Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dragon Arrives With Treasure Trove of Science

The International Space Station welcomed its second contracted cargo delivery flight Sunday with the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon carrying a treasure trove of science cargo, hardware and supplies for the Expedition 34 crew.

Controlling the 57.7-foot Canadarm2 from a robotics workstation inside the station’s cupola, Commander Kevin Ford, with assistance from Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn, grappled the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft at 5:31 a.m. EST as it flew within about 32 feet of the complex. Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield joined Ford and Marshburn in the cupola to assist with the capture and help coordinate the activities. The station was flying 253 statute miles above northern Ukraine at the time of capture.

Upon successful completion of the grapple, Ford congratulated SpaceX and the ground teams supporting the mission and remarked, “As they say, it’s not where you start, but where you finish that counts, and you guys really finished this one on the mark. You’re aboard, and we’ve got lots of science on there to bring aboard and get done."

With Dragon securely in the grasp of Canadarm2, the robotics officer at Mission Control remotely operated the arm to install the capsule to its port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module. Once Dragon was in place, Ford monitored the Common Berthing Mechanism operations for first and second stage capture of the cargo ship, assuring that the vehicle was securely attached to the station with a tight seal. Second stage capture was completed at 8:56 a.m.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dragon Splashdown Marks End of Landmark Flight

SpaceX Dragon

SpaceX completed a landmark mission May 31 that saw its Dragon capsule deliver half-a-ton of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station and return safely to Earth.

The flight made history as the first privately built spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station. Its true impact is expected to be seen in coming months as the company sends regular re-supply missions to the orbiting outpost and continues work to launch astronauts into orbit in a few years.

"We are hoping to continue working with NASA and hopefully flying crew within three years," said Elon Musk, the founder, CEO and chief designer for the Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX. "This was a crucial step and makes the chances of becoming a multi planet species more likely."

NASA engineers worked closely with SpaceX throughout preparations for the uncrewed demonstration mission.

"As a country, we should be very proud," said Mike Suffredini, NASA International Space Station program manager. We took a capability that this agency has nurtured over many years, combined that with a different thought process in spacecraft design and created a team that worked very well. The SpaceX team learned a lot and so did our NASA engineers."

The SpaceX mission combined the goals of two separate flights under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Program, known as COTS. Originally slated to fly by the station and then come back to Earth, SpaceX and the NASA agreed to let the Dragon connect to the laboratory as long as a string of performance tests were successful.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

SpaceX Launches Falcon 9/Dragon on Historic Mission

SpaceX Launches Falcon 9/Dragon on Historic Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket thundered into space and delivered a Dragon cargo capsule into orbit on May 22, 2012. The launch began an ambitious mission to show that the company is ready to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.

"We're now back on the brink of a new future, a future that embraces the innovation the private sector brings to the table," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "The significance of this day cannot be overstated. While there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are off to a good start."

Working with an instantaneous launch window, SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, Calif., proceeded through a flawless countdown. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida came at 3:44 a.m. EDT, just as the station was crossing 249 miles above the North Atlantic.

"Every bit of adrenaline in my body released at that moment," said Elon Musk about the moment the rocket lifted off the pad. Musk is the founder, CEO and chief designer of SpaceX. "People were really giving it their all. For us, it was like winning the Super Bowl."

The launch came three days after the rocket aborted a previous launch attempt. William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, lauded the company for getting the craft ready for the successful launch.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

NASA Researchers Work to Turn Blue Skies Green

semi-span jet model

Air travelers of the future could have quieter, greener and more fuel-efficient airliners because of NASA research efforts that are moving into further development and testing.

The Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project, which is part of the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Integrated Systems Research Program, was created in 2009 to explore aircraft concepts and technologies that will reduce the impact of aviation on the environment over the next 30 years.

During the first phase of ERA, engineers assessed dozens of broad areas of environmentally friendly aircraft technologies and then matured the most promising ones to the point that they can be tested together in a real world environment. Those experiments included nonstick coatings for low-drag wing designs, laboratory testing of a new composite manufacturing technique, advanced engine testing, and test flights of a remotely piloted hybrid wing body prototype.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

SpaceX Conducts Static Test Firing

SpaceX Conducts Static Test Firing

The SpaceX The Falcon 9 aborted its launch attempt on May 19 with an engine cutoff. Following the cutoff, the launch team has established the Falcon 9 rocket is in a safe configuration. Early data shows that the chamber pressure on engine 5 was high. The teams will continue to look at the data and assess a launch attempt on May 22.

This follows a launch dress rehearsal April 30 by the SpaceX launch team that concluded with a brief engine firing to verify the company's Falcon 9 rocket is ready to launch. The practice countdown also tested some of the systems on the Dragon spacecraft that will fly to the space station.

"Woohoo, rocket hold down firing completed and all looks good!" reported Elon Musk on his Twitter account. Musk is the owner and chief designer for SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies. The company's engineers are reviewing data from the test, SpaceX reported.

SpaceX is preparing for its second Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS, demonstration to show that private industry can build and launch spacecraft on regular cargo resupply missions to the station. This rocket and spacecraft will not carry people, but will have about 1,200 pounds of supplies onboard for the six astronauts and cosmonauts working on the space station.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Station Spinal Ultrasounds Seeking Why Astronauts Grow Taller in Space

Spinal Ultrasound

Did you ever wish you could be just a teensy bit taller? Well, if you spend a few months in space, you could get your wish -- temporarily. It is a commonly known fact that astronauts living aboard the International Space Station grow up to 3 percent taller while living in microgravity. They return to their normal height when back on Earth. Studying the impact of this change on the spine and advancing medical imaging technologies are the goals of the Spinal Ultrasound investigation.

"This is the very first time that spinal ultrasound will be used to evaluate the changes in the spine," said Scott A. Dulchavsky, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator for the station study. "Spinal ultrasound is more challenging to perform than many of the previous ultrasound examinations done in space."

Part of the difficulty with imaging the spine is quite simply human anatomy. Using Ultrasound 2, the machine aboard station as a facility for human health studies, astronauts have an advanced tool to view the inner workings of their bodies.

"Today there is a new ultrasound device on the station that allows more precise musculoskeletal imaging required for assessment of the complex anatomy and the spine," Dulchavsky said. "The crew will be able to perform these complex evaluations in the next year due to a newly developed Just-In-Time training guide for spinal ultrasound, combined with refinements in crew training and remote guidance procedures."

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