Tuesday, December 24, 2019
NASA / Ben Smegelsky
Mobile Launcher Returns to Vehicle Assembly Building (News Release - December 20)
On Dec. 19 and 20, 2019, NASA’s mobile launcher, carried atop the crawler-transporter 2, trekked toward the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It arrived at the iconic facility – traveling nearly four miles – on Dec. 20, after spending months at Launch Pad 39B undergoing final validation and verification testing. Standing 380 feet tall, the mobile launcher will be used to assemble, process and launch the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions to the Moon.
The mobile launcher will remain inside the VAB until the Artemis I stack – the Orion spacecraft atop the SLS rocket – is ready to return to the pad for the “wet dress rehearsal” for launch. During this rehearsal, the rocket will roll out to the pad to be completely fueled and drained ahead of that first integrated launch of SLS and Orion.
Sunday, December 22, 2019
NASA / Aubrey Gemignani
NASA, Boeing Complete Successful Landing of Starliner Flight Test (Press Release)
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed the first land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history Sunday at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, wrapping up the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Starliner settled gently onto its airbags at 7:58 a.m. EST (5:58 a.m. MST) in a pre-dawn landing that helps set the stage for future crewed landings at the same site. The landing followed a deorbit burn at 7:23 a.m., separation of the spacecraft’s service module, and successful deployment of its three main parachutes and six airbags.
“Congratulations to the NASA and Boeing teams on a bullseye landing of the Starliner. The hardest parts of this orbital flight test were successful,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This is why we conduct these tests, to learn and improve our systems. The information gained from this first mission of Starliner will be critical in our efforts to strengthen NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and return America’s human spaceflight capability.”
Although Starliner did not reach its planned orbit and dock to the International Space Station as planned, Boeing was able to complete a number of test objectives during the flight related to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, including:
- Successful launch of the first human-rated United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket
- Checked out the Starliner propulsion systems
- Tested space-to-space communications
- Confirmed Starliner tracker alignments using its navigation system
- Tested Starliner’s NASA Docking System
- Validated all environment control and life support systems
- Completed a positive command uplink between the International Space Station and Starliner
“Today’s successful landing of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is a testament to the women and men who have dedicated themselves to ensuring Starliner can safely transport crews to low-Earth orbit and back to Earth,” said Boeing Senior Vice President of Space and Launch Jim Chilton. “The Starliner Orbital Flight Test has and will continue to provide incredibly valuable data that we, along with the NASA team, will use to support future Starliner missions launched from and returning to American soil.”
“This mission has only strengthened the resolve of the NASA, ULA, and Boeing teams," said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. "Systems were tested, but more importantly the teams were tested. The hardest parts of this mission were a tremendous success. The Commercial Crew Program is strong. But keep in mind, this is a great reminder that human exploration is not for the faint of heart. We are just getting started!”
The Starliner that landed today will be refurbished for Boeing’s first operational crewed mission, following the Crew Flight Test. NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will fly on that mission, dubbed the spacecraft “Calypso” after the ship of famed explorer Jacques Cousteau.
“I love what the ocean means to this planet,” said Williams. “We would not be this planet without the ocean. There’s so much to discover in the ocean, and there’s so much to discover in space.”
The uncrewed Starliner spacecraft launched on the ULA Atlas V rocket at 6:36 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA / Bill Ingalls
Friday, December 20, 2019
CST-100 Update: Starliner Finally Heads to Space! But Will Head Home Early Due to an Orbital Insertion Issue...
NASA Statement on Boeing Orbital Flight Test (Press Release)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement regarding the Boeing Orbital Flight Test:
“I am incredibly proud of the NASA, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance teams and their ongoing work in a dynamic situation to ensure the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is safe on its Orbital Flight Test. The teams continue their work to meet as many mission objectives as possible and return safely to Earth. We continue to gather critical data that will help us ensure safety and reliability for future human space flight missions.
“Early this morning, NASA and Boeing successfully launched Starliner on the first human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.
“The plan was for Starliner to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station and return home safely to Earth. While a lot of things went right, the uncrewed spacecraft did not reach the planned orbit and will not dock to the International Space Station.
“This is in fact why we test. Teams worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel to ensure a landing opportunity.
“Boeing, in coordination with NASA, is working to return Starliner to White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday.
“At NASA we do really difficult things, and we do them all the time. I spoke to Vice President Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, and he remains very optimistic in our ability to safely launch American astronauts from American soil. We remain positive even though we did face challenges today. We’ll be getting a lot more data in the coming days.
“One of the biggest successes today was watching NASA, Boeing, ULA teams work to make the right decisions for our astronauts and country. We will continue to share information. It’s in the interest of the nation. We’ll share data as soon as possible.”.
This video shows a key #Starliner Orbital Flight Test objective: separation from ULA Centaur second-stage. Sep happened just before the Mission Elapsed Timing anomaly.— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) December 21, 2019
See more OFT mission objectives accomplished: https://t.co/GH4mO7fFW8 pic.twitter.com/tQRmDP3Acg
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
NASA / Kim Shiflett
Aft Exit Cones for NASA’s Space Launch System Arrive for Artemis I (News Release)
The two Northrop Grumman-manufactured aft exit cones for the Space Launch System’s solid rocket boosters arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The left aft exit cone (in the background) arrived Nov. 4 and the right aft exit cone (in front) arrived Dec. 9, 2019. Both were shipped by truck from Promontory, Utah. Upon arrival, the exit cones were transported to the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) where they will be checked out and prepared for the Artemis I uncrewed test flight.
The aft exit cones sit at the bottommost part of each of the twin boosters and are attached to the nozzle. The exit cones help provide added thrust for the boosters, while protecting the aft skirts from the thermal environment during launch.
Other booster segment hardware currently at Kennedy are the forward assemblies which include: a forward skirt, frustum and nose cap, which house the avionics and the aft skirt assemblies, which contain the thrust vector control system. Each assembly also contains four booster separation motors. The forward and aft assemblies are nearing the end of assembly operations in the Booster Fabrication Facility and will be ready for integration in the RPSF soon.
Friday, December 6, 2019
NASA / Dennis Olive
NASA Engineers Break SLS Test Tank on Purpose to Test Extreme Limits (News Release)
Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on Dec. 5 deliberately pushed the world’s largest rocket fuel tank beyond its design limits to really understand its breaking point. The test version of the Space Launch System rocket’s liquid hydrogen tank withstood more than 260% of expected flight loads over five hours before engineers detected a buckling point, which then ruptured. Engineers concluded the test at approximately 11 p.m.
“We purposely took this tank to its extreme limits and broke it because pushing systems to the point of failure gives us additional data to help us build rockets intelligently,” said Neil Otte, chief engineer of the SLS Stages Office at Marshall. “We will be flying the Space Launch System for decades to come, and breaking the propellant tank today will help us safely and efficiently evolve the SLS rocket as our desired missions evolve.”
The test version of the tank aced earlier tests, withstanding forces expected at engine thrust levels planned for Artemis lunar missions, showing no signs of cracks, buckling or breaking. The test on Dec. 5 -- conducted using a combination of gaseous nitrogen for pressurization and hydraulics for loads -- pushed the tank to the limits by exposing it to higher forces that caused it to break as engineers predicted. Earlier tests at Marshall certified the tank for both the current version of the SLS -- called Block 1, which will use an upper stage called the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage -- and the Block 1B version that will replace the ICPS with the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage.
“This final tank test marks the largest-ever controlled test-to-failure of a NASA rocket stage pressurized tank,” said Mike Nichols, Marshall’s lead test engineer for the tank. This data will benefit all aerospace companies designing rocket tanks.”
For all the tests, NASA and Boeing engineers simulated liftoff and flight stresses on a test version of the Space Launch System liquid hydrogen tank that is structurally identical to the flight tank. Throughout the tests in Marshall’s 215-foot-tall test stand, they used large hydraulic pistons to deliver millions of pounds of punishing compression, tension and bending forces on the robust test tank.
The test tank was fitted with thousands of sensors to measure stress, pressure and temperature, while high-speed cameras and microphones captured every moment to identify buckling or cracking in the cylindrical tank wall.
“The initial tank buckling failure occurred at the same relative location as predicted by the Boeing analysis team and initiated within 3% of the predicted failure load,” said Luke Denney, qualification test manager for Boeing’s Test & Evaluation Group. “The accuracy of these predictions against real life testing validates our structural models and provides high confidence in the tank design.”
Teams at Michoud are wrapping up functional testing of the assembled SLS core stage for the Artemis I mission and already are building the core stage for the Artemis II mission. The 212-foot-tall core stage is the largest, most complex rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages that powered the Apollo missions to the Moon.
Monday, December 2, 2019
NASA / Marvin Smith, Alcyon Technical Services
Orion Spacecraft for Artemis I Prepared for Thermal Test at NASA's Plum Brook Station (News Release)
NASA’s Orion spacecraft–the crew module and European-built service module—is being lifted into a thermal cage and readied for its move on Tuesday into the vacuum chamber at NASA’s Plum Brook Station for testing. Testing begins with a 60-day thermal test, where the spacecraft will be subjected to temperatures ranging from -250 to 300-degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it can withstand the harsh environment of space during Artemis missions. These extreme temperatures simulate flying in-and-out of sunlight and shadow in space using Heat Flux, a specially-designed system that heats specific parts of the spacecraft at any given time. Orion will also be surrounded on all sides by a set of large panels, called a cryogenic-shroud, that will provide the cold background temperatures of space.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Boeing and United Launch Alliance
Boeing Starliner Placed Atop United Launch Alliance Rocket for First Flight (Press Release)
Spacecraft being prepared for uncrewed flight test to International Space Station
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Nov. 21, 2019 — Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner is now connected to the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that will launch the spacecraft on its first flight test to the International Space Station. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is targeted for Dec. 17.
Starliner was mated to the rocket’s upper stage in ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility after being transported this morning from Boeing’s assembly building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. On Dec. 15, two days before launch, Starliner and its Atlas V will move a final half-mile to its launch pad.
“Our team successfully completed the transport and mating of two incredible vehicles,” said Boeing Starliner Vice President John Mulholland. “Safety and mission success come down to ensuring the integrity of every step along the way. I could not be more proud of the Starliner team and the dedication put forward to get here today.”
Combined, Starliner and the Atlas V stand 172 feet (52 meters) tall. The rocket generates about 1.6 million pounds of thrust at launch. The Atlas V, built in Alabama, has completed 80 successful launches since 2002.
The first Starliner flight to the International Space Station, which Boeing also built and sustains for NASA, will carry only cargo for its few-day docked stay. The second flight test, using a different spacecraft, will take Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, along with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, to the station for a longer mission.
The reusable Starliner capsule is being developed in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will return America’s ability to launch people to low Earth orbit from American soil for the first time since Ferguson commanded the final space shuttle mission in 2011.
Friday, November 8, 2019
NASA / Eric Bordelon
All Four Engines Are Attached to the SLS Core Stage for Artemis I Mission (News Release)
All four RS-25 engines were structurally mated to the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for Artemis I, the first mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft. To complete assembly of the rocket stage, engineers and technicians are now integrating the propulsion and electrical systems within the structure.
The completed core stage with all four RS-25 engines attached is the largest rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages for the Apollo Program that first sent Americans to the Moon. The stage, which includes two huge propellant tanks, provides more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I to the Moon. Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans attached the fourth RS-25 engine to the rocket stage Nov. 6 just one day after structurally mating the third engine. The first two RS-25 engines were structurally mated to the stage in October.
After assembly is complete, crews will conduct an integrated functional test of flight computers, avionics and electrical systems that run throughout the 212-foot-tall core stage in preparation for its completion later this year. This testing is the first time all the flight avionics systems will be tested together to ensure the systems communicate with each other and will perform properly to control the rocket’s flight.
Integration of the RS-25 engines to the massive core stage is a collaborative, multistep process for NASA and its partners Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engines lead contractor.
NASA / Boeing / Aerojet Rocketdyne
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
SLS Update #2: The Core Stage Booster's Test Article Goes Through the Motions at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...
EGS Practices Heavy Lift of Core Stage Pathfinder for Artemis Missions (News Release)
What does it take to lift and stack NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the largest rocket ever built for flight? Weighing in at nearly 225,000 pounds, the core stage of the SLS is one of the largest and heaviest pieces of hardware that will be processed for Artemis missions. To accomplish the task of processing and preparing SLS for launch, Exploration Ground Systems and its contractor, Jacobs, are practicing lifting procedures of the core stage using a full-scale mock-up, called a pathfinder, in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The team is rehearsing moving and lifting maneuvers so that crews are trained on how to handle the core stage and certify all ground support equipment works properly before the actual core stage arrives for Artemis I.
“Practicing handling operations with full-scale pathfinders offers the respective teams essential hands-on experience for working with such immense structures before the one-of-a-kind hardware arrives,” said Mark Prill, core stage pathfinder lead at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The 212-foot-long pathfinder, similar in size, shape and weight to the massive core stage, arrived at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf on Sept. 27, 2019, aboard NASA’s Pegasus barge. The pathfinder was the first delivery on the Pegasus barge in support of the agency’s Artemis missions. It was offloaded and transported to the VAB on Oct. 1.
Inside the VAB transfer aisle, a lifting fixture, called a spider, was attached to the top, or forward ring of the core stage pathfinder. A transportation and integration fixture, developed at Marshall, was used to move the spider to the core stage pathfinder to enable installation. With the spider secured in place, another crane was attached to the pathfinder’s aft end lifting brackets. Workers practiced using the cranes to lift the pathfinder horizontally up from its transporter. Then, crane operators performed a procedure called a breakover to slowly move the pathfinder into the vertical position and lift it up and over Level 16 into High Bay 3. A reverse sequence also was performed, with the core stage lifted up from the high bay, lowered down to the transfer aisle, returned to a horizontal position and secured in its transporter.
“Core stage pathfinder is the first opportunity for the entire Kennedy team to verify, validate and execute the engineering and planning associated with handling of the SLS core stage flight hardware, setting the stage for an experienced workforce and efficient processing for the historic Artemis missions,” said Jim Bolton, EGS Core Stage Element Operations manager.
The team will repeat the process several times to ensure Kennedy engineers and technicians are all trained and certified for future core stage operations.
“Experience is the best teacher,” Prill said. “Pathfinders allow crews to practice the lifting and transporting techniques that we can’t otherwise do with the actual flight hardware. This practice with the pathfinder reduces risk and builds confidence.”
Kennedy’s multi-user spaceport is preparing the facilities and ground support equipment for NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon and on to Mars. The agency is planning to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface.
The core stage pathfinder will remain at Kennedy through at least the end of October, when it is slated to be reloaded onto the Pegasus barge for the trek back to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Source: Linda Herridge at NASA.Gov
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
NASA / Jude Guidry
NASA Attaches First of 4 RS-25 Engines to Artemis I Rocket Stage (News Release)
Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have structurally mated the first of four RS-25 engines to the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will help power the first Artemis mission to the Moon. Integration of the RS-25 engines to the recently completed core stage structure is a collaborative, multistep process for NASA and its partners Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engines lead contractor. To complete the installation, the technicians will now integrate the propulsion and electrical systems. The installation process will be repeated for each of the four RS-25 engines.
The four RS-25 engines used for Artemis I were delivered to Michoud from Aerojet Rocketdyne’s facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in June. The engines, located at the bottom of the core stage in a square pattern, are fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. During launch and flight, the four engines will fire nonstop for 8.5 minutes, emitting hot gases from each nozzle 13 times faster than the speed of sound. The completed core stage with all four engines attached will be the largest rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages for the Apollo Program.
NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with Orion and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
NASA Commits to Future Artemis Missions With More SLS Rocket Stages (News Release)
NASA has taken the next steps toward building Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stages to support as many as 10 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.
The agency intends to work with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions, for the production of SLS rockets through the next decade. The core stage is the center part of the rocket that contains the two giant liquid fuel tanks. Towering 212 feet with a diameter of 27.6 feet, it will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and all the systems that will feed the stage’s four RS-25 engines. It also houses the flight computers and much of the avionics needed to control the rocket’s flight.
NASA has provided initial funding and authorization to Boeing to begin work toward the production of the third core stage and to order targeted long-lead materials and cost-efficient bulk purchases to support future builds of core stages. This action allows Boeing to manufacture the third core stage in time for the 2024 mission, Artemis III, while NASA and Boeing work on negotiations to finalize the details of the full contract within the next year. The full contract is expected to support up to 10 core stages and up to eight Exploration Upper Stages (EUS).
“It is urgent that we meet the President’s goal to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, and SLS is the only rocket that can help us meet that challenge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “These initial steps allow NASA to start building the core stage that will launch the next astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface and build the powerful exploration upper stage that will expand the possibilities for Artemis missions by sending hardware and cargo along with humans or even heavier cargo needed to explore the Moon or Mars.”
Boeing’s current contract includes the SLS core stages for the Artemis I and Artemis II missions and the first EUS, as well as structural test articles and the core stage pathfinder. The new contract is expected to realize substantial savings compared to the production costs of core stages built during the design, development, test and evaluation phase by applying lessons learned during first-time builds and gaining efficiencies through bulk purchases.
“NASA is committed to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon, and this action enables NASA to continue Space Launch System core stage production in support of that effort to help bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager at Marshall. “SLS is the only rocket powerful enough to send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission, and no other rocket in production today can send as much cargo to deep space as the Space Launch System rocket.
For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The SLS rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS. The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space. NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions.
“The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space,” said Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall. “The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99,000 pounds, to lunar orbit.”
The Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Human Landing System are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. Work is well underway on both the Artemis I and II rockets, with core stage assembly nearly complete at Michoud. Soon, the stage will be shipped to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where it will undergo Green Run testing, an integrated test of the entire new stage that culminates with the firing of all four RS-25 engines. Upon completion of the test, NASA’s Pegasus barge will take the core stage to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with other parts of the rocket and Orion for Artemis I. Boeing also has completed manufacturing most of the main core stage structures for Artemis II.
The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration. It’s part of NASA’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which we will quickly and sustainably explore the Moon and use what we learn there to enable humanity’s next giant leap, sending astronauts to Mars.
NASA / Steven Seipel
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Orion Suit Equipped to Expect the Unexpected on Artemis Missions (News Release)
When astronauts are hours away from launching on Artemis missions to the Moon, they’ll put on a brightly colored orange spacesuit called the Orion Crew Survival System (OCSS) suit. It is designed for a custom fit and equipped with safety technology and mobility features to help protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth.
Many missions require two spacesuits – one worn outside a spacecraft during spacewalks that is designed as a self-contained personal spaceship, and another worn inside a spacecraft during high-risk parts of a mission, such as inside Orion during launch and reentry through Earth’s atmosphere. NASA is building both for Artemis missions. Drawing on six decades of spaceflight experience, NASA is developing its Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU, for moonwalks, and has reengineered elements of the crew survival suit worn on the space shuttle to enhance range of motion and improve safety for the astronauts who will wear it to get to the Moon and back to Earth.
The Orion suit, sometimes called a flight suit or a launch and entry suit, has been enhanced from head to toe with improvements to the suit worn on shuttle missions. Starting at the top, a number of features on the helmet allow for improved comfort and function. The helmet is lighter, stronger, comes in more than one size, helps reduce noise and is easier to connect to the communications system needed to talk to other crew members and mission control.
The outer cover layer, which is orange to make crew members easily recognizable in the ocean should they ever need to exit Orion without the assistance of recovery personnel, includes shoulder enhancements for better reach and is fire resistant. The suit is a pressure garment that includes a restraint layer to control the shape and ease astronauts’ movements. A reengineered zipper also allows astronauts to quickly put the suit on and has increased strength. New adaptable interfaces supply air and remove exhaled carbon-dioxide. The suit has an improved thermal management that will help keep astronauts cool and dry. A liquid cooling garment is worn underneath the suit, a bit like thermal underwear with embedded cooling tubes, was revamped to be more breathable and easier to build.
While shuttle-era spacesuits came in off-the-shelf sizes like small, medium and large, the Orion suits will be custom fit for each crew member and accommodate astronauts of all sizes. The patterns of the suit now minimize the spots of discomfort common during the shuttle era when worn pressurized for long periods of time. The suits’ gloves, the part of a spacesuit that receives the most wear and tear, are more durable and touch-screen compatible, and improvements to the boots provide protection in the case of fire, fit better, and help an astronaut move more nimbly.
Even though it’s primarily designed for launch and reentry, the Orion suit can keep astronauts alive if Orion were to lose cabin pressure during the journey out to the Moon, while adjusting orbits in Gateway, or on the way back home. Astronauts could survive inside the suit for up to six days as they make their way back to Earth. The suits are also equipped with a suite of survival gear in the event they have to exit Orion after splashdown before recovery personnel arrive. Each suit will carry its own life preserver that contains a personal locator beacon, a rescue knife, and a signaling kit with a mirror, strobe light, flashlight, whistle, and light sticks.
Through extensive design and engineering enhancements, the Orion suit will help provide an additional layer of protection for astronauts who embark on Artemis missions to the Moon and prepare for future missions to Mars.
NASA / Joel Kowsky
Monday, September 23, 2019
NASA / Radislav Sinyak
NASA Commits to Long-term Artemis Missions with Orion Production Contract (Press Release)
NASA is setting in motion the Orion spacecraft production line to support as many as 12 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.
The agency has awarded the Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) to Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado. Spacecraft production for the Orion program, managed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, will focus on reusability and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.
“This is a great day for the men and women at Johnson Space Center. They are crucial to our national space program, and have an undeniable legacy and record of success in advancing America’s leadership in the human exploration of space,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “I am pleased that Administrator Bridenstine has heeded my calls and is taking significant steps to ensure that Johnson continues to grow with the exciting future of manned exploration that lies ahead. More needs to be done, and I look forward to production ramping up in the weeks and months to come and to more opportunities with NASA.”
OPOC is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that includes a commitment to order a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 Orion spacecraft, with an ordering period through Sept. 30, 2030. Production and operations of the spacecraft for six to 12 missions will establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and demonstrate reusability of spacecraft components.
“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.”
With this award, NASA is ordering three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III through V for $2.7 billion. The agency plans to order three additional Orion capsules in fiscal year 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII, at a total of $1.9 billion. Ordering the spacecraft in groups of three allows NASA to benefit from efficiencies that become available in the supply chain over time – efficiencies that optimize production and lower costs.
Spacecraft reusability – itself a significant cost saver for the agency – will help NASA build the capabilities for sustainable exploration at the Moon and beyond. The long-term plan is to reuse the recovered crew modules at least once. The first phase of reusability will start with Artemis II. Interior components of the spacecraft, such as flight computers and other high value electronics, as well as crew seats and switch panels, will be re-flown on Artemis V. The Artemis III crew module will be re-flown on Artemis VI.
The first six spacecraft will be acquired by cost-plus-incentive-fee ordering. Because the cost of a complex, high-tech system generally decreases over time as the design stabilizes and production processes mature, NASA will negotiate firm-fixed-price orders for future missions to take advantage of the anticipated spacecraft production cost decreases. Furthermore, the cost incentives on the cost-plus-incentive-fee orders are designed to motivate favorable cost performance during early OPOC production and drive substantially lower prices for any subsequent firm-fixed-price orders issued under this contract.
“As the only vehicle capable of deep space exploration, the Orion spacecraft is critical to America’s continued leadership,” said Rep. Brian Babin of Texas. “Today’s announcement signals that we are moving closer towards operation and production. While I look forward to learning more of the details, it’s encouraging to see that this program is moving along as it should be. I am proud of the Orion program team and contractor partners at Johnson Space Center as they move towards getting the vehicle ‘flight ready.’ Without the brilliant minds and extraordinary leadership of the hard-working men and women at Johnson, our country would not be the preeminent spacefaring nation in the world.”
Work under this contract also will support production of NASA’s lunar-orbiting Gateway and evolving mission requirements. Production of certain spacecraft components already designed and qualified for Orion will be provided for Gateway use, eliminating the need for the Gateway Program to develop and qualify similar components.
“The men and women at Johnson Space Center represent the best and brightest scientific minds, and I’m confident with additional Orion spacecraft they will push the limits of exploration to the Moon and beyond,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “I commend the Trump Administration for recognizing the importance and tradition of Houston as the center of human spaceflight and exploring the next frontier.”
Houston has long been the hub of America’s human space exploration program, from the early days of Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo to Artemis. With NASA’s accelerated return to the Moon, Johnson Space Center now is managing more major human spaceflight programs than ever before. In addition to the Orion program, the Texas facility also manages NASA’s Gateway and International Space Station programs, and is home to the Mission Control Center and America’s astronaut corps – the next moonwalkers. Johnson also manages the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, the first two deliveries for which are targeted to launch to the Moon in July 2021.
“No other spacecraft in the world can keep humans alive hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth for weeks at a time with the safety features, crew accommodations, technical innovations, and reliability that Orion provides,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager at Johnson. “With the design and development phase of Orion largely behind us, this new contract will enable us to increase efficiencies, reuse the spacecraft, and bring down the cost of reliably transporting people between Earth and the Gateway.”
NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in five years as part of the agency’s Artemis program. Orion, the Space Launch System rocket and Gateway are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. Work is well underway on both the Artemis I and II Orion spacecraft. Engineers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida have completed and attached the crew and service modules for Artemis I and are preparing the spacecraft for environmental testing. Meanwhile, teams at Kennedy are integrating thousands of parts into the crew module for Artemis II in preparation for the first crewed Artemis mission.
The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration. It’s part of NASA’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which we will quickly and sustainably explore the Moon and use what we learn there to enable humanity’s next giant leap, sending astronauts to Mars.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
NASA / Steven Seipel
NASA Joins Last of Five Sections for Space Launch System Rocket Stage (News Release)
NASA finished assembling and joining the main structural components for the largest rocket stage the agency has built since the Saturn V that sent Apollo astronauts to the Moon. Engineers at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans connected the last of the five sections of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. The stage will produce 2 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I, the first flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon.
“NASA has achieved a historic first milestone by completing the final join of the core stage structure for NASA’s Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket,” said Julie Bassler, the NASA SLS stages manager. “Now, to complete the stage, NASA will add the four RS-25 engines and complete the final integrated avionics and propulsion functional tests. This is an exciting time as we finish the first-time production of the complex core stage that will provide the power to send the Artemis I mission to the Moon.”
The last piece added to the stage was the engine section located at the bottom of the 212-foot-tall core stage. To complete the structure, technicians bolted the engine section to the stage’s liquid hydrogen propellant tank, which was recently attached to the other core stage structures. The engine section is one of the most complicated pieces of hardware for the SLS rocket and is the attachment point for the four RS-25 rockets and the two solid rocket boosters that produce a combined 8.8 millions pounds of thrust. The engine section also includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the stage’s two liquid propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines. This fall, NASA will work with core stage lead contractor, Boeing, and the RS-25 engine lead contractor, Aerojet Rocketdyne, to attach the four RS-25 engines and connect them to the main propulsion systems inside the engine section.
“Boeing expects to complete final assembly of the Artemis I core stage in December,” said Jennifer Boland-Masterson, Boeing operations direct at MAF. “After we deliver the stage, NASA will transport it on the agency’s Pegasus barge from Michoud to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for Green Run testing. Our team here at Michoud will continue work with NASA to build, outfit and assemble the core stage for Artemis II, the first mission that will send astronauts to orbit the Moon. Lessons learned and innovations developed in building the first core stage are making the second one progress much faster.”
During Green Run testing, engineers will install the core stage into the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis for a series of tests that will build like a crescendo over several months. This will be the first fully fueled test of this brand new rocket stage. Many aspects will be carried out for the first time, such as fueling and pressurizing the stage, and the test series culminates with firing up all four engines to demonstrate that the engines, tanks, fuel lines, valves, pressurization system, and software can all perform together as they will on launch day.
The SLS team also achieved another recent milestone by completing structural testing for the stage’s liquid hydrogen tank. The testing confirmed that the structural design for the tank on the rocket’s initial configuration, called Block 1, can withstand extreme conditions during launch and flight. Teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, put a test version of the tank through the paces during 37 separate test cases that exceed what engineers expect the SLS rocket to experience. The final test used 80,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen to simulate the cryogenic conditions, or extreme cold, that the liquid hydrogen tank will experience in flight. Testing will continue later this year to show the tank’s structural design is adequate for future designs of the vehicle as it evolves to a Block IB configuration and missions with even greater forces.
In addition to providing propellant and power to get the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft to space, the core stage houses the flight computers and avionics components that control the first 8 minutes of flight. The avionics system, including the flight computers, completed integrated system level qualification testing showing the components all work together to control the rocket in the Software Integration and Test Facility (SITF) at Marshall. The next step is to test the flight software with all the ground system software, Orion and launch control in the Systems Integration Laboratory at Marshall.
“NASA and our contractor teams are making tremendous progress on every aspect of manufacturing, assembling and testing the complex systems needed to land American astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024,” Bassler said. “I am confident this hard work will result in a rocket that can provide the backbone for deep space transportation to the Moon and ultimately to Mars.”
NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and the Human Landing System are the backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
NASA / Steven Seipel
Engine Section for NASA's SLS Rocket Moved for Final Integration (News Release)
Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans moved the engine section for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to another part of the facility on Sept. 3 to prepare it for joining to the rest of the rocket’s core stage. The engine section, which comprises the lowest portion of the 212-foot-tall stage, is the last major component to be horizontally integrated to the core stage. The flight hardware will be used for Artemis I, the first lunar mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
Crews completed assembly on the engine section on Aug. 29. NASA and Boeing engineers removed the scaffolding surrounding the hardware to use a special tool to properly position the engine section for its attachment to the rest of the stage. The core stage’s two liquid propellant tanks and four RS-25 engines will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send the SLS rocket and Orion on the Artemis lunar missions. The engine section houses the four RS-25 engines and includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines.
NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are the backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Almost three hours ago, SpaceX's Starhopper prototype vehicle successfully lifted off from its launch site at the company's Boca Chica facility in southern Texas. The test flight lasted 57 seconds...with the watertower-shaped booster, which was powered by a single methane-fueled Raptor engine, reaching an altitude of 150 meters (almost 500 feet) before making a bulls-eye landing in the middle of an adjoining landing pad to conclude this demonstration. Supposedly, this will be Starhopper's final flight—as SpaceX will prepare for orbital tests using a pair of Starship replicas that are simultaneously being built in Boca Chica and Florida's Space Coast, respectively. It remains to be seen when those rockets will soar into the air...but for the time being, SpaceX should celebrate this latest accomplishment that shows that Elon Musk's aerospace firm is truly on the path to sending a human-rated spacecraft to Mars by the end of next decade.
Video courtesy of Mary - @BocaChicaGal on Twitter.com
Monday, August 26, 2019
NASA / SSC
NASA Prepares for Green Run Testing, Practices Lifting SLS Core Stage (News Release)
NASA cleared a milestone in preparation for Green Run testing of its Space Launch System (SLS) core stage with an Aug. 23/24 lift and installation of the core stage pathfinder simulator onto the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss. The lift and installation of the core stage pathfinder – a size and weight replica of the SLS core stage – is helping teams at Stennis prepare for the Green Run test series. For this test of the new core stage, Stennis will lift the flight core stage for Artemis 1, the first SLS mission into the stand. SLS and the new Orion spacecraft being built are the foundation for NASA’s Artemis Program, which will send the first woman and next man to walk on the Moon by 2024.
Stennis modified the B-2 Test Stand for the core stage Green Run testing. The procedure involved lifting the core stage pathfinder from its horizontal position on the B-2 Test Stand tarmac with the facility boom crane line attached to the forward end and a ground crane line attached to the aft end. The pathfinder then was “broken over” into a vertical position. Once the ground crane line was disconnected, the core stage pathfinder was lifted into place by the stand boom crane. This “fit test” validated auxiliary lift equipment, procedures, and verified that stand modifications and preparations are in place and prepared for delivery and testing of the SLS core stage flight hardware.
To prepare for the test, Stennis modified or upgraded every major area and system of the test stand, as well as the high-pressure industrial water system and high-pressure gas facility that support test operations. NASA is building the SLS flight core stage at its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and is scheduled for transport to Stennis by the end of the year. The stage recently completed a critical review in preparation for adding the last piece of the core stage structure: the engine section. After this piece is added, the four RS-25 engines can be connected to the stage. When the stage is completely assembled, NASA’s Pegasus barge will deliver it to Stennis.
For the Green Run test, the core stage flight unit will be lifted and installed onto the B-2 stand, using procedures developed and practiced during the recent core stage pathfinder lift. NASA then will conduct a series of tests to check out stage systems and make sure all are working as needed. Once systems are checked, NASA will conduct a full hot fire test of the stage, firing its four RS-25 engines simultaneously, just as during an actual launch. The hot fire test will generate more than 2 million pounds of combined thrust and provide critical performance data needed to demonstrate the core stage design is flightworthy and ready for launch.
Following necessary refurbishment of the stage, it will be transported by barge to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At Kennedy, the stage will be mated with other SLS major elements and prepared for launch of the Artemis 1 mission.
NASA / SSC
Friday, August 16, 2019
Artemis Update: The Development of the 'Moon 2024' Lander Will Be Spearheaded in Huntsville, Alabama...
NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program’s Human Lunar Lander Development (Press Release)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was joined Friday by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to announce the center’s new role leading the agency’s Human Landing System Program for its return to the Moon by 2024.
“Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Brooks said. “Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers. I’m pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America’s return to the Moon and usher in the Artemis era. Thanks to Administrator Bridenstine for travelling here to share the great news in person.”
Bridenstine discussed the announcement in front of the 149-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket liquid hydrogen tank structural test article currently being tested.
“We greatly appreciate the support shown here today by our representatives in Congress for NASA’s Artemis program and America’s return to the Moon, where we will prepare for our greatest feat for humankind – putting astronauts on Mars,” Bridenstine said. “We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission.”
Informed by years of expertise in propulsion systems integration and technology development, engineers at Marshall will work with American companies to rapidly develop, integrate, and demonstrate a human lunar landing system that can launch to the Gateway, pick up astronauts and ferry them between the Gateway and the surface of the Moon.
“Marshall Space Flight Center, and North Alabama, have played a key role in every American human mission to space since the days of Mercury 7. I am proud that Marshall has been selected to be the lead for the landers program,” said Aderholt. “I am also very proud that Marshall has designed and built the rocket system, the Space Launch System, which will make missions to the Moon and Mars possible. We look forward to working with our industry partners and our NASA partners from around the country."
NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which manages major NASA human spaceflight programs including the Gateway, Orion, Commercial Crew and International Space Station, will oversee all aspects related to preparing the landers and astronauts to work together. Johnson also will manage all Artemis missions, beginning with Artemis 1, the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems.
The trip to Marshall came the day after Bridenstine visited NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where he viewed progress on the SLS core stage that will power NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission. With the start of testing in June on the liquid hydrogen tank article, and the recent arrival of the liquid oxygen tank at Marshall, which manages the SLS Program, NASA is more than halfway through SLS structural testing.
“The Tennessee Valley, including Huntsville and stretching across Middle Tennessee, is a dynamic, exciting region, home to thousands of men and women – working at both public and private institutions – who are leading the United States into the next age of space exploration,” said DesJarlais. “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am thrilled to visit one of our country’s premier facilities, near Arnold Air Force Base and others, developing the latest spaceflight technology. NASA’s Artemis program will help our country to create another American Century. We can be proud of our achievements, especially here at the Marshall Space Flight Center.”
NASA recently issued a draft solicitation and requested comments from American companies interested in providing an integrated human landing system – a precursor to the final solicitation targeted for release in the coming months. The agency’s human lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed – landing on the Moon within five years, while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.
Friday, July 26, 2019
SpaceX Dragon on Route to Space Station with NASA Science, Cargo (Press Release - July 25)
A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is on its way to deliver the second commercial crew docking port and about 5,000 pounds of science investigations and supplies for the International Space Station after a 6:01 p.m. EDT Thursday launch from Florida.
The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory Saturday, July 27. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival will begin at 8:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Dragon will join three other spacecraft currently at the space station. Expedition 60 Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA will use the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, to grab, or grapple, Dragon around 10 a.m. Coverage of robotic installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 12 p.m.
A key item in Dragon’s unpressurized cargo section is International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3). Flight controllers at mission control in Houston will use the robotic arm to extract IDA-3 from Dragon and position it over Pressurized Mating Adapter-3, on the space-facing side of the Harmony module. Hague and NASA astronaut Drew Morgan, who arrived at the station Saturday, July 20, will conduct a spacewalk in mid-August to install the docking port, connect power and data cables, and set up a high-definition camera on a boom arm.
Robotics flight control teams from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency will move the docking port into position remotely before the astronauts perform the final installation steps. IDA-3 and IDA-2, which was installed in the summer of 2016, provide a new standardized and automated docking system for future spacecraft, including upcoming commercial spacecraft that will transport astronauts through contracts with NASA.
This delivery, SpaceX’s 18th cargo flight to the space station under a Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, will support dozens of new and existing investigations. The space station continues to be a one-of-a-kind laboratory where NASA is conducting world-class research in fields, such as biology, physics, and materials science. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years and preparing to send humans to Mars.
Here are details about some of the scientific investigations Dragon is delivering to the space station:
Bio-Mining in Microgravity
The Biorock investigation will provide insight into the physical interactions of liquid, rocks and microorganisms under microgravity conditions and improve the efficiency and understanding of mining materials in space. Bio-mining eventually could help explorers on the Moon or Mars acquire needed materials, lessening the need to use precious resources from Earth and reducing the amount of supplies that explorers must take with them.
Printing Biological Tissues in Space
Using 3D biological printers to produce usable human organs has long been a dream of scientists and doctors around the globe. However, printing the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs, such as capillary structures, has proven difficult to accomplish in Earth’s gravity. To overcome this challenge, Techshot designed their BioFabrication Facility to print organ-like tissues in microgravity – a stepping stone in a long-term plan to manufacture whole human organs in space using refined biological 3D printing techniques.
Improving Tire Manufacturing from Orbit
The Goodyear Tire investigation will use microgravity to push the limits of silica fillers for tire applications. A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could improve the silica design process, silica rubber formulation and tire manufacturing and performance. Such improvements could include increased fuel efficiency, which would reduce transportation costs and help to protect Earth’s environment.
Effects of Microgravity on Microglia 3D Models
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) – adult cells genetically programmed to return to an embryonic stem cell-like state – have the ability to develop into any cell type in the human body, potentially providing an unlimited source of human cells for therapeutic purposes. Space Tango-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells examines how specialized white blood cells derived from iPSCs of patients with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis grow and move in 3D cultures, and any changes in gene expression that occur as a result of exposure to a microgravity environment. Results could lead to the development of potential therapies.
Mechanisms of Moss in Microgravity
Space Moss compares mosses grown aboard the space station with those grown on Earth to determine how microgravity affects its growth, development, and other characteristics. Tiny plants without roots, mosses need only a small area for growth, an advantage for their potential use in space and future bases on the Moon or Mars. This investigation also could yield information that aids in engineering other plants to grow better on the Moon and Mars, as well as on Earth.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.
For more than 18 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 230 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
Artemis 1 Update: The SLS Core Stage Booster Will Stop By Mississippi Before It's Sent to Kennedy Space Center for Launch...
“Green Run” Test Will Pave the Way for Successful NASA Moon Missions (News Release)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced July 25 the agency will conduct a “Green Run” core stage test for the Space Launch System rocket ahead of the upcoming Artemis 1 lunar mission.
.@NASA will do a Green Run test for @NASA_SLS prior to #Artemis 1. Here’s why:— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) July 25, 2019
• Astronaut safety is our #1 priority
• Increases probability of a successful Moon landing in 2024
• It’s important to discover issues earlier rather than later
More: https://t.co/yTfRC4D7mq pic.twitter.com/TnTtCSGYI9
This is how the Green Run will work:
The first eight minutes of every Artemis mission with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will begin with core stage and solid rocket boosters producing 8.8 million pounds of thrust to launch the agency’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon. NASA will test the rocket’s 212-foot tall core stage—the tallest rocket stage the agency has ever built—with a “Green Run” test on Earth before launch day to help ensure mission success and pave the way for future Artemis missions carrying crew to the Moon. Missions at the Moon will be a stepping stone to prepare for human exploration of Mars.
During the Green Run testing, engineers will install the core stage that will send Orion to the Moon in the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi for a series of tests that will build like a crescendo over several months. The term “green” refers to the new hardware that will work together to power the stage, and “run” refers to operating all the components together simultaneously for the first time. Many aspects will be carried out for the first time, such as fueling and pressurizing the stage, and the test series culminates with firing up all four RS-25 engines to demonstrate that the engines, tanks, fuel lines, valves, pressurization system, and software can all perform together just as they will on launch day.
“The SLS core stage is an engineering feat that includes not only the largest rocket propellant tanks ever built but also sophisticated avionics and main propulsion systems,” said Lisa Bates, SLS deputy stages manager. “While the rocket is designed to evolve over time for different mission objectives, the core stage design will remain basically the same. The Green Run acceptance test gives NASA the confidence needed to know the new core stage will perform again and again as it is intended.”
The SLS core stage includes state-of-the-art avionics, miles of cables and propulsion systems and two huge liquid propellant tanks that collectively hold 733,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to power the four RS-25 engines. Together, they will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to help send Artemis 1 beyond Earth’s orbit to the Moon.
The test program for the core stage at Stennis will begin with installing the stage into the test stand. Then, engineers will turn the components on one by one through a series of initial tests and functional checks designed to identify any issues. Those tests and checks will culminate in an eight-minute-long test fire, mimicking the full duration of the stage’s first flight with ignition, ascent and engine shutdown. The results of this test also will provide important data that will confirm how the system reacts as the fuel is depleted from the propellant tanks.
“With Green Run, we verify each individual component operates well within the core stage system,” said Bates. “It’s more than testing. It’s the first time the stage will come to life and be fully operational from the avionics in the top of the core stage to the engines at the bottom.”
The test series is a collaborative effort between a number of NASA field centers, programs and contractors. The entire stage was built and manufactured at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The structural test articles, also built at Michoud, were shipped to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for structural testing. The work done by Marshall’s test teams certifies the structural integrity of the rocket’s core stage, while Green Run shows that the integrated stage operates correctly. The Stennis teams renovated the historic B-2 Test Stand used to test stages for multiple programs including the Saturn V and the space shuttle propulsion system in the 1970s.
“Green Run is a historic moment for NASA and Stennis for a number of reasons,” said Dr. Richard Gilbrech, Director, Stennis Space Center. “For the first time in NASA’s history, a launch vehicle will use flight hardware for its first test, and the Stennis test stands will once again test the core stage for Moon missions.”
Historically, other NASA rockets built to carry astronauts have used main propulsion test articles to test the integrated engines and main propulsion system. The SLS program is performing the stage testing with flight hardware. Once the validation of the stage is complete, the entire stage will be checked out, refurbished as needed, and then shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the Artemis 1 launch. The next time the core stage engines roar to life will be on the launch pad at Kennedy.
NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and Orion, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
The Next Orion Spacecraft Is Declared Complete on the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11's Moon Landing...
NASA / Mark Kirasich
Vice President Unveils NASA Spacecraft for Artemis 1 Lunar Mission on Moon Landing Anniversary (Press Release)
Vice President Mike Pence visited and gave remarks in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the agency’s Apollo 11 Moon landing and announce to America the completion of NASA’s Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis lunar mission.
“Thanks to the hard work of the men and women of NASA, and of American industry, the Orion crew vehicle for the Artemis 1 mission is complete and ready to begin preparations for its historic first flight,” said Vice President Pence.
He was joined on stage by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, Kennedy Center Director Robert Cabana, Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Marillyn Hewson, and Rick Armstrong, son of Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong. Before going to the Operations and Checkout Building, the Vice President, Aldrin and Armstrong visited Kennedy’s historic launch pad, 39A, where the Apollo 11 mission lifted off.
NASA’s goal 50 years ago was to prove the agency could land humans on the Moon and return them safely to Earth. The goal now is to return to the Moon in a sustainable way to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars for the first time ever.
Artemis 1 will launch NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket around the Moon to test the system and pave the way for landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon in five years, as well as future missions to Mars.
“Similar to the 1960s, we too have an opportunity to take a giant leap forward for all of humanity,” said Bridenstine. “President Trump and Vice President Pence have given us a bold direction to return to the Moon by 2024 and then go forward to Mars. Their direction is not empty rhetoric. They have backed up their vision with the budget requests need to accomplish this objective. NASA is calling this the Artemis program in honor of Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology, the goddess of the Moon. And we are well on our way to getting this done.”
Engineers recently completed building and outfitting the Orion crew module at Kennedy. The underlying structure of the crew module, known as the pressure vessel, was manufactured at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and shipped to Kennedy, where teams have integrated thousands of parts into the crew module and conducted tests to certify all of its systems for flight.
Orion’s European Service Module, which will provide the power and propulsion for Orion during the mission, also is complete. Contributed by ESA (European Space Agency), the service module was manufactured by Airbus in Bremen, Germany, and shipped to Kennedy in November 2018 for final assembly and integration. Engineers have begun operations to join the crew module to the service module, and teams are connecting power and fluid lines to complete hardware attachment.
Once the two modules are joined, engineers will install a heatshield backshell panel on the spacecraft and prepare it for a September flight inside the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft to NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. Testing at Plum Brook will ensure the joined modules can withstand the deep space environment.
When testing in Ohio is complete, the spacecraft will return to Kennedy for final processing and inspections. Teams then will fuel the spacecraft and transport it to Kennedy’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building for integration with the SLS rocket before it is rolled out to Launch Pad 39B for the launch of Artemis 1.
Orion is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with SLS and the lunar Gateway. During Artemis 1, SLS will send the uncrewed spacecraft – consisting of the crew and service modules – thousands of miles past the Moon for the first in a series of increasingly complex missions. Artemis 2 will be the first of these new missions to the Moon with astronauts on board, followed by Artemis 3, which will launch the next American moonwalkers into a new era of exploration.
Working with U.S. companies and international partners, NASA will push the boundaries of human exploration forward to the Moon. Through Artemis, the agency will establish a sustainable human presence at the Moon by 2028 to continue scientific research and discovery, demonstrate new technologies, and lay the foundation for future missions to Mars.
NASA / Neil Armstrong
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
The Last Major Flight Test for Orion Is Achieved Before It Flies on the Artemis 1 Mission to the Moon...
NASA / Tony Gray and Kevin O’Connell
Successful Orion Test Brings NASA Closer to Moon, Mars Missions (Press Release)
NASA successfully demonstrated Tuesday the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system can outrun a speeding rocket and pull astronauts to safety during an emergency during launch. The test is another milestone in the agency’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon that will lead to astronaut missions to Mars.
During the approximately three-minute test, called Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a modified Peacekeeper missile procured through the U.S. Air Force and built by Northrop Grumman.
The Orion test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of about six miles, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent. The abort sequence triggered and, within milliseconds, the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket. Its attitude control motor flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
A team is collecting the 12 data recorders that were ejected during the test capsule’s descent. Analysis of the information will provide insight into the abort system’s performance.
“We're building the most powerful rocket in the world to send astronauts to the Moon in the Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With this exploration system designed to safely carry humans farther into space than ever before, we'll also have an equally powerful launch abort system that will pull the crew away if there is a problem with the rocket during the early portion of ascent.”
The tower-like abort structure consists of two parts: the fairing assembly, which is a shell composed of a lightweight composite material that protects the capsule from the heat, air flow and acoustics of the launch, ascent, and abort environments; and the launch abort tower, which includes the abort motor, attitude control motor, and jettison motor. The system is built specifically for deep space missions and to ride on NASA’s powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
“Launching into space is one of the most difficult and dangerous parts of going to the Moon,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This test mimicked some of the most challenging conditions Orion will ever face should an emergency develop during the ascent phase of flight. Today, the team demonstrated our abort capabilities under these demanding conditions and put us one huge step closer to the first Artemis flight carrying people to the Moon.”
NASA was able to accelerate the test schedule and lower costs by simplifying the test spacecraft and eliminating parachutes and related systems. NASA already qualified the parachute system for crewed flights through an extensive series of 17 developmental tests and eight qualification tests completed at the end of 2018.
Engineers are making progress building and testing the Orion spacecraft for Artemis 1, the first uncrewed mission with the SLS rocket – an integrated system traveling thousands of miles beyond the Moon – and for Artemis 2, the first mission with astronauts.
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians are preparing to attach the Orion crew and service modules before testing at the agency’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, later this year. The crew module for Artemis 2 is being outfitted with thousands of elements – from bolts and strain gauges to parachutes and propulsion lines.
The agency recently reached major milestones for the SLS rocket, assembling four of the five parts that make up the massive core stage that will launch Artemis 1 and delivering the four engines that will be integrated into the core stage, along with the engine section, later this summer. When completed, the entire core stage will be the largest rocket stage NASA has built since manufacturing the Saturn V stages for NASA’s Apollo lunar missions in the 1960s.
Orion is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the SLS and Gateway, that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Through the Artemis program, the next American Moon walkers will depart Earth aboard Orion and begin a new era of exploration.
NASA / Kim Shiflett