Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SpaceX Plans to Send Two Tourists Around the Moon via Crew Dragon and Falcon Heavy Late Next Year...

A composite image that I created depicting SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule venturing near the Moon.
SpaceX / R. Par

NASA Statement About SpaceX Private Moon Venture Announcement (Press Release - February 27)

The following is a statement on SpaceX’s announcement Monday about a private space mission around the Moon:

“NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

“For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity's future in space.

“NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the Moon and sustain deep space exploration.”


An artist's concept of the Falcon Heavy rocket, with a Crew Dragon aboard, lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Photo of the Day #2: SLS Components to Begin Arriving in Florida for Exploration Mission 1...

The interim cryogenic propulsion stage will soon head down to Cape Canaveral in Florida to be prepped for integration with NASA's Space Launch System rocket...currently set to make its debut flight next year.

Flight Hardware for NASA's Space Launch System on Its Way to Cape (News Release)

The interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) for the first flight of NASA's Space Launch System rocket is on its way by barge to United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Operation Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The ICPS is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will provide the thrust needed to send the Orion spacecraft and 13 secondary payloads beyond the moon before Orion returns to Earth. It will be the first integrated piece of SLS hardware to arrive at the Cape and undergo final processing and testing before being moved to Ground Systems Development Operations at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The ICPS was designed and built by ULA in Decatur, Alabama, and The Boeing Co. in Huntsville, Alabama. When completed, SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world for deep-space missions.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Photo of the Day: Orion's Wiring...

An engineer tends to wiring that will be used aboard the European Service Module that will fly with NASA's Orion spacecraft on Exploration Mission 1.

Propelling Orion (News Release)

Even the most complex of systems comes down to properly configured wires and cables, such as those pictured here on the Propulsion Qualification Model of the Orion service module.

ESA’s contribution to NASA’s Orion spacecraft is the European Service Module, designed to provide the spacecraft’s propulsion, electrical power, water and thermal control. The model, designed by Airbus Defence and Space, was assembled by OHB Sweden.

Made from steel and containing propellant and helium tanks, among various electronics and command systems, the Propulsion Qualification Model allows engineers to determine how well systems are working together.

The model was built in January in Stockholm, Sweden and has since been shipped to the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico (USA), where it will undergo more extensive testing by NASA, ESA and main contractor Airbus DS.

Source: European Space Agency


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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket Finally Lifts Off from Historic Apollo and Space Shuttle Launch Pad in Florida...

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on February 19, 2017.

NASA Cargo Headed to Space Station Includes Important Experiments, Equipment (Press Release)

Major experiments that will look into a range of scientific disciplines from human health to atmospheric conditions on Earth are on their way to the International Space Station following liftoff at 9:39 a.m. EST aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. About 5,500 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies are packed into the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that is now in Earth orbit and headed to the station on the CRS-10 mission.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the first commercial launch from Kennedy’s historic pad.

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA 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 begin at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 on NASA TV and the agency’s website, with installation coverage set to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Research materials flying inside the Dragon's pressurized area include a crystal growth experiment that will crystallize a monoclonal antibody that is undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of immunological diseases. Growing the crystal in space will allow it develop more than it could on Earth where gravity causes crystals to collapse on themselves. Preserving these antibodies in crystals allows researchers a glimpse into how the biological molecules are arranged, which can provide new information about how they work in the body. So far, Earth-grown crystalline suspensions of monoclonal antibodies have proven to be too low-quality to fully model.

Better defining how some bacteria become drug-resistant is the focus of another experiment that aims to develop medicines that counter the resistance. Stem cells like those used to treat strokes and other occurrences also will be studied using experiment supplies brought up on this flight.

The equipment aboard the Dragon includes a major instrument that will survey Earth's upper atmosphere in a continuation of one of NASA's longest-running Earth-observing programs. Called SAGE III for Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment, the instrument examines the levels of ozone, aerosols, nitrogen dioxide and water vapor in the stratosphere and troposphere high above Earth. It is the latest version of an experiment that began in 1979 and has created a multi-decade record of measurements. The 2,200-pound instrument will be connected to the outside of the station to make daily observations for several years.

The mission is the company's tenth cargo flight to the station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Dragon's cargo will support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations during the station’s Expeditions 50 and 51.

Dragon is scheduled to depart the space station in late March, returning nearly 5,000 pounds of science, hardware and crew supplies.

For more than 16 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 1,900 research investigations from researchers in more than 95 countries.


SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on February 19, 2017.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster is about to touch down at a Cape Canaveral landing site following a successful launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center a few miles away...on February 19, 2017.

SpaceX's Dragon capsule separates from its second stage motor following a successful launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on February 19, 2017.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Photo of the Day: A Rocket Will Soon Soar Away from Kennedy Space Center Once More...

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket stands vertical at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

Just thought I'd share this pic that SpaceX released today showing its Falcon 9 vehicle—with the Dragon cargo freighter now installed atop the rocket—poised for launch atop Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Falcon 9 is set to lift off towards the International Space Station at 10:01 AM, Eastern Standard Time (7:01 AM, Pacific Standard Time) tomorrow...assuming that engineers will be able to rectify an upper stage issue as mentioned in Elon Musk's tweet below. Cross your fingers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

EM-1 Update: Astronauts to Fly Aboard the Space Launch System on Its Maiden Flight?

An 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 to Study Adding Crew to First Flight of SLS and Orion (News Release)

NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot has asked Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, to initiate a study to assess the feasibility of adding a crew to Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft. The study will examine the opportunities it could present to accelerate the effort of the first crewed flight and what it would take to accomplish that first step of pushing humans farther into space.

The SLS and Orion missions, coupled with record levels of private investment in space, will help put NASA and America in a position to unlock the mysteries of space and to ensure this nation’s world preeminence in exploring the cosmos.

Source: NASA.Gov


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

Friday, February 10, 2017

SpaceX Update: A Rocket Will Launch from Kennedy Space Center's LC-39A for the First Time in Almost Six Years...

In preparation for a static fire test that will take place tomorrow morning, a Falcon 9 rocket is raised vertically at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on February 10, 2017.
Elon Musk

While repairs continue to take place at its main launch site at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) following a pad explosion in September of last year (see video below), SpaceX is ready to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from nearby Kennedy Space Center (KSC) less than three weeks from today. Set for tomorrow is a static fire test of the Falcon 9's Merlin 1D engines at KSC's Launch Complex (LC)-39A...which last saw a rocket lift off from its perimeter in July of 2011. It was on July 8 of that year that Atlantis lifted off from this pad to begin mission STS-135, the final flight of the space shuttle program.

Assuming that everything goes well during the static fire tomorrow morning, the Falcon 9 will launch on February 18 to send a Dragon cargo freighter to the International Space Station. LC-39A will be the East Coast launch site for Falcon 9 rockets until Space Launch Complex 40 at CCAFS is back in operation. Along with the Falcon 9, LC-39A will also be the permanent site where SpaceX's Falcon Heavy vehicle lifts off from terra firma to venture beyond Earth's atmosphere...its maiden flight set for later this year. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

EM-1 Update: A Major Milestone For SLS Is Achieved At NASA's Kennedy Space Center In Florida...

The 20th and final work platform that will be used to grant workers access to the Space Launch System is installed inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on January 12, 2017.
NASA / Frank Michaux

Final Work Platform Installed in Vehicle Assembly Building for NASA's Space Launch System (News Release)

NASA reached a key milestone in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A year of platform installations came to conclusion in January as the final work platform, A north, was lifted, installed and secured recently on its rail beam on the north wall of High Bay 3 inside the iconic facility.

The installation of the final topmost level completes the 10 levels of work platforms, 20 platforms halves altogether, that will surround NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft and allow access during processing for missions, including the first uncrewed flight test of Orion atop the SLS rocket.

"Just a year ago, we were meeting the challenges of getting the first half of the first platform installed," said Mike Bolger, Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program manager, "It's a great testament to the creativity, persistence and hard work of the team, and it's a terrific indicator that GSDO is on track to process the SLS and Orion flight hardware for the first test mission."

The A platforms will provide access to the Orion spacecraft's Launch Abort System (LAS) for Orion lifting sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. LAS Antenna Testing also is performed on this level.

The platforms were mated with two, 60,000-pound rail beam assemblies that allow the platforms to move towards and away from the vehicle, as well as tie the entire system to the VAB structure. Each platform will ride on four Hillman roller systems on each side — much like how a kitchen drawer glides in and out. The process to lift and install each of the platforms takes about four hours. Each platform weighs more than 300,000 pounds, and measures about 38 feet long and close to 62 feet wide.

"I am very proud of the amount of work that the team accomplished. I am also humbled to have been able to lead this group of amazing people who have been able to complete this very complex and challenging project," said Jose Perez Morales, GSDO VAB Element senior project manager. "I am very pleased with all the work performed by the NASA and contractor team."

Engineers began installation of the first halves, the K-level platforms, about a year ago, followed by the J, H and G platforms. In July 2016, platform installation reached the halfway point, with the fifth of ten levels of platforms, the F-level, completed.

The remaining platforms installed are E, D, C, B and A. Each of the platform levels is strategically located to allow technicians and engineer’s access to different systems on the rocket, Orion spacecraft and the Launch Abort System during processing and stacking operations on the mobile launcher.

"This is a huge day for us," said Darrell Foster, GSDO Project Management Division chief. "We cherish these milestones. We're all working toward launch day success."

GSDO, with support from the center's Engineering Directorate, is overseeing upgrades to the VAB, including the installation of the work platforms.

NASA awarded a contract to modify High Bay 3 to the Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Greeley, Colorado, in March 2014. Hensel Phelps, along with its subcontractors, Institutional Services Contract, Engineering Services Contract, and Test and Operation Support Contractor, supported crane operations, lifting, installation and initial inspection of each of the platforms.

Source: NASA.Gov