NASA Ground, Marine Teams Integral to Moving SLS Rocket to Pad

NASA’s Ground Transportation team guides NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s completed core stage from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the agency’s Pegasus barge on Jan. 8. NASA’s Marine Transportation team and Pegasus crew then shipped the rocket stage to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for the core stage Green Run test series. The 212-foot-tall core stage is currently undergoing Green Run testing. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As NASA prepares for the first launch of Artemis I, the first mission of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Moon, one team will be there every step of the way: the aptly nicknamed “SLS Move Team.”

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Using Augmented Reality to Prepare Orion Hardware for Artemis II Crewed Mission

Mary Lakaszcyck, a technician with ASRC Federal Data Solutions, a subcontractor to Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin, demonstrates a pair of augmented reality (AR) goggles inside the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 16, 2020. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

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

Augmented reality, also known as AR, is a powerful tool that engineers are using to enable NASA to send humans to the Moon under the agency’s Artemis  program. Lockheed Martin, lead contractor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, is currently using AR to increase efficiency in building the spacecraft for Artemis II, the first crewed mission aboard Orion.

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Artemis I Spacecraft Environmental Testing Complete

Orion undergoing testing at Plum Brook Station. (Credit: NASA–Marvin Smith)

SANDUSKY, Ohio (NASA PR) — After four months of rigorous testing in the world’s premier space environments simulation facility at NASA’s Plum Brook Station, the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission is certified and another step toward being ready for flight.

The test campaign, which was completed ahead of schedule in mid-March, subjected the spacecraft to the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic conditions it will endure during its uncrewed test flight around the Moon and back to ensure it will perform as designed.

The spacecraft will fly back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard the agency’s one-of-a-kind Super Guppy to begin final assembly and checkout, including installation of the spacecraft’s four solar arrays, and eventual integration with the Space Launch System rocket.

Audit: NASA Making Progress With Artemis Software

The first Artemis rocket stage is guided toward NASA’s Pegasus barge Jan. 8 ahead of its forthcoming journey to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has made progress in improving the development of software for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) booster and Orion spacecraft that will take American astronauts back to the moon, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The software is on track to be ready for the first launch of SLS and an automated Orion capsule in 2021, the review found. However, challenges remain in the over budget and behind schedule effort.

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NASA Leadership Assessing Mission Impacts of Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2020 (NASA PR) — To protect the health and safety of the NASA workforce as the nation responds to coronavirus (COVID-19), agency leadership recently completed the first assessment of work underway across all missions, projects, and programs. The goal was to identify tasks that can be done remotely by employees at home, mission-essential work that must be performed on-site, and on-site work that will be paused.

“We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities.” 

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NASA Moves to Stage 4 on Coronavirus Pandemic; SLS & Orion Testing Suspended

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Update on NASA’s Response to Coronavirus
by Jim Bridenstine
NASA Administrator

NASA leadership is determined to make the health and safety of its workforce its top priority as we navigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. To that end, the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center are moving to Stage 4 of the NASA Response Framework,  effective Friday, March 20.

The change at Stennis was made due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community around the center, the number of self-isolation cases within our workforce there, and one confirmed case among our Stennis team.  While there are no confirmed cases at Michoud, the facility is moving to Stage 4 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the local area, in accordance with local and federal guidelines.

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Mobile Launchers: NASA’s Billion Dollar Bungle

The VAB is the large building located in the upper left corner of the photograph and ML-1 is the tall tower-like structure resting on the crawler-transporter located in the lower right corner. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest audit of NASA’s troubled Artemis lunar program had some good news and some bad news regarding the mobile launch (ML) platforms that will be used for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) that will send American astronauts back to the moon.

“After nearly a decade of development, ML-1 is nearing completion in support of the launch of Artemis I, the first integrated, uncrewed flight test of the SLS and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion),” the report from NASA Office of Inspector General (IG) said. (Full Report)

And now, the bad news.

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Audit: SLS 33-43 Percent Over Budget, First Launch Slips to 2021

The first Artemis rocket stage is guided toward NASA’s Pegasus barge Jan. 8 ahead of its forthcoming journey to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest audit of NASA’s troubled Space Launch System (SLS) finds the program is now even more behind schedule and over budget than previously thought, with the space agency failing to fully account to Congress for almost $6 billion in program costs.

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Video: NASA’s Steve Jurcyk Gives Update on Artemis Moon Program

Video Caption: Experts from academia, industry, and government discuss how to shape the technologies needed to explore the Moon in new ways at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD. Opening remarks by Dr. Ralph Semmel. Keynote address by Steve Jurcyk, associate administrator of NASA.

Final Test of Orion Motor Critical to Astronaut Safety a Spectacular Success

Orion launch abort system test. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

ELKTON, Md. (NASA PR) — When NASA astronauts blast off for their voyage to the Moon on the Orion spacecraft during Artemis missions, they’ll have protection in the form of the launch abort system (LAS). The LAS is designed to carry crew to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or ascent atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket.

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Simulations are ‘Great Days’ for NASA’s Artemis I Launch Team

Artemis I Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson (left) stands at the launch console inside the Launch Control Center’s Firing Room 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a countdown simulation. Next to her are Jessica Parsons, technical assistant to the launch director, and Jeremy Graeber, NASA’s Test, Launch and Recovery Operations branch chief, who also serves as the assistant launch director. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Anna Heiney
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA is preparing for the first uncrewed flight test next year of the agency’s powerful new rocket and spacecraft in development for the Artemis lunar exploration program. The Exploration Ground Systems team of launch controllers who will oversee the countdown and liftoff of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft are practicing – and perfecting – the procedures required for a successful launch.

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NASA Budget Proposal Laser Focused on the Moon

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Determined to land astronauts on the moon in time for the 2024 presidential election, the Trump Administration has proposed boosting NASA’s budget by 12 percent, an increase that includes $3.37 billion program for a human lander.

The $25.2 billion plan for fiscal year 2021 is $2.69 billion above the current spending level. More than half the amount, $12.95 billion, would be spent on human space operations in Earth orbit and preparing for missions to the moon.

How the proposal will fair in Congress is unclear. To boost Artemis spending, the Administration has proposed a number of cuts that Congress has rejected in previous Trump budgets. Those reductions include:

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Gerstenmaier Joins SpaceX as Consultant

William Gerstenmaier (Credit: NASA)

CNBC reports that SpaceX has hired William Gerstenmaier, who formerly headed NASA’s human spaceflight program, to serve as a consultant for the company’s reliability engineering team.

The move comes as SpaceX prepares to fly its first Crew Dragon mission with astronauts later this year. The flight test is currently scheduled for the second quarter.

The crew plans to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). A successful flight would clear the way for certification of the vehicle to fly crews to ISS on a commercial basis.

Gerstenmaier was demoted from his position as NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations last July over continued delays with the Space Launch System and Orion programs. He had served in that position for 14 years.

Gerstenmaier’s reassignment as a special adviser to Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard was his first step out the door. He left NASA in December after 42 years with the space agency.

NASA Rings in Busy New Year in Florida to Prepare for Artemis Missions

The Orion crew module for Artemis I is lifted by crane on July 16, 2019, in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew module was moved to the final assembly and test cell and work was completed to secure it atop the service module. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

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

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will have a busy year preparing facilities, ground support equipment and space hardware for the launch of Artemis I, the first uncrewed launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft. In 2020, Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) activities will ramp up as launch hardware arrives and teams put systems in place for Artemis I and II missions.

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