Friday, March 24, 2023

A Yearlong, Simulated Mars Mission Will Begin in Texas Three Months from Now...

A snapshot of a simulated Martian landscape at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

NASA Invites Media to See Mars Habitat Before Crew Enters for One Year (Press Release)

Media are invited to visit NASA’s simulated Mars habitat on Tuesday, April 11, at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. This summer, four volunteers will begin a yearlong Mars mission in the ground-based habitat, helping NASA prepare for human exploration of Mars for the benefit of humanity.

The mission is the first of three planned in NASA’s CHAPEA habitat, or Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog. It is scheduled to begin in June when the volunteer crew, who are not astronauts, enters the 3D-printed habitat.

During the simulation, crew members will carry out different types of mission activities, including simulated spacewalks, robotic operations, habitat maintenance, personal hygiene, exercise and crop growth. To be as Mars-realistic as feasible, the crew will also face environmental stressors such as resource limitations, isolation and equipment failure.

The in-person media event includes an opportunity to speak with subject matter experts and capture b-roll and photos inside the habitat. Crew members will not be available as they’ll arrive at NASA Johnson later this spring to begin training for the simulated mission.

International media wishing to attend must request accreditation no later than 5 p.m. CDT on Monday, March 27. U.S. media must request accreditation no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, April 3.

To request accreditation, media must contact the Johnson newsroom at: 281-483-5111 or Media accreditation is limited due to space.

NASA is leading a return to the Moon for long-term science and exploration through Artemis missions. Lessons learned on and around the Moon will prepare NASA for the next giant leap – sending the first astronauts to Mars.

This is the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Terran 1 Rocket Has Made History Tonight...

A timelapse image showing the predominantly-blue, methane-fueled contrail created by Relativity Space's Terran 1 rocket as it launched on its maiden flight from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida...on March 22, 2023.
Relativity Space

This post isn't related to human spaceflight, but congratulations to Relativity Space for the successful launch of its Terran 1 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida over one hour ago!

Even though Terran 1 failed to reach Earth orbit due to an anomaly with its second stage motor, this launch vehicle still made history as it was the first 3D-printed and methane-fueled rocket to successfully head towards space. (In regards to other American-made launch vehicles, SpaceX's Starship prototypes were also methane-fueled but only reached suborbital altitudes during their test flights.)

Around 85% of Terran 1's components are 3D-printed, and it's a huge victory on Relativity's part that its rocket made it through Max Q—or the area of maximum dynamic pressure—unscathed. We'll see when Relativity sets a launch date for the second Terran 1 booster as engineers pour over data from today's maiden mission.

I'm rooting for Relativity to become the latest private company, after Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, Astra and Firefly, whose rocket achieves orbital flight! Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A New Engine for the Space Launch System Aced Its Fourth Test Today...

A next-generation RS-25 engine is tested on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi...on March 21, 2023.
NASA / Stennis

NASA Conducts Long-Duration Hot Fire of RS-25 Certification Engine (News Release)

NASA conducted a long-duration hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine on March 21, continuing a key series of testing to support future Space Launch System (SLS) missions to deep space as part of Artemis missions as the agency continues to inspire the world through discovery.

Operators fired the certification engine for 10 minutes (600 seconds), longer than the 500 seconds engines must fire during an actual mission, on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Operators also fired the engine up to 113% power level, exceeding the 111% level needed during an SLS launch.

Hot fires of longer duration and higher power level allow operators to test the limits of engine performance and provide a margin of safety for flight operations. The March 21 hot fire was the fourth test in a series that began in early February to certify production of new RS-25 engines by lead contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The company is using advanced manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing, to reduce the cost and time needed to build new engines for use on missions beginning with Artemis V. Four RS-25 engines help power SLS at launch, including on its Artemis missions to the Moon.

Through Artemis, NASA is returning humans, including the first woman and first person of color, to the Moon to explore the lunar surface and prepare for flights to Mars. SLS is the only rocket capable of sending the agency’s Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

Source: NASA.Gov


A next-generation RS-25 engine is tested on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi...on March 21, 2023.
NASA / Stennis

Monday, March 20, 2023

The Main Booster for the Space Launch System's Second Flight Is All But Complete...

At NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, the engine section is attached to the rest of the core stage booster for the Space Launch System's Artemis 2 rocket...on March 17, 2023.
NASA / Michael DeMocker

NASA Connects All Major Structures of Artemis II Moon Rocket Core Stage (News Release)

Teams at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have fully integrated all five major structures of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage for Artemis II, the first crewed Artemis mission that will send four astronauts around the Moon and return them home. Technicians joined the engine section to the rest of the rocket stage on March 17.

Next, teams will integrate the four RS-25 engines to the engine section to complete the stage.

Located at the bottom of the 212-foot-tall core stage, the engine section is the most complex and intricate part of the rocket stage, helping to power Artemis missions to the Moon. In addition to its miles of cabling and hundreds of sensors, the engine section is a crucial attachment point for the RS-25 engines and two solid rocket boosters that produce a combined 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

It houses the engines and includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the propellant tanks to the engines.

The core stage for Artemis II is built, outfitted and assembled at Michoud. Through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone for astronauts on the way to Mars.

Source: NASA.Gov


At NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, the engine section is attached to the rest of the core stage booster for the Space Launch System's Artemis 2 rocket...on March 17, 2023.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Axiom Update #2: The Company Has Been Approved for Another Crewed Flight to the ISS...

A snapshot of SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule docked to the International Space Station during Axiom Mission April of 2022.

NASA Selects Axiom Space for Third Private Astronaut Station Mission (Press Release - March 14)

NASA and Axiom Space have signed a mission order for the third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, targeted to launch no earlier than November 2023 from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“The diversity of currently available commercial orbital human spaceflight opportunities is truly astounding. NASA’s commercial crew flights to the space station for our government astronauts paved the way for fully-private missions to space like Inspiration4 and Polaris as well as private astronaut missions to the orbiting laboratory like the one we are announcing today,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We are starting to see the incorporation of space into our economic sphere, and it is going to revolutionize the way people see, use and experience space.”

Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) is expected to spend 14 days docked to the space station. A specific launch date is dependent on spacecraft traffic to the space station and in-orbit activity planning and constraints.

NASA and Axiom Space mission planners will coordinate in-orbit activities for the private astronauts to conduct in coordination with space station crew members and flight controllers on the ground.

“Axiom Space’s selection to lead the next private astronaut mission to the International Space Station enables us to continue expanding access to nations, academia, commercial entities and emerging industries to research, test and demonstrate new technologies in microgravity,” said Michael Suffredini, CEO and president of Axiom Space. “As NASA’s focus shifts back to the Moon and on to Mars, we are committed to transforming low-Earth orbit into a global space marketplace, where access to space moves beyond the partners of the space station to nations, institutions and individuals with new ideas fueling a thriving human economy beyond Earth.”

Axiom Space will submit four proposed crew members and two back up crew for the Ax-3 mission to the station’s Multilateral Crew Operations Panel for review. NASA is requiring all private astronaut mission providers to select a previously-flown NASA astronaut as the spacecraft commander.

Following review and approval from NASA and its international partners, the prime crew members for the mission will be named.

The Ax-3 crew members will train for their flight with NASA, international partners and SpaceX, which Axiom Space has contracted as launch provider for transportation to and from the space station and to familiarize the private astronauts with systems, procedures and emergency preparedness for the space station and the Dragon spacecraft. Based on current mission planning, team crew training is scheduled to begin this spring.

Axiom Space is obtaining NASA services to conduct the mission via both the mission specific order and Reimbursable Space Act Agreements.

Through the mission specific order, Axiom Space is obtaining services from NASA such as crew supplies, cargo delivery to space, storage and other in-orbit resources for daily use. The order also accommodates up to an additional contingency week aboard the space station.

This mission is subject to NASA’s pricing policy for the services the agency is providing to Axiom Space for in-orbit activities that are above space station baseline capabilities.

The order also identifies capabilities NASA may obtain from Axiom Space, including the return of scientific samples that must be kept cold in transit to and from Earth, return cargo capability and the capability to use the private astronaut mission commander’s time during the docked mission to complete NASA science or perform tasks for NASA.

Through Reimbursable Space Act Agreements, Axiom Space will reimburse NASA for services to enable the mission, such as training for crew members and use of facilities at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In addition, SpaceX has a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with Kennedy for launch services.

NASA made the selection for the third private astronaut mission from proposals received in response to its September 2022 NASA Research Announcement and evaluated the mission proposals based on the provider’s ability to execute a mission successfully, NASA’s ability to support the proposed mission, and the mission’s contribution to the agency’s goal of low-Earth orbit commercialization. NASA also solicited proposals for a fourth private astronaut mission opportunity in 2024 and will announce the mission after successful completion of negotiations results in an award.

For more than 22 years, NASA has supported a continuous U.S. human presence in low-Earth orbit. The agency's goal is a low-Earth orbit marketplace where NASA is one of many customers, and the private sector leads the way.

This strategy will provide services the government needs at a lower cost, enabling the agency to focus on its Artemis missions to the Moon and on to Mars while continuing to use low-Earth orbit as a training and proving ground for those deep space missions.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Axiom Update: A Big Milestone for the First Artemis Moonwalkers...

A snapshot of the prototype for the AxEMU spacesuit that will be used on NASA's Artemis 3 Moon mission.
Axiom Space

Spacesuit for NASA’s Artemis III Moon Surface Mission Debuts (News Release)

When NASA sends the first astronauts to explore near the lunar South Pole, moonwalkers will wear spacesuits provided by Axiom Space. NASA selected the company to develop the modern suits for the Artemis III mission and participated in activities when the first prototype was revealed Wednesday during an event at Space Center Houston in Texas.

Helping take a step forward in the agency's goal to build a robust economy at the Moon by working with commercial service providers, Axiom Space hosted the event for students and media to ask questions and get a close-up look at the spacesuit.

“NASA’s partnership with Axiom is critical to landing astronauts on the Moon and continuing American leadership in space. Building on NASA’s years of research and expertise, Axiom’s next-generation spacesuits will not only enable the first woman to walk on the Moon, but they will also open opportunities for more people to explore and conduct science on the Moon than ever before," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "Our partnership is investing in America, supporting America’s workers, and demonstrating another example of America’s technical ingenuity that will position NASA and the commercial space sector to compete – and win – in the 21st century.”

Artemis III will land astronauts, including the first woman, on the Moon to advance long-term lunar exploration and scientific discovery, and inspire the Artemis Generation. NASA selected Axiom Space to deliver the moonwalking system, including the spacesuit, for the mission.

Called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or AxEMU, the spacesuit builds on NASA’s spacesuit prototype developments and incorporates the latest technology, enhanced mobility, and added protection from hazards at the Moon.

NASA chose to use a commercial services contract for development of the new spacesuit, whereby NASA purchases moonwalking services from Axiom Space. Under this model, the company is encouraged to pursue other commercial customers for their moonwalking services.

This mutually-beneficial approach helps bolster an emerging commercial market and grants NASA the right to use the data and technologies developed under the contract for future exploration efforts.

“NASA is leading the way in enabling a growing space economy by leveraging industry capabilities and NASA’s expertise to provide moonwalking services as safely, effectively and efficiently as possible,” said Lara Kearney, manager of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program.

NASA established the foundation for the AxEMU with the agency’s Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) prototype development efforts that advanced spacesuit designs for multiple destinations. Axiom Space used the experience, expertise and data behind the xEMU as a basis for the design and development of the AxEMU, including advancements in technology, training, astronaut feedback on comfort and maneuverability, and compatibility with other NASA systems.

Leaning on NASA’s prior development efforts is helping Axiom Space reduce technical and schedule risk.

NASA experts defined the technical and safety standards by which the spacesuits will be built, and Axiom Space agreed to meet these key agency requirements. The AxEMU features the range of motion and flexibility needed to explore more of the lunar landscape, and the suit will fit a broad range of crew members, accommodating at least 90 percent of the U.S. male and female population.

Axiom Space will continue to apply modern technological innovations in life support systems, pressure garments and avionics as development continues.

Axiom Space is responsible for the design, development, qualification, certification and production of flight training spacesuits and support equipment, including tools, to enable the Artemis III mission. The company will test the suit in a spacelike environment prior to the mission.

NASA maintains the authority for astronaut training, mission planning and approval of the service systems.

Following Artemis III, the agency will compete future Artemis mission services under the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contract. NASA is using the contract to meet the agency’s spacewalking needs for both the Moon and the International Space Station.

The agency recently awarded a task order to Collins Aerospace, who is also competing within the xEVAS contract, to develop new spacesuits for astronauts to wear during spacewalks on the space station. Both vendors will compete for future spacewalking and moonwalking services task orders.

Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, paving the way for a long-term, sustainable lunar presence to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and prepare for future astronaut missions to Mars.

Source: NASA.Gov


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

ISS Update: A Cargo Dragon Is on Its Way to the Orbital Outpost...

A long-exposure snapshot showing SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon CRS-27 capsule launching from Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A in Florida...on March 14, 2023.

NASA, SpaceX Dragon to Deliver Heart Studies, More to Space Station (Press Release)

NASA has another cargo shipment en route to the International Space Station following a successful Falcon 9 launch of SpaceX’s 27th resupply mission for the agency.

Carrying more than 6,200 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies and other cargo, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched to the space station by a Falcon 9 rocket at 8:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The cargo spacecraft is scheduled to autonomously dock with the space station at 7:52 a.m. EDT on Thursday, March 16, and remain at the station for about 30 days. Coverage of arrival will begin at 6:15 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the agency’s website and the NASA app.

Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station for NASA and its partners are:

3D Heart Cells, Tissue

The first Cardinal Heart investigation conducted aboard the space station showed that four weeks of microgravity exposure can cause significant changes in heart cell function and gene expression. Researchers concluded that these changes could lead to long-term medical issues.

The Cardinal Heart 2.0 experiment builds on these results, using heart organoids, 3D structures made up of all the different types of cells, to test whether clinically-approved drugs reduce these microgravity-induced changes in heart cell function. Results could support the development of effective drug combinations to improve the health of astronauts and patients on Earth.

The Engineered Heart Tissues-2 study continues work with 3D-cultured cardiac muscle tissue to assess human cardiac function in microgravity. Previous work with 3D cultures in space detected changes at the cellular and tissue level that could provide early indication of the development of cardiac disease.

This investigation tests whether new therapies prevent these adverse spaceflight effects from occurring. The model used in this study has potential use in drug development and other applications related to diagnosing and treating cardiac dysfunction on Earth.

Cardinal Heart 2.0 and Engineered Heart Tissues-2 are the final two experiments comprising the National Institutes for Health and International Space Station National Lab’s Tissue Chips in Space initiative. Researchers hope to learn more about the impact of microgravity on human health and disease, and translate that understanding to improved human health on Earth.

Student Ball Clamp Monopod Project

NASA’s HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program enables students to fabricate real-world products for NASA as they apply their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills. The HUNCH Ball Clamp Monopod attempts to address astronaut comments on the difficulty of positioning video or still cameras in the middle of a module.

The student-manufactured project is composed of an aluminum monopod fitted with a camera shoe-and-ball clamp that can be attached to a standard space station handrail. The ball clamp serves as a pivoting platform for photography and video.

Liquid Life Support Systems

Because microgravity makes it difficult to control the flow of liquids, the space station has been unable to take advantage of carbon dioxide removal methods that use specialized liquids. Liquid-based carbon dioxide removal systems such as those on submarines offer higher efficiency than other types of systems.

The CapiSorb Visible System study demonstrates liquid control using capillary forces, the interaction of a liquid with a solid that can draw a fluid up a narrow tube, which are characteristic of liquids that can absorb carbon dioxide. This is an important consideration for future longer-duration space missions where improved efficiency will support crews over many months or years.

Bacterial Biofilms

Microbial biofilms are combinations of microorganisms that embed themselves in a self-produced slimy matrix. Biofilms are of concern for spaceflight because they can cause damage to equipment, are resistant to cleaning agents, and can harbor microorganisms that might cause infections.

The ESA (European Space Agency) Biofilms investigation studies bacterial biofilm formation and antimicrobial properties of different metal surfaces under spaceflight conditions. Antimicrobial surfaces that can inhibit biofilm growth, such as copper and its alloys with and without laser surface treatment, are used in this study.

This project provides additional information to help develop suitable antimicrobial surfaces for future spacecraft.

Lifeform Origins, Survival

An investigation from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) known as Tanpopo-5 could provide insight into whether terrestrial life can survive in space and help scientists understand the key ingredients that sparked life on Earth. The experiment studies the response to space exposure in radiation-resistant microbes, moss spores and biochemical compounds including amino acids.

Amino acids have been detected in extraterrestrial bodies such as meteorites and are possible precursors to life on Earth. Tanpopo-5 follows four earlier experiments which could all inform strategies to protect other planets from contamination by humans and for returning samples from other planets safely to Earth.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help 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.


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Crew Dragon Endurance Has Successfully Returned Home...

Against a backdrop of stars in the night sky, SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endurance capsule is moments away from safely splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Tampa, Florida, on March 11, 2023.
NASA / Keegan Barber

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Splash Down Near Florida Coast, Safe on Earth (Press Release)

After splashing down safely in their Dragon spacecraft off the coast of Tampa, Florida, on Saturday, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 completed the agency’s fifth commercial crew rotation mission to the International Space Station. The international crew of four spent 157 days in orbit.

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 9:02 p.m. EST. Teams aboard SpaceX recovery vessels retrieved the spacecraft and spacefarers.

After returning to shore, the crew will fly to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“Welcome home, Crew-5! This international crew has been conducting critical science experiments and technology demonstrations on the International Space Station that will help prepare us for future deep space missions and pave the way for our return to the Moon,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Each advancement these explorers make is not an achievement for one, but a giant leap for all of humanity.”

The Crew-5 mission lifted off at 12 p.m. EDT on October 5, 2022, on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About 17 hours later, Dragon docked to the Harmony module’s forward-facing port.

The crew undocked from the same port at 2:20 a.m. Saturday, to begin the trip home.

Mann, Cassada, Wakata and Kikina traveled 66,577,531 miles during their mission, spent 156.5 days aboard the space station, and completed 2,512 orbits around Earth. The Crew-5 mission was the first spaceflight for Mann, Cassada and Kikina.

Wakata has logged 505 days in space over his five flights.

Throughout their mission, the Crew-5 team contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities and technology demonstrations. Cassada joined NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to conduct three spacewalks, preparing the station for and installing two new iROSAs, or International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays.

Mann and Wakata teamed up for two spacewalks, also outfitting the orbiting laboratory for solar array augmentation.

During their time on station, the crew members also tested hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants without using soil, released Uganda and Zimbabwe’s first satellites, studied how liquids move in a container in simulated lunar gravity to generate data to improve Moon rover designs, and tested an on-demand system to produce specific quantities of key nutrients from yogurt, kefir and a yeast-based beverage. The astronauts grew dwarf tomatoes in efforts to address the need for a continuous fresh-food production capability in space and reinstalled the station’s bioprinting facility as a stepping stone in long-term plans to manufacture whole human organs in space.

This was the second flight of the Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance by the Crew-3 astronauts on its maiden voyage. Endurance will return to Florida for inspection and processing at SpaceX’s Dragon Lair, where teams will inspect the spacecraft, analyze data on its performance, and process it for its next flight.

The Crew-5 flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its return to Earth follows on the heels of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 launch, which docked to the station on March 3, beginning another science expedition.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. This is already providing additional research time and has increased the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s microgravity testbed for exploration, including helping NASA prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.


The Crew-5 astronauts give a 'thumbs-up' sign after the hatch is opened on their Endurance capsule after she was safely placed aboard a SpaceX recovery vessel deployed to the Gulf of Mexico...on March 11, 2023.
NASA / Keegan Barber

Friday, March 10, 2023

The First Humans to Fly to the Moon Since 1972 Will Be Revealed Next Month...

At Houston's Ellington Field in Texas, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency will introduce the four astronauts of Artemis 2 next month...on April 3.

NASA, Canadian Space Agency to Assign Artemis II Moon Astronauts (Press Release)

NASA and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) will announce during an event at 11 a.m. EDT (10 a.m. CDT) on Monday, April 3, from NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston, the four astronauts who will venture around the Moon. Traveling aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft during Artemis II, the mission is the first crewed flight test on the agency’s path to establishing a long-term scientific and human presence on the lunar surface.

The event will air on NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency’s website.

Media are invited to attend the event and speak with the astronauts about their assignments. Other experts working on Artemis missions will also be available.

Additional opportunities to interview crew remotely will be available on Tuesday, April 4.

International media wishing to attend must contact NASA no later than 5 p.m. CDT on Friday, March 17. U.S. media must contact NASA no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, March 27.

Media can RSVP to the Johnson newsroom by calling 281-483-5111 or emailing:

Artemis II is the first crewed mission aboard NASA’s foundational human deep space capabilities: the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft and the ground systems needed to launch them. The approximately 10-day mission will test and stress the Orion spacecraft’s life-support systems to prove the capabilities and techniques required to live and work in deep space in ways only humans can do.

The crew will include three NASA astronauts and one CSA astronaut, demonstrating the agency’s commitment to international partnerships through the Artemis program. Artemis II builds on the successful Artemis I flight test, which launched an uncrewed Orion, atop the SLS rocket, on a 1.4 million-mile journey beyond the Moon to test systems before astronauts fly aboard the systems on a mission to the Moon.


Thursday, March 9, 2023

A New RS-25 Engine Aces Its Third Test (Plus the NASA Administrator Has Made a MAJOR Announcement Today)...

A next-generation RS-25 engine is tested on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi...on March 8, 2023.
NASA / Stennis

NASA Continues Test Series for Redesigned Artemis Moon Rocket Engines (Press Release - March 8)

NASA’s testing for redesigned RS-25 engines to be used on future Space Launch System (SLS) missions continued with a March 8 full-duration hot fire at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The test, conducted on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA Stennis, was the third of the year and part of an ongoing certification hot fire series. It was also the third test since an upgraded nozzle was installed on the RS-25 engine just prior to a February 8 hot fire.

The redesigned engines provided by lead SLS engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne will be used on future Artemis flights to the Moon, beginning with Artemis V, as NASA continues its mission to explore the secrets of the Universe for the benefit of all.

“Early indications are that the nozzle is working well,” said Mike Lauer, deputy program manager of RS-25 engines at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Even though we changed manufacturing methods, we did not want to radically change the performance of the nozzle. We are very pleased that the nozzle appears to be performing very much in line with our previous history.”

Operators fired the RS-25 engine during the test for a scheduled 520 seconds and up to 113% power level. During missions to the Moon, engines fire for about 500 seconds and up to the 111% power level to help SLS lift the Orion spacecraft and other payloads to orbit.

With added seconds and the increased power level during ground tests, engineers can learn more about engine performance and provide a margin of operational safety.

The nozzle, or bell-shaped part at the bottom of the RS-25 engine, helps generate thrust by ejecting the engine’s exhaust at maximum speed to propel SLS to space. It is one of multiple upgraded components on the redesigned engine and also critical in ensuring efficiency by using a minimum amount of propellants, or fuel, to generate thrust and help propel the rocket to space.

The nozzle is one reason the RS-25 is one of the most fuel-efficient rocket engines in the world.

Over the course of the storied history of the RS-25 engine, many components have gone through changes or upgrades. One component that mostly went unchanged was the nozzle.

For redesigned RS-25 engines, however, a team focused on re-engineering every part of the nozzle. This included using precision machining to improve production of the more than 1,000 tubes that comprise the nozzle wall.

These tubes are critical in flowing super-cold liquid hydrogen to keep the nozzle cool. The team is also using 3D printing to manufacture selected nozzle parts.

Upgrades to the nozzle include a new type and amount of insulation, which is a critical consideration since the RS-25 engines are exposed to more heat during SLS launches than previous space shuttle missions. SLS features four RS-25 engines instead of the three main engines used for the space shuttle, and the proximity of the RS-25 nozzle to the SLS solid rocket boosters is closer than on the space shuttle.

The goal of the upgrades is to streamline the nozzle production process, while making it more cost efficient and still achieving the same performance level as with previous RS-25 engines. While new manufacturing methods have been incorporated into the production of the nozzle, the shape, length and diameter remain the same.

Sixteen main engines remained from the shuttle program. All were modified and tested at NASA Stennis for use on the first four Artemis missions.

Source: NASA.Gov