Tuesday, August 27, 2019

SpaceX Update: The Rise of Starhopper...

SpaceX's Starhopper prototype vehicle reaches an altitude of 150 meters (almost 500 feet) during its flight test above Boca Chica, Texas...on 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.

SpaceX's Starhopper prototype vehicle prepares to touch down at its landing site after conducting a test flight that lasted 57 seconds above Boca Chica, Texas...on August 27, 2019.

Video courtesy of Mary - @BocaChicaGal on Twitter.com

Monday, August 26, 2019

Artemis 1 Update: Paving the Way for Next Year's SLS Green Run Test...

The Space Launch System's (SLS) core stage pathfinder article is vertically lifted prior to its installation onto the B-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

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.

Source: NASA.Gov


The SLS core stage pathfinder article is installed onto the B-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Artemis Update: The Development of the 'Moon 2024' Lander Will Be Spearheaded in Huntsville, Alabama...

NASA Adminstrator Jim Bridenstine speaks in front of the structural test article for the Space Launch System's liquid hydrogen fuel tank at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama...on August 16, 2019.

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.


An artist's concept of the ascent module for NASA's Human Landing System lifting off from the lunar surface.