SLS Liquid Hydrogen Tank Test Article Loaded into Test Stand (News Release)
The largest piece of structural test hardware for America’s new deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, was loaded into Test Stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama Jan. 14, 2019. The liquid hydrogen tank is part of the rocket’s core stage that is more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, and stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines.
The liquid hydrogen tank test article is structurally identical to the flight version of the tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens of hydraulic cylinders in the 215-foot-tall test stand will push and pull the tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! Just thought I'd share these two pics of Crew Dragon and her Falcon 9 booster as they lie inside SpaceX's Horizontal Integration Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crew Dragon is set to embark on an unmanned flight to the International Space Station on January 17, 2019 (assuming that the U.S. government shutdown had concluded by then)...on the Demo-1 mission. Can't wait!
Today marks 5 decades since Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders took this Christmas Eve snapshot of the Earth rising above the Moon. This marked the first time that humanity glimpsed its home planet from orbit above another world—forever changing the way mankind viewed the fragile beauty of Earth.
Hopefully, astronauts will be able to photograph Earth from lunar orbit again less than 5 years from now (on Exploration Mission-2 in early 2023)...or via remote cameras aboard Orion in less than two years, when the capsule is set to head to the Moon during the Space Launch System's maiden flight on Exploration Mission-1 in mid-2020. Happy Holidays!
Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Passes Key NASA Milestone Production of Orbital Spacecraft to Begin (Press Release)
SPARKS, Nev., December 18, 2018 – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC)Dream Chaser spacecraft passed a key milestone for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract, validating design performance and clearing the way for full spacecraft production. The milestone marks completion of Integration Review 4 (IR4) demonstrating NASA’s confidence in the safety and maturity of Dream Chaser’s design.
"NASA's acknowledgement that SNC has completed this critical milestone and its approval of full production of the first Dream Chaser spacecraft is a major indication we are on the right path toward increasing vital science return for the industry," said John Curry, program director for CRS-2 under SNC’s Space Systems business area.
Many critical parts of the orbital vehicle are already complete, built and being tested, including major structural components, thermal protection system tiles and avionics hardware. With the success of IR4, these components are now being integrated into the orbital vehicle assembly at SNC’s Space Systems facilities in Louisville, CO.
Subject matter experts from NASA and SNC thoroughly reviewed the Dream Chaser spacecraft design and its integrated performance with launch, ground and flight elements. Based on system capabilities, design maturity and the extensive data products presented, SNC and NASA jointly concluded the Dream Chaser program was ready to move to full-scale spacecraft manufacturing and testing.
SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft is slated to service the International Space Station as early as late 2020. Production includes both the uncrewed Dream Chaser winged vehicle and the cargo module, which remains attached to the winged vehicle during orbital operations.
“We are one step closer to the Dream Chaser spacecraft’s first orbital flight. This comprehensive review approved moving the Dream Chaser program into the production phase so we can get Dream Chaser to market as a critical space station resupply spacecraft as soon as possible,” said Fatih Ozmen, co-owner and CEO of SNC. “IR4 was a series of reviews, documentation, and data deliverables that are the culmination of many years of design work, analysis and development testing.”
The Dream Chaser will perform at least six missions to provide cargo resupply, disposal and return services to the International Space Station under NASA’s CRS-2 contract. The spacecraft delivers up to 5,500kg (~12,100lbs) of pressurized and unpressurized cargo and returns over 1,850 kg (~4,000lbs) of cargo with a gentle runway landing. The spacecraft also provides approximately 3,400kg (~7,400 lbs) of disposal capability each mission via the cargo module, which burns up in the atmosphere after separation from the Dream Chaser winged vehicle.
About Dream Chaser Spacecraft
Owned and operated by SNC, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission space utility vehicle. It is capable of transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station resides, and is the only commercial, lifting-body vehicle capable of a runway landing. The Dream Chaser Cargo System was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery and disposal services to the space station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. All Dream Chaser CRS-2 cargo missions are planned to land at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.
Space Launch System Intertank Completes Functional Testing (News Release)
The intertank that will be flown on Exploration Mission-1 as part of NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System, has completed its avionics functional testing, at the Michoud Assembly Center in New Orleans. The avionics, shown here inside the intertank structure, guide the vehicle and direct its power during flight. The intertank houses critical electronics that "talk to" the flight computers in the forward skirt. The intertank, forward skirt, two colossal fuel tanks and the engine section make up the massive core stage of the SLS rocket. The avionics units on the core stage work with the rocket's flight software to perform various functions during the first eight minutes of flight.
Now that the intertank and forward skirt have passed avionics testing, they are ready to be mechanically joined and tested to verify they can successfully work together. To prepare for the first mission, engineers from Boeing, the prime contractor from Huntsville, Alabama, building the SLS core stage, are currently checking out the avionics systems for the entire rocket at the systems integration laboratory at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. They are verifying that the core stage avionics can use the flight software to operate and communicate with all the parts of the rocket as well as to Orion and to ground control computers.
Just a few hours ago, SpaceX revealed to the world that Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa will fly around the Moon aboard SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket(BFR) no earlier than 2023. Maezawa, who was originally supposed to do a lunar flyby aboard the Falcon Heavy rocket later this year(Musk cancelled the flight after deciding that the Falcon Heavy won't be human-rated, and instead launch passengers aboard the BFR instead), bought all seats aboard the spaceship so 6 to 8 fellow artists can fly 404,000 miles [the maximum distance the Big Falcon Spaceship(BFS) will travel as it circumnavigates the Moon during the 2023 voyage] into space with him. The down payment that Maezawa put down is supposedly substantial enough to cover most of the developmental costs for the first BFS...while as a whole, the development program for BFR is expected to have a $5 billion price tag.
Yusaku Maezawa created a project known as #dearMoon, which is meant to inspire artists such as filmmakers, painters, photographers, architects and other creative individuals to join him on BFS' 4 to 5-day journey around the Moon. Totally inspiring!
Orion’s First Service Module Integration Complete (News Release)
Last week at the Airbus integration hall in Bremen, Germany, technicians installed the last radiator on the European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft marking the module’s finished integration.
ESA’s European service module will provide power, water, air and electricity to NASA’s Orion exploration spacecraft that will eventually fly beyond the Moon with astronauts. The European Service Module is now complete for Orion’s first mission that will do a lunar flyby without astronauts to demonstrate the spacecraft’s capabilities.
Much like closing the bonnet on a car, with the radiators in place technicians can no longer access the internals of the European service module, symbolically ending the assembly and integration of the module that will fly further into our Solar System than any other human-rated spacecraft has ever flown before.
Technicians worked 24 hours a day in three shifts to complete the service module’s assembly which is now going through the last stages of its extensive testing. Engineers will put the module through its paces with functional tests that include checking the newly installed radiators and testing the propulsion system with its intricate pipelines that deliver fuel and oxidiser to the spacecraft’s 33 engines.
Once complete the service module will be packed and flown to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. Orion’s solar wings will be shipped separately, also from Bremen. In the USA the module will be stacked together with NASA’s Crew Module Adaptor and Crew Module, the first time the complete spacecraft will be on display.
More tests await the Orion spacecraft at NASA’s Plum Brook facility where it will be put in the world’s largest vacuum chamber to simulate spaceflight as well as being subjected to acoustic tests to simulate the intense vibrations Orion will endure when launched on the world’s largest rocket, NASA’s Space Launch System.
Second Module Getting Ready
Meanwhile technicians in Bremen are not resting as work on the second European Service Module is already well under way. The structure is complete and over 11 km of cables are being meticulously placed in preparation for the computers and equipment that will keep astronauts alive and well for the second Orion mission called Exploration Mission-2.