Leidos Webster

March 30th, 2020

Tanya Hanway and Ernest Sanchez explain that Leidos’ name comes from the word “kaleidoscope” to represent the company’s ability to solve difficult problems by applying different perspectives, unlocking new insights, and making new discoveries.

A Kaleidoscope of Space Supplies and Innovation to the ISS and Beyond

From a 55,000 Sq Ft facility on Forge River Road in Webster, Leidos supports human spaceflight and deep space exploration to enable NASA’s next great discovery. Leidos’ local team of innovators works on numerous NASA programs spanning mission operations, research and engineering, payload processing, food development, human spaceflight, and IT support. Just about everything astronauts aboard the International Space Station touch, wear, consume, and do bears Leidos’ signature. From laptops to space suits, tortillas, toothpaste, and experiments, Leidos has shipped more than 210,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.

In Webster, Leidos’ focus is enabling NASA’s mission of driving innovation in science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration. The 129-member team inside the Forge River Road facility and 284-member team on site at Johnson Space Center prepare astronauts for space travel, zero-gravity living, and daily work aboard the largest spacecraft ever built—the International Space Station (ISS)—which circles the earth at 17,000 mph and is the astronauts’ habitat for an average of six-month intervals.

Inside Leidos’ Cargo Processing Facility, Cargo Mission Contract Program Manager Ernest Sanchez; Division Manager of NASA Programs Nan Hardin; and Research, Engineering, Mission Integration Services Program Manager Tanya Hanway hold kits of essential supplies, like food and hygiene towels, bound for the ISS. Prior to transport, cargo undergoes about 200 different processes inside the Webster facility.

Special Delivery to the ISS and Beyond

Leidos’ development of clothing, gear, food, and equipment for those aboard the ISS holds significant ramifications for space colonies on the moon, Mars, and beyond. Logistics falls into this category, as well. Just as astronauts on the ISS require regular deliveries of experiment equipment, spare parts, food, air, and water, those who inhabit space outposts will need resupplies, too. Leidos’ expertise in planning, processing, and packing more than 400,000 pounds of supplies annually to the ISS is of critical importance—especially when every ounce matters. Leidos inventories, labels, and fit-checks each piece of hardware and soft goods, like a puzzle, to fit within a cargo transfer bag. Leidos’ very name, which appears in the word “kaleidoscope” to convey a constantly changing shape and form, represents the company’s innovative mindset toward solving problems and making new discoveries. Leidos’ prowess in technology and its far-reaching science and research applications play a vital role in human space activity.

kaLEIDOScope Leidos Innovates

Under NASA’s Cargo Mission Contract (CMC) in the Webster facility, Leidos processes cargo to enable astronauts’ daily health, welfare, and work aboard the ISS. The sheer number of steps and scope of work involved in making, assembling, processing, inventorying, labeling, testing, imaging, certifying, and integrating everything that is sent to ISS crewmembers is mind-boggling. Shipments often include crew provisions, hand tools, equipment, cameras, batteries and power supplies, research experiments, and ISS hardware.

Space-rated Yeti™

The majority of the thousands of different experiments and critical systems hardware that are bound for space are developed at various facilities and sent to Leidos’ Webster team for packaging and packing for launch to orbit.  However, Leidos also plays a critical role in fabricating and developing products for use in space. For example, when NASA wanted to research a low cost, low risk alternative for passively transporting frozen items to the ISS, Leidos’ engineers were charged with developing a custom Passive Cold Stowage Box (PCSB) that could maintain subzero temperatures for up to a week without battery or vehicle power.  Essentially, NASA asked if Leidos could develop and certify a space-rated Yeti®, and within months, the ISS crew was surprised with a shipment of frozen fruit bars to the ISS to enjoy as proof of concept. Leidos has developed many useful and innovative solutions, including a reliable power supply for laptops, a larger, safer, and more efficient food warmer, and a multi-layer insulation blanket needed to protect cargo from extreme temperatures that is fully compatible with the ISS robotic arm.

Inside the Decal Lab, 8,000 to 10,000 decals are created each month to support ISS missions. Decals, labels, and placards are generated for everything—contents, barcodes, tracking info, serial numbers, operating instructions, and safety.

Shipments to ISS average between 4,000 and 7,700 pounds

Inside Leidos’ Webster CMC facility, packaging takes on a completely new meaning. Bubble bags, Ziplocs, and Velcro abound inside the main cargo processing room, as well as the ubiquitous cargo transfer bags that come in various sizes to hold just about everything. Special shipping containers and lifts to handle heavy equipment are complemented by imaging services, HAZMAT assessments, and Department of Transportation coordination. Cargo kits become part of cargo transfer bags, which are clearly labeled and contain stringent inventory data to ensure that all hardware is handled in accordance with safety protocols. Electronic Launch Return On-Orbit Data Sets (eLRODS) protect hardware during all phases of processing—from receipt, ground handling, and delivery to the ISS. Custom foam enclosures made in the Foam Operations Lab protect flight hardware, just as decals, labels, and placards created in the Decal Lab protect and aid astronauts, so they know the precise sequencing for unpacking, setup, and operations. Labels are created in accordance with stringent NASA flight-approved materials and certifications and contain essential safety, inventory, tracking, and operating information.

Leidos’ work is not all inventorying, packaging, and labeling. The Webster team also works to ensure astronauts are healthy and comfortable. In fact, Leidos touts a seamstress who tailors clothing for astronauts and fabricates specialty items and equipment. Buttons on shorts or pants must be replaced with Velcro closures, and pockets with straps or closures must be added. Special equipment and soft goods are also fabricated inside the Webster facility. For instance, Leidos designed a camera covering that allows an astronaut’s huge, thick glove to handle and actuate buttons on the camera during a spacewalk or extra vehicular activity (EVA).

Leidos also considers toiletries and astronaut hygiene in its cargo preparation.  Every kilogram counts for payloads; water must be imported to the ISS, as no method for cleaning clothes currently exists. This means astronauts receive a single clothing kit, clearly labeled for two weeks’ worth of wear. A change of outfit might transpire twice a week. Astronauts can choose among their favorite brands for hygiene products, such as shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant—many of which will be outfitted with a Velcro backing.

Ernest Sanchez displays a 3D printed mock-up of the Keyence BZ-X800E All-In-One Fluorescence Microscope, an automated microscope with high-resolution imaging and analysis system, that was recently certified by Leidos for use on the ISS.

Manifest to Delivery: Six Weeks 13-15 Flights to ISS Annually

While food is made off-site, all of it is labeled, packaged, and processed in Webster where it’s categorized, numbered, placed into kits, and pressurized for transport. Factors, like nutrition, digestion, dietary conditions, shelf life, and zero-gravity have a huge role in determining what astronauts eat. A four-pound bag labeled “fruits and nuts,” for example, contains individual bags of almonds, apples with spice, applesauce, berry medley, cashews, dried apricots, dried pears, fruit cocktail, macadamia nuts, peaches, peanut butter, peanuts, and more—clearly listed in alphabetical order with tracking or inventory number.

Just as Leidos processes nearly all of the cargo that goes to the ISS, the Webster facility is the repository for returning payloads, as well. This includes time-sensitive or temperature-critical experiments, research materials, malfunctioning hardware, and used, but valuable, gear and equipment. The constant challenge to innovate and develop new modes for life and work in space is Leidos’ focus in Webster and at Johnson Space Center.

Next Stop: Lunar Station

Leidos is poised now to be the supplier to Gateway—the lunar orbital platform that brings astronauts to the moon to operate a space station and serves as a “gateway” for deep space missions. Under the Research, Engineering, Mission Integration Services (REMIS) contract, Leidos is currently developing the navigation and alignment aides for the Gateway Program to ensure safe docking of the various modules. Additionally, as commercialization of low earth orbit continues to ramp up rapidly, Leidos’ unparalleled expertise in logistics, research, engineering, IT, and mission integration services is in demand.

With a track record of success at NASA centers across the country, Leidos provides the mission understanding and technical expertise necessary to support advancements in space exploration and human spaceflight across the public and private space sector. From enterprise IT modernization to operations and logistics to systems engineering and integration, Leidos stands ready to support NASA in achieving its next discovery.

NASA photographer Bill Ingalls to receive Communicator Award

February 27th, 2020

NASA Photographer Bill Ingalls.
Photo: Joel Kowsky

The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation has selected NASA Senior Photographer Bill Ingalls to receive the prestigious 2020 Space Communicator Award.

Ingalls will be honored at RNASA’s 34th annual National Space Trophy Banquet on April 17 at the Houston Hyatt Regency along with Dr. Ellen Ochoa, retired Johnson Space Center director who will receive the 2020 National Space Trophy.  The public is invited to attend.

For over three decades Bill Ingalls has been capturing NASA’s most spectacular moments through his camera lens. His career was born in 1987 when he landed an internship at NASA’s communications office. After graduating from the Waynesburg College with two Bachelor of Art degrees in English and Visual Communications, Ingalls returned to NASA where he joined a group of accomplished and esteemed photographers in 1989.

He has crisscrossed the globe photographing some of our country’s most historic and compelling images. His iconic photos have captured Neil Armstrong’s burial at sea, Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final landing in 2011, and the first launch of a U.S. citizen on a Russian rocket. As one of NASA’s most senior photographers, he manages over 400 projects annually and supervises a team of five.

The space shuttle Discovery sits atop a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as a nearly full moon sets behind it. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Ingalls said of his award, “I am incredibly honored, not only to have been selected to receive this recognition, but to be given the trust and responsibility to document space history in order to share NASA’s story for this and future generations.” His assignments have taken him to some of the most extreme environments imaginable. He has been lowered into an active volcano in Alaska, endured -17° temperatures for a Soyuz landing in the Kazakh steppes, and flown through a hurricane aboard a DC-8.

NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications Bob Jacobs, who nominated Ingalls, said, “Bill is so much more than a photographer, he’s a storyteller. Bill takes us on this amazing journey of spaceflight through this camera lens, whether it’s the beauty and power of a launch or the exhaustion and excitement of an astronaut’s return home. He’s able to turn the vastness of space into very intimate moments. It’s a special talent.”

Bill is the second photographer to ever be honored with the National Space Club Press Award. Legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow was the first. Bill’s work has been highlighted in National Geographic, Newsweek, TIME, The Washington Post, Fortune, People, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times and has been featured on NBC, CBS and ABC News. To view more of his work, visit his website at ingallsimages.com.

The RNASA Space Communicator Award was created in 1997 in honor of KTRK, Houston Channel 13 space reporter and long-time RNASA Advisor Stephen Gauvain who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1996. The award is presented to an individual or team that makes exceptional contributions to public understanding and appreciation of space exploration The previous recipients of the award are: William Shatner; William Harwood of CBS; Miles O›Brien, formerly of CNN; Elliot Pulham of the Space Foundation; the NASA-Contractor Communications team that responded to the Columbia accident; Mark Carreau, formerly of the Houston Chronicle; Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Veronica McGregor, manager of news and social media at NASA›s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; former Canadian Space Agency astronaut, author, and musician Chris A. Hadfield; Bill Nye (the science guy) CEO of the Planetary Society, and Rob Navias of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Visit www.rnasa.org/tables.html to reserve a table or find information about tickets and sponsorships. To reserve a room at the Hyatt Regency, visit www.rnasa.org/houston.html or call 713-654-1234 and request the RNASA group rate.

NASA to Hire More Astronauts

February 13th, 2020

NASA is hiring new astronauts to explore the Moon and Mars! If you have what it takes to be an Artemis Generation astronaut, apply online March 2-31.
Photo by NASA

As NASA prepares to launch American astronauts this year on American rockets from American soil to the International Space Station – with an eye toward the Moon and Mars – the agency is announcing it will accept applications March 2 to 31 for the next class of Artemis Generation astronauts.

Since the 1960s, NASA has selected 350 people to train as astronaut candidates for its increasingly challenging missions to explore space. With 48 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, more will be needed to crew spacecraft bound for multiple destinations and propel exploration forward as part of Artemis missions and beyond.

We’re celebrating our 20th year of continuous presence aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit this year, and we’re on the verge of sending the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “For the handful of highly talented women and men we will hire to join our diverse astronaut corps, it’s an incredible time in human spaceflight to be an astronaut. We’re asking all eligible Americans if they have what it to takes to apply beginning March 2.”

The basic requirements to apply include United States citizenship and a master’s degree in a STEM field, including engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics, from an accredited institution. The requirement for the master’s degree can also be met by:

  • Two years (36 semester hours or 54 quarter hours) of work toward a Ph.D. program in a related science, technology, engineering or math field;
  • A completed doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree;
  • Completion (or current enrollment that will result in completion by June 2021) of a nationally recognized test pilot school program.

Candidates also must have at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical.

Americans may apply to #BeAnAstronaut at: www.usajobs.gov

As part of the application process, applicants will, for the first time, be required to take an online assessment that will require up to two hours to complete.

After completing training, the new astronauts could launch on American rockets and spacecraft developed for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to live and work aboard the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth, where they will take part in experiments that benefit life at home and prepare us for more distant exploration.

They may also launch on NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, docking the spacecraft at the Gateway in lunar orbit before taking a new human landing system to the Moon’s surface. After returning humans to the Moon in 2024, NASA plans to establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. Gaining new experiences on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars in the mid-2030s.

NASA expects to select the new class of astronaut candidates in mid-2021 to begin training as the next class of Artemis Generation astronauts.

For more information about a career as a NASA astronaut, and application requirements, visit: NASA Astronauts Homepage

NASA getting $25B budget for FY 2021

February 11th, 2020

NASA photo
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivers the State of NASA address from NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on Feb. 10, 2020.

“President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget for NASA is worthy of 21st century exploration and discovery,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said as he delivered the State of NASA Address Feb. 10 at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. “The President’s budget invests more than $25 billion in NASA to fortify our innovative human space exploration program while maintaining strong support for our agency’s full suite of science, aeronautics, and technology work.

“The budget proposed represents a 12 percent increase and makes this one of the strongest budgets in NASA history. The reinforced support from the President comes at a critical time as we lay the foundations for landing the first woman and the next man on the South Pole of the Moon by 2024. This budget keeps us firmly on that path.

“We are preparing to achieve pivotal milestones this year in development of the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the Gateway. These make up the backbone of our Artemis program and are fully supported by this budget. They constitute our ability to build a sustainable lunar presence and eventually send human missions to Mars.

“Most noteworthy, is the President’s direct funding of more than $3 billon for the development of a human landing system. This is the first time we have had direct funding for a human lander since the Apollo Program. We are serious about our 2024 goals, and the President’s budget supports our efforts to get the job done.

“We soon will launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade. This recaptured ability will not only allow us to do more science and more exploration than ever before, but will also broaden commercial activity in low-Earth orbit to support ever greater private partnerships.

“As we prepare to celebrate 20 years of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station this year, we will continue to look for ways to partner with private enterprise and give more people access to the unique environment microgravity offers. Similarly, when we go to the Moon in the next four years, we are interested in taking the world with us. This includes those involved in our Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative and the international relationships we have forged over the decades.

“The FY 2021 budget positions NASA to spearhead a new era of human space exploration without focusing funds on one program at the expense of others. This all-of-NASA approach to the future will help us take advantage of all the exciting, new horizons emerging in science, aeronautics, and technology.

“The decadal survey priorities are strongly supported by this budget, including history’s first Mars sample return mission, the Europa Clipper, and development of a host of new trailblazing Earth observation missions. In aeronautics, the budget backs all our cutting-edge research on commercial use of supersonic aircraft, all-electric airplanes, and development of an unmanned aerial system that will make flying small drones safer and more efficient in the 21st century.

“NASA is on the cusp of embarking on era-defining exploration. The civilization-changing technology we develop will deepen humanity’s scientific knowledge of the universe and how to take care of our ever changing world.

“I am confident the FY 2021 budget’s proper investment in our agency’s priorities, coupled with your unmatched talents and expertise, will strengthen our national posture for continued space preeminence and, as President Trump said during his State of the Union speech last week, help our nation embrace the next frontier.”

To learn more about NASA’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget, visit: Budget Documents, Strategic Plans and Performance Reports

 

Record-setting NASA astronaut, crewmates return from Space Station

February 6th, 2020

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is helped out of the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft just minutes after she, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, landed their Soyuz MS-13 capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Koch returned to Earth after logging 328 days in space — the longest spaceflight in history by a woman — as a member of Expeditions 59-60-61 on the International Space Station. Skvortsov and Parmitano returned after 201 days in space where they served as Expedition 60-61 crew members onboard the station.
Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls

After setting a record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman, NASA astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth Thursday, along with Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency).

The trio departed the International Space Station at 12:50 a.m. EST and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 4:12 a.m. (3:12 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Koch’s extended mission will provide researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman as the agency plans to return humans to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars.

Koch launched March 14, 2019, alongside fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. Her first journey into space of 328 days is the second-longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut and also places her seventh on the list of cumulative time in space for American astronauts with one or more missions.

Supporting NASA’s goals for future human landings on the Moon, Koch completed 5,248 orbits of the Earth and a journey of 139 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 291 trips to the Moon and back. She conducted six spacewalks during 11 months on orbit, including the first three all-woman spacewalks, spending 42 hours and 15 minutes outside the station. She witnessed the arrival of a dozen visiting spacecraft and the departure of another dozen.

For Parmitano and Skvortsov, this landing completed a 201-day stay in space, 3,216 orbits of Earth and a journey of 85.2 million miles. They launched last July with NASA’s Andrew Morgan. Morgan also is participating in an extended duration mission on the orbiting laboratory and will return to Earth April 17.

Completing his second mission, Parmitano now has logged 367 days in space, more than any ESA astronaut in history. During his time in space for Expeditions 60 and 61, Parmitano conducted four spacewalks, totaling 25 hours and 30 minutes. He has now conducted six spacewalks in his career, totaling 33 hours and 9 minutes. Parmitano was commander of Expedition 61.

Skvortsov completed his third mission and a total of 546 days in space, placing him 15th on the all-time spaceflight endurance list.

Following post-landing medical checks, the crew will return to the recovery staging city in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, aboard Russian helicopters. Koch and Parmitano will board a NASA plane bound for Cologne, Germany, where Parmitano will be greeted by ESA officials for his return home. Koch will continue home to Houston. Skvortsov will board a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft to return to his home in Star City, Russia.

The Expedition 61 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, including improvements to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer in an effort to extend its life and support its mission of looking for evidence of dark matter and testing 3D biological printers to print organ-like tissues in microgravity.

With the undocking of the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft with Koch, Skvortsov, and Parmitano aboard, Expedition 62 officially began aboard the station, with NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Morgan as flight engineers and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos as station commander. They will remain on board as a three-person crew until early April, when NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin will launch to the station.

 

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station

January 28th, 2020

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 12:29 p.m. EST on Dec. 5, 2019, carrying the Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station. Credits: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Terry and Kevin O’Connell

NASA has selected Axiom Space of Houston to provide at least one habitable commercial module to be attached to the International Space Station as the agency continues to open the station for commercial use.

“NASA has once again recognized the hard work, talent, and experience of Houstonians as we expand the International Space Station and promote commercial opportunities in space,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “I’m proud Axiom will continue to build upon Texas’ legacy of leading the nation in human space exploration.”

This selection is a significant step toward enabling the development of independent commercial destinations that meet NASA’s long-terms needs in low-Earth orbit, beyond the life of the space station, and continue to foster the growth of a robust low-Earth orbit economy.

Today’s announcement is an exciting and welcome step forward in the efforts to commercialize low-Earth orbit,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “This partnership between NASA and Axiom Space – a Houston, Texas original – illustrates how critically important the International Space Station is, and will continue to be, for developing new technologies for low-Earth orbit and beyond, and for continuing America’s leadership in space. Congratulations to Axiom Space on this exciting award – Houston is known as Space City for a reason, and I look forward to this great Space City company and NASA turning this announcement into reality.”

The element will attach to the space station’s Node 2 forward port to demonstrate its ability to provide products and services and begin the transition to a sustainable economy in which NASA is one of many customers. NASA and Axiom next will begin negotiations on the terms and price of a firm-fixed-price contract with a five-year base performance period and a two-year option.

“Congratulations to Axiom Space! This is not only a win for Texas, Johnson Space Center, and the International Space Station, it is also a great step forward for NASA as we move towards an increased commercial presence in low-Earth orbit,” said Rep. Brian Babin of Texas. “I am proud to see this work coming to Space City – Houston, Texas – as the Lone Star State continues to lead in space exploration well into the future.”

Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of five elements of NASA’s plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA’s long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit.

“Axiom’s work to develop a commercial destination in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research, and technology demonstrations in low-Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration. It is a similar partnership that this year will return the capability of American astronauts to launch to the space station on American rockets from American soil.”

NASA selected Axiom from proposals submitted in response to a solicitation through Appendix I of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 Broad Agency Announcement, which offered private industry use of the station utilities and a port to attach one or more commercial elements to the orbiting laboratory.

Because commercial destinations are considered a key element of a robust economy in low-Earth orbit, NASA also plans to issue a final opportunity to partner with the agency in the development of a free-flying, independent commercial destination. Through these combined efforts to develop commercial destinations, NASA is set to meet its long-term needs in low-Earth orbit well beyond the life of the station.

The agency will continue to need low-Earth orbit microgravity research and testing to enable future missions to the Moon and Mars, including the arrival of the first woman and next man on the Moon with the Artemis III mission as part of the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

Learn more about NASA’s efforts to develop a robust low-Earth orbit economy at: https://www.nasa.gov/leo-economy

Follow station activities on the station blog at space station blog, or on social media at @space_station, @ISS_Research, ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram.

 

NASA Named Best Place to Work in Federal Government for 8th Straight Year NASA employees

January 4th, 2020

For the eighth consecutive year, NASA has been selected by the Partnership for Public Service as the Best Place to Work in Government. The rankings, announced Tuesday, reflect NASA’s unified focus and dedication to sending humans farther into space than ever before, and the agency’s highest employee satisfaction results since this index was developed.

“NASA’s selection as the Best Place to Work in Government for the eighth year in a row is a testament to the excellence of our workforce and their determination to maintain America’s leadership in space exploration,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Throughout this year as I have visited each of our centers, I have personally witnessed their unparalleled commitment to accomplishing our mission. The daily devotion of our employees makes them well deserving of this award. I am honored to lead such a dedicated team. They are what makes NASA the Best Place to Work in Government.”

The Best Places to Work rankings are based on responses from almost 883,000 at 490 federal agencies and subcomponents to the Office of Personnel Management’s annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. This is the 16th edition of the Best Places to Work rankings since the first in 2003.

NASA has led the charge in space exploration for more than six decades. Through its Artemis program, the agency is charting America’s return to the Moon and human exploration of Mars. As the agency strives toward sending the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024, the employees at NASA are a crucial component to the mission’s success.

Boeing Starliner completes crucial abort system test

December 1st, 2019

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed a critical safety milestone on Nov. 11 in an end-to-end test of its abort system. The Pad Abort Test took place at Launch Complex 32 at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The test was designed to verify each of Starliner’s systems will function not only separately, but in concert, to protect astronauts by carrying them safely away from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency prior to liftoff. This was Boeing’s first flight test with Starliner as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to return human spaceflight launches to the International Space Station from American soil.

“Tests like this one are crucial to help us make sure the systems are as safe as possible,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “We are thrilled with the preliminary results, and now we have the job of really digging into the data and analyzing whether everything worked as we expected.”

During the test, Starliner’s four launch abort engines, and several orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters simultaneously ignited to rapidly push the spacecraft away from the test stand. Five seconds into flight, the abort engines shut off as planned, transferring steering to the control thrusters for the next five seconds.

A pitcharound maneuver rotated the spacecraft into position for landing as it neared its peak altitude of approximately 4,500 feet. Two of three Starliner’s main parachutes deployed just under half a minute into the test, and the service module separated from the crew module a few seconds later. Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test perimeters and crew safety. After one minute, the heat shield was released and airbags inflated, and the Starliner eased to the ground beneath its parachutes.

The demonstration took only about 95 seconds from the moment the simulated abort was initiated until the Starliner crew module touched down on the desert ground.

“Emergency scenario testing is very complex, and today our team validated that the spacecraft will keep our crew safe in the unlikely event of an abort,” said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “Our teams across the program have made remarkable progress to get us to this point, and we are fully focused on the next challenge—Starliner’s uncrewed flight to demonstrate Boeing’s capability to safely fly crew to and from the space station.”

Boeing’s next mission, called Orbital Flight Test, will launch an uncrewed Starliner spacecraft to the station on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. The launch is targeted for Dec. 17.

NASA’S FIRST ALL-WOMAN SPACEWALK

November 1st, 2019

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they used on their first spacewalk together. The Expedition 61 flight engineers are holding the pistol grip tools they used to swap out a failed power controller, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit, that regulates the charge to batteries that collect and distribute power to the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Astronauts Koch, Meir make first all-woman spacewalk

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir completed NASA’s first all-woman spacewalk on Friday, Oct. 18.

During the 7-hour, 17-minute spacewalk, the pair replaced a failed power controller and completed several other tasks in preparation for future spacewalks.

It was the first spaceflight for both women, who were selected as astronaut candidates in 2013 as part of the first class, of which 50% were women.

Meir was the 15th woman to spacewalk, and the 14th U.S. woman. It will be the 43rd spacewalk to include a woman. Women have been performing spacewalks since 1984, when Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya spacewalked in July and NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan conducted a spacewalk in October.

Lockheed wins contract for Orion Moon missions

September 25th, 2019

Jim Bridenstine

By Mary Alys Cherry

NASA has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to build the Orion spacecraft for up to 12 lunar missions, with the work to be managed here at Johnson Space Center.

Value of the initial contract is $2.7 billion, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in announcing plans for as many as a dozen Artemis, or lunar, missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.

“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” Bridenstine said. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.”

Spacecraft production for the Orion program will focus on reusability and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface, he added.

“This is a great day for the men and women at Johnson Space Center. They are crucial to our national space program, and have an undeniable legacy and record of success in advancing America’s leadership in the human exploration of space,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“I am pleased that Administrator Bridenstine has heeded my calls and is taking significant steps to ensure that Johnson continues to grow with the exciting future of manned exploration that lies ahead. More needs to be done, and I look forward to production ramping up in the weeks and months to come and to more opportunities with NASA.”

The contract with Lockheed includes a commitment to order a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 Orion spacecraft, with an ordering period through Sept. 30, 2030. Production and operations of the spacecraft for six to 12 missions, NASA said, will establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and demonstrate reusability of spacecraft components.

“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” Bridenstine said. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.”

With this award, the space agency explained that it is ordering three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III through V for $2.7 billion. The agency also plans to order three additional Orion capsules in fiscal year 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII, at a total of $1.9 billion.