Trump, Pence Demand Space Spectacular During Election Year as SLS Schedule Slides Further

SLS liquid hydrogen tank (Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If you’ve been puzzling over exactly why NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suddenly floated the idea of flying the first Orion space capsule to the moon next year without the Space Launch System (SLS), The Washington Post has a couple of answers today:

  • SLS is much further behind schedule than anyone knew; and,
  • 2020 is a presidential election year.

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NASA’s Deep Space Exploration System is Coming Together

SLS liquid hydrogen tank (Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)

Editor’s Note: Last week the space agency said it is reassessing plans to conduct the first SLS/Orion flight during the first half of 2020.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will soon return humans to the Moon for decades to come, and the system that will transport astronauts from Earth to the Gateway near the Moon is literally coming together. Building on progress in 2018, most of the major manufacturing for the first mission is complete, and this year, teams will focus on final assembly, integration, and testing, as well as early work for future missions. NASA is focused on launching the first mission, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1),

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NASA, SpaceX Launch First Flight Test of Space System Designed for Crew

Crowd gathers to watch as NASA and SpaceX make history by launching the first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — For the first time in history, a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket, which launched from American soil, is on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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SpaceX Launches Crew Dragon to the International Space Station

Falcon 9 first stage makes its entry burn as the second stage Merlin 1D engine carries Crew Dragon to orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

SpaceX successfully launched an automated Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday. It was the first flight test under NASA’s Commercial Crew program to return astronaut launches to U.S. soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

The company’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 2:49 am EST from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft, which is carrying an instrument mannequin named Ripley, safely separated from the second stage and began a 27-hour voyage to the space station.

The Falcon 9 first stage successfully touched down on an off-shore drone ship.

After docking on Sunday morning, the Crew Dragon will remain at the station for five days. It is scheduled to return to Earth on Friday, March 8. SpaceX plans to reuse the capsule for an in-flight abort test scheduled for June.

This is the first of two flight tests for the Crew Dragon variant. A second flight with two NASA astronauts is scheduled for July. Crew Dragons will be certified to carry astronauts on a commercial basis.

Boeing is also planning to conduct flight tests of its Starliner crew vehicle later this year. The current planning dates for Commercial Crew flight tests are:

  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
  • Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
  • SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
  • SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

The schedule for the Crew Dragon mission is below. NASA TV will be providing live coverage of all events. SpaceX also plans to cover the docking on its website.

Saturday, March 2, 4 a.m.SpaceX Demo-1 post-launch news conference from Kennedy Space Center, with representatives from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, International Space Station Program and Astronaut Office, and from SpaceX.

Sunday, March 3, 3:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon rendezvous and docking at the International Space Station.

Sunday, March 3, 8:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon hatch opening at the International Space Station. Hatch opening is scheduled at 8:45 a.m.

Sunday, March 3, 10:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon welcoming ceremony at the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 12:15 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon hatch closing in preparation for departure from the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 2 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon undocking from the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 7:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon deorbit and landing.

Crew Dragon Ready for First Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled to the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission, Feb. 28, 2019 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft—designed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil—is ready for its debut flight on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. It is a first-of-its-kind test mission of a commercially-built and operated American spacecraft and rocket designed for humans.

The Demo-1 uncrewed flight test, targeted to launch March 2, will demonstrate the company’s ability to safely launch crew to the space station and return them home.

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SpaceX Demo-1: Reviews Provide GO for SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Additional launch readiness reviews today from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, space station team, and SpaceX’s launch team concluded the teams are still “go” for launch of the first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon on a mission to the International Space Station.

Launch is scheduled for 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station.

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, NASA will broadcast a prelaunch briefing from Kennedy, with the following participants:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, deputy manager, International Space Station Program
  • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Pat Forrester, chief, Astronaut Office, Johnson Space Center
  • Melody C. Lovin, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online athttps://www.nasa.gov/specials/ccp-press-kit/main.html and by following the @commercial_crew on Twitter and commercial crew on Facebook.

Weather Looks Good for SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch on Saturday

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — SpaceX is set to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket, the first launch of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership, on a flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:49 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 2.

For a launch Saturday, meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather. Weak high pressure in advance of a front moving southeast into the area is expected during the launch window with a low probability for rain and weak surface winds and only slight concerns of any cumulus cloud or thick cloud rule violations during the instantaneous launch window.

More details about NASA’s coverage of the mission are available at: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-spacex-demo-1-briefings-events-and-broadcasts

Video: Falcon Heavy Flew One Year Ago Today

One year ago, I was on a beach in Florida watching the Falcon Heavy launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Today, I’m in Mojave where it is currently 37 F (2.8 C) and it was snowing and below freezing last night.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 Flight Set for March 2

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and its Commercial Crew Program providers Boeing and SpaceX have agreed to move the target launch dates for the upcoming inaugural test flights of their next generation American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight. Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April.

Test Flight Planning Dates:

SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

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Falcon 9-Crew Dragon Rolls Out to Launch Pad, Conducts Static Fire

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon for Demo 1 mission rolls out of the hangar. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon attached, rolls out of the company’s hangar at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Jan. 3, 2019. The rocket will undergo checkouts prior to the liftoff of Demo-1, the inaugural flight of one of the spacecraft designed to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA has worked with SpaceX and Boeing in developing Commercial Crew Program spacecraft to facilitate new human spaceflight systems launching from U.S. soil with the goal of safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the space station.

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon for Demo 1 mission undergoes first stage hot fire. (Credit: SpaceX0

At NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, the nine engines of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roar to life in a brief static firing on Jan. 24, 2019. The test was part of checkouts prior to its liftoff for Demo-1, the inaugural flight of one of the spacecraft designed to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA has worked with SpaceX and Boeing in developing Commercial Crew Program spacecraft to facilitate new human spaceflight systems launching from U.S. soil with the goal of safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the space station.

 

Remarks by Vice President Pence at Kennedy Space Center

Mike Pence

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Yeah, great words. Great words. Well, thank you, Secretary Wilson. Thank you for that introduction and thank you for your great leadership of the United States Air Force.

And I want to thank our host today, the Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, and the entire team. To General Selva, who joins us here today; to all of our distinguished guests; to General Shess; but especially to the airmen of the 45th Space Wing and your families, it is great to be here at the Kennedy Space Center, the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space.” Thank you all.

And I want to bring greetings this morning, first and foremost, to a great champion of American leadership in space and a great champion of America’s military personnel and your families. I want to bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

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Space Florida Negotiating with Unidentified Launch Company

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Space Florida is closer to a deal with an unidentified launch services company to bring 239 jobs to the Space Coast.

Space Florida’s Board of Directors approved a request to finalize negotiations with an undisclosed company under code name “Project Maricopa” Tuesday during its quarterly meeting in Orlando. Because of the competition involved in the deal, Space Florida will not reveal the name of the company until terms are complete.

Under the planned deal, the Florida Department of Transportation will reimburse 50 percent of what the company spends on common infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, up to $18.9 million. In exchange, the company will commit to investing $52 million in Florida….

Space Florida has been in talks with the company for the past year, ironing out a deal that would include launch services at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 20 and a manufacturing facility at Exploration Park, the state-run complex near Kennedy Space Center.

International Space Station Construction Began 20 Years Ago

Left: Launch of the Zarya Functional Cargo Block from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Right: Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center on the STS-88 mission to deliver the Unity Node 1 module. (Credit: NASA, Roscosmos)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The largest and most complex international construction project in space began on the steppes of Kazakhstan 20 years ago today. Atop its Proton rocket, on Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) thundered off its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome into cold wintry skies. Zarya was built by the Khrunichev in Moscow and served as a temporary control module for the nascent ISS.

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NASA TV to Air Welcome of European Service Module

The European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft is loaded on an Antonov airplane in Bremen, Germany, on Nov. 5, 2018, for transport to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For the first time, NASA will use a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft, extending the international cooperation of the International Space Station into deep space. (Credits: NASA/Rad Sinyak)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is hosting an event at its Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 9 a.m. EST Friday, Nov. 16, to celebrate the arrival of the European Service Module for the agency’s Orion spacecraft. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will preside over the event, which will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Provided by ESA (European Space Agency) and built by ESA contractor Airbus Space, the service module will provide power, air and water to the Orion spacecraft on missions to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

Speaking at the event are:

  • Janet Petro, deputy director of Kennedy
  • Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development
  • Sue Motil, Orion European Service Module integration manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center
  • Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager at the agency’s Johnson Space Center
  • Phillippe Deloo, European Service Module program manager at ESA
  • Jan Wörner, ESA director general

The service module departed Bremen, Germany, Monday, Nov. 5, and arrived at Kennedy the following day. A team at Kennedy will perform final outfitting, integration and testing of the service and crew modules, and other elements of Orion, in preparation for its first mission, an uncrewed test flight.

Find more information about Orion at:

https://www.nasa.gov/orion

Reserve Citizen Airmen Prepare for Human Spaceflight

n response to a simulated emergency at Kennedy Space Center, Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing revalidate their response time In the event of a catastrophic, life-threatening occurrence within the capsule of a human spaceflight launch, Oct. 25, 2018. This exercise marked the first time that the Department of Defense, NASA and commercial providers have exercised this type of event utilizing twelve live patients, wearing life-like makeup to emphasize simulated injuries, and the full array of air assets. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

By Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan,
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — To prepare for the arrival of human spaceflight tests next year, the 920th Rescue Wing along with the DoD Human Space Flight Support (HSFS) Office, NASA and SpaceX personnel joined forces to plan and execute a realistic medical evacuation exercise at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 25.

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