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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Image of the Day: Orion's Airbags...

An animated GIF showing Orion's crew module uprighting system being tested at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
NASA

Orion Crew Module Uprighting System (News Release)

NASA’s Orion program is evaluating an updated design to the crew module uprighting system, the system of five airbags on top of the capsule that inflate upon splashdown. In high waves or wind over the ocean, the uprighting bags are responsible for turning Orion right side up if the capsule lands upside down or turns over when it returns to Earth. Engineers have retooled the design of the bags after they didn’t properly inflate during Exploration Flight Test-1.

The testing occurred at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The team is evaluating the bags during both normal inflation and failure scenarios to validate computer models. The testing in the calm waters of the pool is helping the team prepare for a late-summer complement of uprighting system tests in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

Source: NASA.Gov

Friday, June 23, 2017

SLS Update: NASA Continues to Make Progress on Building Its New Mega-Rocket...

A test article of the Space Launch System's liquid hydrogen fuel tank is lowered into a cleaning cell at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana.
NASA / MSFC Michoud image: Judy Guidry

SLS Core Stage Production Continues for Rocket’s First Flight (News Release)

Throughout NASA’s 43-acre rocket factory, the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, engineers are building all five parts of the Space Launch System’s core stage. For the first SLS flight for deep space exploration with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, major structural manufacturing is complete on three parts: the forward skirt, the intertank and the engine section. Test articles, which are structurally similar to flight hardware, and are used to qualify the core stage for flight, are in various stages of production and testing.

“One of the most challenging parts of building the world’s most powerful rocket has been making the largest rocket stage ever manufactured for the first time,” said Steve Doering, the SLS stages manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “The 212-foot-tall core stage is a new design made with innovative welding tools and techniques.”

To build the rocket’s fuel tanks, Boeing, the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, is joining some of the thickest parts ever built with self-reacting friction stir welding. NASA and Boeing engineers and materials scientists have scrutinized the weld confidence articles and developed new weld parameters for making the liquid oxygen and hydrogen tanks for the first SLS mission.

Resuming Welding in the Vertical Assembly Center

The Vertical Assembly Center, the large robotic tool where core stage parts are welded to form major structures, is expected to resume manufacturing next week. NASA halted production in early May after a liquid oxygen tank dome was inadvertently damaged during pre-weld preparations on the infeeder tool. This equipment is what positions the large dome for welding, or feeds it into the tank.

While the mishap investigation is still wrapping up, NASA and Boeing fully inspected the impacted dome and found while the hardware sustained minor damage, it is usable for its original purpose as part of a structural test article. The infeeder tool did sustain some damage during the incident and repairs to the tool are complete. Welding is resuming to finish construction of the liquid oxygen test article by adding the aft, or bottom, dome. Upon completion, the tank will undergo inspection for any flaws, final processing and proof testing.

In another area of the factory, domes and segments for the flight liquid oxygen tank await their turn to be joined on the VAC, and Boeing is now completing welding domes and barrels that will make up the liquid hydrogen tank for flight. Recently, major structural construction was completed on flight hardware for the one part of the core stage structure not welded. The intertank walls are too thick to be welded, so its eight panels are connected with 7,500 bolts. The walls have to be extremely strong because of the force it feels from the solid rocket boosters attached to it. To complete assembly on the inside of the core stage, the team is outfitting the intertank along with the flight forward skirt and the engine section structures, with avionics, wire harnesses, tubing, sensors, and propulsion systems.

Preparing Hardware for Testing

NASA and Boeing continue to prepare existing hardware for tests to help ensure success of the first SLS flight and crew safety on future missions. Before the tanks are hooked up to feed propellant to the four RS-25 engines or through a test stand propellant system, the tanks have to be cleaned to avoid any contamination. Though the liquid hydrogen structural test article is not fueled, the tank has recently been moved to the cleaning cell to certify the process ahead of the flight tank.

The first structural test article for SLS, an engine section which is similar to the flight article located at the bottom of the rocket’s core stage, is being installed on a test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Hydraulic cylinders will push, pull, twist and bend the engine test article to validate the design and ensure it can withstand the pressure expected during launch and ascent.

“We are conducting the largest NASA launch vehicle test campaign since space shuttle development,” said John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at Marshall. “The team is focused on delivering hardware to the pad for the first launch. We just completed integrated structural testing for the stage that will send Orion out beyond the Moon on the first flight. Now, we’ll be putting the core stage parts through the paces to gain an in-depth understanding of the rocket we are building for the first time as we expose parts of it to the extreme conditions of spaceflight.”

Source: NASA.Gov

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Assembly is completed on the intertank structure that will fly aboard the Space Launch System during Exploration Mission-1 in 2019.
NASA / MSFC Michoud image: Judy Guidry

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Previously-Flown Dragon Heads to the ISS...

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a reused Dragon spacecraft launches from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3, 2017.
NASA TV

New NASA Experiments, Research Headed to International Space Station (Press Release)

Major experiments that will look into the human body and out into the galaxy are on their way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft following its 5:07 p.m. EDT launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

The Dragon lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About 6,000 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies are packed into the cargo craft that is now in Earth orbit and headed to the station.

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the rendezvous and capture beginning at 8:30 a.m. Monday, June 5. NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture SpaceX’s Dragon when it arrives at the station.

Research materials flying inside the Dragon's pressurized area include an experiment studying fruit flies to better understand the effects on the heart of prolonged exposure to microgravity. Because they’re small, age rapidly, and have a well-known genetic make-up, they are good models for heart function studies. This experiment could significantly advance understanding of how spaceflight affects the cardiovascular system and could aid in the development of countermeasures to help astronauts.

The Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for osteoporosis investigation tests a new drug that can rebuild bone and block further bone loss, improving crew health. When people and animals spend extended periods of time in space, they experience bone density loss, or osteoporosis. In-flight countermeasures, such as exercise, prevent it from getting worse, but there isn’t a therapy on Earth or in space that can restore bone. The results from this ISS National Laboratory-sponsored investigation build on previous research also supported by the National Institutes for Health and could lead to new drugs for treating bone density loss in millions of people on Earth.

Three payloads inside Dragon’s unpressurized area will demonstrate new solar panel technologies, study the physics of neutron stars, and host an array of Earth-viewing instruments.

This mission is SpaceX’s eleventh 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 52 and 53.

The Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to depart the space station in early July, returning with more than 3,400 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.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The Falcon 9's first stage booster stands quietly at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral after launching a reused Dragon capsule to the International Space Station...on June 3, 2017.
SpaceX