Monday, April 15, 2024

The CST-100 Will Head to the Launch Site Tomorrow for Next Month's ISS-bound Mission...

Now placed aboard United Launch Alliance's KAMAG transport vehicle, Boeing's Starliner capsule is ready for tomorrow's move to the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station's SLC-41...where Starliner will be mated to its Atlas V rocket for next month's Crew Flight Test to the International Space Station.
Boeing

Starliner Rollout Preparations Continue (News Release)

Weight and center-of-gravity operations complete

Following fueling and checkout operations, the Boeing team moved the Crew Flight Test spacecraft out of the Starliner facility’s hazardous processing area to a machine that weighs and measures the center of gravity (CG) of the spacecraft. Using the high bay crane, the engineers and technicians lifted Starliner into place and secured it onto the machine.

Previous weigh-ins of the Crew Module and Service Module, where the weight and CG machine tilts the elements up to 30 degrees along their principle axes, were taken to get highly-accurate measurements of the individual elements. Once mated, loaded with cargo and fueled, a final weight and CG measurement is taken of the completed spacecraft.

Through this method, engineers are able to validate an accurate center of gravity of the entire integrated spacecraft, which needs to be within a volume about the size of an American quarter. Accurate weight and CG measurements are critical to the nominal performance of both the entire integrated spacecraft and launch vehicle during ascent and the spacecraft during on-orbit maneuvers and reentry.

After the weight and CG measurements, the Boeing team used the high bay crane again to move Starliner to a staging area inside the high bay, where a transport vehicle provided by ULA known as a KAMAG, or “K-MAG,” was waiting. The team then secured Starliner to the transporter, where it is now ready for the overnight trek to its launch site, Space Launch Complex-41.

Source: StarlinerUpdates.com

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Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Next Moon-bound Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Continues to Undergo Testing at KSC...

Inside the Operations and Checkout Building's west altitude chamber at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Orion capsule for Artemis 2 is about to undergo electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing...on April 10, 2024.
David Wellendorf

Artemis II Orion Inside Altitude Chamber (Photo Release - April 10)

On April 10, 2024, the Artemis II Orion spacecraft is seen inside the west altitude chamber in the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will undergo electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

America's Closest Asian Ally May Soon Have an Astronaut on the Moon Thanks to an Artemis Mission...

An artist's concept of JAXA's pressurized lunar rover (possibly built by Toyota)...which would become operational on NASA's Artemis 7 mission.

NASA, Japan Advance Space Cooperation, Sign Agreement for Lunar Rover (News Release)

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Masahito Moriyama have signed an agreement to advance sustainable human exploration of the Moon.

Japan will design, develop and operate a pressurized rover for crewed and uncrewed exploration on the Moon. NASA will provide the launch and delivery of the rover to the Moon as well as two opportunities for Japanese astronauts to travel to the lunar surface.

Today, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida also announced, “a shared goal for a Japanese national to be the first non-American astronaut to land on the Moon on a future Artemis mission, assuming important benchmarks are achieved.”

The pressurized lunar rover is intended to enable astronauts to travel farther and work for longer periods on the lunar surface. The signing took place April 9 at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Along with Nelson and Moriyama, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) President Hiroshi Yamakawa also participated in the signing.

“The quest for the stars is led by nations that explore the cosmos openly, in peace, and together. This is true for the United States and Japan under the leadership of President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida,” said Nelson. “America no longer will walk on the Moon alone. With this new rover, we will uncover groundbreaking discoveries on the lunar surface that will benefit humanity and inspire the Artemis Generation.”

An enclosed and pressurized rover will enable astronauts to travel farther and conduct science in geographically-diverse areas by serving as a mobile habitat and laboratory for the astronauts to live and work for extended periods of time. It will be able to accommodate two astronauts for up to 30 days as they traverse the area near the lunar South Pole.

NASA currently plans to use the pressurized rover on Artemis VII and subsequent missions over an approximate 10-year lifespan.

“It was an honor to sign the historic implementing arrangement that will be long remembered as the symbol of the new era of Japan-U.S. partnership for the lunar exploration,” said Moriyama. “Under the partnership stronger than ever, we will drive the initiative together with JAXA, including the development of the pressurized rover that vastly extends the exploration capability on the lunar surface, to realize the shared goal for Japanese and American astronauts to, together, explore the Moon.”

The arrangement falls under the “Framework Agreement Between the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation in Space Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, For Peaceful Purposes,” which was signed in January 2023 and recognizes the nations’ mutual interest in peaceful exploration.

The framework agreement facilitates a broad swath of joint activities between the countries, including space science, Earth science, space operations and exploration, aeronautical science and technology, space technology, space transportation, safety and mission assurance, and much more. In addition to the agreement for lunar surface exploration, the partners will build on the framework agreement with future agreements for Japan’s participation in NASA’s Dragonfly mission and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope.

The U.S. and Japan also intend to collaborate on JAXA’s Next-generation Solar-observing Satellite, SOLAR-C, which will investigate the mysteries of solar atmospheres by conducting observations of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

“The pressurized rover will be a powerful contribution to the overall Artemis architecture as Japan and the U.S. go hand-in-hand with international and industry partners to the lunar surface and beyond,” said Yamakawa. “JAXA is ready to assist MEXT and push this forward with our science and technological expertise to establish sustainable human presence on the Moon.”

Under the Gateway Implementing Arrangement signed in 2022, NASA will also provide an opportunity for a Japanese astronaut to serve as a Gateway crew member on a future Artemis mission and Japan will provide Gateway’s environmental control and life-support systems and cargo transportation.

Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the Moon, make new scientific discoveries, and explore more of the lunar surface than ever before for the benefit of all.

Source: NASA.Gov

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U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio--flanked by JAXA astronauts Yui Kimiya and Onishi Takuya, respectively--pose with models of the Global Precipitation Measurement/Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, a pressurized lunar rover and the Hayabusa2 spacecraft...during Biden's visit to Japan on May 23, 2022.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

The Moon Is About to Get Its Own Time Zone...

A selfie that NASA's Orion spacecraft took with the Moon and Earth in the distance...on November 28, 2022.
NASA

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Releases Celestial Time Standardization Policy (Press Release - April 2)

Knowledge of time in distant space-operating regimes is fundamental to the scientific discovery, economic development and international collaboration that form the basis of U.S. leadership in space. Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is releasing the first-ever U.S. government policy memorandum on time standards at and around celestial bodies other than Earth, building upon the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Cislunar Science and Technology Strategy.

“As NASA, private companies and space agencies around the world launch missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, it’s important that we establish celestial time standards for safety and accuracy,” said OSTP Deputy Director for National Security Steve Welby. “Time passes differently in different parts of space—for example, time appears to pass more slowly where gravity is stronger, like near celestial bodies—and as a result the length of a second on Earth is different to an observer under different gravitational conditions, such as on the Moon. A consistent definition of time among operators in space is critical to successful space situational awareness capabilities, navigation and communications, all of which are foundational to enable interoperability across the U.S. government and with international partners.”

A unified time standard—Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC)—will act as the established standard to enable cislunar operations and can be tied to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the primary time standard globally used to regulate clocks and time on Earth. This policy directs NASA to work with the Departments of Commerce, Defense, State and Transportation to deliver a strategy for the implementation of LTC no later than December 31, 2026.

NASA will also coordinate with other federal agencies as appropriate and international partners through existing international forums, including Artemis Accords partner nations.

More information and the full policy are available here.

Source: The White House

Friday, April 5, 2024

The CST-100 Will Soon Be Ready for Its Trip to the Launch Pad for Next Month's ISS-bound Mission...

Last month, Boeing's Starliner capsule was moved to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility's Hazardous Processing Area at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...where it underwent fueling operations for this May's Crew Flight Test to the International Space Station.
Boeing / John Grant

Starliner Fueled for Crew Flight Test (News Release)

With propellant loading complete, the Boeing spacecraft will soon be transported to the launch site.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is fully-fueled for the Crew Flight Test (CFT), now targeted to launch to the International Space Station on May 6.

Over the past two weeks, specially-trained technicians loaded five different commodities into the spacecraft. Each commodity goes in individually and in sequential order under the careful direction of Starliner’s test team.

“Samples were taken and specialized tests were conducted throughout the propellant-loading process to ensure the safety of the team performing the operation and the safe operation of the spacecraft on orbit,” said Mark Sorensen, Starliner CFT Crew Module lead.

Up next for the spacecraft is a final weight and center-of-gravity check. In mid-April, the spacecraft will be transported to United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and integrated to the top of the Atlas V rocket.

Source: StarlinerUpdates.com

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Thursday, April 4, 2024

The 12th and Final Hot Fire Is Now Complete in the Last Round of Testing for the Next-Generation SLS Engine!

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 April 3, 2024.
NASA / Danny Nowlin

NASA Achieves Milestone for Engines to Power Future Artemis Missions (News Release)

NASA achieved a major milestone on April 3 for production of new RS-25 engines to help power its Artemis campaign to the Moon and beyond with completion of a critical engine certification test series at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The 12-test series represents a key step for lead engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company, to build new RS-25 engines, using modern processes and manufacturing techniques, for NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rockets that will power future lunar missions, beginning with Artemis V.

“The conclusion of the certification test series at NASA Stennis is just the beginning for the next generation of RS-25 engines that will help power human spaceflight for Artemis,” said Johnny Heflin, SLS liquid engines manager. “The newly-produced engines on future SLS rockets will maintain the high reliability and safe flight operational legacy the RS-25 is known for while enabling more affordable high-performance engines for the next era of deep space exploration.”

Through Artemis, NASA will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon; land the first woman, first person of color and first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface; and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.

Contributing to that effort, the NASA Stennis test team conducted a full-duration, 500-second hot fire to complete the 12-test series on developmental engine E0525, providing critical performance data for the final RS-25 design certification review. The April 3 hot fire completed a test series that began in October 2023.

RS-25 engines are evolved space shuttle main engines, upgraded with new components to produce the additional power needed to help launch NASA’s SLS rocket. The first four Artemis missions are using modified space shuttle main engines also tested at NASA Stennis.

For each Artemis mission, four RS-25 engines, along with a pair of solid rocket boosters, power the SLS rocket; producing more than 8.8 million pounds of total combined thrust at liftoff.

“This was a critical test series, and credit goes to the entire test team for their dedication and unique skills that allowed us to meet the schedule and provide the needed performance data,” said Chip Ellis, project manager for RS-25 testing at NASA Stennis. “The tests conducted at NASA Stennis help ensure the safety of our astronauts and their future mission success. We are proud to be part of the Artemis mission.”

The E0525 developmental engine featured new key components – including a nozzle, hydraulic actuators, flex ducts and turbopumps – that matched design features of those used during an initial certification test series completed at NASA Stennis last summer.

The two certification test series helped verify that the new engine components meet all Artemis flight requirements moving forward. Aerojet Rocketdyne is using techniques such as 3D printing to produce new RS-25 engines more efficiently, while maintaining high performance and reliability.

NASA has awarded the company contracts to provide 24 new engines, supporting SLS launches for Artemis V through Artemis IX.

“Successfully completing this rigorous test series is a testament to the outstanding work done by the team to design, implement and test this upgraded version of the RS-25 that reduces the cost by 30% from the space shuttle program,” said Mike Lauer, RS-25 program director at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “We tested the new RS-25 engines to the extreme limits of operation to ensure the engines can operate at a higher power level needed for SLS and complete the mission with margin.”

All RS-25 engines are tested and proven flightworthy at NASA Stennis prior to use on Artemis missions. RS-25 tests at the center are conducted by a diverse team of operators from NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Syncom Space Services, prime contractor for site facilities and operations.

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Looking Ahead to the Next Lunar Rover for Astronauts...

An artist's concept of Lunar Outpost's Lunar Dawn rover.
Lunar Outpost

NASA Selects Companies to Advance Moon Mobility for Artemis Missions (News Release)

NASA has selected Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost and Venturi Astrolab to advance capabilities for a Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) that Artemis astronauts will use to travel around the lunar surface, conducting scientific research during the agency’s Artemis campaign at the Moon and preparing for human missions to Mars.

The awards leverage NASA’s expertise in developing and operating rovers to build commercial capabilities that support scientific discovery and long-term human exploration on the Moon. NASA intends to begin using the LTV for crewed operations during Artemis V.

“We look forward to the development of the Artemis Generation lunar exploration vehicle to help us advance what we learn at the Moon,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This vehicle will greatly increase our astronauts’ ability to explore and conduct science on the lunar surface while also serving as a science platform between crewed missions.”

NASA will acquire the LTV as a service from industry. The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, milestone-based Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services contract with firm-fixed-price task orders has a combined maximum potential value of $4.6 billion for all awards.

Each provider will begin with a feasibility task order, which will be a year-long special study to develop a system that meets NASA’s requirements through the preliminary design maturity project phase. The agency will issue a subsequent request for task order proposal to eligible provider(s) for a demonstration mission to continue developing the LTV, deliver it to the surface of the Moon, and validate its performance and safety ahead of Artemis V.

NASA anticipates making an award to only one provider for the demonstration. NASA will issue additional task orders to provide unpressurized rover capabilities for the agency’s moonwalking and scientific exploration needs through 2039.

The LTV will be able to handle the extreme conditions at the Moon’s South Pole and will feature advanced technologies for power management, autonomous driving, and state-of-the-art communications and navigation systems. Crews will use the LTV to explore, transport scientific equipment and collect samples of the lunar surface, much farther than they could on foot, enabling increased science returns.

Between Artemis missions, when crews are not on the Moon, the LTV will operate remotely to support NASA’s scientific objectives as needed. Outside those times, the provider will have the ability to use their LTV for commercial lunar surface activities unrelated to NASA missions.

“We will use the LTV to travel to locations we might not otherwise be able to reach on foot, increasing our ability to explore and make new scientific discoveries,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With the Artemis crewed missions, and during remote operations when there is not a crew on the surface, we are enabling science and discovery on the Moon year-round.”

NASA provided technical requirements, capabilities and safety standards needed for LTV development and operations, and the selected companies have agreed to meet the key agency requirements. The contract request for proposal required each provider to propose a solution to provide end-to-end services, including LTV development, delivery to the Moon and execution of operations on the lunar surface.

Through Artemis, NASA will send astronauts – including the first woman, first person of color and its first international partner astronaut – to explore the Moon for scientific discovery, technology evolution, economic benefits and to build the foundation for crewed missions to Mars. Advanced rovers, along with the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket and Orion spacecraft, commercial human landing systems and next-generation spacesuits, and Gateway are NASA’s foundation for deep space exploration.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of Intuitive Machines' Moon RACER rover.
Intuitive Machines

An artist's concept of Venturi Astrolab's FLEX rover.
Astrolab

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The First Crewed Mission of the CST-100 Is Now Scheduled for No Earlier Than May 6...

Boeing's Starliner capsule is about to dock with the International Space Station...on May 20, 2022.
Serg Korsakov

NASA, Boeing Update Launch Date for Starliner’s First Astronaut Flight (News Release)

Following a review of the International Space Station operations, NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test is now targeting no earlier than Monday, May 6, for Starliner’s first launch with astronauts to the orbital complex. The date adjustment optimizes space station schedule of activities planned toward the end of April, including a cargo spacecraft undocking and a crew spacecraft port relocation required for Starliner's docking.

NASA and Boeing are also performing prelaunch closeout work and completing final certification for flight.

Starliner will carry NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the space station for a docking to the forward port of the Harmony module. Ahead of Starliner’s launch, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 crewmates will board the Dragon spacecraft, currently docked to the forward port, for a relocation to the zenith port of Harmony to allow for Starliner's docking.

The date shift also allows additional time for the crew aboard the microgravity laboratory to complete science and cargo logistics ahead of the departure of the Dragon cargo spacecraft.

As part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Williams and Wilmore will spend about a week docked to the space station ahead of a return to Earth in the western United States.

The flight test will help NASA verify whether the Starliner system is ready to fly regular crew-rotation missions to the space station for the agency.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Monday, April 1, 2024

Artemis' Lunar Space Station Moves a Step Closer to Launch Later Next Year...

The HALO module for the Gateway lunar space station continues to undergo construction at Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy.
Northrop Grumman and Thales Alenia Space

Gateway HALO Shell Illuminated (Photo Release)

The primary structure of the Gateway space station's HALO (Habitation and Logistics Outpost) module is one step closer to launch following welding completion in Turin, Italy.

HALO is one of four Gateway modules where astronauts will live, conduct science and prepare for lunar surface missions.

NASA is partnering with Northrop Grumman and their subcontractor Thales Alenia Space to develop HALO.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of the Gateway lunar space station cruising through space.
NASA / Maxar Technologies

An artist's concept of NASA's Orion capsule about to dock with the Gateway lunar space station.
NASA

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Comparing the Two Launch Platforms for SLS...

An infographic comparing Mobile Launcher 1 (for the SLS Block 1 rocket) with Mobile Launcher 2 (for the SLS Block 1B and 2 rockets).
NASA

ML-1 and ML-2 Comparison Infographic (Photo Release - March 28)

This infographic explains NASA’s mobile launchers designed for the agency's Artemis missions to send the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft and large payloads to the Moon in a single launch.

Source: NASA.Gov