Successful Orion Test Brings NASA Closer to Moon, Mars Missions

July 2nd, 2019

Ascent Abort-2 successfully launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Credits: NASA

During the approximately three-minute test, called Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a modified Peacekeeper missile procured through the U.S. Air Force and built by Northrop Grumman.

The Orion test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of about six miles, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent. The abort sequence triggered and, within milliseconds, the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket. Its attitude control motor flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

A team is collecting the 12 data recorders that were ejected during the test capsule’s descent. Analysis of the information will provide insight into the abort system’s performance.

“We’re building the most powerful rocket in the world to send astronauts to the Moon in the Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With this exploration system designed to safely carry humans farther into space than ever before, we’ll also have an equally powerful launch abort system that will pull the crew away if there is a problem with the rocket during the early portion of ascent.”

The tower-like abort structure consists of two parts: the fairing assembly, which is a shell composed of a lightweight composite material that protects the capsule from the heat, air flow and acoustics of the launch, ascent, and abort environments; and the launch abort tower, which includes the abort motor, attitude control motor, and jettison motor. The system is built specifically for deep space missions and to ride on NASA’s powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

“Launching into space is one of the most difficult and dangerous parts of going to the Moon,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This test mimicked some of the most challenging conditions Orion will ever face should an emergency develop during the ascent phase of flight. Today, the team demonstrated our abort capabilities under these demanding conditions and put us one huge step closer to the first Artemis flight carrying people to the Moon.”

NASA was able to accelerate the test schedule and lower costs by simplifying the test spacecraft and eliminating parachutes and related systems. NASA already qualified the parachute system for crewed flights through an extensive series of 17 developmental tests and eight qualification tests completed at the end of 2018.

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians are preparing to attach the Orion crew and service modules before testing at the agency’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, later this year. The crew module for Artemis 2 is being outfitted with thousands of elements – from bolts and strain gauges to parachutes and propulsion lines.

The agency recently reached major milestones for the SLS rocket, assembling four of the five parts that make up the massive core stage that will launch Artemis 1 and delivering the four engines that will be integrated into the core stage, along with the engine section, later this summer. When completed, the entire core stage will be the largest rocket stage NASA has built since manufacturing the Saturn V stages for NASA’s Apollo lunar missions in the 1960s.

Orion is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the SLS and Gateway, that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Through the Artemis program, the next American Moon walkers will depart Earth aboard Orion and begin a new era of exploration.

Learn more about Orion at: Orion Spacecraft

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit: NASA: Moon to Mars

 

One Giant Leap for Mankind

July 2nd, 2019

July, 1969

It’s JUST over eight years since the flights of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.
It is only seven months since NASA’s made a bold decision to send Apollo 8 all the way to the moon on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket.

Now, on the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop another Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

OFF TO THE MOON
At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit. After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a “go” for what mission controllers call “Translunar Injection” — in other words, it’s time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia. Collins later writes that Eagle is “the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky,” but it will prove its worth.

ALARMS SOUND
When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle’s computer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, “unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems.”

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.” Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying “the unknowns were rampant,” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”

FIRST STEP
At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

HEADING HOME
Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”
The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In an interview years later, Armstrong praises the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the project. “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.’”

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong calls the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talks about future journeys to Mars.

Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts will follow in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission leaves the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”

Words that Set America on a Course to the Moon

July 2nd, 2019

President John F. Kennedy speaking at Rice University on 12 September 1962

By Mary Alys Cherry

We choose to go to the Moon — famous words that set America on a course to the Moon and words that will live in the hearts of Houstonians forever.

President John F. Kennedy, recognizing that the Russians had a head start on us in space, suggested in a speech to Congress on May 25, 1961 that we should make new efforts of our own to go to the Moon.

“For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.

“Let it be clear,” he continued, “that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: $531 million in fiscal ‘62–an estimated $7 to 9 billion additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.” It was one of two speeches JFK made that helped send us to the Moon.

RICE SPEECH
Then on Sept. 12, 1962, Kennedy came down to Houston, where he reiterated his call to go to the Moon and delivered his famous “Moon speech” at Rice University.
“We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a state noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.”

With the speech Kennedy hoped to persuade the American people to support the Apollo program, the national effort to land a man on the Moon.

NEW FRONTIER
In his speech, the president characterized space as a new frontier, invoking the pioneer spirit that dominated American folklore. He infused the speech with a sense of urgency and destiny, and emphasized the freedom enjoyed by Americans to choose their destiny rather than have it chosen for them.

While there was grumbling about the cost and value of the Moon-landing effort. Kennedy’s goal was realized in July 1969, with the successful Apollo 11 mission.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. “

Buzz began turning out books after return from Moon surface

July 2nd, 2019

Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Buzz Aldrin was one of the first two men to step on the eerie surface of the Moon and probably the most brilliant. Yet, for a number of years he felt short changed because he wasn’t No. 1. He just didn’t like being No. 2 at anything. And besides, his mother’s name was Marion Moon.

He almost had the No. 1 slot until a higherup at Johnson Space Center reportedly decided Neil Armstrong would be the better choice for the role of commander, whose job was to safely land the lunar module between the many boulders on the surface of the moon. And, some years later, Buzz let it go and became content with his role.

Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr., now 89, was born on Jan. 20, 1930, at Mountainside Hospital in Glen Ridge, N.Y. His parents lived in neighboring  Montclair, N.J.

His father served as an Army aviator during World War I and the assistant commandant of the Army’s test pilot school at McCook Field, Ohio, before becoming an executive at Standard Oil.[3]  His nickname, which became his legal first name in 1988, came about as a result of one of his two sisters mispronouncing “brother” as “buzzer,” which the family shortened to “Buzz.”

His sense of competitiveness started when he was a child. He did well in school, maintaining an A average.[9] He played football and was the starting center for Montclair High School’s undefeated 1946 state champion team before attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Aldrin entered West Point in 1947, finishing first in his plebe class. On June 5, 1951, he graduated third in the class of 1951 with a B.S.in Mechanical Engineering, after which he served in the Air Force, shooting down two MIG-15s while flying 66 combat missions during the Korean War and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross,

Soon afterwards he enrolled in Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his Doctorate of Science in Astronautics, writing his thesis on Manned Orbital Rendezvous.
When he was selected by NASA in 1963 in the third group of astronauts, Aldrin was the first with a doctorate and became known as “Dr. Rendezvous.” The docking and rendezvous techniques he devised for spacecraft in Earth and lunar orbit became critical to the success of the Gemini and Apollo programs, and are still used today. He pioneered underwater training techniques to simulate spacewalking. In 1966 on the Gemini 12 orbital mission, he set a new EVA record of 5 1⁄2 hours.

An elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, Aldrin privately took communion there in the Sea of Tranquility, becoming the first person to hold a religious ceremony on the Moon.
Upon leaving NASA in 1971, he became commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School but soon retired from the Air Force in 1972, after 21 years of service.

Over the years he has written a number of books. His autobiographies Return to Earth, (1973) and Magnificent Desolation (2009), recount his struggles with clinical depression and alcoholism in the years after leaving NASA. He continued to advocate for space exploration, particularly a human mission to Mars, and developed the Aldrin cycler, a special spacecraft trajectory that makes travel to Mars possible using less time and propellant.

In his book, Men From Earth, he not only gives a vivid account of the dramatic descent into the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, down to the last four seconds, he uses recently declassified documents to show just how close the Soviets were to beating us to the lunar surface while taking readers step by step on the long, arduous journey to get to the moon.
He has been accorded numerous honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, and is listed in several Halls of Fame.

In 2018 Aldrin was involved in a legal dispute with two of his children, Andrew and Janice, and former business manager Christina Korp over their claims that he was mentally impaired through dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The situation ended when his children withdrew their petition and he dropped the lawsuit in March 2019, just before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

Following the 2012 death of his Apollo 11 colleague, Neil Armstrong, Aldrin said that he was “deeply saddened by the passing…I know I am joined by many millions of others from around the world in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew…I had truly hoped that on July 20, 2019, Neil, Mike and I would be standing together to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our moon landing.”

After living for a number of years in the Los Angeles area, he sold his condominium and at last report was living in Satellite Beach, Fla.

Global icon Neil Armstrong lived and died a humble man

July 2nd, 2019

A young Neil Armstrong is photographed in the cockpit of the Ames Belt X-14 aircraft at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

By Mary Alys Cherry

As the first man to walk on the Moon in July 1969, Neil Armstrong quickly became the most famous man in the universe, which, being the humble man he was, was not to his liking.
This was brought out at his funeral in August 2012. “You’ll never get a hero, in my view, like Neil Armstrong,” Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders said after the service, praising Armstrong for both his wisdom and humility in the way he handled becoming a global icon.

“America has truly lost a legend,” astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, said.

“He was the embodiment of everything this nation is about,” then NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden said about the famously shy, almost taciturn man, adding that Armstrong was a man with a courageous drive to explore, yet “incredibly humble.”

Neil Alden Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930 on his grandparents’ farm in Wapakoneta, Ohio and developed a love for flying early in life while becoming an Eagle Scout.

FLYING LESSONS
When he was just six, he made his first flight with his father, who worked for the state government, and formed a passion for flying that would last all his life. His hero was Charles Lindbergh. He took flying lessons and received his flying license on his 16th birthday — before he earned his driver’s license.

His education was interrupted when he was called to active duty in 1949 but continued after pilot training in Pensacola, Fla., and 78 combat missions over Korea, including one when his Navy fighter was severely damaged and he was forced to eject. However, he landed near a South Korean base and was safely rescued.

After completing his service, Armstrong earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Purdue University in 1955. He would later add to his education with a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California in 1970.

TEST PILOT
After graduating from Purdue, he became a test pilot for NASA’s forerunner, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, serving as one of an elite group selected to pit technology against nature’s limitations.

In 1962, he became an astronaut, and after serving as a backup for Gemini 5, he was chosen to command Gemini 8. But shortly after he and David Scott conducted the first successful docking in space, the joined spacecraft began spinning out of control when a thruster failed. Armstrong finally regained control by using thrusters intended for reentry, saving their lives.

Armstrong’s successful action, averting disaster on Gemini 8, and his flying skills led to his selection as commander of Apollo 11.

OFF TO THE MOON
By 1969, the team was ready to fulfill President Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon in that decade. In a spacecraft reported to have had control systems with less than a thousandth of the computing power of a modern laptop, Armstrong and his colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins made for the Moon.

People across the world bought television sets for the first time to witness their endeavor, and more than 500 million watched every moment of Apollo 11’s arrival on the lunar surface on July 20.

After steering to avoid large rocks, Armstrong had only 20 seconds of fuel left when he finally landed the module safely between boulders. From inside the capsule, he reported back to an emotional Mission Control in Houston that “the Eagle has landed.”

ONE SMALL STEP
And as he disembarked, he uttered his carefully prepared phrase, that what he was making was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Then, as an awe-struck world watched, the humble man from Ohio, with Aldrin by his side, planted an American flag on the Sea of Tranquility. A little later, he talked by phone and received congratulations from President Nixon.

Back on Earth, the crew received global adulation, and were treated like movie stars wherever they went. But, after the initial celebrations, Armstrong refused to cash in on his celebrity.

The man who was revered as a hero by the American public and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon for his work, shunned the limelight and the prospective fortune that came with it.

Instead, he lived in the seclusion of his Ohio farmhouse, taught engineering at the University of Cincinnati and later went into business. He refused to give interviews or sign autographs and disappointed many fans with his requests for privacy and gave only occasional speeches. He reportedly once said, “I don’t want to be a living memorial,” and remained happy to “bask in obscurity.”

HERE FOR 20TH
Only reluctantly did he join his fellow astronauts for anniversary celebrations of the Moon landing. In 1989, he came back Clear Lake for the 20th anniversary of the lunar landing, joining some 10,000 Johnson Space center employees for a picnic at JSC. Then, that evening he and Collins and Aldrin and their wives were honored at a big party at the Hilton Hotel in Nassau Bay, across the street from the space center.

All three astronauts mingled with the crowd and smiled for pictures.

In 1999, 30 years after the moon landing, he stood with Aldrin and Collins to receive the Langley medal for aviation from then Vice President Al Gore before returning to his quiet life, hoping to be forgotten.

Then in April 2004, Armstrong returned to the Bay Area when the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation honored him with the National Space Trophy at the annual Space Gala – believed to be the last large function he attended.

But, the millions around the world who sat glued to their television sets in July 1969 saw their most fantastic dreams made real. For them, the shy man from Ohio opened a fresh frontier and there will be no forgetting Neil Armstrong and his awe-inspiring achievement.

Even Capt. Kirk was there for 2019 RNASA Space Gala

June 1st, 2019

David Thompson, left, retired CEO of Orbital ATK, is presented the 2019 National Space Trophy by Northrup Grumman Space Systems Group President Frank Culbertson at the RNASA Space Gala April 26 at the Houston Hyatt Regency.

HAPPY STORIES make for happy evenings, and stories rarely are happier than that of David Thompson, recipient of the 2019 National Space Trophy, who turned a boyhood filled with small rocket launches into the formation of a well known aerospace company.

And, looking around at smiles on the faces of the black-tie crowd of nearly 750 at the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation Gala April 26, it was evident they were all happy for him as former astronaut and Orbital Sciences Senior Vice President Frank Culbertson presented the award and another former astronaut and Space Trophy winner, Gen. (Ret.) Thomas Stafford, presented him with an Omega watch.

Boeing Site Director Mark Mulqueen and his wife, Dawn, right, stop for a photo with United Launch Alliance COO John Elbon and his wife, Brenda, at the Rotary Space Gala, held Friday, April 26 at the Downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Thompson, retired president and CEO of Orbital ATK, along with two Harvard Business School classmates, founded Orbital Sciences Corp., in the early 80s. Later, it grew to become Orbital ATK, which last year was purchased by Northrop Grumman for a mere $9 billion.

Film star William Shatner, who you knew as Star Trek’s Capt. James Kirk, was an honored guest and recipient of RNASA’s Space Communicator Award. Unfortunately, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein had to cancel his visit the day before the gala.

After RNASA Chairman Rodolfo Gonzalez welcomed the crowd, saying that “the foundation’s mission is to encourage, recognize, honor, and celebrate U.S. space achievement. The members of the foundation truly appreciate the enormity of the work that is represented by tonight’s audience,” and dinner featuring Petite Filet of Beef and Crab Cakes, the smiling crowd cheered as astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Dr. Shannon Walker passed out marble Stellar Awards to several dozen of our best and brightest – a ceremony that has become known as the space industry’s Academy Awards.

And, what a crowd it was, filling up the giant Houston Hyatt Regency Ballroom. Folks like former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer, Glenn Research Center Director Janet Kavandi, JSC Deputy Director Vanessa Wyche and Engineering Director Kevin Window, Barrios Technology CEO Sandra Johnson and President Robert McAfoos, Boeing Houston Site Director Mark Mulqueen and Vice President Jim Chilton and Lockheed Martin Vice President Dr. Mike Hawes, along with their spouses.

Glancing around, you might also have spotted Jacobs GM Lon Miller, MEI Technologies CEO David Cazes, Oceaneering Vice President and GM Mike Bloomfield, United Launch Alliance COO John Elbon, Bastion Technologies CEO Jorge Hernandez, MRI Technologies President and VP Debbie and Tim Kropp, Dynetics CEO David King, KBRwyle President Byron Bright and Senior VP Dr. Vernon McDonald, ERC Manager Darryl Smith, Ares Vice Presidents Dr. Jimmy Young and Bill Wessel, SAIC Vice President David Nuckles, Aerojet Rocketdyne VP Scott Ward and Leidos Manager Wes Tarkington – many with their wives.

RNASA Foundation Chairman Rodolfo Gonzalez and his wife, Anangela, wear big smiles as the Space Gala comes to an end.

After dinner, the program kicked off with a year-in-review film by Space City Films, after which NASA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Communications Bob Jacobs welcomed honored guest William Shatner, best known for his role as Capt. James Kirk of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, saying that “I know his work has touched everyone in this room…And it inspired most people here to do what they’re doing today.”

Shatner shared his thoughts about mankind’s hunger for adventure this way, “what is inside our heads that compels us to set forth on the precipice of existence? For what? Is it ego? Is it pride? Is it a death wish? Is it the sense of adventure that propels the human spirit into unfamiliar modes, into life threatening environments because the challenge is there? Is it humanity’s need to experience the unknown to grasp it, embrace it, absorb the experience as only a human can? Yeah, the challenge of life over death, that’s it.”

Former Space Trophy winners Tommy Holloway, Glenn Lunney and Eileen Collins were in the crowd, as was retired JSC Director Ellen Ochoa, who came down from Idaho to see all her old pals.

Other familiar faces included Aviation Weekly Editor Mark Carreau, Clear Lake Chamber Chairman Brian Freedman, well known retirees Pat and Wendell Wilson, Leslie and Ted Cummings and Eleanor and Arnie Aldrich, plus astronauts Richard Hieb, Randolph Bresnik, Scott Altman, Mark Polansky, Robert and Dr. Megan Behnken, Richard Arnold and Bob Curbeam.

Space Center Rotary members mingling with the crowd included President Nancy Anderson and husband, Robert; President-elect Mike Porterfield and his wife, Cindy; Patty and John Branch, Susan and Bill Taylor, Suzi Howe, Dr. Jean Walker, Scott and Martha Rainey, Stan Galanski, Frank Perez and Priscilla Ennis, Melinda Mintz, Geoff and Vivian Atwater, Karen and Gary Johnson, Clay Boyce, Jordis and Bob Wren, Jeanette and Mark Hollis, Adrienne and Dr. Vissett Sun, along with Rotary District Gov. Carmen Cuneo, Rotary District Gov.-elect Gary Gillen and his wife, Janice; and former Rotary International Vice President Jennifer Jones with her dad, John Jones.

NASA uncovers cause of two science mission launch failures

June 1st, 2019

NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) investigators have determined the technical root cause for the Taurus XL launch failures of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory missions in 2009 and 2011, respectively: faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer, Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI).

LSP’s technical investigation led to the involvement of NASA’s Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice. DOJ’s efforts, recently made public, resulted in the resolution of criminal charges and alleged civil claims against SPI, and its agreement to pay $46 million to the U.S. government and other commercial customers. This relates to a 19-year scheme that included falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum extrusions to hundreds of customers.

NASA’s updated public summary of the launch failures, which was published May 1, comes after a multiyear technical investigation by LSP and updates the previous public summaries on the Taurus XL launch failures for the OCO and Glory missions. Those public summaries concluded that the launch vehicle fairing — a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere — failed to separate on command, but no technical root cause had been identified.

TEST RESULTS ALTERED
From NASA’s investigation, it is now known that SPI altered test results and provided false certifications to Orbital Sciences Corporation, the manufacturer of the Taurus XL, regarding the aluminum extrusions used in the payload fairing rail frangible joint, the space agency said. A frangible joint is a structural separation system that is initiated using ordnance.

“NASA relies on the integrity of our industry throughout the supply chain. While we do perform our own testing, NASA is not able to retest every single component. That is why we require and pay for certain components to be tested and certified by the supplier,” said Jim Norman, NASA’s director for Launch Services.

“When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail. In our case, the Taurus XLs that failed for the OCO and Glory missions resulted in the loss of more than $700 million, and years of people’s scientific work. It is critical that we are able to trust our industry to produce, test and certify materials in accordance with the standards we require. In this case, our trust was severely violated.”

SPI SUSPENDED
To protect the government supply chain, NASA suspended SPI from government contracting and proposed SPI for government-wide debarment. The exclusion from government contracting has been in effect since Sept. 30, 2015. NASA also has proposed debarment for Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc., formerly known as SPI, and the company currently is excluded from contracting throughout the federal government.

“Due in large part to the hard work and dedication of many highly motivated people in NASA Launch Services, we are able to close out the cause of two extremely disappointing launch vehicle failures and protect the government aerospace supply chain,” said Amanda Mitskevich, LSP program manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “It has taken a long time to get here, involving years of investigation and testing, but as of today, it has been worth every minute, and I am extremely pleased with the entire team’s efforts.”

New Hobby Airport Display Encapsulates Spacesuit Evolution

May 2nd, 2019

The Exhibits team stands with the new EVA Suit Evolution exhibit that will educate and inspire visitors at Hobby Airport. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair

Travelers passing through Hobby Airport will enjoy new eye candy showcasing why Houston is affectionately dubbed “Space City.” The  recent installation of a new exhibit comparing two generations of spacesuit design will help connect NASA’s iconic past to Johnson Space Center’s next giant leap.

On the left of the Hobby Airport display, visitors will see a high-fidelity replica of a shuttle-era spacesuit, right down to the NASA “worm” logo. On the right is an identical counterpart to the suit used today on the International Space Station. For passing visitors, the exhibit serves as a bold welcome to Space City USA, symbolizing Houston’s leadership role in human space exploration. For curious travelers with a few moments to spare between flights, they will discover an evolution of engineering.

“The two spacesuits are the superstars of this display,” said Exhibits Program Manager Jack Moore of Johnson’s External Relations Office (ERO). “Using scrap materials and replica parts slated for disposal, David Hughes in the EVA [Extravehicular Activity] Office meticulously assembled the suits. He handcrafted each suit to look as though it was pulled right out of an official NASA photo from the era. No detail was overlooked—the color of the visors, glove configurations and period-specific patches—all lend credence to its authenticity.”

Assembling the display required a close working relationship between ERO and the EVA Office to get the details just right. While the ERO provided creative direction and craftsmanship to build the exhibit and safeguard the priceless artifacts within, the EVA Office was invested in ensuring the accuracy of the spacesuits and content, as well as finding the perfect home for the display.

“The case’s contemporary design was drafted by the late Larry Friend, an amazing talent and wonderful man on the COMIT [Communications, Outreach, Multimedia, and Information Technology Contract] Exhibits team,” Moore said. “The COMIT team completed his work by integrating elements to support the preservation of the suits, such as vented fans and museum-grade Lexan. Cindy Bush, our graphic designer on the project, also worked closely with the EVA Office to draft beautiful designs to convey the story. Using a visual timeline across a sloped face of the display, she highlighted major component modifications through the decades.”

The EVA Office was over the Moon about the finished display and recognized the entire Exhibits group in the weeks leading up to installation at Hobby Airport.

“We’ve worked over the last year or so with the [COMIT] team on designing displays that tell the story of EVA,” said Chris Hansen, manager of the EVA Office. “Their creativity and passion for the work they do is very evident in the products they produce. They understand that these displays are inspirational, and you can tell that they put their hearts into the work they’ve done for us. It’s great to have such a talented resource available to us—a resource that cares as much about the products they create for us as we do.”

While travelers taking to the friendly skies will be swept into a 3D visualization of explorers who have donned these types of spacesuits to explore even higher trajectories, there are still other stories to be told. The Moon is center stage once more, and generations young and old are waiting to be a part of NASA’s next big adventure.

The Hobby Airport exhibit is only one example of how we can highlight the important work done every day to support humans in space. As Moore explained, the team works with many organizations throughout the year to create exhibits that share the many facets of the center with the public.

“We have an incredibly talented pool of designers, craftsmen, project managers and writers waiting to start the next exciting project,” Moore said.

NASA ready to accelerate man’s return to lunar surface

May 2nd, 2019

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is ready to send astronauts back to the moon – and soon. Here’s what he said after the March 26 announcement by Vice President Mike Pence, at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council, about putting American astronauts back on the Moon in the next five years:

“Today, I joined leaders from across the country as Vice President Mike Pence chaired the fifth meeting of the National Space Council. Vice President Pence lauded President Donald J. Trump’s bold vision for space exploration and spoke to NASA’s progress on key elements to accomplish the President’s Space Policy Directives.

“Among the many topics discussed during our meeting at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was to accelerate our return to the Moon:

NASA is charged to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years.

We are tasked with landing on the Moon’s South Pole by 2024.

Stay on schedule for flying Exploration Mission-1 with Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission to the lunar vicinity by 2022.

NASA will continue to ‘use all means necessary’ to ensure mission success in moving us forward to the Moon.

“It is the right time for this challenge, and I assured the vice president that we, the people of NASA, are up to the challenge.

“We will take action in the days and weeks ahead to accomplish these goals. We have laid out a clear plan for NASA’s exploration campaign that cuts across three strategic areas: low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars and deeper into space.

“I have already directed a new alignment within NASA to ensure we effectively support this effort, which includes establishing a new mission directorate to focus on the formulation and execution of exploration development activities. We are calling it the Moon to Mars Mission Directorate.

“Earlier today I was also at Marshall Space Flight Center for an all-hands to reinforce our commitment to SLS with the workforce. We discussed my recent announcement that NASA would consider all options to fly Orion around the Moon on schedule. I shared the analysis we conducted to assess flying the Orion on different commercial options. While some of these alternative vehicles could work, none was capable of achieving our goals to orbit around the Moon for Exploration Mission-1 within our timeline and on budget. The results of this two-week study reaffirmed our commitment to the SLS. More details will be released in the future.

“There’s a lot of excitement about our plans and also a lot of hard work and challenges ahead, but I know the NASA workforce and our partners are up to it. We are now looking at creative approaches to advance SLS manufacturing and testing to ensure Exploration Mission-1 launches in 2020. We will work to ensure we have a safe and reliable launch system that keeps its promise to the American people.

“I know NASA is ready for the challenge of moving forward to the Moon, this time to stay.”

To learn more about NASA’s Moon to Mars plans, visit: www.nasa.gov/moon2mars

NASA Investigation Uncovers Cause of Two Science Mission Launch Failures

May 1st, 2019

On Space Launch Complex 576-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Orbital Sciences workers monitor NASA’s Glory upper stack as a crane lifts it from a stationary rail for attachment to the Taurus XL rocket’s Stage 0.
Credits: NASA

NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) investigators have determined the technical root cause for the Taurus XL launch failures of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory missions in 2009 and 2011, respectively: faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer, Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI).

LSP’s technical investigation led to the involvement of NASA’s Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ’s efforts, recently made public, resulted in the resolution of criminal charges and alleged civil claims against SPI, and its agreement to pay $46 million to the U.S. government and other commercial customers. This relates to a 19-year scheme that included falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum extrusions to hundreds of customers. 

NASA’s updated public summary of the launch failures, which was published Tuesday, comes after a multiyear technical investigation by LSP and updates the previous public summaries on the Taurus XL launch failures for the OCO and Glory missions. Those public summaries concluded that the launch vehicle fairing — a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere — failed to separate on command, but no technical root cause had been identified. From NASA’s investigation, it is now known that SPI altered test results and provided false certifications to Orbital Sciences Corporation, the manufacturer of the Taurus XL, regarding the aluminum extrusions used in the payload fairing rail frangible joint. A frangible joint is a structural separation system that is initiated using ordnance.

“NASA relies on the integrity of our industry throughout the supply chain. While we do perform our own testing, NASA is not able to retest every single component. That is why we require and pay for certain components to be tested and certified by the supplier,” said Jim Norman, NASA’s director for Launch Services at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail. In our case, the Taurus XLs that failed for the OCO and Glory missions resulted in the loss of more than $700 million, and years of people’s scientific work. It is critical that we are able to trust our industry to produce, test and certify materials in accordance with the standards we require. In this case, our trust was severely violated.”

To protect the government supply chain, NASA suspended SPI from government contracting and proposed SPI for government-wide debarment. The exclusion from government contracting has been in effect since Sept. 30, 2015. NASA also has proposed debarment for Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc.,formerly known as SPI,and the company currently is excluded from contracting throughout the federal government.

“Due in large part to the hard work and dedication of many highly motivated people in the NASA Launch Services program, we are able to close out the cause of two extremely disappointing launch vehicle failures and protect the government aerospace supply chain,” said Amanda Mitskevich, LSP program manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in, Florida. “It has taken a long time to get here, involving years of investigation and testing, but as of today, it has been worth every minute, and I am extremely pleased with the entire team’s efforts.”

To learn more about NASA’s Launch Services Program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/index.html