Wednesday, December 28, 2016
NASA Preps for Space Station Power Upgrade Spacewalks; Live NASA TV Coverage (Press Release)
Expedition 50 astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station at 7 a.m. EST Jan. 6 and 13 to perform a complex upgrade to the orbital outpost’s power system. Coverage of the spacewalks will begin at 5:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
On Wednesday, Jan. 4, NASA TV will air a briefing at 2 p.m. from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to preview the spacewalk activities. The briefing participants are:
Kenneth Todd, International Space Station Operations Integration Manager
Jud Frieling, flight director for Jan. 6 spacewalk
Gary Horlacher, flight director for Jan. 13 spacewalk
Troy McCracken, lead battery replacement robotics officer
Kieth Johnson, lead spacewalk officer
Media may attend the briefing at Johnson or ask questions by calling the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 1:45 p.m. Jan. 4.
Working on the right side truss of the space station, the crew members will install adapter plates and hook up electrical connections for six new lithium-ion batteries that were delivered to the station in December.
Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will perform the first spacewalk Jan. 6. The work will continue Jan. 13 during the second spacewalk, which will be conducted by Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency).
Prior to each spacewalk, the new batteries will be robotically extracted from a pallet to replace 12 older nickel-hydrogen batteries through a series of robotic operations. Nine of the older batteries will be stowed in a cargo resupply craft for later disposal, while three will remain on the station’s truss, disconnected from the power grid. The robotic operations will not air on NASA TV.
This will be the 196th and 197th spacewalks in support of space station assembly and maintenance. Kimbrough will be designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit bearing red stripes for both spacewalks, the third and fourth of his career.
Whitson will be making the seventh spacewalk of her career and match the record of NASA’s Suni Williams, for most spacewalks by a woman. She will be designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes for the first spacewalk.
Pesquet, who will be making the first spacewalk of his career, will be extravehicular crew member 2 for the second spacewalk, also wearing a suit with no stripes.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Wind Tunnel Testing Underway for Next, More Powerful Version of NASA's Space Launch System (Press Release)
As engines are fired, software written and hardware welded to prepare for the first flight of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), engineers are already running tests in supersonic wind tunnels to develop the next, more powerful version of the world's most advanced launch vehicle capable of carrying humans to deep space destinations.
"Aeronautics leads the way in the design of a new rocket," said Jeff Bland, SLS discipline lead engineer for Integrated Vehicle Structures & Environments at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "The first leg any journey for spacecraft launched from Earth is a flight through our atmosphere."
Manufacturing is well underway on the initial configuration of SLS. It is 322 feet tall and able to lift 70 metric tons (77 tons). For the first test flight of SLS, the rocket will carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond the moon and then return to Earth, deploying 13 small science and technology satellites in deep space during the journey.
The new wind tunnel tests are for the second generation of SLS. It will deliver a 105-metric-ton (115-ton) lift capacity and will be 364 feet tall in the crew configuration -- taller than the Saturn V that launched astronauts on missions to the moon. The rocket's core stage will be the same, but the newer rocket will feature a powerful exploration upper stage. On SLS’s second flight with Orion, the rocket will carry up to four astronauts on a mission around the moon, in the deep-space proving ground for the technologies and capabilities needed on NASA’s Journey to Mars.
Scale models of the upgraded rocket in crew and cargo configurations are being carefully positioned in wind tunnels for test programs to obtain data needed to refine the design of the rocket and its guidance and control systems, said Dr. John Blevins, SLS lead engineer for aerodynamics and acoustics at Marshall. During hundreds of test runs at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, engineers are measuring the forces and loads that air induces on the launch vehicle during every phase of its mission.
"All the critical aerodynamic environments, from when the upgraded rocket leaves the Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Canaveral to launch, acceleration through the sound barrier and booster separation at greater than Mach 4 are evaluated in these four tests," Blevins said.
Ascent tests completed at Ames in November determined the rocket's behavior as it climbs after launch, and the kind of instructions to be programmed into the rocket flight computer for guidance and control as the rocket passes through transonic flight. For instance, the tests will determine what commands the autopilot will send to the rocket's nozzles to correct for wind or other factors and stay on course.
Buffet testing at Langley in November focused primarily on how the cargo version of the upgraded rocket behaves as it moves through the atmosphere at just below the speed of sound, approaching about 800 miles per hour, then moves into supersonic flight. As the rocket approaches the speed of sound, shock waves build and move along different points of the launch vehicle. These shock waves can cause buffeting, shaking, vibration and unsteady loads that could result in damage or course changes that must be corrected, Blevins said.
The cargo version of the upgraded rocket has a smooth fairing above the exploration upper stage instead of the Orion spacecraft and launch abort system, so separate wind tunnel testing is needed. Similar tests planned for the fall 2017 at Langley will include observing this transonic shock oscillation and buffeting on the crew version of the rocket, at both subsonic speeds and higher Mach numbers. At Mach 1.5 or 2, the waves terminate, or remain at the same points on the rocket for the rest of the flight, but they continue to change angle and strength.
These wind tunnel tests are critical, Blevins said, because the location and temporal behavior of these shock waves are difficult to predict with computational fluid dynamics -- they must be observed and measured.
Two other test series are planned at Langley. The first in early 2017 will provide data to ensure that as the SLS’s two solid rocket boosters separate from the rocket during ascent, they don't come back into contact with the vehicle. These tests are complex, Blevins said, because the models of the rocket’s core stage and each of the two boosters are separately instrumented, and even the dynamics of the small rocket motors that jettison the boosters are simulated.
Next will be liftoff transition testing, scheduled in the summer. These tests will include evaluation of the effects of winds on the rocket as it is waiting on the pad, and the presence of the mobile launcher and tower during liftoff. Drift of the vehicle as it moves past the tower must be controlled to avoid damage and because the sound bouncing back from the pad can cause damaging vibration.
"We expect that at the end of this test series we will have all the aerodynamic flight data needed for the upgraded rocket," he said. "We'll be ready for the first flight with crew, targeted as early as 2021, and subsequent flights."
NASA engineers have also teamed with CUBRC Inc. of Buffalo, New York, to use a special type of wind tunnel to better understand and analyze how the SLS heats up as it ascends into space. A model of the rocket was used in the first phase of aerodynamic heating tests in CUBRC's Large Energy National Shock Tunnel (LENS-II) in September. A second phase of testing is planned for models of the SLS in crew and cargo versions, in early 2017.
The SLS wind tunnel testing is very much a cross-agency effort resulting in information and new test techniques that also benefit other rocket and aerospace programs, said Dr. Patrick Shea. He's based at Langley, but served as SLS aerodynamics test lead for the transonic ascent testing recently completed at the Ames facilities.
For example, the Ames aerodynamics team is developing an optical measurement method involving Unsteady Pressure-Sensitive Paint. During a test, special lights and cameras will observe changes in the paint's fluorescence, indicating the strength of aerodynamic forces acting along different areas of the rocket or test article. Ames was able to take advantage of the presence of the SLS rocket model to conduct its own tests using the paint.
"For a lot of aero-acoustics and buffet work, we instrument the models with hundreds of pressure sensors. If we can start moving to more of an optical technique such as the dynamic pressure sensitive paint, it will really make good strides forward," Shea said. "It ended up being a really nice integration of their test technique and our test campaign."
NASA / Ames / Dominic Hart
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
NASA / Michoud / Steve Seipel
Preparing to Plug Into NASA SLS Fuel Tank (News Release)
A team prepares a robot – the yellow machine attached to the liquid hydrogen tank for the Space Launch System rocket -- for friction plug welding at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Friction plug welding is a technique developed by engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It uses a robot to fill holes left after the tank goes through assembly in a larger robotic welder.
The liquid hydrogen tank is more than 130 feet long and is the largest part of the rocket’s core stage -- the backbone of the rocket. The liquid hydrogen tank, along with a liquid oxygen tank, will provide 733,000 gallons of fuel for the first integrated mission of SLS with NASA's Orion spacecraft in 2018. SLS will be the world's most powerful rocket and take astronauts in Orion to deep space, including on the Journey to Mars.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Orion Main Engine Arrives In Europe (News Release - December 14)
The main engine for the European Service Module that will power NASA’s Orion spacecraft was shipped from NASA’s White Sands facility and has arrived at Airbus Space and Defence assembly hall in Bremen, Germany.
The first Orion exploration mission will fly in 2018 beyond the Moon with a European-built service module to provide electricity, water, oxygen and nitrogen as well as keeping the spacecraft at the right temperature and on course.
The service module has 33 engines to provide thrust and manoeuvre the spacecraft on all axes. The main engine on the first mission is a repurposed Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System engine that has flown 19 times in space before on Space Shuttle Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis. The engine provides 25.7 kN, enough to lift a van, and can swivel in pitch and yaw.
Road to Bremen
At White Sands the engine was refurbished and reassembled before shipping to NASA’s Johnson Space Center for shake testing. It was returned to White Sands for leak testing and is now in Europe. The engine flew from Dallas/Fort Worth airport to Frankfurt and continued its trip by truck to the European Service Module integration halls in Bremen, Germany.
Source: European Space Agency
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
NASA / JAXA
Successful Berthing of the H-II Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI 6 (HTV-6) to the International Space Station (Press Release)
The H-II Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI 6 (HTV-6) started its final approach to the International Space Station (ISS), and was captured by the ISS robotic arm at 7:39 p.m. on December 13 (Japanese Standard Time, JST). Being captured and maneuvered by the robotic arm, the HTV-6 was successfully berthed to the ISS at 3:24 a.m. on December 14 (JST).
Once after berthing of vehicle, the internal and external cargo will be unloaded by the onboard crew.
Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Major Assembly Complete on System that will Pack a Powerful Push for Orion (News Release - December 9)
The propulsion system that will give the Orion spacecraft the in-space push needed to travel thousands of miles beyond the Moon and back has completed major assembly at United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Decatur, Alabama. The Boeing-designed interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will give Orion an extra punch of power on the first, uncrewed flight of the spacecraft with NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System in late 2018. The first integrated exploration mission will allow NASA to use the lunar vicinity as a proving ground to test systems farther from Earth, and demonstrate Orion can get to a stable orbit in the area of space near the moon in order to support sending humans to deep space, including the Journey to Mars.
With major assembly now complete on the flight hardware, the ICPS has several more steps to go, including avionics installation at the ULA-Decatur factory; barge and road transport to the Delta Operating Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, for avionics and system-level testing; and delivery to NASA in mid-2017.
Friday, December 9, 2016
JAXA / Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.
Launch Success Of The H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 6 (H-IIB F6) With The H-II Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI 6 On Board (Press Release)
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 6 (H-IIB F6) with cargo transporter to the International Space Station, the H-II Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI 6 (HTV-6) on board at 10:26:47 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center. The launch vehicle flew as planned, and at approximately 15 minutes and 11 seconds after liftoff, the separation of HTV6 was confirmed.
At the time of the launch, the weather was fine, the wind speed was 4.3 meters/second, from the north-west, and the temperature was 15.5 degrees Celsius.
Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Thursday, December 8, 2016
I remember the last time John Glenn flew into space... It was on October 29, 1998, and I rushed back to my dorm after a class (it was my first semester in college) to watch the launch of shuttle Discovery on television. John Glenn was a payload specialist on this flight (STS-95), and he was going to embark on an 8-day mission that involved gaining a better understanding of the effects of microgravity on the human body. Even though this seemed like a routine shuttle flight, everyone knew that it was historic—as it was an American hero's return to space after a 36-year absence from the final frontier. Farewell, Mr. Glenn... Along with Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride and other space pioneers, you now belong to the ages. Ad astra.
NASA Remembers American Legend John Glenn (Press Release)
The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of Sen. John Glenn:
“While that first orbit was the experience of a lifetime, Glenn, who also had flown combat missions in both World War II and the Korean War as a Marine aviator, continued to serve his country as a four-term Senator from Ohio, as a trusted statesman, and an educator. In 1998, at the age of 77, he became the oldest human to venture into space as a crew member on the Discovery space shuttle -- once again advancing our understanding of living and working in space.
“He earned many honors for both his military and public service achievements. In 2012, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the country can bestow, and he also received the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Glenn's extraordinary courage, intellect, patriotism and humanity were the hallmarks of a life of greatness. His missions have helped make possible everything our space program has since achieved and the human missions to an asteroid and Mars that we are striving toward now.
“With all his accomplishments, he was always focused on the young people of today, who would soon lead the world. ‘The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and advance the kind of science, math and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel,’ he said. ‘To me, there is no greater calling ... If I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I've accomplished something.’
“Senator Glenn's legacy is one of risk and accomplishment, of history created and duty to country carried out under great pressure with the whole world watching. The entire NASA Family will be forever grateful for his outstanding service, commitment and friendship. Personally, I shall miss him greatly. As a fellow Marine and aviator, he was a mentor, role model and, most importantly, a dear friend. My prayers go out to his lovely and devoted wife, Annie, and the entire Glenn family at this time of their great loss."
Sunday, December 4, 2016
ESA / NASA
NASA Administrator Statement on ESA’s Commitment to Space Station (Press Release - December 2)
The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) decision to continue its operations aboard the International Space Station:
"The European Space Agency contributions to station are essential, and we look forward to continuing to work with ESA, the Canadian Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Roscomos for extended operations, and to collaborating with other nations to push the boundaries of human exploration, and extend our reach farther into the solar system as part of the ongoing Journey to Mars."
For more information about the International Space Station, its research and crews, visit:
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Congrats to Virgin Galactic on achieving a huge milestone today as the VSS Unity finally conducted her first glide test above California's Mojave Desert this morning! After a few months of captive carry test flights from the Mojave Air & Space Port, the newest SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is now stretching her wings... The anticipation is high as to when RocketMotorTwo will be installed inside Unity and she'll be soaring towards her true destination—the edge of space. But due diligence comes first, and we must be patient as Virgin Galactic accomplishes the goals necessary for SS2 to finally and safely transform into a true space vehicle once more. Godspeed!
Friday, December 2, 2016
NASA’s First Flight With Crew Will Mark Important Step on Journey to Mars (News Release - December 1)
When astronauts are on their first test flight aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will take them farther into the solar system than humanity has ever traveled before, their mission will be to confirm all of the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed in the actual environment of deep space. After an Orion test campaign that includes ground tests, systems demonstrations on the International Space Station, and uncrewed space test flights, this first crewed test flight will mark a significant step forward on NASA’s Journey to Mars.
This will be NASA’s first mission with crew in a series of missions in the proving ground, an area of space around the moon where crew can build and test systems needed to prepare for the challenge of missions to Mars. The mission will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as early as August 2021. Crew size will be determined closer to launch, but NASA plans to fly up to four astronauts in Orion for each human mission.
“Like every test flight, we will have test objectives for this mission both before and after we commit to going to the moon,” said Bill Hill, deputy associated administrator, Exploration Systems Development, NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It’s just like the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, which built up and demonstrated their capabilities over a series of missions. During this mission, we have a number of tests designed to demonstrate critical functions, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space.”
The mission plan for the flight is built around a profile called a multi-translunar injection (MTLI), or multiple departure burns, and includes a free return trajectory from the moon. Basically, the spacecraft will circle our planet twice while periodically firing its engines to build up enough speed to push it toward the moon before looping back to Earth.
After launch, the spacecraft and upper stage of the rocket will first orbit Earth twice to ensure its systems are working normally. Orion will reach a circular orbit at an altitude of 100 nautical miles and last 90 minutes. The move or burn to get the spacecraft into a specific orbit around a planet or other body in space is called orbital insertion.
Following the first orbit, the rocket’s powerful exploration upper stage (EUS) and four RL-10 engines will perform an orbital raise, which will place Orion into a highly elliptical orbit around our planet. This is called the partial translunar injection. This second, larger orbit will take approximately 24 hours with Orion flying in an ellipse between 500 and 19,000 nautical miles above Earth. For perspective, the International Space Station orbits Earth from about 250 miles above.
Once the integrated vehicle completes these two orbits, the EUS will separate from Orion and any payloads selected and mounted inside the rocket’s universal stage adapter will be released. The payloads will then fly on their own to conduct their unique missions.
After the EUS separation, the crew will do a unique test of Orion’s critical systems. They will gather and evaluate engineering data from their day-long orbit before using Orion’s service module to complete a second and final propulsion move called the translunar injection (TLI) burn. This second burn will put Orion on a path toward the moon, and will conclude the “multi-translunar injection” portion of the mission.
“Free” ride home
The TLI will send crew around the backside of the moon where they will ultimately create a figure eight before Orion returns to Earth. Instead of requiring propulsion on the return, the spacecraft will use the moon’s gravitational pull like a slingshot to bring Orion home, which is the free return portion of the trajectory. Crew will fly thousands of miles beyond the moon, which is an average of 230,000 miles beyond the Earth.
A flexible mission length will allow NASA to gather valuable imagery data during daylight for the launch, landing and recovery phases. It will take a minimum of eight days to complete the mission, and pending additional analysis, it may be extended up to 21 days to complete additional flight test objectives.
Two missions, two different trajectories
The agency is scheduled to test SLS and Orion together for the first time without crew over the course of about three weeks in late 2018. The MTLI will build upon testing that will be done in a distant lunar retrograde orbit, or DRO, for that first mission. The DRO will put Orion in a more challenging trajectory, and will be an opportunity to test the kind of maneuvers and environments the spacecraft will see on future exploration missions. The DRO will require additional propulsion moves throughout the trip, including a moon flyby and return trajectory burns.
“Between the DRO on our first flight, and the MTLI on the second flight, we will demonstrate the full range of capabilities SLS and Orion need to operate in deep space,” said Hill.
Once these first two test flights are completed, Hill added that NASA hopes to begin launching missions every year with crew, depending on budget and program performance.
NASA recently outlined its exploration objectives in deep space and grouped them into three categories: transportation, working in space, and staying healthy. The early missions in the proving ground are a critical step on the journey to learn more about the deep space environment and test the technologies the agency needs to eventually take humans to Mars.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Russian Resupply Ship Experiences Anomaly; International Space Station Crew is Fine (Press Release)
The Russian space agency Roscosmos has confirmed a Progress cargo resupply spacecraft bound for the International Space Station has been lost. The spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Thursday on a Soyuz rocket, but experienced an anomaly around six and a half minutes into its flight.
Six crew members living aboard the space station are safe and have been informed of the mission’s status. Both the Russian and U.S. segments of the station continue to operate normally with onboard supplies at good levels.
The ISS Progress 65 cargo spacecraft launched on time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:51 a.m. EST (8:51 p.m. Baikonur time). The first few minutes of flight were normal, but Russian flight controllers reported telemetry data indicating a problem during third stage operation. The Russians have formed a State Commission and are the source for details on the specific failure cause.
The spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station. The next mission scheduled to deliver cargo to the station is an H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-6 from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday, Dec. 9.
Cargo packed inside the Progress 65 included more than 2.6 tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the space station crew, including approximately 1,400 pounds of propellant, 112 pounds of oxygen, 925 pounds of water, and 2,750 pounds of spare parts, supplies and scientific experiment hardware. Among the U.S. supplies on board were spare parts for the station’s environmental control and life support system, research hardware, crew supplies and crew clothing, all of which are replaceable.