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


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


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

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


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.

‘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


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.

Monday, October 2, 2017

ISS Update: The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module May Stay At The Orbital Outpost A Bit Longer...

Four photos showing BEAM in various stages of expansion as the module successfully deployed aboard the International Space Station...on May 28, 2016.

NASA May Extend BEAM’s Time on the International Space Station (News Release)

NASA is exploring options with Bigelow Aerospace to extend the life of the privately owned Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. Known as BEAM, the module is attached to the International Space Station and continues to perform well during its technology demonstration mission. NASA has issued a synopsis of an intended contract action to partner with Bigelow Aerospace to extend the life of the expandable habitat and use it for long-term in-orbit storage. This step continues NASA’s commitment to expand private-public partnerships, scientific research and commercial applications aboard station to maximize the benefits from humanity’s premiere laboratory in microgravity.

NASA’s use of BEAM as part of a human-rated system will allow Bigelow Aerospace to demonstrate its technology for future commercial applications in low-Earth Orbit. Initial studies have shown that soft materials can perform as well as rigid materials for habitation volumes in space and that BEAM has performed as designed in resistance to space debris.

BEAM launched on the eighth SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service mission in 2016. After being attached to the Tranquility Node using the station’s robotic Canadarm2, it was filled with air to expand it for a two-year test period to validate overall performance and capability of expandable habitats. Since the initial expansion, a suite of sensors installed by the crew automatically take measurements and monitor BEAM’s performance to help inform designs for future habitat systems. Learning how an expandable habitat performs in the thermal environment of space and how it reacts to radiation, micrometeoroids and orbital debris will provide information to address key concerns about living in the harsh environment of space. This extension activity will deepen NASA’s understanding of expandable space systems by making the BEAM a more operational element of the space station to be actively used in storage and crew operations.

Space station crew members have entered BEAM 13 times since its expansion in May 2016. The crew has conducted radiation shielding experiments, installed passive radiation badges called Radiation Area Monitors, and they routinely collect microbial air and surface samples. These badges and samples are returned to Earth for standard microbial and radiation analysis at the Johnson Space Center.

The original plan called for engineers to robotically jettison BEAM from the space station following the two-year test and validation period, allowing it to burn up during its descent through Earth’s atmosphere. However, after almost a year and a half into the demonstration with positive performance, NASA now intends to continue supporting BEAM for stowage use and to allow Bigelow Aerospace to use the module as a test-bed for new technology demonstrations. A new contract would likely begin later this year, overlapping the original planned test period, for a minimum of three years, with two options to extend for one additional year. At the end of the new contract, the agency may consider further life extension or could again consider jettisoning BEAM from the station.

Using the space inside BEAM would allow NASA to hold between 109 to 130 Cargo Transfer Bags of in-orbit stowage, and long-term use of BEAM would enable NASA to gather additional performance data on the module’s structural integrity, thermal stability and resistance to space debris, radiation and microbial growth to help NASA advance and learn about expandable space habitat technology in low-Earth orbit for application toward future human exploration missions. Given that the volume of each Cargo Transfer Bag is about 1.87 cubic feet (0.53 cubic meters), use of BEAM for stowage will free an equivalent space of about 3.7 to 4.4 International Standard Payload Racks, enabling more space in the ISS for research.

With an extension of the partnership, Bigelow also would be able to continue to demonstrate its technology for future commercial applications in low-Earth orbit. The public-private partnership between NASA and Bigelow supports NASA’s objective to develop deep space habitation capabilities for human missions beyond Earth orbit while fostering commercial capabilities for non-government applications to stimulate the growth of the space economy.

Source: NASA.Gov