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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Photos of the Day #3: Falcon Heavy Is On The Pad!

The payload fairing containing Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster is transported to SpaceX's Horizontal Integration Facility in Florida to be attached to the Falcon Heavy rocket...on December 26, 2017.
Emiliano C. Diaz de Leon

Earlier today, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket was rolled out to Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to undergo a fit check and additional testing at the pad. As shown above, Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster is now encapsulated inside the rocket's payload fairing. Falcon Heavy's static-fire test won't occur till next week (with its maiden flight still scheduled for late January), but it's great to see the launch vehicle vertical at its pad as it gears up to become the most powerful rocket in the world (for the next two years) once it finally soars beyond the Earth's atmosphere... Happy Thursday.

The Falcon Heavy rocket is being raised into vertical position at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida...on December 28, 2017.
Spaceflight Now

The Falcon Heavy rocket is now in vertical position for testing at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida...on December 28, 2017.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Photos of the Day #2: The Falcon Heavy's First Payload Is Revealed!

The Tesla Roadster that the Falcon Heavy will send towards Mars on its maiden flight is about to be enshrouded by the rocket's two huge payload fairings.
Elon Musk / SpaceX

Yesterday, SpaceX revealed on social media that it is indeed launching a Tesla Roadster towards Mars via a Falcon Heavy rocket next month. The sleek, electric-powered sports coupe can be seen in these photos mounted to its second stage adapter...with the Falcon Heavy's two huge payload fairings ready to enshroud it. The rocket should undergo a static-fire test at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida before the end of this week. And sometime in January, Elon Musk's newest rocket will hopefully become the world's most powerful launch vehicle (before NASA's Space Launch System comes online in late 2019 or early 2020, that is) to take flight since a Saturn V sent Skylab to low-Earth orbit in 1973. Carry on.

The Tesla Roadster that the Falcon Heavy will send towards Mars on its maiden flight is about to be enshrouded by the rocket's two huge payload fairings.
Elon Musk / SpaceX

The Tesla Roadster that the Falcon Heavy will send towards Mars on its maiden flight is about to be enshrouded by the rocket's two huge payload fairings.
Elon Musk / SpaceX

The Tesla Roadster that the Falcon Heavy will send towards Mars on its maiden flight is about to be enshrouded by the rocket's two huge payload fairings.
Elon Musk / SpaceX

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rest In Peace, Bruce McCandless...

As seen from aboard Challenger during space shuttle mission STS-41-B, Bruce McCandless II pilots a Manned Maneuvering Unit high above the Earth...on February 7, 1984.
NASA

Bruce McCandless II, the NASA astronaut who conducted the first-ever untethered spacewalk during a shuttle mission in 1984, passed away yesterday at the age of 80. Along with being the subject of an iconic photo (taken from the orbiter Challenger during flight STS-41-B) showing him piloting a Manned Maneuvering Unit high above the Earth, McCandless was also part of the STS-31 crew that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope from shuttle Discovery in April of 1990. May this brave explorer rest in peace.

A group portrait of the STS-31 crew that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope from space shuttle Discovery in April of 1990: (Left to right) Charles F. Bolden, Steven A. Hawley, Loren J. Shriver, Bruce McCandless II and Kathryn D. Sullivan.
NASA

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Photos of the Day: The Falcon Heavy Is Revealed...

The Falcon Heavy rocket as seen inside SpaceX's Horizontal Integration Facility at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida.
Elon Musk / SpaceX

Earlier today, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted these three images of the first Falcon Heavy rocket lying horizontal inside its processing facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The giant vehicle is set to be rolled out to Launch Pad 39A to undergo a static-fire test sometime before the end of this month—prior to embarking on its maiden flight into space sometime in January. It remains to be seen if Musk's Tesla Roadster will indeed be the first payload to fly on the Falcon Heavy next month... Stay tuned.

The Falcon Heavy's 27 Merlin engines are ready to be test-fired at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida...sometime before the end of this month.
Elon Musk / SpaceX

The Falcon Heavy rocket as seen inside SpaceX's Horizontal Integration Facility at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida.
Elon Musk / SpaceX

Monday, December 18, 2017

Expedition 54 Crew Members Will Get to Watch the New STAR WARS Film Aboard the Space Station...

A snapshot of the International Space Station orbiting the Earth.
NASA

The Last Jedi to Appear Aboard International Space Station (News Release - December 15)

So who is The Last Jedi? Is it Luke Skywalker? Is it Rey? Other theories? Crew members currently aboard the International Space Station won’t have to wait until they return to Earth to find out. Just as Disney did two years ago for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the company is sending Episode VIII to space for astronauts to watch in orbit.

Disney will uplink the film to the space station through mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Expedition 54 crew members, including NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and soon Scott Tingle, look forward to watching the science fiction saga at their leisure while they’re living and working aboard the orbiting laboratory that will enable human and robotic exploration of galaxies far, far away.

Eager to bring in the next crop of Padawans, NASA recently selected its newest class of astronaut candidates as the next generation of American space explorers. Twelve elite men and women with backgrounds ranging from aeronautics to geology and nuclear engineering were hand-picked from more than 18,300 applicants. They will train for two years at NASA Johnson before they become full-fledged astronauts.

Speaking of astronauts, NASA’s record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson returned to Earth in September. Like General Leia and Rey, the Force is strong with Peggy – she is the first female to command the station (twice now). Among her accomplishments after three long-duration stays in space, she holds the U.S. record for time in space with 665 days, and places eighth on the all-time space endurance list.

As NASA works to extend human presence farther into the solar system, understanding how the human body reacts to microgravity is a focal point among the hundreds of experiments conducted on station annually. Some of the research on the next cargo resupply flight could rival the healing powers of bacta, including a new synthetic material to accelerate bone repair, and another to combat muscle atrophy.

While Star Wars often relies on the wisdom of ancient aliens like Yoda and Maz, NASA is building on the James Webb Space Telescope to study the history of our universe. Using the agency’s Kepler spacecraft, NASA is able to survey the “outer rim” of the Milky Way to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets. Of course, we need the ability to communicate in the solar system, and NASA’s Deep Space Network is bigger and better than the HoloNet system used by the Galactic Republic.

Somewhere in the Star Wars galaxy there are likely plans to build a new rebel outpost. NASA’s concept for a deep space gateway would be the agency’s first crew-tended spaceport near the Moon. A sustainable crew presence in deep space will take the best of the Resistance, so NASA is studying this concept with U.S. industry and our space station partners.

A power and propulsion element would be the first element of the gateway staged near the Moon, and it would leverage advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology. Whereas the First Order developed a superweapon to harvest a star’s energy for evil, NASA would use the Sun’s energy to extend the length and capabilities of ambitious new science and human exploration missions. NASA would launch additional elements for a deep space spaceport (including a habitat and logistics modules) on the early crewed missions of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Once the gateway is assembled in space, NASA’s deep space transport concept could become the agency’s Millennium Falcon.

And while interstellar travelers today only bear resemblance to the flagship of the Rebel fleet, NASA is hard at work pushing the boundaries of human exploration. Perhaps one day scavengers on Saturn will find remnants of the Cassini spacecraft, or humans will look fondly back on Earth from a planet like Jakku.

Source: NASA.Gov

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A group of First Order AT-M6 walkers wage battle against an old Rebel base on the planet Crait in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.
Disney / Lucasfilm

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Three New Members of Expedition 54 Head Up to the ISS...

The Soyuz MS-07 rocket carrying three Expedition 54 space station crew members launches from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 17, 2017 (Kazakh Time).
NASA / Joel Kowsky

Three New Crew Members on Voyage to International Space Station (Press Release)

Three crew members representing the United States, Russia and Japan are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:21 a.m. EST Sunday (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time).

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA’s Scott Tingle, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is scheduled to dock to the space station’s Rassvet module at 3:43 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19. Coverage of docking will begin at 3 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed at 5 a.m. by coverage of the opening of hatches between the spacecraft and station.

The arrival of Tingle, Shkaplerov and Kanai will restore the station's crew complement to six. They will join Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and his crewmates, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA. The crew members will spend more than four months conducting approximately 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

Vande Hei, Acaba and Misurkin are scheduled to remain aboard the station until February 2018, and Tingle, Shkaplerov and Kanai are scheduled to return to Earth in April.

This crew continues the long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the space station. Highlights of upcoming investigations include demonstrating the benefits of manufacturing fiber optic filaments in a microgravity environment, a new study looking at structures that are vital to the design of advanced optical materials and electronic devices and examining a drug compound and drug delivery system designed to combat muscular breakdown in space or during other prolonged periods of disuse, such as extended bed rest on Earth.

For more than 17 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,100 research investigations from researchers in more than 95 countries.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Orion Update: Another Successful Test for NASA's Deep Space Capsule...

The two main parachutes on the Orion test article are about to deploy above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, on December 15, 2017.
U.S. Army

Orion Parachute Tests Prove Out Complex System for Human Deep Space Missions (News Release - December 15)

When NASA’s Orion spacecraft hurtles toward Earth’s surface during its return from deep-space missions, the capsule’s system of 11 parachutes will assemble itself in the air and slow the spacecraft from 300 mph to a relatively gentle 20 mph for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean in the span of about 10 minutes. As the astronauts inside descend toward the water on future missions, their lives will be hanging by a series of threads that have been thoroughly ruggedized, tested and validated to ensure the parachute-assisted end of Orion missions are a success. Through a series of tests in the Arizona desert, the engineers refining Orion’s parachutes have made the road to certifying them for flights with astronauts look easy, including a successful qualification test Dec. 15 that evaluated a failure case in which only two of the systems three orange and white main parachutes deploy after several other parachutes in the system used to slow and stabilize Orion endure high aerodynamic stresses. But behind the scenes, engineers are working hard to understand and perfect the system that must be able to work across a broad range of potential environmental conditions and bring the crew home.

While Orion’s parachutes may look similar to those used during the Apollo-era to the untrained eye, engineers can’t simply take that parachute system and scale it up to accommodate Orion’s much larger size. Through testing and analysis, technicians have developed Orion’s parachutes to be lighter, better understood and more capable than Apollo’s. NASA has also been able to adjust the system as elements of the spacecraft, such as attachment points, have matured.

“Through our testing, we’ve addressed some known failures that can happen in complex parachute systems to make the system more reliable,” said Koki Machin, chief engineer for the system. “We built upon the strong foundation laid by Apollo engineers and figured out how to manage the stresses on the system during deployment more efficiently, decrease the mass of the parachutes by using high tech fabric materials rather than metal cables for the risers that attach the parachute to the spacecraft, and improve how we pack the parachute into Orion so they deploy more reliably.”

Orion’s parachute system is also incredibly complex. About 10 miles of Kevlar lines attach the spacecraft to the outer rim of nearly 12,000 square feet of parachute canopy material – over four times the average square footage of a house – and must not get tangled during deployment. In addition to the fabric parachutes themselves, there are cannon-like mortars that fire to release different parachutes. Embedded in several parachutes are fuses set to burn at specific times that ignite charges to push blades through bullet proof materials at precise moments, slowly unfurling the parachutes to continue the sequential phases of the deployment sequence. All of these elements must be developed to be reliable for the various angles, wind conditions and speeds in which Orion could land.

With the analysis capabilities that exist today and the historical data available, engineers have determined that approximately 20-25 tests, rather than the more than 100 performed during the Apollo era, will give them enough opportunities to find areas of weakness in Orion’s parachute system and fix them. After the three remaining final tests next year, the system will be qualified for missions with astronauts.

“There are things we can model with computers and those we can’t. We have to verify the latter through repeated system tests by dropping a test article out of a military aircraft from miles in altitude and pushing the parachutes to their various limits,” said CJ Johnson, project manager for the parachute system. “Lots of subtle changes can affect parachute performance and the testing we do helps us account for the broad range of possible environments the parachutes will have to operate in.”

Orion parachute engineers have also provided data and insight from the tests to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program partners. NASA has matured computer modeling of how the system works in various scenarios and helped partner companies understand certain elements of parachute systems, such as seams and joints, for example. In some cases, NASA’s work has provided enough information for the partners to reduce the need for some developmental parachute tests.

“Orion’s parachute system is an extremely lightweight, delicate collection of pieces that absolutely must act together simultaneously or it will fail,” said Machin. “It alone, among all the equipment on the crew module, must assemble itself in mid-air at a variety of possible velocities and orientations.”

Parachute testing is just one part of the vast expanse of work being performed across the country that enable humans to venture farther into space than ever before.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The two main parachutes on the Orion test article successfully deploy above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, on December 15, 2017.
U.S. Army

Friday, December 15, 2017

ISS Update #2: A Previously-Flown Falcon 9 Rocket Launches a Reused Dragon Capsule Loaded with New Supplies to the Space Station...

A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket carrying a reused Dragon spacecraft launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on December 15, 2017.
SpaceX

NASA Sends New Research to Space Station Aboard SpaceX Resupply Mission (Press Release)

An experiment in space manufacturing and an enhanced study of solar energy are among the research currently heading to the International Space Station following Friday’s launch of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at 10:36 a.m. EST.

Dragon lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with more than 4,800 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of the more than 250 investigations aboard the space station.

NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives at the station. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 17. Installation coverage is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

Research materials flying inside Dragon's pressurized area include an investigation demonstrating the benefits of manufacturing fiber optic filaments in a microgravity environment. Designed by the company Made in Space, and sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the investigation will attempt to pull fiber optic wire from ZBLAN, a heavy metal fluoride glass commonly used to make fiber optic glass. Results from this investigation could lead to the production of higher-quality fiber optic products for use in space and on Earth.

NASA's Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor, or TSIS-1, will measure the Sun's energy input to Earth. TSIS-1 measurements will be three times more accurate than previous capabilities, enabling scientists to study the Sun’s natural influence on Earth’s ozone, atmospheric circulation, clouds and ecosystems. These observations are essential for a scientific understanding of the effects of solar variability on the Earth system.

The Space Debris Sensor (SDS) will measure the orbital debris environment around the space station for two to three years. Once mounted on the exterior of the station, this one-square-meter sensor will provide near-real-time debris impact detection and recording. Research from this investigation could help lower the risks posed by orbital debris to human life and critical hardware.

This is SpaceX’s 13th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in January 2018 and return to Earth with more than 3,600 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.

For more than 17 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,100 research investigations from researchers in more than 95 countries.

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The Falcon 9 first stage booster is about to touch down at Landing Zone 1 following a successful launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station a few miles away...on December 15, 2017.
SpaceX

SpaceX's Dragon capsule separates from its second stage motor following a successful launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on December 15, 2017.
SpaceX

Thursday, December 14, 2017

ISS Update: Three Expedition 53 Crew Members Safely Return to Earth...

An aerial view of the Soyuz MS-05 capsule as it touches down in Kazakhstan...on December 14, 2017 (U.S. Time).
NASA / Bill Ingalls

NASA Astronaut Bresnik and Crewmates Return to Earth From Space Station (Press Release)

Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth on Thursday, landing in Kazakhstan after opening a new chapter in the scientific capability of humanity’s premier microgravity laboratory.

Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos landed at 3:37 a.m. EST (2:37 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Together, the Expedition 53 crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, as well as Earth and other physical sciences aboard the orbiting laboratory. Their time aboard marked the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment of the International Space Station from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the station.

Highlights from the research conducted while they were aboard include investigations of microgravity’s effect on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals; growing larger versions of an important protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease; and delivering a new instrument to address fundamental science questions on the origins and history of cosmic rays.

The trio also welcomed three cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at station in November as the company's eighth commercial resupply mission. One Russian ISS Progress cargo craft docked to the station in October. And a SpaceX Dragon completed its commercial resupply mission to station in August, the company’s twelfth resupply mission.

During his time on the orbital complex, Bresnik ventured outside the confines of the space station for three spacewalks. Along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, Bresnik lead a trio of spacewalks to replace one of two latching end effectors on the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. They also spent time lubricating the newly replaced Canadarm2 end effector and replacing cameras on the left side of the station’s truss and the right side of the station’s U.S. Destiny laboratory.

Ryazanskiy conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin in August to deploy several nanosatellites, collect research samples, and perform structural maintenance.

The Expedition 54 crew continues operating the station, with Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos in command. Along with crewmates Mark Vende Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), are scheduled to launch Sunday, Dec. 17 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. NASA Television will broadcast the launch and docking.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

EM-1 Update: A Big Milestone for the Space Launch System's SRBs...

Orbital ATK engineers work on the two exit cones that will fly on the twin solid rocket boosters for EM-1's Space Launch System.
Orbital ATK

Nozzle Assemblies Complete for Exploration Mission-1 Solid Rocket Boosters (News Release)

Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket booster prime contractor Orbital ATK recently completed work at its Utah facilities on the booster nozzles for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. SLS, the world’s most powerful rocket, and Orion will take humans on deep space missions, and the boosters provide most of the power to get the spacecraft off the ground. The powerhouse SLS five-segment solid rocket boosters are the largest ever built for flight and will provide more than 75 percent of the thrust during the first two minutes of spaceflight.

Here, technicians are putting the finishing touches on the exit cones’ paint, including photogrammetric markings that will help engineers assess clearances between the boosters and ground structures during the initial moments after liftoff. At Kennedy Space Center in Florida during the integration phase of the program, the exit cones will be mated with the rest of the nozzle assemblies, which are also complete. During spaceflight, the booster nozzles direct the expanding gases from the burning solid propellant downward, helping the heavy-lift vehicle escape Earth’s gravity and send Orion to lunar orbit.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Photo of the Day: Growing Veggies Aboard the ISS...

Red lettuce is grown inside the Columbus module aboard the International Space Station.
NASA

Tending Your Garden ... In Space (News Release)

If you plant it, will it grow (in space)? The answer is yes, at least for certain types of plants. The Vegetable Production System, or Veggie, was first deployed in 2013 and is capable of producing salad-type crops to provide the crew aboard the International Space Station with a palatable, nutritious, and safe source of fresh food. Veggie provides lighting and nutrient delivery, but utilizes the cabin environment for temperature control and as a source of carbon dioxide to promote growth.

This image of a red lettuce plant was taken for the VEG-03 experiment in the Columbus module by the Expedition 53 crew.

Source: NASA.Gov

Sunday, November 12, 2017

ISS Update: Another Cygnus Freighter Heads Up to the International Space Station on Flight OA-8...

Orbital ATK's Antares rocket carrying the company's Cygnus freighter launches toward the International Space Station from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia...on November 12, 2017.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

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

The International Space Station will receive about 7,400 pounds of cargo, including new science and technology investigations, following the successful launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia Sunday.

Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo delivery flight to the station launched at 7:19 a.m. EST on an Antares rocket from Pad 0A at Wallops, and is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station Tuesday, Nov. 14.

This is the fifth flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft, and the second using Orbital ATK’s upgraded Antares rocket. The spacecraft for this mission is named in honor of Gene Cernan, the last human to step foot on the Moon. Cernan, who passed away in January at age 82, set records for both lunar surface extravehicular activities and the longest time in lunar orbit.

Expedition 53 astronauts Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Randy Bresnik of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus, about 4:50 a.m. Tuesday. Cygnus will remain at the space station until Dec. 4, when the spacecraft will depart the station and deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

The resupply mission will support dozens of new and existing investigations as Expeditions 53 and 54 contribute to about 250 science and research studies.

Highlights from the new experiments will include studies on antibiotic resistance, high-speed data transmission, plant growth and improved power and communication technologies.

The E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) mission will investigate the effect of microgravity on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals. Antibiotic resistance could pose a danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response. The experiment will expose two strains of E. coli to three different doses of antibiotics; one of these strains is deficient in the gene responsible for the increased antibiotic resistance in microgravity. Results from this investigation could help determine appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration missions and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may be increased in microgravity, as well as on Earth.

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project will study high-speed optical transmission of data and small spacecraft proximity operations. It will test functionality of laser-based communications using CubeSats that provide a compact version of the technology.

Results from OCSD could lead to significantly enhanced communication speeds between space and Earth and a better understanding of laser communication between small satellites in low-Earth orbit.

The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Biological Nitrogen Fixation) investigation examines how low-gravity conditions affect the nitrogen fixation process of Microclover, a resilient and drought tolerant legume. The nitrogen fixation process, a process by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into a usable form for living organisms, is a crucial element of any ecosystem necessary for most types of plant growth. This investigation could provide information on the space viability of the legume’s ability to use and recycle nutrients and give researchers a better understanding of this plant’s potential uses on Earth.

As space exploration increases, so will the need for improved power and communication technologies. The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA), a hybrid solar power panel and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages, tests the use of this technology in CubeSat-based environmental monitoring. ISARA may provide a solution for sending and receiving information to and from faraway destinations, both on Earth and in space.

For more than 17 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,100 research investigations from researchers in more than 95 countries.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Photos of the Day: The Dream Chaser Soars Again...

Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser spacecraft touches down at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California...on November 11, 2017.
NASA / Carla Thomas

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser Achieves Successful Free Flight at NASA Armstrong (News Release)

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser spacecraft underwent a successful free-flight test on November 11, 2017 at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. The test verified and validated the performance of the Dream Chaser in the critical final approach and landing phase of flight, meeting expected models for a future return from the International Space Station.

The flight test helped advance the vehicle under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program space act agreement, as well as helped prepare the vehicle for service under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 program. The testing will validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser.

The Dream Chaser is preparing to deliver cargo to the International Space Station beginning in 2019. The data that SNC gathered from this test campaign will help influence and inform the final design of the cargo Dream Chaser, which will fly at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the space station by 2024.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser spacecraft glides in for a landing at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California...on November 11, 2017.
NASA / Carla Thomas

Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser spacecraft rolls down the runway after landing at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California...on November 11, 2017.
NASA / Carla Thomas

Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser spacecraft comes to a stop on the runway after landing at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California...on November 11, 2017.
NASA

Thursday, November 9, 2017

EM-2 Update: Another Launch Abort Test Will Take Place Before Astronauts Finally Fly on Orion...

A computer-generated image of a boilerplate Orion capsule soaring in the air during Ascent Abort Test-2...which will take place in April of 2019.
NASA

NASA Moves Up Critical Crew Safety Launch Abort Test (News Release)

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is scheduled to undergo a design test in April 2019 of the capsule’s launch abort system (LAS), which is a rocket-powered tower on top of the crew module built to very quickly get astronauts safely away from their launch vehicle if there is a problem during ascent.

This full-stress test of the LAS, called Ascent Abort Test-2 (AA-2), will see a booster, provided by Orbital ATK, launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying a fully functional LAS and a 22,000-pound Orion test vehicle to an altitude of 32,000 feet at Mach 1.3 (over 1,000 miles an hour). At that point, the LAS’ powerful reverse-flow abort motor will fire, carrying the Orion test vehicle away from the missile. Timing is crucial as the abort events must match the abort timing requirements of the Orion spacecraft to the millisecond in order for the flight test data to be valid.

NASA is accelerating the timeline of the test to provide engineers with critical abort test data sooner to help validate computer models of the spacecraft’s LAS performance and system functions.

“This will be the only time we test a fully active launch abort system during ascent before we fly crew, so verifying that it works as predicted, in the event of an emergency, is a critical step before we put astronauts on board,” said Don Reed, manager of the Orion Program’s Flight Test Management Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “No matter what approach you take, having to move a 22,000-pound spacecraft away quickly from a catastrophic event, like a potential rocket failure, is extremely challenging.”

The test will verify the LAS can steer the crew module and astronauts inside to safety in the event of an issue with a Space Launch System rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during a rapid climb into or beyond orbit for deep-space missions.

The LAS is divided into two parts: the fairing assembly, which is a shell composed of a lightweight composite material that protects the capsule from the heat, wind and acoustics of the launch, ascent, and abort environments; and the launch abort tower, which includes the system’s three motors. In an emergency, those three motors – the launch abort, attitude control, and jettison motors – would work together to pull Orion away from a problem on the launch pad or during SLS first stage ascent, steering and re-orienting for LAS jettison, and pulling the LAS away from the crew module. During a normal launch, only the LAS jettison motor would fire, once Orion and the Space Launch System clear most of the atmosphere, to clear the LAS from Orion and allow the spacecraft to continue with its mission.

Engineers at several NASA centers already are building the Orion test article that has many of the design features and the same mass as the capsule that will carry crew. Because the test is designed to evaluate Orion’s launch abort capabilities, the crew module used for AA-2 will not deploy parachutes after the abort system is jettisoned, nor will it have a reaction control system with thrusters needed to help orient the capsule for a parachute-assisted descent and splashdown after the LAS is jettisoned.

The AA-2 test development and execution is a partnership between Orion Program and the Advanced Exploration Systems Division, the technology advancement organization in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA Johnson is responsible for producing the fully assembled and integrated crew module and separation ring, including development of unique avionics, power, software and data collection subsystems and several elements of ground support equipment.

The agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will build the primary structure of the crew module test article and a separation ring that connects the test capsule to the booster and provides space and volume for separation mechanisms and instrumentation.

Critical sensors and instruments used to gather data during the test will be provided by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The integrated test article will be delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will be processed before launch.

NASA’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, is providing the fully functional Orion LAS, and the crew module to service module umbilical and flight design retention and release mechanisms.

In 2010, an earlier version of Orion’s LAS was tested to evaluate the performance of the system in during Abort Test Booster-1 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. For Exploration Mission-1, NASA’s first integrated flight test of Orion atop the powerful SLS -- the abort system will not be fully active since astronauts will not be inside the spacecraft. NASA is working toward a December 2019 launch for EM-1.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

EM-1 Update: The Space Launch System MIGHT Not Fly Till June 2020...

An artist's concept of NASA's Space Launch System rocket soaring in the sky.
NASA

NASA Completes Review of First SLS, Orion Deep Space Exploration Mission (News Release)

NASA is providing an update on the first integrated launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft after completing a comprehensive review of the launch schedule.

This uncrewed mission, known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is a critical flight test for the agency’s human deep space exploration goals. EM-1 lays the foundation for the first crewed flight of SLS and Orion, as well as a regular cadence of missions thereafter near the Moon and beyond.

The review follows an earlier assessment where NASA evaluated the cost, risk and technical factors of adding crew to the mission, but ultimately affirmed the original plan to fly EM-1 uncrewed. NASA initiated this review as a result of the crew study and challenges related to building the core stage of the world’s most powerful rocket for the first time, issues with manufacturing and supplying Orion’s first European Service Module, and tornado damage at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

“While the review of the possible manufacturing and production schedule risks indicate a launch date of June 2020, the agency is managing to December 2019,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “Since several of the key risks identified have not been actually realized, we are able to put in place mitigation strategies for those risks to protect the December 2019 date.”

The majority of work on NASA’s new deep space exploration systems is on track. The agency is using lessons learned from first time builds to drive efficiencies into overall production and operations planning. To address schedule risks identified in the review, NASA established new production performance milestones for the SLS core stage to increase confidence for future hardware builds. NASA and its contractors are supporting ESA’s (European Space Agency) efforts to optimize build plans for schedule flexibility if sub-contractor deliveries for the service module are late.

NASA’s ability to meet its agency baseline commitments to EM-1 cost, which includes SLS and ground systems, currently remains within original targets. The costs for EM-1 up to a possible June 2020 launch date remain within the 15 percent limit for SLS and are slightly above for ground systems. NASA’s cost commitment for Orion is through Exploration Mission-2. With NASA’s multi-mission approach to deep space exploration, the agency has hardware in production for the first and second missions, and is gearing up for the third flight. When teams complete hardware for one flight, they’re moving on to the next.

As part of the review, NASA now plans to accelerate a test of Orion’s launch abort system ahead of EM-1, and is targeting April 2019. Known as Ascent-Abort 2, the test will validate the launch abort system’s ability to get crew to safety if needed during ascent. Moving up the test date ahead of EM-1 will reduce risk for the first flight with crew, which remains on track for 2023.

Technology Advancements

On both the rocket and spacecraft, NASA is using advanced manufacturing techniques that have helped to position the nation and U.S. companies as world leaders in this area. For example, NASA is using additive manufacturing (3-D printing) on more than 100 parts of Orion. While building the two largest core stage structures of the rocket, NASA welded the thickest structures ever joined using self-reacting friction stir welding.

SLS has completed welding on all the major structures for the mission and is on track to assemble them to form the largest rocket stage ever built and complete the EM-1 “green run,” an engine test that will fire up the core stage with all four RS-25 engines at the same time.

NASA is reusing avionics boxes from the Orion EM-1 crew module for the next flight. Avionics and electrical systems provide the “nervous system” of launch vehicles and spacecraft, linking diverse systems into a functioning whole.

For ground systems, infrastructure at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is intended to support the exploration systems including launch, flight and recovery operations. The center will be able to accommodate the evolving needs of SLS, Orion, and the rockets and spacecraft of commercial partners for more flexible, affordable, and responsive national launch capabilities.

EM-1 will demonstrate safe operations of the integrated SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, and the agency currently is studying a deep space gateway concept with U.S. industry and space station partners for potential future missions near the Moon.

“Hardware progress continues every day for the early flights of SLS and Orion. EM-1 will mark a significant achievement for NASA, and our nation’s future of human deep space exploration,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. “Our investments in SLS and Orion will take us to the Moon and beyond, advancing American leadership in space.”

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of NASA's Orion spacecraft flying above the Moon.
NASA

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Bidding Farewell to a Gemini and Apollo Hero...

NASA astronaut Richard Gordon studies equipment used during the Apollo 12 mission in November of 1969.
NASA

NASA Pays Tribute to Early Space Pioneer Richard Gordon (Press Release)

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the passing of former NASA astronaut Richard Gordon:

"NASA and the nation have lost one of our early space pioneers. We send our condolences to the family and loved ones of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Richard Gordon, a hero from NASA’s third class of astronauts.

“Naval officer, aviator, chemist, test pilot, and astronaut were among the many hats of this talented and daring explorer. Dick was pilot of Gemini XI in 1966, on which he performed a spacewalk where he tethered the Gemini and Agena together for the very first attempt at creating artificial gravity by rotating spacecraft. He also was command module pilot of Apollo 12, the second manned mission to land on the Moon. While his crewmates Pete Conrad and Alan Bean landed in the Ocean of Storms, he remained in lunar orbit aboard the Yankee Clipper, taking photos for potential future landing sites and later performing final re-docking maneuvers.

“An accomplished naval aviator, Dick tested many new aircraft that later entered service and also won the Bendix Trophy Race from New York to Los Angeles in 1961, setting a new speed record for the time.

“Dick will be fondly remembered as one of our nation’s boldest flyers, a man who added to our own nation’s capabilities by challenging his own. He will be missed."


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NASA astronaut Richard Gordon prepares to tether his Gemini XI capsule to its Agena Target Docking Vehicle during a spacewalk on September 14, 1966.
NASA

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NASA Continues to Do Research on the Deep Space Gateway Concept...

An artist's concept of NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching a deep space gateway orbiting the Moon.
NASA

NASA Selects Studies for Gateway Power and Propulsion Element (Press Release - November 1)

NASA has selected five U.S. companies to conduct four-month studies for a power and propulsion element that could be used as part of the deep space gateway concept. The agency is studying the gateway concept with U.S. industry and space station partners for potential future collaborations. These latest studies will help provide data on commercial capabilities as NASA defines objectives and requirements as well as help reduce risk for a new powerful and efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology in deep space.

NASA needs a 50-kW SEP system, which is three-times more powerful than the capabilities available today, for future human missions. Earlier this year, NASA sought study proposals under Appendix C of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement. The request identified 23 topic areas including potential commercial synergies to support development of a power and propulsion element.

Combined funding awarded for the selected studies is approximately $2.4 million. The selected companies are:

Boeing of Pasadena, Texas
Lockheed Martin of Denver, Colorado
Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado
Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California


"NASA will use these studies to gain valuable insight into affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element leveraging commercial satellite lines and plans,” said Michele Gates, director of the Power and Propulsion Element at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Advancing a high power SEP system will help drive future exploration missions and help take humans farther into deep space than ever before."

A new power and propulsion element will leverage advanced SEP technologies developed by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. An overarching objective of these studies is to understand the driving technical differences between prior SEP-powered mission concepts and potential new requirements for NASA’s deep space gateway concept.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Another art concept of the deep space gateway orbiting the Moon.
NASA

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Photo of the Day: Astronauts Learn How to Exit from the Orion Capsule in an Emergency...

Using a full-scale mockup of the capsule, NASA personnel practice how to egress from Orion in the event of an emergency at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
NASA / James Blair

NASA Tests Ensure Astronaut, Ground Crew Safety Before Orion Launches (News Release)

NASA is performing a series of tests to evaluate how astronauts and ground crew involved in final preparations before Orion missions will quickly get out of the spacecraft if an emergency were to occur on the pad prior to launch. In the hours before astronauts launch to space in Orion from NASA’s modernized spaceport in Florida on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, they will cross the Crew Access Arm 300 feet above the ground and climb inside the crew module with the assistance of ground personnel trained to help them strap into their seats and take care of last-minute needs. The testing is helping engineers evaluate hardware designs and establish procedures that would be used to get astronauts and ground crew out of the capsule as quickly as possible. Flight and ground crew are required to get out of Orion within two minutes to protect for a variety of failure scenarios that do not require the launch abort system to be activated, such as crew incapacitation, fire or the presence of toxins in the cabin.

This testing took place the week of Oct. 30 using the Orion mockup in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. In this photo, engineers used fake smoke to imitate a scenario in which astronauts must exit the capsule when their vision is obscured. Markings on the ground indicate where the Crew Access Arm would be located and help guide the crew. This testing is a collaborative effort between the Orion and Ground Systems Development and Operations programs. Previous egress testing at Johnson and in the Gulf of Mexico has evaluated how crew will exit the spacecraft at the end of their missions.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bigelow Aerospace and ULA Aim for the Moon...

An artist's concept of Bigelow Aerospace's B330 expandable module orbiting the Moon.
Bigelow Aerospace

Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance Announce Agreement to Place a B330 Habitat in Low Lunar Orbit (Press Release)

Las Vegas, NV and Centennial, Colo. – Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are working together to launch a B330 expandable module on ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle. The launch would place a B330 outfitted module in Low Lunar Orbit by the end of 2022 to serve as a lunar depot.

“We are excited to work with ULA on this lunar depot project,” said Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace. “Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars. It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term. This lunar depot could be deployed easily by 2022 to support the nation’s re-energized plans for returning to the Moon.

"This commercial lunar depot would provide anchorage for significant lunar business development in addition to offering NASA and other governments the Moon as a new exciting location to conduct long-term exploration and astronaut training.”

The B330 would launch to Low Earth Orbit on a Vulcan 562 configuration rocket, the only commercial launch vehicle in development today with sufficient performance and a large enough payload fairing to carry the habitat. Once the B330 is in orbit, Bigelow Aerospace will outfit the habitat and demonstrate it is working properly. Once the B330 is fully operational, ULA’s industry-unique distributed lift capability would be used to send the B330 to lunar orbit. Distributed lift would also utilize two more Vulcan ACES launches, each carrying 35 tons of cryogenic propellant to low Earth orbit. In LEO, all of the cryogenic propellant would be transferred to one of the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES). The now full ACES would then rendezvous with the B330 and perform multiple maneuvers to deliver the B330 to its final position in Low Lunar Orbit.

“We are so pleased to be able to continue our relationship with Bigelow Aerospace,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “The company is doing such tremendous work in the area of habitats for visiting, living and working off our planet and we are thrilled to be the ride that enables that reality.”

Bigelow Aerospace is a destination-oriented company with a focus on expandable systems for use in a variety of space applications. These NASA heritage systems provide for greater volume, safety, opportunity and economy than the aluminum alternatives.

The B330 is a standalone commercial space station that can operate in low Earth orbit, cislunar space and beyond. A single B330 is comparable to one third of the current pressurized volume of the entire International Space Station. Bigelow Aerospace is developing two B330 commercial space station habitats that will be ready for launch any time after 2020.

Source: United Launch Alliance

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An artist's concept of the United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
United Launch Alliance

Monday, October 16, 2017

Photo of the Day: Orion EM-1 Capsule Components Are Ready for Integration at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...

Components for the Orion EM-1 capsule are on display inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / Ben Smegelsky

Orion Processing Continues for NASA's Exploration Mission-1 (News Release)

NASA's Orion crew module is being prepared for its first uncrewed integrated flight test atop the Space Launch System rocket. Inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a variety of test stands, processing bays and hardware are in view. Thermal protection panels and other components for Orion are in various stages of processing.

Orion will launch on the SLS rocket from Kennedy's Launch Pad 39B on Exploration Mission-1. The spacecraft will travel thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about a three-week period. Orion will return to Earth and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Source: NASA.Gov

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Back in the Day: Remembering Endeavour's Parade Five Years Ago...

Posing with space shuttle Endeavour near Los Angeles International Airport on October 12, 2012.

Just thought I'd re-post these photos that I took during the first two days of Endeavour's 3-day trek from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center in downtown L.A. five years ago. The street journey for NASA's youngest retired space shuttle orbiter took place on October 12 - 14, 2012...prompting a million people to venture to Los Angeles over the course of that weekend to watch Endeavour as she ventured to her final resting spot in Exposition Park. Endeavour's permanent home, the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, should hopefully break ground at the Science Center sometime next year—for a grand opening in 2019. Stay tuned.

Space shuttle Endeavour is parked on the street near Los Angeles' well-known Randy's Donuts on October 12, 2012.

Space shuttle Endeavour is parked outside of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on October 13, 2012.

Posing with space shuttle Endeavour outside of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on October 13, 2012.

A Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store sign is dwarfed by space shuttle Endeavour outside of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, on October 13, 2012.

Space shuttle Endeavour towers above the crowd outside of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, on October 13, 2012.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Photos of the Day: Assembly Continues on Orion's Service Module for Exploration Mission-2...

At Thales Alenia in Italy, engineers work on a component of Orion's Service Module that will fly on Exploration Mission (EM)-2.
NASA / Rad Sinyak

Work Progresses on Orion Powerhouse for Crewed Mission (News Release)

While engineers in Europe continue to outfit the Orion spacecraft’s service module for Exploration Mission-1 in preparation for shipment to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida next year, work is already beginning on the service module that will power, propel, cool and provide air and water for the first crewed mission in the Orion spacecraft in the early 2020s. Technicians at Thales Alenia in Turin, Italy, are working on the primary structure of the European Service Module that will carry astronauts in Orion beyond the Moon during Exploration Mission-2.

ESA (European Space Agency) and its contractors are providing Orion’s service module for its first two missions atop the Space Launch System rocket. NASA is leading the next steps in human space exploration and will send astronauts to the vicinity of the Moon to build and test the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars. NASA is working with domestic and international partners to solve the great challenges of deep space exploration.

Source: NASA.Gov

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At Thales Alenia in Italy, an engineer works on a component of Orion's Service Module that will fly on EM-2.
NASA

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

EM-1 Update: The SLS Continues to Make Progress Towards Flight...

The four RS-25 engines that will fly aboard the Space Launch System (SLS) on Exploration Mission-1 are put on display at the Aerojet Rocketdyne facility in Southern California.
Aerojet Rocketdyne

First Four Space Launch System Flight Engines Ready To Rumble (News Release)

The flight preparations for the four engines that will power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) on its first integrated flight with Orion are complete and the engines are assembled and ready to be joined to the deep space rocket’s core stage. All five structures that form the massive core stage for the rocket have been built including the engine section where the RS-25 engines will be attached.

“NASA’s priority is to deliver hardware for the first flight of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft,” said John Honeycutt, SLS program manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “This year, the SLS team has constructed major parts of the rocket, such as the in-space stage, which is already at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the four RS-25 engines, core stage structures, and solid rocket booster segments.”

Start Your Engines

The SLS has the largest core stage ever built and includes four RS-25 engines, which previously powered NASA’s space shuttle. The RS-25 engines that are being tested and prepared for SLS were proven during the years they were responsible for propelling 135 shuttle missions, and have been upgraded for the first SLS flight. The four that will fly on Exploration Mission-1 supported a total of 21 shuttle missions.

In total, NASA has 16 flight-proven RS-25 engines and two development engines that are being used as “workhorse” engines for testing. These engines have been used to test new controllers – the brains of the engine – which have now been installed on the flight engines. The flight engines will be attached to the core stage to prepare for green run testing – the final test for the four flight engines and the core stage that will occur before the first mission.

“NASA has transformed these phenomenal engines that served so well in the past for a new bold mission -- the first integrated launch of SLS and Orion,” said Steve Wofford, the SLS liquid engines manager at Marshall. “For engines needed beyond the first four flights, we are working with our industry partner Aerojet Rockedyne to streamline manufacturing and make future engines more affordable.”

In addition, NASA is investing in new RS-25 engines for future launches built with modern manufacturing techniques. Aerojet Rocketdyne has restarted RS-25 production and the agency has ordered six new RS-25 engines built to be expendable and more affordable to produce for future deep space exploration missions.

Core Stage: The Center of Attention

The welding completion on the liquid hydrogen tank for SLS marked the last of five parts to be built for the rocket's core stage. When it is assembled, the core stage will stand taller than a 20-story building and hold more than 700,000 gallons of propellant. The core stage is made up of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks; the engine section where the RS-25 engines will be housed; and the intertank and the forward skirt.

"To make these massive propellant tanks, NASA and our industry partner Boeing have used the largest robotic rocket welding tool to build the thickest pieces ever welded with self-reacting friction stir welding,” said Steve Doering, SLS stages manager at Marshall. "Now, we are moving from manufacturing major structures for the core stage to outfitting them to do their jobs and make the rocket fly.”

The liquid oxygen flight tank recently completed the first hydrostatic test for an SLS tank. The weld strength was tested by filling the tank with 200,000 gallons of water and subjecting it to pressures and forces similar to those it will experience during flight. The liquid hydrogen tank will soon undergo proof testing using gaseous nitrogen. The core stage pathfinder recently arrived at Michoud, and it will be used to help develop and verify handling and transportation procedures before these processes are used on the valuable flight hardware.

“This rocket is happening now,” said Honeycutt. “The Space Launch System team has made great progress and has an exciting year ahead as NASA conducts crucial structural tests at Marshall, assembles the core stage and the four RS-25 engines at Michoud and delivers more hardware to the launch pad at Kennedy.”

Source: NASA.Gov

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The full-scale steel mock-up of the SLS core stage booster arrives at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana.
NASA / MSFC / Michoud - Jude Guidry

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Photos of the Day: SLS Engines for Exploration Mission-2 Continue to Undergo Testing in Mississippi...

The Space Launch System's (SLS) flight engine E2063 is about to be installed onto the A-1 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi...on September 27, 2017.
NASA / SSC

‘Two For the Show’ – NASA Installs 2nd RS-25 Flight Engine for Testing (News Release)

RS-25 flight engine E2063 is delivered and lifted into place onto the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center on Sept. 27 in preparation for an Oct. 19 hotfire test. Once tested and certified, the engine is scheduled to help power NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) on its Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), which will be the first flight of the new rocket to carry humans. The hotfire test is planned during a public Founders Day Open House event at Stennis, giving thousands of visitors the chance to view a flight engine test in person.

The E2063 engine is the second SLS flight engine tested at Stennis. The E2059 engine was tested on the A-1 stand on March 10, 2016, also for use on the EM-2 flight. Stennis has been testing new flight engine controllers for use by engines on both the Exploration Mission-1 and EM-2 launches of the SLS rocket as well. It also will test the SLS core stage that will fly on the EM-1 mission. The SLS is being built to carry humans to deep-space destinations, including Mars.

Source: NASA.Gov

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SLS flight engine E2063 is about to be installed onto the A-1 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi...on September 27, 2017.
NASA / SSC