NASA Completes Orion Parachute Tests for Missions with Astronauts

An Orion test capsule with its three main parachutes touches down in the Arizona desert Sept. 12. (Credit: NASA)

YUMA, Ariz. (NASA PR) — NASA has completed the final test to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts, checking off an important milestone on the path to send humans on missions to the Moon and beyond.

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Bridenstine: NASA Lunar Plan Focused on Sustainable, Commercial Architecture

Orion near the moon (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA plans to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon within a decade using a sustainable architecture that stresses reusable vehicles and open systems, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week.

“So how do we go sustainably?” Bridenstine said during a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). “We start by taking advantage of capabilities in this country that didn’t exist even five or 10 years ago. We have commercial companies that can do things that weren’t possible even a few years ago….

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Orion Pressure Vessel for Exploration Mission-2 Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

The Orion pressure vessel for Exploration Mission-2 arrives at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 24, 2018. (Credit: NASA/Christopher Swanson)

By Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

It’s almost a packed house in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the arrival of the Orion pressure vessel for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) that will carry astronauts beyond the Moon atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The pressure vessel arrived on a super-wide transport truck at the center Aug. 24 and joined the Orion Exploration Mission-1 crew module in the high bay where technicians recently secured the heat shield to the bottom of the spacecraft.

The pressure vessel is Orion’s primary structure that holds the pressurized atmosphere astronauts will breathe and work in while in the vacuum of deep space. The main structure of the pressure vessel consists of seven large aluminum pieces that are welded together to produce a strong, yet light-weight, air-tight capsule. The pieces were joined at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans using a state-of-the-art process called friction-stir welding, which produces incredibly strong bonds by transforming metals from a solid into a plastic-like state, and then using a rotating pin tool to soften, stir and forge a bond between two metal components to form a uniform welded joint, a vital requirement of next-generation space hardware.

The pressure vessel was loaded into the Crew Module Transportation Fixture and then lowered onto a heavy equipment semi-trailer for the nearly 700-mile journey over land to Kennedy. Efforts will now begin to prepare the pressure vessel for flight. Initially, the crew module will be secured into a precision alignment tool and Lockheed Martin technicians will begin the work to attach the main structural components to the exterior of the module. These critical parts, some made of aluminum and titanium, will provide structural strength to the pressure vessel and give the spacecraft its conical shape.

“Flying Orion on our new SLS rocket represents the beginning of a new era in space exploration,” said Kent Beringer, EM-2 lead with Orion Production Operations at Kennedy. “This Orion spacecraft and the SLS will take humans farther into the solar system than ever before. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

NASA’s First Flight With Crew Important Step on Long-term Return to the Moon

Orion spacecraft (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Astronauts on their first flight aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft will travel farther into the solar system than humanity has ever traveled before. Their mission will be to confirm all of the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed in the actual environment of deep space with crew aboard. NASA’s first mission with crew will mark a significant step forward on NASA’s plans to return humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and future missions to worlds beyond, including Mars.

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Heat Shield Install Brings Orion Spacecraft Closer to Space

Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians check fittings during installation of the heat shield to the Orion crew module July 25, 2018, inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Orion is being prepared for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first uncrewed integrated flight test atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. The heat shield will need to withstand temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit during Orion’s descent and re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere before it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

During Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), an uncrewed Orion spacecraft will launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and begin a three-week voyage in space, taking it about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back to Earth. On its return, the spacecraft’s heat shield will need to withstand temperatures of nearing 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit during its fiery re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere before it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

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Top Five Technologies Needed for a Spacecraft to Survive Deep Space

Orion near the moon (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — When a spacecraft built for humans ventures into deep space, it requires an array of features to keep it and a crew inside safe. Both distance and duration demand that spacecraft must have systems that can reliably operate far from home, be capable of keeping astronauts alive in case of emergencies and still be light enough that a rocket can launch it.

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Orion Spacecraft at the White House for the Made in America Showcase

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014on the White House South Lawn. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where final assembly, integration and testing was completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to the spacecraft.

Orion Jettison Motor Ready for Crew Escape System Test

Aerojet Rocketdyne technicians inspect the Jettison Motor for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS) at its facility in Sacramento, Calif. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne recently passed a key milestone in preparation for the Ascent Abort Test (AA-2) next year with the successful casting of the Jettison Motor for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS).

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NASA and Peanuts Worldwide to Collaborate on Deep Space Learning Activities

Headed for the launch pad, Apollo 10 Commander Tom Stafford pats the nose of a stuffed Snoopy held by Jamye Flowers (Coplin), astronaut Gordon Cooper’s secretary. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and Peanuts Worldwide are joining forces to collaborate on educational activities that share the excitement of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with the next generation of explorers and thinkers. The collaboration, formalized though a Space Act Agreement, provides an opportunity to update the Snoopy character by Charles M. Schulz, for space-themed programming with content about NASA’s deep space exploration missions, 50 years after its initial collaboration began during the Apollo era.

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NASA Names Six New Flight Directors to Lead Mission Control

The 2018 Class of NASA Flight Directors for the Mission Control Center (L-R): Marcos Flores, Allison Bolinger, Adi Boulos, Rebecca Wingfield, Pooja Jesrani, and Paul Konyha. (Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected six women and men to join the elite corps of flight directors who will lead mission control for a variety of new operations at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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NASA Tests Solar Sail for CubeSat that Will Study Near-Earth Asteroids

The NEA Scout solar sail is deployed at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite designed to study asteroids close to Earth, performed a successful deployment test June 28 of the solar sail that will launch on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The test was performed in an indoor clean room at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

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SpaceX to Launch Majority of 4,000 Starlink Satellites From Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.

That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.

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Senate Appropriations Approves Budget Boost for NASA, Cut for NOAA


WASHINGTON, DC – June 14, 2018 (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) — The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act with funding for programs that support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities….

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $21.3 billion for NASA, $587 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $1.43 billion above the budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, to fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and to support fundamental aeronautics research.

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Mars Needs Women — NASA Needs Everybody

Credit: American International Television

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In the 1967 film, Mars Needs Women, a team of martians invades Earth to kidnap women to help repopulate their dying species. Shot over two weeks on a minuscule budget and padded out with stock footage, the movie obtained cult status as one of those cinematic disasters that was so bad it was unintentionally hilarious.

A half century later, NASA finds itself in a not entirely dissimilar situation. Only this problem is not nearly as funny.

The space agency lacks sufficient personnel with the proper skill sets to undertake its complex missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. A number of key programs have been affected by the shortfall already.

NASA’s workforce is also aging. More than half the agency’s employees are 50 years and older, with one-fifth  currently eligible for retirement. Finding replacement workers with the right mix of skills is not always easy as NASA faces increased competition from a growing commercial space sector.

The space agency is addressing these challenges, but it’s too early to tell how successful these efforts will be, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

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Payload for 2022 SLS Launch Still Up in the Air

Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on Pad 39B. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has set mid-2022 for the second flight of the Space Launch System (SLS), but it’s not yet known what the massive booster will actually launch.

“Determination as to whether this launch will be SLS/Orion crewed mission (EM-2) or the SLS/Europa Clipper mission will be made based on risk and readiness of the Europa Clipper project,” according to a decision memo signed on Friday by William C. Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development. Parabolic Arc obtained a copy of the memo.

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