Posts Tagged ‘Nasa jpl’

Glenn Helps Ares I-X Soar

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

The future of new rocket design was successfully tested when the Ares I-X blasted off on October 28, 2009. The test vehicle launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and travelled for six minutes until it splashed down 150 miles away in the Atlantic Ocean. Ares I-X, at 327 feet tall and 1.8 million pounds, was comprised of components fabricated at several NASA centers. The Upper Stage Simulator (USS), all 430,000 pounds and 110 feet of it, was developed, designed and constructed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

view of ARES I -X launch from distance

The Ares I-X Flight Test blasts off from the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Image Credit: Thilo Kranz, Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft-und Raumhahrt (German Space Agency)
Vince Bilardo, Ares I-X Upper Stage Simulator Project Manager at Glenn, lead the project from its beginning four years ago through the extraordinary apex of the launch. He shares his thoughts on Ares I-X and Glenn’s essential role in its success.

How did the launch go?
Vince Bilardo: The launch was nearly flawless! Once we got past the weather issues, the countdown and flight went just as planned. The vehicle flew the exact trajectory that was planned. All the data was successfully telemetered to the ground during the flight, the cameras all worked great and provided spectacular images of the flight. We proved conclusively that we can successfully control a tall, slender rocket by small movements in a single rocket nozzle.

How did the Glenn component, the USS, perform?
VB: The Glenn-built Upper Stage Simulator (USS) performed flawlessly, as best as we can determine so far. And that was not just during launch but in all phases of the ground assembly and launch processing prior to the flight. Contrary to speculation, the USS motion after First Stage separation was predicted in several of the “dispersion cases” or simulations that we ran prior to flight. And the entire stage held together after separation all the way down to the water, contrary to some analyses which predicted that it might break apart due to high loads during the tumble down to the sea. It all adds up to a strong endorsement of the robust design and manufacturing concept that our in house team implemented.

ARES I-X at night

>Ares I-X, including the Upper Stage Simulator (USS) built at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, is illuminated the night before launch. Image Credit: Thilo Kranz, Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft-und Raumhahrt (German Space Agency)
What was the experience of being at the launch like?
VB: I was part of the Launch Support Team, which was located in one of the backup launch control rooms called Hangar AE, on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station side. All of the Integrated Product Team personnel that designed and developed the Ares I-X hardware and software were located in Hangar AE. We had to be “on station” at our consoles by 4:00 am for the countdown each of the two launch attempts on October 27 and 28. Then, we had to work some contingency loads analyses to take into account the winds on the actual day of launch and their potential affect on the vehicle structure. So it was a very busy time leading up to the final countdown coming out of the planned hold at the T-4 minute point.

As we got close to this point, the weather uncertainty took over, and it made for an emotional roller coaster as we thought we had a go, then the weather window would close, then open again another 30 minutes later, and so on. Once we got the count restarted, the final four minutes were very quiet in the room, then once we got to T-0 and saw the vehicle lift off there was elation and cheering, followed by more quiet as we watched closely to for each event during the overall six minute mission. As each of those milestones were hit, there was more cheering, followed by a big round of applause once we saw the FS parachutes open up.

What was it like being a key participant in the Ares I-X launch? What did you and your Glenn team learn from being a part of the project?
VB: It was a thrilling experience, and without a doubt the highlight of my career to date. I believe this is true for all of our USS team members at GRC and across the agency, for this truly was a once-in-a-career historic mission: the first flight of a new rocket vehicle in over a generation, since the Space Shuttle was developed in the 1970s.

We have learned a tremendous amount being part of this endeavor, starting with the hands-on, in house engineering, design, analysis, manufacturing, handling, and transportation we performed with civil servants and in-house contractor team members. We developed rigorous flight hardware processes and procedures, and we put in place improved manufacturing tools and techniques. We also gained the experience of processing the flight hardware for launch in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.

We have truly built our capacity to be a space flight development center during the execution of Ares I-X.

NASA EDGE Nominated for Best Video Podcast

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

NASA EDGE Nominated for ‘Best Video Podcast’ in the 5th Annual Podcast Awards!

›› Vote Now for NASA EDGE!


Vote now for NASA EDGE, Best Video Podcast at!

NASA EDGE continues their unprecedented, unscripted journey through the world of video podcasting with their very first award nomination. This is no small accomplishment considering that only two and half years ago, they weren’t sure that they would find an audience.

Well, they have. Almost three years and 3.2 million downloads later, NASA EDGE is now recognized in the company of such internet greats and fellow nominees as “Buzz out Loud,” “Diggnation” and “Filmriot” just to name a few.

In fact, the 5th Annual Podcast Awards, managed by Podcast Connect Inc., mentioned on their Web site that this year’s competition received more than 321,000 nominations for over 3,500 different shows.

Be sure to vote for NASA EDGE

You can vote once a day from November 13 to November 30, 2009 by visiting NASA EDGE is listed in the “Best Video Podcast” category with nine other video podcasts.

If you’re already a fan of NASA EDGE, please vote for them. If you haven’t seen or heard of NASA EDGE, visit their home page at and download any or all of their 46 video podcasts. You will not be disappointed.

NASA EDGE Co-Host and outsider Blair Allen

NASA EDGE Co-host, Blair Allen

What is NASA EDGE?

NASA EDGE is different. Unscripted and unpredictable, NASA EDGE takes a unique look in and around the greatest space program on the planet. They have hosted the Great Moonbuggy Race, examined NASA spinoff technology at the X Games, followed the Desert-RATS with an unconventional set of duct tape boots, coined the term Magnetospherence and even made an appearance on ESPN’s nationally syndicated “Mike & Mike in the Morning” show.

Check out their latest Vodcast, which added a new wrinkle. In October they covered NASA’s historic Ares I-X Flight Demonstration live on the Web. That show featured the entire broadcast team and an attempt at defining and redefining ‘triboelectrification.’

Of course, NASA EDGE isn’t just a video podcast. If you have questions, comments or thoughts about NASA or NASA EDGE, you can friend them on facebook and ask questions, chat or check out some exclusive facebook videos.

Or if you just want to keep up with their latest shows or activities you can follow them on twitter (@NASA_EDGE).

If all goes well, you’ll hear from them the second they win their very first award!

NASA Reproduces a Building Block of Life in Laboratory

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Dr. Scott Sandford and colleagues.
Left to right: Stefanie Milam, Michel Nuevo and Scott Sandford.
Photo credit: Dominic Hart/NASA
Click image for full resolution. NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, a key component of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces this essential ingredient of life.

Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the basic structure for uracil, part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic acid (RNA). RNA is central to protein synthesis, but has many other roles.

“We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, a component of RNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space,” said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. “We are showing that these laboratory processes, which simulate occurrences in outer space, can make a fundamental building block used by living organisms on Earth.”

High energy UV photons
An ice sample is deposited in a chamber, where it is irradiated with high energy UV photons from the hydrogen lamp at approximately – 442 F. The bombarding photons break the chemical bonds in the ice samples, which then form new compounds, such as uracil.
Click image for full resolution. Nuevo is the lead author of a research paper titled “Formation of Uracil from the Ultraviolet Photo-Irradiation of Pyrimidine in Pure Water Ices,” Astrobiology vol. 9 no. 7, published Oct. 1, 2009.

NASA Ames scientists have been simulating the environments found in interstellar space and the outer solar system for years. During this time, they have studied a class of carbon-rich compounds, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been identified in meteorites, and are the most common carbon-rich compound observed in the universe. PAHs typically are six-carbon ringed structures that resemble fused hexagons, or a piece of chicken wire.

Pyrimidine also is found in meteorites, although scientists still do not know its origin. It may be similar to the carbon-rich PAHs, in that it may be produced in the final outbursts of dying, giant red stars, or formed in dense clouds of interstellar gas and dust.

“Molecules like pyrimidine have nitrogen atoms in their ring structures, which makes them somewhat whimpy. As a less stable molecule, it is more susceptible to destruction by radiation, compared to its counterparts that don’t have nitrogen,” said Scott Sandford, a space science researcher at Ames. “We wanted to test whether pyrimidine can survive in space, and whether it can undergo reactions that turn it into more complicated organic species, such as the nucleobase uracil.”

molecular structures of pyrimidine and uracil
The molecular structures of pyrimidine and uracil.
Click image for full resolution. In theory, the researchers thought that if molecules of pyrimidine could survive long enough to migrate into interstellar dust clouds, they might be able to shield themselves from radiation destruction. Once in the clouds, most molecules freeze onto dust grains (much like moisture in your breath condenses on a cold window during winter).

These clouds are dense enough to screen out much of the surrounding outside radiation of space, thereby providing some protection to the molecules inside the clouds.

Scientists tested their hypotheses in the Ames Astrochemistry Laboratory. During their experiment, they exposed the ice sample containing pyrimidine to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions, including a very high vacuum, extremely low temperatures (approximately – 340 degrees Fahrenheit), and harsh radiation.

They found that when pyrimidine is frozen in water ice, it is much less vulnerable to destruction by radiation. Instead of being destroyed, many of the molecules took on new forms, such as the RNA component uracil, which is found in the genetic make-up of all living organisms on Earth.

“We are trying to address the mechanisms in space that are forming these molecules. Considering what we produced in the laboratory, the chemistry of ice exposed to ultraviolet radiation may be an important linking step between what goes on in space and what fell to Earth early in its development,” said Stefanie Milam, a researcher at NASA Ames and a co-author of the research paper.

“Nobody really understands how life got started on Earth. Our experiments demonstrate that once the Earth formed, many of the building blocks of life were likely present from the beginning. Since we are simulating universal astrophysical conditions, the same is likely wherever planets are formed,” explained Sandford.

Additional team members who helped perform the research and co-author the paper are Jason Dworkin and Jamie Elsila, two NASA scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The research was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the NASA Origins of Solar Systems Program. NAI is a virtual, distributed organization of competitively-selected teams that integrates and funds astrobiology research and training programs in concert with the national and international science communities.

For more information about the NASA Ames Astrochemistry Laboratory, visit:

A Splendid Day for Flying Glaciers

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

From: Kathryn Hansen, Science Writer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


A last-minute change in flight plans made for another great science flight on Nov. 4. Initial plans were to make a high-altitude flight, according to program director Jim Yungel of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.  But a forecaster in the Punta Arenas airport weather office advised crew of the potential for weather to interfere with the high-altitude measurements for the mission’s LVIS instrument.

With a new flight plan in place, NASA’s DC-8 took off just a few minutes after the scheduled 11 a.m. departure time. The new plan called for low-altitude flights over the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The forecaster was completely correct,” Yungel wrote to colleagues after the flight. “We flew into sunny conditions with occasional very light high cirrus over flight lines, resulting in an outstanding data set over the Larsen Ice Shelf and many impressive glaciers.”

Instruments that collect data at lower altitudes, including the Airborne Topographic Mapper, had a successful 11.3-hour flight.

“Much of this flight surveyed a grid over the Larsen C Ice Shelf,” Yungel wrote. “Later in the flight we surveyed several significant glaciers in the central Peninsula area, including the Atlee, Flask, Crane, Hektoria, and Drygalski glaciers. It was a splendid day for flying glaciers!”


Despite the busy flight, Yungel managed to capture these images of the landscape from the aircraft window …


NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 4 November 2009

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment


All ISS systems continue to function nominally, except those noted previously or below. Day of National Unity in Russia, a holiday.

FE-5 Williams started the day with another Reaction Self Test (Psychomotor Vigilance Self Test on the ISS) protocol. [The RST is performed twice daily (after wakeup & before bedtime) for 3 days prior to the sleep shift, the day(s) of the sleep shift and 5 days following the sleep shift.]

FE-1 Suraev did the regular daily early-morning check of the aerosol filters at the Russian Elektron O2 generator which he had installed on 10/19 in gaps between the BZh Liquid Unit and the oxygen outlet pipe (filter FA-K) plus hydrogen outlet pipe (filter FA-V). [FE-3 again inspects the filters tonight at bedtime, currently a daily requirement per plan, with photographs to be taken if the filter packing is discolored.]

The FE-1 afterwards undertook a major (3-hr) IFM (Inflight Maintenance) in the SM (Service Module) on the SUBA Onboard Equipment Control System, installing a new BSK-2 Common Power Switching Timer (Blok silovoiy kommutatsii-2) and connecting three associated extensive cable harnesses. [SUBA controls, monitors, and diagnoses SM systems status. It operates using sensor output signals and command radio link SM functional outputs, onboard computer system (BVS) units, SM control panels, and system relay outputs. Its software resides in the SM central computer (TsVM) and terminal computer (TVM). The BSKs are used to switch electrical power and protect electrical circuits with fuses against overloads.]

Meanwhile, FE-3 Romanenko had ~2.5 hrs to perform IFM on the RS (Russian Segment)’s Electrical Power System, removing and replacing the #2 unit of the six 800A batteries in the FGB (Funktsionalnyi-Grusovoi Blok).

Starting the planned major recovery activities after the UPA (Urine Processor Assembly) failure, FE-1 Stott & FE-4 Thirsk, wearing protective gear (silver shield gloves, dust mask, goggles), drained the WSTA (Waste Storage Tank Assembly) urine from ~46% to 10% into an EDV-U container to allow for room in the WSTA for the subsequent DA (Distillation Assembly) dryout. [The planned backflow troubleshooting procedure involves flowing fluid “back” from the WSTA tank into the DA via a narrow pick-up tube which is probably clogged, at a delta-pressure between WSTA & DA of about 14 psi. It is hoped that by flowing the urine in the reverse direction than usual, the pre-treat/urine will contact areas it has not been able to reach and help dissolve the blockage.]

Stott then had 3h15min & Thirsk 15min to conduct the backflow procedure for clearing up the DA. [As first step, Nicole had to remove the CEVIS cycle ergometer, TOCA, EDV-U, compressor and associated brackets from the front of the WRS-2 (Water Recovery System 2) Rack to allow it to rotate down and to be opened up. By switching hose connections, the FE-1 was then to initiate the backflow to the DA, for a duration of ~30 sec or to 5% decrease of WSTA tank quantity. Bob assisted with monitoring time and quantity.]

Later, Thirsk worked on the U.S. WHC (Waste & Hygiene Compartment), performing the periodic changeout of the urine receptacle plus hose and its filter insert with new units.

Using the SLAMMD (Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device) equipment and appropriate software, CDR De Winne, FE-2 Stott, FE-4 Thirsk & FE-5 Williams each completed a body mass measurement (BMM), with the video camcorder recording footage that was later downlinked via MPC/Multiple-Protocol Converter. The required control run was performed by De Winne after setting up the calibration arm and attaching the calibration mass. Afterwards, Frank powered off, dismantled and temporarily stowed the SLAMMD hardware. [SLAMMD, performed first on Expedition 12 in December 2005, provides an accurate means of determining the on-orbit mass of humans spanning the range from the 5th percentile Japanese female to the 95th percentile American male. The procedure, in accordance with Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion, finds the mass by dividing force, generated by two springs inside the SLAMMD drawer, by acceleration measured with a precise optical instrument that detects the position versus time trajectory of the SLAMMD guide arm and a micro controller which collects the raw data and provides the precise timing. The final computation is done via portable laptop computer with SLAMMD unique software. To calculate their mass, crewmembers wrap their legs around a leg support assembly, align the stomach against a belly pad and either rest the head or chin on a head rest. For calibration, an 18-lbs. mass is used at different lengths from the pivot point, to simulate different mass values. Crew mass range is from 90 to 240 lbs.]

Romanenko again had several hours allotted to continue his audit of available stowage space in the FGB, SM and DC1 Docking Compartment to assess useable stowage space for cargo to be delivered on 11/12 on 5R/Progress 302 (MRM2).

Roman also completed the periodic checkout & performance verification of IP-1 airflow sensors in the various RS hatchways. [Skipping the Soyuz hatch to DC1, inspected IP-1s are in the passageways PrK (SM Transfer Tunnel)–RO (SM Working Compartment), PkhO (SM Transfer Compartment)–RO, PkhO–DC1, PkhO–FGB PGO, FGB PGO–FGB GA, and FGB GA–Node-1.]

Maxim Suraev used the CMS (Countermeasure System), a component of the SKDS GANK-4M suite, to perform the standard check on the SM cabin air, today looking for Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Chloride and Hydrogen Cyanide. [CMS uses preprogrammed microchips to measure for numerous contaminants such as O-Xylol (1,2-Dimethylbenzol, C8H10), Hydrogen Chloride (HCl), Formaldehyde, Isopropanol, Methanol, Toluene, Mercaptan, Sulphur dioxide, Hydrogen Cyanide, Phosgene, etc.],

The FE-1 also continued the current round of preventive maintenance on the Russian ventilation system, today cleaning the four “Group B” fan screens (VT1, VTK1, VV1RO & VV2RO) in the SM, while the FE-3 worked in the DC1 on cleaning the V3 ventilator grille.

At the Node -1’s “ceiling”, Jeff & Bob moved the ARED exercise device on its platform into position from its stowage location. Then, after they had used it for their workout, Frank & Bob later moved it again out of the way and stowed it to make room for the subsequent PMA-3 activities.

Continuing preparations for Node-3 “Tranquility” arrival, Jeff Williams re-opened the PMA-3 (Pressurized Mating Adapter 3) hatch in Node-1, after which Jeff & Bob reinstalled the two CPAs, PMA target assembly and hatch center disk cover.

After subsequent hatch closure, Thirsk & De Winne depressurized the PMA-3 to 2 psi using the US A/L (Airlock)’s Depress Pump. Later, hatch perimeter, newly installed IMV valve & new bulkhead feedthroughs in Node-1 were checked by Jeff for leaks with the ULD (Ultrasound Leak Detector). [The A/L pump was connected to the Node-1 port hatch by the VAJ (Vacuum Access Jumper) dragged through the Node-1 starboard hatchway. After reaching 2 psi, the remaining pressure was evacuated with the Lab PCA (Pressure Control Assembly) to the outside, connected by a 35-ft VAJ. When completely depressed, the VAJ was disconnected, followed by the leak checks.]

In the Kibo JPM (JEM Pressurized Module), FE-5 Williams prepared the FPEF MS (Fluid Physics Experiment Facility / Marangoni Surface) equipment for a ground-controlled run of the MI (Marangoni Inside) convection experiment, transferring & setting up the MWA (Maintenance Work Area) at the F3 location, installing the MI Core on the MWA (after inspecting for broken glass) and preparing the MI Body inside the MWA. [In microgravity, fluids react differently to stresses when compared to the same stresses on Earth. Understanding the responses to the stressors allows for improved fluid flow models to be designed. Mass transfer on or in a liquid due to surface tension differences is called the Marangoni Effect (which, for example, stabilizes a soap film). The Marangoni convection experiment in the FPEF examines fluid tension flow in micro-G: first, a liquid bridge of silicone oil is formed into a pair of disks. Then, using temperature differences imposed on the disks, convection is induced causing the silicone oil to move and transition through different types of flows because of its fluid instability: successively from laminar to oscillatory, chaos, and turbulence flows as the driving force increases. The flow and temperature fields are observed in each stage and the transition conditions and processes are investigated.]

In the A/L, Nicole & Jeff had ~2 hrs for resizing two EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) spacesuits, #3006 & #3011, in preparation for ULF2 spacewalks. The crew also pre-gathered EVA support items for ULF3. The activities were videoed and downlinked. [#3006 was resized for Randy Bresnik for nominal use, and #3011 for EMU checkout, backup readiness for Mike Foreman and return on ULF3. #3009 will not be used on ULF3.]

Nicole & Bob downloaded the data taken yesterday by their instrumented SDTO (Station Development Test Objective) harnesses during their TVIS treadmill runs.

De Winne removed the IWIS (Internal Wireless Instrumentation System) accelerometer from its interface plate in the JAXA JPM and installed it instead on the T2/COLBERT treadmill for structural dynamics measurements.

For tomorrow’s planned ESA experiment CARD (Long Term Microgravity: Model for Investigating Mechanisms of Heart Disease), Frank equipped the body-worn CARD HLTA BP (Holter Arterial Blood Pressure) instrument with fresh AA batteries. [The CARD protocol included a 24h urine collection on Day 1, a 24h blood pressure monitoring with the HLTA, a blood draw (in the morning of Day 2), and five cardiac output measurements performed with the HRF-2 PFS (Pulmonary Function System) via re-breathing technique (three double re-breathing sessions with the 4L Re-breathing Bag on Day 1 and two on Day 2).]

In the JPM, Stott again serviced the CBEF (Cell Biology Experiment Facility) by opening the door to the Micro-G IU (Incubation Unit) section and manually fanning the air inside for ventilation for a few minutes, as she did last month regularly. [This was a precaution against too much humidity after yesterday’s temporary power outage, see below.]

Using another ~20-min RGS (Russian Ground Site) overflight window for VHF coverage, Maxim Suraev downlinked the video footage taken by him on 10/30 aboard the station. His “News from Zero Gravity” report was filmed for the Russian television channel “TV Tsentr”, using an uplinked script for the various scenes and narrations. [TV Tsentr is launching a new program on science and technology and one of the first episodes is to show a report from the ISS. (“…Now you know how we live up here. The reality is that there is a lot of work in space. There are many scientific experiments and studies that we carry out for the benefit of all mankind. An example is the Rusalka experiment, in which carbon dioxide levels in our planet’s atmosphere are accurately measured. In the Uragan experiment, we are working on a procedure and system for predicting the development of natural and man-made disasters. The Vaktsina experiment is to investigate prospective proteins for AIDS vaccines on Earth and in space. Soon, a new mini research module will be added to the ISS Russian segment, thus broadening and increasing the Russian science program. Don’t forget, we are working up here for the good of our planet. Our fragile Earth. Good luck to you all….”.)]

Bob Thirsk performed the periodic WPA (Water Processor Assembly) sample analysis in the TOCA (Total Organic Carbon Analyzer), after first initializing the software and priming (filling) the TOCA water sample hose. [After the approximately 2-hr TOCA analysis, results were transferred by Frank De Winne to SSC-5 (Station Support Computer 5) via USB drive for downlink, and the data were also logged.]

The CDR started (later terminated) another 5-hr automatic sampling run (the 42nd) with the EHS GC/DMS (Environmental Health System Gas Chromatograph/Differential Mobility Spectrometer), also known as AQM (Air Quality Monitor), controlled with “Sionex” expert software from the SSC-4 (Station Support Computer 4) laptop. [The AQM demonstrates COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf) technology for identifying volatile organic compounds, similar to the VOA (Volatile Organics Analyzer). Today’s data will again to be compared with VOA and GSC (Grab Sample Container) measurements. This evaluation will continue over the course of several months as it helps to eventually certify the GC/DMS as nominal CHeCS (Crew Health Care Systems) hardware.]

Near the end of his workday, FE-1 Suraev conducts his third data collection for the psychological MBI-16 Vzaimodejstvie (“Interactions”) program, accessing and completing the computerized study questionnaire on the RSE-Med laptop and saving the data in an encrypted file. [The software has a “mood” questionnaire, a “group & work environment” questionnaire, and a “critical incidents” log. Results from the study, which is also mirrored by ground control subjects, could help to improve the ability of future crewmembers to interact safely and effectively with each other and with Mission Control, to have a more positive experience in space during multi-cultural, long-duration missions, and to successfully accomplish mission activities.]

At ~4:20pm EST, just before sleep time, the FE-3 will also set up the Russian MBI-12 SONOKARD payload and start his 11th experiment session, using a sports shirt from the SONOKARD kit with a special device in the pocket for testing a new method for acquiring physiological data without using direct contact on the skin. Measurements are recorded on a data card for return to Earth. [SONOKARD objectives are stated to (1) study the feasibility of obtaining the maximum of data through computer processing of records obtained overnight, (2) systematically record the crewmember’s physiological functions during sleep, (3) study the feasibility of obtaining real-time crew health data. Investigators believe that contactless acquisition of cardiorespiratory data over the night period could serve as a basis for developing efficient criteria for evaluating and predicting adaptive capability of human body in long-duration space flight.]

FE-2, FE-4 & FE-5 had their periodic PMCs (Private Medical Conferences), via S- & Ku-band audio/video, Nicole at ~10:05am, Jeff at ~2:30pm & Bob at ~3:10pm EST.

The crew performed their regular 2-hr physical exercise on the CEVIS cycle ergometer (CDR, FE-2), TVIS treadmill (CDR, FE-1, FE-2, FE-3, FE-4, FE-5), ARED advanced resistive exerciser (FE-4, FE-5), and VELO cycle ergometer with bungee cord load trainer (FE-1, FE-3).

Later, Jeff transferred the exercise data files to the MEC (Medical Equipment Computer) for downlink, including the daily wristband HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) data of the workouts on ARED, followed by their erasure on the HRM storage medium (done six times a week).

At ~9:33am EST Bob Thirsk powered up the SM’s amateur radio equipment (Kenwood VHF transceiver with manual frequency selection, headset, & power supply) and at 9:38am conducted a ham radio session with students at John Taylor Collegiate, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

SSRMS Operations: From ~3:15pm-5:15pm EST, ground operators will translate the MT (Mobile Transporter) railcart on the truss from WS5 (Workstation 5) to WS3, to satisfy another ULF3 pre-launch checkout requirements as well as put the Robotics systems into a good configuration to allow JAXA to perform their upcoming ICS (Inter-Satellite Communication System) checkout.

ISS Power Outage Event: Yesterday morning at 12:54am EST, MBSU1 (Main Bus Switching Unit 1) experienced an unexpected power loss due to a POR (Power On Reset), the first on-orbit POR on any MBSU hardware. MBSU1 was recovered almost immediately, but it took time to assess deactivated systems and start them up again. Systems were down for about 3 hrs. Engineering teams are reviewing the anomaly but currently believe the POR was a random event and that MBSU1 is healthy and not susceptible to further PORs. MBSU1 controls half of station systems, and there were some impacts to yesterday operations, mostly science activities. ISS is completely recovered.

UPA Anomaly: Should the Urine Processor Assembly remain down for longer than expected, the unprocessed urine will accumulate, requiring special provisions for collecting, containing & stowing, including during ULF3-docked period. Replanning is underway at MCC-Houston and TsUP-Moscow for using Russian EDV containers (58 total, 9 US, 49 RS), Rodnik tanks and CWCs. Current efforts include discussions with Moscow to extend the normal EDV lifetime of 90 days to 120 days.

CEO (Crew Earth Observation) photo targets uplinked for today were Northern Isle of France, Mauritius (HMS Beagle Site: As the ISS track entered the Indian Ocean from the SW, the crew should have noted the large island of Madagascar, well left of track, followed by the small island of Reunion just left of track, and then quickly Mauritius near nadir. Charles Darwin and the Beagle landed at Port Louis on the northern portion of what is now known as the island of Mauritius on April 29, 1836. The island is also famous as the home of the dodo, a large flightless bird driven to extinction – directly or indirectly – by humans during the 17th century. This pass was in late afternoon light with partly cloudy weather expected. Concentrating on the Port Louis area located on the northern coast), Simon’s Bay, Cape Point, S. Africa (HMS Beagle site: The pass approached the coast of Africa from the SW in early afternoon light. Fair weather was expected. Looking left of track for views of this target. The most important aspect of this stop appears to have been Darwin’s visit to the noted astronomer Sir John Herschel who lived near Cape Town. Darwin called this “the most memorable event which, for a long period, I have had the good fortune to enjoy.” Both Darwin and Herschel had read the Lyell’s famous Principles of Geology. Their discussion is not recorded, but they were thinking along similar lines: a few months earlier Herschel had written to Lyell praising the Principles as “a complete revolution in [its] subject, … altering entirely the point of view” in which scientists would think about geology; and as opening a way for bold speculation on “that mystery of mysteries, the replacement of extinct species by others.”), and Port Louis, Berekely Sound, Falkland Island (HMS Beagle Site: Darwin and the Beagle arrived at the Falkland Islands on March 1, 1833 and found shelter for several weeks in Berkeley Sound at Port Louis on East Falkland Island. ISS approached this target from the W in late morning. Fair weather with a near nadir pass offered an excellent opportunity for detailed views of Port Louis and Berekely Sound).

ISS Orbit (as of this morning, 7:55am EST [= epoch])
Mean altitude – 342.1 km
Apogee height – 346.3 km
Perigee height – 338.0 km
Period — 91.38 min.
Inclination (to Equator) — 51.64 deg
Eccentricity — 0.000617
Solar Beta Angle — 36.1 deg (magnitude peaking)
Orbits per 24-hr. day — 15.76
Mean altitude loss in the last 24 hours — 97 m
Revolutions since FGB/Zarya launch (Nov. 98) — 62806

Significant Events Ahead (all dates Eastern Time, some changes possible!):
11/10/09 — 5R/MRM-2 (Russian Mini Research Module 2) on Soyuz-U @ 9:22am EST)
11/12/09 — 5R/MRM-2 docking (SM zenith) @ 10:43am EST
11/16/09 — STS-129/Atlantis/ULF3 launch (ELC1, ELC2) @ 2:28pm EST
12/01/09 – Soyuz TMA-15/19S undock
12/01-12/23 —> two-member crew
12/21/09 — Soyuz TMA-17/21S launch — O. Kotov/S. Noguchi/T.J. Creamer
12/23/09 — Soyuz TMA-17/21S (FGB nadir)
01/20/10 — Soyuz TMA-16/20S relocation (from SM aft to MRM-2)
02/03/10 — Progress M-04M/36P launch
02/04/10 — STS-130/Endeavour/20A – Node-3 “Tranquility” + Cupola
02/05/10 — Progress M-04M/36P docking
03/18/10 — Soyuz TMA-16/20S undock/landing
03/18/10 — STS-131/Discovery/19A – MPLM(P), LMC
04/02/10 — Soyuz TMA-18/22S launch
04/27/10 — Progress M-03M/35P undock
04/28/10 — Progress M-05M/37P launch
04/30/10 — Progress M-05M/37P docking
05/14/10 — STS-132/Atlantis/ULF4 – ICC-VLD, MRM-1
05/29/10 — Progress M-04M/36P undock
05/30/10 — Soyuz TMA-19/23S launch
06/30/10 — Progress M-06M/38P launch
07/02/10 — Progress M-06M/38P docking
07/26/10 — Progress M-05M/37P undock
07/27/10 — Progress M-07M/39P launch
07/29/10 — Progress M-07M/39P docking
07/29/10 — STS-134/Endeavour (ULF6 – ELC3, AMS-02)
08/30/10 — Progress M-06M/38P undock
08/31/10 — Progress M-08M/40P launch
09/02/10 — Progress M-08M/40P docking
09/16/10 — STS-133/Discovery (ULF5 – ELC4, PLM)
09/18/10 — STS-133/Discovery (ULF5 – ELC4, PLM) docking
09/22/10 — STS-133/Discovery (ULF5 – ELC4, PLM) undock
09/30/10 — Soyuz TMA-20/24S launch
10/26/10 — Progress M-07M/39P undock
10/27/10 — Progress M-09M/41P launch
10/29/10 — Progress M-09M/41P docking
11/30/10 — ATV2 launch– Ariane 5 (ESA)
11/30/10 — Soyuz TMA-21/25S launch
12/15/10 — Progress M-08M/40P undock
12/17/10 — ATV2 docking
02/08/11 — Progress M-09M/41P undock
02/09/11 — Progress M-10M/42P launch
02/11/11 — Progress M-10M/42P docking
03/30/11 — Soyuz TMA-22/26S launch
xx/xx/11 – Progress M-11M/43P launch
05/30/11 — Soyuz TMA-23/27S launch
12/??/11 — 3R Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) w/ERA – on Proton

Note: The daily ISS On-Orbit Status reports can also be found at

Source :

NASA Blog: Constellation: Managers reevaluating Ares I-Y flight test

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment


Constellation program managers agreed to reevaluate the proposed Ares I-Y flight test during an Oct. 30 Control Board and plan to take the decision up the ladder to management at NASA Headquarters soon. The decision could result in the removal of the Ares I-Y flight from the manifest in order to better align test flights with evolving program objectives.

As part of the program’s ongoing review of its ground and flight test strategy, managers evaluated the flight test plan and decided that the Ares I-Y flight fell too late in the vehicle development phase to provide useful information and lacks key elements to make it a true validation of the flight vehicle’s systems.

Originally, the I-Y test was defined as an incremental “placeholder” and planned for 2012. It was to be a suborbital flight to test a five-segment booster, a flight production upper stage — without a J-2X engine — a functional command module and launch abort system and a simulated encapsulated service module.

By fall 2008, program managers were already looking at changing direction for the Ares I-Y test to improve the overall program’s chances of flying a full test vehicle by 2014. Now, with the Constellation Program nearing its preliminary design review and with maturing vehicles and systems, managers agree the I-Y test objectives can be achieved through other tests already in the manifest.

For example, the ascent abort test for Orion’s Launch Abort System can be incorporated into abort tests planned at White Sands Missile Range in 2012 and 2013 and on the first Orion flight in 2014. The ascent test will document the performance of the LAS in the event control of the launch vehicle is lost after first stage separation.

Removing the Ares I-Y flight test eliminates a unique vehicle configuration that must be designed and managed separately from the objective designs of Ares and Orion. It allows the team to focus on achieving a first launch of a thoroughly verified system and represents a tightening of the program as a function of its maturation that will ultimately save money needed for other tests.

“It simply does not fit where we are headed,” said Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program manager and chairman of the Control Board. “The test vehicle was intended to meet evolving needs but the current configuration is too different from what the program requires to certify the Ares/Orion vehicle systems.”

The current Constellation manifest shows the Ares I-Y flight test scheduled in March 2014, just a year out from the proposed first crewed flight Orion 2, planned in 2015.

Managers are also considering other options including a flight test that would fly in 2012 or 2013 that would have revised flight test objectives to better support vehicle development.

Source :

Beyond Augustine II

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Context and Background


In August of this year I wrote a missive concerning what happens after the Augustine report is released. Well, now that has happened, so what is next? The overall impression is that they did a good job technically in coming up with options and laying out the rational for the options. The concern is not there, the question is does this report provide to the president and NASA a viable path forward? In a curious move, the commission took a big risk and basically rejected one of the central directives from the White House (3d in the Scope and Objectives) which was:

Fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities.

Basically the Augustine Commission has thrown down the gauntlet in challenging the Obama administration and congress to put up $3 billion dollars in “real purchasing power” (which according to their graph is considerably more than a simple $3 billion increase) or without this you can basically forget exploration. While this conclusion may be debatable, it is commendable in its boldness. Will this strategy work? With a president and congress preoccupied with much larger and more contentious debates, no one knows. The president has indicated strong support technology in general and reasonable support for NASA in particular. In his instructions to Charles Bolden, the new administrator to “give us a space program to make the nation proud”, there may be the support from the Whitehouse for such an increase. Even if they get that, will the options presented by the Augustine commission lead to such a program?

There is much to be commended in this risky strategy if the goal is truly worthy. An indication of this is embodied in the statement of the ultimate goal of American space exploration that is outlined in the Executive Summary first page:

The Committee concludes that the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system.

Now this is something worth working toward!

It is amazing to me as a long time space advocate that for over three decades we seemed to have forgotten this, substituting in its stead vague and uninspiring goals related to science and “inspiration”. In the 1960’s and 70’s it was simply assumed that we were on a course to make this happen. Many movies and television programs of the era all had this as either as an underlying theme or as an aside even in teen love flicks. When Gerard K. O’Neil came out with his NASA study and the book “High Frontier”, it spawned a public movement for opening the space frontier for all mankind that was the seedling for today’s “New Space” movement for commercial human space exploration. The fact that this has returned as a theme in a mainstream report to the president is a good omen that should be latched upon by NASA in going forward to “make the nation proud” in the words of the president.

How to get there is of course the question.

The Augustine Report Findings

In the end, what the Augustine report boils down to in regards to future exploration architectures, is a choice between what the report calls the Ares V Lite (which in reality is the original ESAS Ares V), and the JSC proposed Shuttle Side Mount vehicle. The current “Program of Record” as it is referred to in the report is not considered a viable path forward due to the extremely high costs involved in its development phase, something that many knowledgeable people pointed out as far back as when it was originally unveiled.

As it pertains to destinations or outcomes, the choice is really between what the Augustine Report calls “Moon First” or “Flexible Path”. Mars is out of the picture due to the extreme expense of any viable Martian exploration architecture. The Moon First architecture is further subdivided into three variants. There is the lunar base, the lunar global (extended sorties to a limited number of sites), and sorties. The committee focused on the Lunar Global and Lunar Base scenarios and curiously stated that both variants would cost about the same. Which is only true if you limit the scope of activities at the base.

The Flexible Path is an interesting concept, though some wags call it “look but don’t touch”, that has multiple destinations, including free space locations such as the Earth/Sun libration points.
The committee in developing their options for the launch architecture rightly focused on lifecycle costs in differentiating between the Ares V light and the Shuttle Side Mount launcher. A very interesting and more than likely true observation made by the committee is that no matter which launch vehicle is chosen, the current NASA human spaceflight fixed cost structure will be the same. The committee found that the development costs for the Shuttle Side Mount would be less, which many of us have noted, due to the fact that the Solid Rocket Motors, External Tank, and even the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) boat tail (where the engines are mounted) would be essentially identical to the current shuttle. It would be quicker to field as well. However, they also found that the recurring costs would be higher due to the extremely high cost of the SSME. On the Ares V side, it was found that while the development costs would be higher, the overall lifecycle costs would be lower due to the lower recurring cost of the vehicle. However, there are assumptions built into these findings that could change going forward.

Launch Vehicle Lifecycle Costs Vs Architecture Life Cycle Costs, the Key to Success

With the commission zeroing in on lifecycle costs, one is driven to understand what they mean when applying that term to each architecture as well as each launch vehicle choice. It should be granted, that for some of the missions chosen, that the committee’s findings related to the lower costs of the Ares V lite vs the Shuttle Side Mount are correct. Missions to a libration point, a NEO, Lunar Orbit or Mars orbit or even Lunar Surface Sorties would all be cheaper using the Ares V as there is little that can be done to more efficiently carry out those missions. However, this does not apply to the Moon First lunar base.

The reasoning is as follows: The Shuttle Side Mount Moon First scenario in 5C has two crewed (3 Shuttle Side Mount (SSME’s) per crew) and two heavy lift cargo flights. But why dos there have to be heavy lift cargo flights? The key finding was that for the Shuttle Side Mount that SSME cost dominate the recurring costs, to wit:

With two crew and two cargo missions per year, this would require eight to ten launches of the Shuttle-derived launcher, each with three or four SSMEs or derivatives, for a total of24 to 40 of the Shuttle engines being used, with a resulting high recurring cost. (page 93 of the report)

If you can cut the number of cargo flights from heavy lift to zero and take a page from the Flexible Path’s call for a lighter lunar lander a radical shift occurs. If you had a lunar base, you could actually use a much lighter lander just to ferry crew from lunar orbit to the surface and back. If you were able to do this, the lunar mission itself could possibly be dropped to two Shuttle Side Mounts per crew and four vehicles per year. This would be further enabled by In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), which could proceed from private enterprise to enable the government to explore further and more cost effectively.

If the government chose to locate a base at a lunar pole (preferably the north to enable the maximum amount of surface exploration), and explore outward from there, caches of food, fuel, and other consumables could be staged. There are definite driving paths from the north polar region Peary Crater permanently lit zones down to Mare Frigoris, which then liberates a ground expedition to easily traverse the entire nearside Mare region. Much of the lunar farside terrain in the north is less onerous than in the south as well. Supplies could be emplaced by commercial landers who would use precision guidance to land their payloads, or the supplies could be carried overland by groups paid to do so. How much would the science value be raised and value given to the government by extending their scientific exploration potential. The government could incentivise this market in the same manner as COTS.

This is the beauty of the Moon, it is now within the possible grasp of private enterprise. Instead of launch opportunities once every two years, there is one available every two weeks. Today we have the Delta IV, Atlas V, the upcoming Falcon 9 as well as our international partners who could provide supplies, crews, and other hardware to extend the value of lunar exploration. There is even a plan to uprate the Ariane V to as much as 20 tons to trans lunar injection orbit. There are all kinds of deals that can be struck that would completely swing the cost benefit ratio to this type of architecture. This is something that the flexible path, no matter how scientifically interesting it might be, can provide. Though some of the first product from lunar oxygen production should be to enable a robust NEO mission.

As far as cargo’s go, there are not really that many cargo’s that require the full capability of any of the heavy lifters. For those that do, they could be split between EELV heavy launchers. If a heavy reliance on ISRU were implemented, the number of large Earth integrated payloads would be dramatically reduced.

Augustine and The Issue of In Situ Resources

Anyone who has read the Augustine report is struck is struck by the fact that ISRU, while mentioned, is left out of the near term technology opportunities. Some of this is due to the inertia of only choosing “proven” technologies. This is one thing that we do that is not like we did in the Apollo era, but that we can fix easily. On the earth we have thousands of years worth of experience in mining and processing minerals, making oxygen and metals from lunar rock is but an extension of this. I was very pleased at the ingenuity of the winning team from the lunar regolith challenge at Moffett field in October of this year.

The winner’s robot moved over 500 kilograms (1100 pounds) of simulated regolith in 30 minutes. On the Moon, digging regolith, moving it, processing it, storing the products are all part of what must be learned but the centennial prize actually brought several teams worth of developers into thinking about the problem who built hardware and tested it under the pressure of competition. This machine in some evolved form, will be input side of the ISRU process and even one metric ton per hour of materials processed would lead to amazing results, especially if the output included metals such as iron, aluminum, magnesium, and silicon.

The bottom line is that with very little monetary incentive from NASA in the form of the prizes, some teams have developed quite a bank of human capital and operational experience in these areas. In NASA’s technology roadmap, if ISRU is made a centerpiece of the reason for the lunar base, then it can be applied soon and possibly from private entrants. Larger prizes for larger aspects of exploration could achieve similar results. These prizes, if large enough, could be a significant economic stimulator. The prize for processing a ton of lunar regolith into usable propellant and metallic products must be high enough to encourage participants but should also be enough under the government’s cost to make it cost beneficial to the taxpayers. This could help accelerate the development of this technology to bring it to a much higher technology readiness level, faster than other methods as it widens the pool of interested parties beyond the aerospace companies that normally get larger development contracts. A billion dollars? Two billion? That would be an amazingly cheap price to pay to crash through this exploration debilitating barrier.

Looking Ahead

ISRU, commercial transportation, and the ease of the integration of the international partners is the game changer that makes Moon First a slam dunk win. With ISRU you very soon get the flexible path as ISRU derived propellants could be transported to the Earth/Sun L2 libration point to await the arrival of the human crews. The same thing could be done with propellants to a NEO. If this type of creative architecture were adopted, then the Shuttle Side Mount would be clearly the winner. A lower development cost today, and a restrained number of launches would limit the recurring costs. With the lower development costs, funds could be found to design a lightweight lunar lander. There have been some interesting forays into human lunar lander design that could change everything and dramatically bring down the cost of building, launching, and reusing them. If you were to reuse a human lunar lander with ISUR provided water just once, you would save over a billion dollars per year in architecture recurring costs.

Going beyond simply reusing a lander, if you were able to use an ISRU process that makes metals such as iron or aluminum (lots of aluminum near the poles as well as iron), you can build buildings, you can build the chassis of heavy equipment as well as other mobile systems, basically most of the heavy stuff that goes into a system on the Earth is eliminated. With large interior structures food can be grown, people can live and move around, and the beginnings of tourism could happen.

There are a plethora of things that can be done if ISRU become centric to your efforts and not an afterthought reserved to some magical future time. We have amazing capabilities these days in robotic systems thanks to smarter and smarter computers. Lets apply those capabilities to the Moon. In this type of architecture the things sent up from the Earth change. No longer needing to build compete systems on the ground, the emphasis becomes sending parts up and completed subsystems. This would change the entire way that payloads are handled. Something akin to the standard sea cargo container, designed around EELV class vehicles would provide an inexpensive means to multiply the effectiveness of a lunar base and our ability to explore the Moon.


I am utterly convinced that the above lunar base scenario or something even better is doable under the same $3 billion plus guidance that Augustine used. The ISRU development is far less difficult than those who have not deeply studied the issue know. It is not easy, but the benefits are so obvious, that to exclude it, is to castrate your exploration effort. If you keep shuttle flying in a minimum mode of twice per year till 2015 and supply sufficient funding, the Shuttle Side Mount could easily be flying by the end of the Shuttle era. This would mitigate any loss of corporate knowledge and expertise from the current shuttle workforce. This is a critical, yet underappreciated advantage that the Side Mount design has.

Keeping the station flying till 2020 will help accelerate the lunar return if the station is used as a way station for at least cargo destined for the Moon. With a lightweight lander that shuttles between lunar orbit and the base, could be built and tested far faster than the lunar lander that Altair is today. With commercial enterprise as part of the critical path, as well as bringing the critical ISRU development in, not only would the president be proud, all of us could look up in amazement at how rapidly the growth of a lunar base would lead to future exploration. The Moon is our second beachhead in the sky after ISS. The Moon is next after ISS, with a truly flexible path to Mars and beyond awaiting.