an unprecedented opportunity for us to validate new spacewalk and sample handling techniques as astronauts investigate several tons of an asteroid boulder – potentially opening new scientific discoveries about the formation of our solar system and beginning of life on Earth.

We are managing and directing the ground-based facilities and services provided by the Deep Space Network (DSN), Near Earth Network (NEN), and Space Network (SN) – critical communications capabilities that we continue to advance for human and robotic communication throughout the solar system.

Through our robotic emissaries, we have already been on and around Mars for 40 years, taking nearly every opportunity to send orbiters, landers, and rovers with increasingly complex experiments and sensing systems. These orbiters and rovers have returned vital data about the Martian environment, helping us understand what challenges we may face and resources we may encounter. The revolutionary Curiosity sky crane placed nearly one metric ton – about the size of a small car – safely on the surface of Mars, but we need to be able to land at least 10 times that weight with humans – and then be able to get them off the surface.

These challenges are solvable, and NASA and its partners are working on the solutions every day so we can answer some of humanity’s fundamental questions about life beyond Earth: Was Mars home to microbial life? Is it today? Could it be a safe home for humans one day? What can it teach us about life elsewhere in the cosmos or how life began on Earth? What can it teach us about Earth’s past, present and future?

The journey to Mars is an historic pioneering endeavor—a journey made possible by a sustained effort of science and exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit with successively more capable technologies and partnerships.

Source: NASA.Gov