NASA Updates

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  1. layman
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    NASA Tests Orion Spacecraft Parachute Jettison over Arizona



    Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight.

    The test was the first to give engineers in-air data on the performance of the system that jettisons Orion’s forward bay cover. The cover is a shell that fits over Orion’s crew module to protect the spacecraft during launch, orbital flight and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. When Orion returns from space, the cover must come off before the spacecraft’s parachutes can deploy. It must be jettisoned high above the ground in order for the parachutes to unfurl.

    “This was a tough one,” said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. “We’d done our homework, of course, but there were elements here that could only be tested in the air, with the entire system working together. It’s one of the most complicated tests that we’ll do, so we were all excited to see it work just as it was meant to.”

    Previous parachute tests at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona tested the performance of the parachutes in various conditions without a forward bay cover. Adding the cover and its jettison, along with the deployment of three additional parachutes to pull the cover away from the crew module and lower it to the ground, added a level of complexity to the testing.

    “The parachute deployment and forward bay cover jettisons are two of the most difficult things for us to model on computers,” said Chris Johnson, project manager for the parachutes. “That’s why we test them so extensively. These systems have to work for Orion to make it safely to the ground, and every bit of data we can gather in tests like these helps us improve our models and gives us more confidence that when we do it for real, we can count on them.”

    The forward bay cover is jettisoned using a thruster separation system built by Systima Technologies Inc. of Bothell, Wash. Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for Orion, tested the system for the first time on the ground in December. Two more ground tests will simulate different types of stresses on the cover, such as a potential parachute failure or loads on the spacecraft. NASA also plans a second airborne test with the forward bay cover to evaluate its performance with a failed parachute.

    Orion will be put to its first test in space during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1(EFT-1), in September. EFT-1 will have an uncrewed Orion launch to an orbit 3,600 miles above Earth, well beyond the distance traveled by spacecraft built for humans in more than 40 years. After circling Earth twice, Orion will re-enter the atmosphere at speeds as fast as 20,000 mph before the parachute system slows it down for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.


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    Excitement Building As NASA Continues Preparations For RS-25 Engine Testing

    Activity is growing in the A Test Complex at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in MIssissippi as the agency prepares to take a giant step forward in its return to deep space.

    Early in 2014, attention is on the A-1 Test Stand, which is being prepared to test RS-25 rocket engines that will power the core stage of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS). The rocket will carry humans to an asteroid and eventually Mars.

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    “This is a big year for Stennis, for NASA and for the nation’s human space program,” said Gary Benton, RS-25 rocket engine test project manager. “By mid-summer, we will be testing the engines that will carry humans deeper into space than ever before.

    Renovation of the A-1 stand represents critical groundwork for such future missions. The A-1 test team completed gimbal, or pivot, testing of the J-2X rocket engine in early September, signaling the start of full-scale renovation efforts for RS-25 testing. Equipment installed on the A-1 stand for J-2X testing could not be used to test RS-25 engines because it did not match the new engine specifications and thrust requirements. For instance in flight, the J-2X engine is capable of producing 294,000 pounds of thrust. The RS-25 engine in flight will produce nearly twice as much — about 530,000 pounds of thrust.

    The first RS-25 engine is set to be delivered to the stand in May, and work is progressing, thanks to focused efforts of NASA officials and contractor teams.

    A major task was completed on schedule in December with installation of a new thrust frame adapter on the stand. Each rocket engine type requires a thrust frame adapter unique to its specifications. Physically, the adapter is the largest facility item on the RS-25 testing preparation checklist.

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    Now, sights are set on upcoming work milestones, including:

    Completing piping work needed to deliver rocket propellants for tests.
    Installing necessary instrumentation.
    Completing a readiness review in March, followed by early tests of new piping systems.
    Installing equipment needed to accurately measure rocket engine thrust during tests.
    Installing an initial RS-25 engine.
    Completing preliminary tests of installed engine and a new rocket engine test controller.

    Engineers are scheduled to conduct the first hotfire test on an RS-25 engine in July. Testing of RS-25 engines will continue for years to come then in order to power the nation’s ongoing human space program.

    Anticipation is high, said Jeff Henderson, A-1 Test Stand director. “We’ve shown what we can accomplish here, and now, we have to continue in that same manner of excellence,” he explained. “We just have to stay focused on what it’s all about.”

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    NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachute System

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    Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) gathered in Morro Bay, Calif., in late December to demonstrate how the company’s Dragon spacecraft’s parachute system would function in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent.

    The test was part of an optional milestone under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative and approved by the agency in August. Through the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is one of NASA’s commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil. NASA intends to use such commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

    The 12,000-pound test craft was lifted 8,000 feet above sea level by an Erickson Sky Crane helicopter and flown over the Pacific Ocean. Following Dragon’s release, two drogue parachutes were released from the top of the spacecraft to slow its decent, before the three main parachutes deployed. The craft splashed down and was quickly recovered by the Sky Crane and carried back to shore.

    “The parachute test is essential for the commercial crew effort because it helps us better understand how SpaceX’s system performs as it safely returns crew,” said Jon Cowart, NASA Partner Integration deputy manager working with SpaceX. “Like all of our partners, SpaceX continues to provide innovative solutions based on NASA’s lessons learned that could make spaceflight safer.”

    During a normal spacecraft landing, the parachutes will be aided by the Dragon’s SuperDraco thrusters to provide a soft controlled landing. This redundancy on both the parachutes and thrusters is designed to ensure safe landings for crews.

    “SpaceX is working diligently to make the Dragon spacecraft the safest vehicle ever flown,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. “The parachute system is an integral part of Dragon’s ability to provide a safe landing for nominal and abort conditions — with this successful test we are well-positioned to execute a full end-to-end test of the launch escape system later this year.”

    The parachute test puts SpaceX a step closer to launch abort system tests. The company currently is manufacturing the spacecraft and rocket to be used for these flight tests.

    SpaceX is on track to complete all 15 of its CCiCap milestones in 2014. All of NASA’s industry partners, including SpaceX, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

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    NASA Center Renamed in Honor of Neil A. Armstrong

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    This photograph shows Neil Armstrong next to the X-15 rocket-powered aircraft after a research flight. President Barack Obama has signed HR 667, the congressional resolution that redesignates NASA’s Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, into law. The resolution also names Dryden’s Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. Both Hugh Dryden and Neil Armstrong are aerospace pioneers whose contributions are historic to NASA and the nation as a whole. NASA is developing a timeline to implement the name change.

    Neil A. Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Purdue University and a master’s in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He was a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952. During the Korean War he flew 78 combat missions. In 1955 he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA’s predecessor, as a research pilot at Lewis Laboratory in Cleveland.

    Armstrong later transferred to NACA’s High Speed Flight Research Station at Edwards AFB, Calif., later named NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. As a research project test pilot over the course of seven years at the center from 1955 through 1962, he was in the forefront of the development of many high-speed aircraft. He was one of only 12 pilots to fly the hypersonic X-15 as well as the first of 12 men to later walk on the moon. In all, he flew more than 200 different types of aircraft.

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    NASA Searches for Climate Change Clues in the Gateway to the Stratosphere

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    NASA’s Global Hawk 872 on a checkout flight from Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., in preparation for the 2014 ATTREX mission over the western Pacific Ocean.
    Image Credit: NASA/Tom Miller

    NASA’s uncrewed Global Hawk research aircraft is in the western Pacific region on a mission to track changes in the upper atmosphere and help researchers understand how these changes affect Earth’s climate.

    Deployed from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., the Global Hawk landed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam Thursday at approximately 5 p.m. EST and will begin science flights Tuesday, Jan. 21. Its mission, the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), is a multi-year NASA airborne science campaign.

    ATTREX will measure the moisture levels and chemical composition of upper regions of the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere, a region where even small changes can significantly impact climate. Scientists will use the data to better understand physical processes occurring in this part of the atmosphere and help make more accurate climate predictions.

    “We conducted flights in 2013 that studied how the atmosphere works and how humans are affecting it,” said Eric Jensen, ATTREX principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “This year, we plan to sample the western Pacific region which is critical for establishing the humidity of the air entering the stratosphere.”

    Studies show even slight changes in the chemistry and amount of water vapor in the stratosphere, the same region that is home to the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation, can affect climate significantly by absorbing thermal radiation rising from the surface. Predictions of stratospheric humidity changes are uncertain because of gaps in the understanding of the physical processes occurring in the tropical tropopause layer.

    ATTREX is studying moisture and chemical composition from altitudes of 55,000 feet to 65,000 feet in the tropical tropopause, which is the transition layer between the troposphere, or the lowest part of the atmosphere, and the stratosphere, which extends up to 11 miles above Earth’s surface. Scientists consider the tropical tropopause to be the gateway for water vapor, ozone and other gases that enter the stratosphere. For this mission, the Global Hawk carries instruments that will sample the tropopause near the equator over the Pacific Ocean.

    ATTREX scientists installed 13 research instruments on NASA’s Global Hawk 872. Some of these instruments capture air samples while others use remote sensing to analyze clouds, temperature, water vapor, gases and solar radiation.

    “Better understanding of the exchange between the troposphere and stratosphere and how that impacts composition and chemistry of the upper atmosphere helps us better understand how, and to what degree, the upper atmosphere affects Earth’s climate,” Jensen said.

    In 2013, for the first time, ATTREX instruments sampled the tropopause region in the Northern Hemisphere during winter, when the region is coldest and extremely dry air enters the stratosphere. Preparations for this mission started in 2011 with engineering test flights to ensure the aircraft and its research instruments operated well in the extremely cold temperatures encountered at high altitudes over the tropics, which can reach minus 115 degrees Fahrenheit. ATTREX conducted six science flights totaling more than 150 hours last year.

    Jensen and Project Manager Dave Jordan of Ames lead the ATTREX mission. It includes investigators from Ames and three other NASA facilities: Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The team also includes investigators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, universities and private industry.

    ATTREX is one of the first research missions of NASA’s new Earth Venture project. These small and targeted science investigations complement NASA’s broader science research satellite missions. The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program managed by Langley.

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    NASA Tests Orion Spacecraft Parachute Jettison over Arizona

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    Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight.

    The test was the first to give engineers in-air data on the performance of the system that jettisons Orion’s forward bay cover. The cover is a shell that fits over Orion’s crew module to protect the spacecraft during launch, orbital flight and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. When Orion returns from space, the cover must come off before the spacecraft’s parachutes can deploy. It must be jettisoned high above the ground in order for the parachutes to unfurl.

    “This was a tough one,” said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. “We’d done our homework, of course, but there were elements here that could only be tested in the air, with the entire system working together. It’s one of the most complicated tests that we’ll do, so we were all excited to see it work just as it was meant to.”

    Previous parachute tests at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona tested the performance of the parachutes in various conditions without a forward bay cover. Adding the cover and its jettison, along with the deployment of three additional parachutes to pull the cover away from the crew module and lower it to the ground, added a level of complexity to the testing.

    “The parachute deployment and forward bay cover jettisons are two of the most difficult things for us to model on computers,” said Chris Johnson, project manager for the parachutes. “That’s why we test them so extensively. These systems have to work for Orion to make it safely to the ground, and every bit of data we can gather in tests like these helps us improve our models and gives us more confidence that when we do it for real, we can count on them.”

    The forward bay cover is jettisoned using a thruster separation system built by Systima Technologies Inc. of Bothell, Wash. Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for Orion, tested the system for the first time on the ground in December. Two more ground tests will simulate different types of stresses on the cover, such as a potential parachute failure or loads on the spacecraft. NASA also plans a second airborne test with the forward bay cover to evaluate its performance with a failed parachute.

    Orion will be put to its first test in space during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1(EFT-1), in September. EFT-1 will have an uncrewed Orion launch to an orbit 3,600 miles above Earth, well beyond the distance traveled by spacecraft built for humans in more than 40 years. After circling Earth twice, Orion will re-enter the atmosphere at speeds as fast as 20,000 mph before the parachute system slows it down for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

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    At Work in the Destiny Laboratory of the International Space Station

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    NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, Expedition 38 flight engineer, performs in-flight maintenance on combustion research hardware in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station in this image taken on Dec. 30, 2013. Hopkins replaced a Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus (MDCA) fuel reservoir inside the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR). The Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) includes an optics bench, combustion chamber, fuel and oxidizer control, and five different cameras for performing combustion experiments in microgravity.

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    Much ado about nothing with NASA's clipped budget. It is a slippery slope to get keep their act together through into the 30s, when they actually plan to send manned missions to deep space.
     
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    NASA's 3D printer makes pizzas for astronauts

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    WashMechanical engineer Anjan Contractor said that it took about 70 seconds to cook the pizza after the 3D printer finished doing its thing. (Photo courtesy: youtube.com)

    ington: An Indian-origin engineer claims to have developed a 3D printer that can print food and pizza for astronauts on long missions.

    Mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor won a $125,000 grant by NASA last year to build a prototype 3D printer designed to provide astronauts a nutritious and comforting alternative to the canned and freeze-dried prepackaged foods they are currently stuck with.

    According to Fastcoexist.com, Contractor's goal was to print a pizza with his 3D printer - and it looks like he has succeeded.

    The printer would be able to lay out all the starches, proteins, fats, texture, and structure, spraying on flavour, smell, and micro-nutrients at the end, Contractor from Texas-based Systems & Materials Research Corporation said.

    In his YouTube page, Contractor said that it took about 70 seconds to cook the pizza after the 3D printer finished doing its thing.



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  10. sangos
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    Re: NASA's 3D printer makes pizzas for astronauts

    What about a chicken? and eggs
     
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    Re: NASA's 3D printer makes pizzas for astronauts

    US does not usually chickens along in spacecraft for food or eggs.
     
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    Re: NASA's 3D printer makes pizzas for astronauts

    There was an incident long ago when astronaut John Young took a meat sandwich with him into space...the
    crumbs began floating all over the compartment, threatening to get into the circuits.
     
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    NASA Instruments on European Comet Spacecraft Begin Activation Countdown

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    Artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. (Not to scale.)
    Image Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL

    Three NASA science instruments are being prepared for check-out operations aboard the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, which is set to become the first to orbit a comet and land a probe on its nucleus in November.

    Rosetta was reactivated Jan. 20 after a record 957 days in hibernation. U.S. mission managers are scheduled to activate their instruments on the spacecraft in early March and begin science operations with them in August. The instruments are an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, a microwave thermometer and a plasma analyzer.

    “U.S. scientists are delighted the Rosetta mission gives us a chance to examine a comet in a way we’ve never seen one before — in orbit around it and as it kicks up in activity,” said Claudia Alexander, Rosetta’s U.S. project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “The NASA suite of instruments will provide puzzle pieces the Rosetta science team as a whole will put together with the other pieces to paint a portrait of how a comet works and what it’s made of.”

    Rosetta’s objective is to observe the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko up close. By examining the full composition of the comet’s nucleus, and the ways in which a comet changes, Rosetta will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water, and perhaps even life.

    The ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, called Alice, will analyze gases in the tail of the comet, as well as the coma, the fuzzy envelope around the nucleus of the comet. The coma develops as a comet approaches the sun. Alice also will measure the rate at which the comet produces water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. These measurements will provide valuable information about the surface composition of the nucleus. The instrument also will measure the amount of argon present, an important clue about the temperature of the solar system at the time the comet’s nucleus originally formed more than 4.6 billion years ago.

    The Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter will identify chemicals on or near the comet’s surface and measure the temperature of the chemicals and the dust and ice jetting out from the comet. The instrument also will see the gaseous activity in the tail through coma.

    The Ion and Electron Sensor is part of a suite of five instruments to analyze the plasma environment of the comet, particularly the coma. The instrument will measure the charged particles in the sun’s outer atmosphere, or solar wind, as they interact with the gas flowing out from the comet while Rosetta is drawing nearer to the comet’s nucleus.

    NASA also provided part of the electronics package the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer, which is part of the Swiss-built Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument. ROSINA will be the first instrument with sufficient resolution to separate two molecules with approximately the same mass: molecular nitrogen and carbon monoxide. Clear identification of nitrogen will help scientists understand conditions at the time the solar system was born.

    U.S. science investigators are partnering on several non-U.S. instruments and are involved in seven of the mission’s 21 instrument collaborations. NASA has an American interdisciplinary scientist involved in the research. NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) is supporting the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Ground Station Network for spacecraft tracking and navigation.

    Rosetta, composed of an orbiter and lander, is flying beyond the main asteroid belt. Its lander will obtain the first images taken from the surface of a comet, and it will provide the first analysis of a comet’s composition by drilling into the surface. Rosetta also will be the first spacecraft to witness, at close proximity, how a comet changes as it is subjected to the increasing intensity of the sun’s radiation.

    The potential research and data from the Rosetta mission could help inform NASA’s asteroid initiative — a mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid for astronauts to explore. The initiative represents an unprecedented technological feat that will lead to new scientific discoveries and technological capabilities that will help protect our home planet and achieve the goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025.

    “Future robotic and human exploration missions to Mars, an asteroid and beyond will be accomplished via international partnerships combining worldwide scientific and engineering expertise,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington. “Rosetta will provide an opportunity to study a small new world that could inform us on the best ways to approach, orbit, and capture our target asteroid for a future human mission.”

    The solar-powered spacecraft was placed into a deep sleep in June 2011, to conserve energy during the portion of its trajectory that carried it past the orbit of Jupiter. During Rosetta’s hibernation, all instruments and subsystems were shut off, except for the main computer including a spacecraft clock and a few heaters. ESA mission managers are beginning to commission the spacecraft and its instruments.

    “The successful wake-up of Rosetta from its long, lonely slumber is a testament to the teams that built and operate the spacecraft, and the international cooperation between ESA and NASA ensured that we had some of the world’s largest deep space dishes available to relay the first signal back to Earth,” said Mark McCaughrean, senior scientific advisor in ESA’s Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration. “There is still a lot of work ahead of us before the exciting comet rendezvous, escort, and landing phase, but it’s great to be back online.”

    ESA member states and NASA contributed to the Rosetta mission. Airbus Defense and Space built the Rosetta spacecraft. JPL manages the US contribution of the Rosetta mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also built the Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter and hosts its principal investigator, Samuel Gulkis. The Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio developed the Rosetta orbiter’s Ion and Electron Sensor (IES) and hosts its principal investigator, James Burch. The Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., developed the Alice instrument and hosts its principal investigator, Alan Stern.

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    James Webb Space Telescope Passes a Mission Milestone

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    NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has passed its first significant mission milestone for 2014 — a Spacecraft Critical Design Review (SCDR) that examined the telescope’s power, communications and pointing control systems.

    “This is the last major element-level critical design review of the program,” said Richard Lynch, NASA Spacecraft Bus Manager for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “What that means is all of the designs are complete for the Webb and there are no major designs left to do.”

    During the SCDR, the details, designs, construction and testing plans, and the spacecraft’s operating procedures were subjected to rigorous review by an independent panel of experts. The week-long review involved extensive discussions on all aspects of the spacecraft to ensure the plans to finish construction would result in a vehicle that enables the powerful telescope and science instruments to deliver their unique and invaluable views of the universe.

    “While the spacecraft that carries the science payload for Webb may not be as glamorous as the telescope, it’s the heart that enables the whole mission,” said Eric Smith, acting program director and program scientist for the Webb Telescope at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “By providing many services including telescope pointing and communication with Earth, the spacecraft is our high tech infrastructure empowering scientific discovery.”

    Goddard Space Flight Center manages the mission. Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif., leads the design and development effort.

    “Our Northrop Grumman team has worked exceptionally hard to meet this critical milestone on an accelerated schedule, following the replan,” said Scott Willoughby, Northrop Grumman vice president and James Webb Space Telescope program manager in Redondo Beach, Calif. “This is a huge step forward in our progress toward completion of the Webb Telescope.”

    The James Webb Space Telescope, successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. It will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

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    NASA Launches Third Generation Communications Satellite

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    NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite L (TDRS-L) launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Jan. 23, 2014 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
    Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

    NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite L (TDRS-L), the 12th spacecraft in the agency’s TDRS Project, is safely in orbit after launching at 9:33 p.m. EST Thursday aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

    Ground controllers report the satellite — part of a network providing high-data-rate communications to the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope, launch vehicles and a host of other spacecraft — is in good health at the start of a three-month checkout by its manufacturer, Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif. NASA will conduct additional tests before putting TDRS-L into service.

    “TDRS-L and the entire TDRS fleet provide a vital service to America’s space program by supporting missions that range from Earth-observation to deep space discoveries,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “TDRS also will support the first test of NASA’s new deep space spacecraft, the Orion crew module, in September. This test will see Orion travel farther into space than any human spacecraft has gone in more than 40 years.”

    The mission of the TDRS Project, established in 1973, is to provide follow-on and replacement spacecraft to support NASA’s space communications network. This network provides high data-rate communications. The TDRS-L spacecraft is identical to the TDRS-K spacecraft launched in 2013.

    “This launch ensures continuity of services for the many missions that rely on the system every day,” said Jeffrey Gramling, TDRS project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    The TDRS fleet began operating during the space shuttle era with the launch of TDRS-1 in 1983. Of the 11 TDRS spacecraft placed in service to date, eight still are operational. Four of the eight have exceeded their design life.

    Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems completed the TDRS-L integration and testing at its satellite factory in El Segundo in November and launch processing began after the spacecraft arrived in Florida Dec. 6.

    TDRS-M, the next spacecraft in this series, is on track to be ready for launch in late 2015.

    NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Program, part of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, is responsible for the space network. The TDRS Project Office at Goddard manages the TDRS development program. Launch management of the launch service for TDRS-L is the responsibility of HEOMD’s Launch Services Program based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. United Launch Alliance provided the Atlas V rocket launch service.

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