A new kind of atomic clock, non-toxic propellant system and missions to characterize how space weather interferes with satellites and communication transmissions are one step closer to liftoff. With the second-ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch complete, these NASA technologies await the powerful rocket’s next flight.
“We are pleased with the success of yesterday’s Falcon Heavy launch and first-stage landings,” said Acting Associate Administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Jim Reuter. “We have important technologies that are ready to fly, and this success helps put us on that path.”
The NASA technologies include two twin CubeSats, one small satellite and several payloads. Each has a unique set of objectives, but they have a common goal: improve future spacecraft design and performance, no matter the destination.
The Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment, or E-TBEx, CubeSats measure how radio signals can be distorted by large bubbles that form naturally in Earth’s charged upper atmosphere. Such distortions can significantly interfere with communications and GPS in large regions near Earth’s magnetic equator. The more we understand about the fundamental processes causing such disruptive bubbles, the more we can ultimately forecast and mitigate these disturbances.
The Green Propellant Infusion Mission demonstrates an alternative to conventional chemical propulsion systems. The new technology could improve overall spacecraft performance and reduce our reliance on the highly toxic fuel hydrazine.
The Deep Space Atomic Clock will be the first-ever ion clock in space and potentially the most stable space clock – taking nine million years to drift by a second. The technology offers a new way for spacecraft to navigate autonomously and explore deep space.
The Space Environment Testbeds mission studies how to protect satellites by assessing how the space environment near Earth affects hardware performance. Such information can be used to improve spacecraft design, engineering and operations in order to protect them from harmful radiation driven by the Sun.
The technologies are part of the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) multi-manifest mission. Over the next few months, SpaceX and the Air Force will ready the mission for launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Experience a SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch, Learn About New NASA Space Tech
Social media users are invited to register to attend the next SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch, carrying nearly two dozen satellites to space from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission is currently targeted for no earlier than Saturday, June 22. NASA and other highlights include:
- Multiple NASA technologies, including a small satellite to test the performance of non-toxic spacecraft fuel and an advanced atomic clock to improve how spacecraft navigate;
- Six National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather research satellites;
- Multiple CubeSat missions, including twin NASA CubeSats that will work in tandem with the NOAA weather research satellites to measure distortion of radio signals traveling through the upper atmosphere;
- An Air Force Research Laboratory spacecraft equipped with NASA instruments to measure how space weather and radiation impact spacecraft electronics.
If your passion is to communicate and engage the world via social media, then this is the event for you! Joinus for a special NASA Social event, organized in collaboration with DoD and NOAA. Seize the opportunity to be on the front line to blog, tweet or Instagram everything about SpaceX’s third Falcon Heavy launch, STP-2, NASA technology and more. The multi-manifest mission showcases partnerships across industry, government and academia.
As the first government contracted Falcon Heavy, the Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Centeraims to demonstrate the rocket’s capability and gain insight into the process of recovering and refurbishing first stage boosters on the Falcon family of rockets.
A maximum of 55 social media users will be selected to attend this two-day event, and will be given access similar to news media.
NASA Social participants will have the opportunity to:
- View a launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket
- Tour NASA facilities at Kennedy Space Center
- Speak with representatives from NASA, SpaceX, U.S. Air Force and NOAA
- View and take photographs of the Falcon Heavy rocket at Launch Complex 39A
- Meet fellow space enthusiasts who are active on social media
NASA Social registration for the STP-2 launch opens on this page on May 6 and the deadline to apply is on May 16 at 12 p.m. EDT. All social applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Do I need to have a social media account to register?
Yes. This event is designed for people who:
- Actively use multiple social networking platforms and tools to disseminate information to a unique audience.
- Regularly produce new content that features multimedia elements.
- Have the potential to reach a large number of people using digital platforms.
- Reach a unique audience, separate and distinctive from traditional news media and/or NASA audiences.
- Must have an established history of posting content on social media platforms.
- Have previous postings that are highly visible, respected and widely recognized.
- Users on all social networks are encouraged to use the hashtag #NASASocial.
How do I register?
Registration for this event opens May 6 and closes at 12 p.m. EDT on May 16. Registration is for one person only (you) and is non-transferable. Each individual wishing to attend must register separately. Each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Can I register if I am not a U.S. citizen?
Because of the security deadlines, registration is limited to U.S. citizens. If you have a valid permanent resident card, you will be processed as a U.S. citizen.
When will I know if I am selected?
After registrations have been received and processed, an email with confirmation information and additional instructions will be sent to those selected. We expect to send the first notifications on May 23 and waitlist notifications on May 28.
What are NASA Social credentials?
All social applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Those chosen must prove through the registration process they meet specific engagement criteria.
If you do not make the registration list for this NASA Social, you still can attend the launch offsite and participate in the conversation online. Find out about ways to experience a launch at http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/viewing.html.
What are the registration requirements?
Registration indicates your intent to travel to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and attend the two-day event in person. You are responsible for your own expenses for travel, accommodation, food and other amenities.
Some events and participants scheduled to appear at the event are subject to change without notice. NASA is not responsible for loss or damage incurred as a result of attending. NASA, moreover, is not responsible for loss or damage incurred if the event is cancelled with limited or no notice. Please plan accordingly.
Kennedy is a government facility. Those who are selected will need to complete an additional registration step to receive clearance to enter the secure areas.
IMPORTANT: To be admitted, you will need to provide two forms of unexpired government-issued identification; one must be a photo ID and match the name provided on the registration. Those without proper identification cannot be admitted. For a complete list of acceptable forms of ID, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/i-9_poster_acceptable_documents_2014_04_23.pdf
All registrants must be at least 18 years old.
What if the launch date changes?
Hundreds of different factors can cause a scheduled launch date to change multiple times. The launch date will not be official until after the Flight Readiness Review. If the launch date changes prior to then, NASA may adjust the date of the NASA Social accordingly to coincide with the new target launch date. NASA will notify registrants of any changes by email.
If the launch is postponed, attendees will be invited to attend a later launch date. NASA cannot accommodate attendees for delays beyond 72 hours.
NASA Social attendees are responsible for any additional costs they incur related to any launch delay. We strongly encourage participants to make travel arrangements that are refundable and/or flexible.
What if I cannot come to the Kennedy Space Center?
If you cannot come to the Kennedy Space Center and attend in person, you should not register for the NASA Social. You can follow the conversation using the #NASASocial hashtag on Twitter. You can watch the launch on NASA Television, www.nasa.gov/live. NASA will provide regular updates on @NASA, @NASA_Technology, @NASASunand @NASAKennedy. You can follow DoD’s launch and mission updates at @45thSpaceWing, @AFspace and @AF_SMC as well as NOAA’s feed at @NOAASatellites.
If you cannot make this NASA Social, don't worry; NASA is planning many other Socials in the near future at various locations! Check back on http://www.nasa.gov/social for updates.
BALL AEROSPACE SMALL SATELLITE FOR NASA ARRIVES IN FLORIDA FOR LAUNCH
The Ball Aerospace-built small spacecraft for NASA's Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) arrived in Florida today to prepare for a June launch on board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. GPIM is NASA's first opportunity to demonstrate a new "green" propellant and propulsion system in orbit – an alternative to conventional chemical propulsion systems.
A sustainable and efficient approach to spaceflight, GPIM will demonstrate the practical capabilities of a Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate fuel and oxidizer blend, called AF-M315E. This innovative, low toxicity, "green" propellant was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. GPIM is part of NASA's Technology Demonstration Missions program within the Space Technology Mission Directorate.
"GPIM was a truly collaborative effort, working with our partners - NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Air Force Research Laboratory, U.S. Air Force and SpaceX," said Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace. "We are proud to be part of this historic mission to test a new 'green' propellant on board Ball's flight-proven small satellite, helping to provide science at any scale."
Ball Aerospace is responsible for system engineering; flight thruster performance verification; ground and flight data review; spacecraft bus; assembly, integration and test; and launch and flight support. The GPIM bus uses the smallest of the Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) satellites, which is about the size of a mini refrigerator, and was built in just 46 days. The BCP provides standard payload interfaces and streamlined procedures, allowing rapid and affordable access to space with flight-proven performance.
"We have shown that Ball can provide small, fast and affordable solutions with excellent performance and now we're excited to do that for NASA," Lystrup said.
There are currently two BCP small satellites performing on orbit: STPSat-2, which launched in Nov. 2010, and STPSat-3, which launched in Nov. 2013. The two STP satellites were built for the U.S. Air Force Space Test Program's Standard Interface Vehicle (STP-SIV) project. Ball also has two BCP small satellites in development for NASA's Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) and Spectro Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) missions.
Powered by endlessly curious people with an unwavering mission focus, Ball Aerospace pioneers discoveries that enable our customers to perform beyond expectation and protect what matters most. We create innovative space solutions, enable more accurate weather forecasts, drive insightful observations of our planet, deliver actionable data and intelligence, and ensure those who defend our freedom go forward bravely and return home safely. Go Beyond with Ball.® For more information, visit www.ball.com/aerospace or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.
About Ball Corporation
Ball Corporation (NYSE: BLL) supplies innovative, sustainable packaging solutions for beverage, personal care and household products customers, as well as aerospace and other technologies and services primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ 17,500 people worldwide and reported 2018 net sales of $11.6 billion. For more information, visit www.ball.com, or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.
Quelle: Ball Aerospace
SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy hits milestone as final rocket parts arrive in Florida
SpaceX has reached a critical milestone on the road to Falcon Heavy’s third flight: all major parts of the rocket – three boosters, an interstage, and a payload fairing – are now officially on-site at the company’s Pad 39A launch facilities.
This means that all that stands between SpaceX, the USAF, and the critical mission is the integration of the hardware into one vehicle, as well as the integration and encapsulation of all 24 customer satellites in the Falcon payload fairing. As noted by the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Falcon Heavy’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission will be exceptionally challenging and important for SpaceX for a variety of reasons.
FALCON HEAVY: THE UPPER STAGENING
Although the general performance of the three first stage boosters will be absolutely critical, the US Air Force’s STP-2 mission manages to cram in several additional major goals. First and foremost, all eyes will be on SpaceX’s Falcon upper stage (S2). Scheduled to last no less than several hours, the upper stage will be put through its paces like never before, requiring four separate ignitions and shutoffs of its Merlin Vacuum engine. For SpaceX, this may be the first time the company has ever attempted the feat – if any on-orbit testing has been done after completing customer missions, SpaceX has never commented on it.
Back in February 2018, Falcon Heavy’s launch debut also happened to mark the first flight-test of a true long-duration upper stage coast and third ignition, a spectacular success that sent Starman and a Tesla Roadster into a heliocentric orbit that now reaches beyond Mars. As such, SpaceX will by no means be walking into the challenges of STP-2 unprepared. In fact, the coast required on Flight 1 may have technically been more challenging than any one of the four separate burns S2 will need to perform on STP-2. However, combining the need to do all four burns and deployments rather quickly and in sequence, the critical need for accurate orbital insertions, and high standards of reliability and mission assurance expected by the USAF, STP-2 will easily be the hardest mission SpaceX has yet to attempt.
If SpaceX succeeds, the benefits will stretch far beyond simply satisfying an Air Force requirement and securing the USAF’s Falcon Heavy certification. Once SpaceX has rigorously demonstrated the reliability of Falcon 9’s upper stage for long coasts and high numbers of ignition events, the company will be able to apply that as a marketable product. Potential customers include the usual communications satellite operators desiring a direct-to-GEO insertion, saving time (and thus making money faster) by skipping the orbit-raising that comes with easier transfer orbits.
One major use-case – as demonstrated by Falcon Heavy’s interplanetary launch debut – is sending payloads beyond Earth orbit, a capability that NASA would undoubtedly take advantage of.
REUSABILITY MAKES A SURPRISE ENTRANCE
But wait, there’s more! In a predictable but still largely unexpected turn of events, the Air Force has also selected Falcon Heavy’s STP-2 mission as an opportunity to gain familiarity with the rocket reusability SpaceX is famous for. Falcon Heavy’s second mission and commercial launch debut – Arabsat 6A – used three all-new Block 5 boosters, two of which returned to land after gentle recoveries. Known as B1052 and B1053, the lightly-used boosters are now scheduled to become the first flight-proven orbital-class rockets launched on a Department of Defense (DoD) mission in 25 years, since the Space Shuttle’s final military mission in 1992.
If successful, SpaceX will help pave the way for the US military to seriously adopt reusable rockets and develop the “certification” procedures needed to do so. This will benefit all prospective US launch providers, not just SpaceX, but SpaceX will likely be the only company flying valuable payloads on flight-proven rockets until Blue Origin and ULA’s Vulcan achieve flight-proven certification for military launches. Much like regular certification often requires multiple launch demonstrations, flight-proven certification will likely be at least as – if not more – stringent. For New Glenn, that milestone might come as early as 2023-2025, while Vulcan – if a reusable engine section is ever actually implemented – is unlikely to even complete its launch debut – let alone first reuse – before 2025.
As such, SpaceX is quite literally half a decade ahead of its prospective competitors when it comes to certifying flight-proven rockets for high-value launches. Additionally, just the act of the USAF completing its development of a reusability certification process will likely encourage – if not directly lay the foundation for – NASA to seriously consider doing the same with its own launch services.
First Falcon Heavy night launch slips to June 24
The first nighttime launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, and the first Falcon Heavy flight for the U.S. military, is set for no earlier than June 24 from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Air Force officials said Friday.
The four-hour launch window opens at 11:30 p.m. EDT on June 24 (0330 GMT on June 25). The new target launch date is two days later than previously planned.
The Falcon Heavy will launch 24 satellites into three distinct orbits around Earth, using up most of the heavy-lift rocket’s lift capacity with a series of four upper stage engine burns, the most ever by a SpaceX launch vehicle.
“We are now looking at no earlier than June 24 while we finish up integrating these satellites and finish our launch operation preparations,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of the small launch and targets division at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, or SMC.
The 24 satellites come from the U.S. military, NOAA, NASA, and academic institutions, pursuing missions ranging from weather observation to technology demonstration. The mission is designated Space Test Program-2, or STP-2, and is managed by the U.S. Air Force.
The Falcon Heavy rocket set to fly on the STP-2 mission will use two side boosters recovered after the most recent Falcon Heavy flight April 11, which delivered the commercial Arabsat 6A communications satellite to orbit. The center core booster for the STP-2 mission is fresh from SpaceX’s factory in Hawthorne, California.
Each booster is powered by nine Merlin 1D engines, burning a mix of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants.
The Air Force agreed to use the side boosters from the Arabsat 6A mission to familiarize military officials with SpaceX’s process of recovering and refurbishing rocket hardware. It is the first time the Air Force has used previously-flown hardware on a military satellite launch.
“STP-2 is the government’s first launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy vehicle, and is one of the most challenging missions the Space and Missile Systems Center has ever launched,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of SMC’s launch enterprise systems directorate. “We’re putting 24 research and development satellites into three separate orbits, with a first-ever four engine start and burn of the second stage.”
The Air Force contracted with SpaceX for the STP-2 mission in 2012, targeting a launch in 2015. Delays in the development of the Falcon Heavy pushed the mission’s schedule back to 2019.
Military officials originally intended for the STP-2 mission to be a test flight for the Falcon Heavy, and an opportunity to place a batch of experimental — and relatively low-cost and low-priority — payloads into orbit on a new rocket. But now the mission has evolved to become a critical test to move the Air Force closer to allowing more expensive national security satellites to launch on the Falcon Heavy, and potentially with reused booster stages.
SpaceX has launched 21 missions with previously-flown booster stages — all successfully — with payloads for NASA and commercial customers.
“The use of the previously-flown hardware is providing critical insight into reusability and quality assurance that will allow us to provide space access to the warfighter in a more cost-effective and expedient manner, and I really appreciate the efforts of our industry partner SpaceX to make this happen,” Bongiovi said Friday in a briefing with reporters.
The first two Falcon Heavy missions lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in daylight, but the STP-2 mission will launch at night. Like the previous two Falcon Heavy flights, the two side boosters will return to SpaceX’s onshore landing site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for nearly simultaneous propulsive landings, according to Walter Lauderdale, STP-2 mission director from the Falcon systems and operations division at SMC.
“The plan is to recover all three cores, two coming back to land and one out on the drone ship,” Lauderdale said Friday. “SpaceX is looking for this opportunity to demonstrate this capability (for) continued reuse. We’re excited to be part of that journey.”
A regulatory filing associated with the STP-2 mission submitted by SpaceX to the Federal Communications Commission in March suggested the company’s drone ship, used for offshore rocket landings, will be stationed near Florida’s Space Coast for the recovery of the Falcon Heavy’s center core.
The drone ship is typically positioned hundreds of miles offshore from Florida. The regulatory filing, which requested authority to operate radio transmitters during the booster’s descent, indicated the vessel will be parked roughly 24 miles (40 kilometers) east-southeast of pad 39A for the center core landing on the STP-2 mission.
Assuming favorable viewing conditions, the nighttime launch of the world’s most powerful rocket — producing 5.1 million pounds of thrust at full throttle — followed minutes later by the return of the three Falcon Heavy boosters to Earth could be a dazzling spectacle.
“As long as there are no clouds, having been down there for a couple, the recoveries back on land, they do end up being a spectacular sight coming back to the landing zone,” Lauderdale said.
Long-delayed NASA technology demonstration payloads finally set for launch
WASHINGTON — After years of delays, a group of NASA technology demonstration payloads is finally set to lift off on a Falcon Heavy later this month.
The four NASA payloads are part of the overall Space Test Program (STP) 2 mission scheduled to launch on a Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than June 24. The launch was previously scheduled for June 22, but officials with the U.S. Air Force, who is overseeing the STP-2 mission, said June 7 that it needed additional time to integrate the satellites flying on the mission.
That slip, though, is minor compared to the overall delays for STP-2. The Air Force procured the launch from SpaceX in 2012, planning for a launch in 2015. Issues wit the development of the Falcon Heavy, which made its first launch in February 2018, delayed STP-2 significantly. This launch will be the third for the heavy-lift rocket, after that inaugural flight and the Arabsat-6A launch in April.
“We’re excited that this flight is almost here,” said Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator for space transportation at NASA, during a June 10 media teleconference. “We’ve spent a lot of time developing these technologies, and we’ve been ready to fly some of these missions for a while as the entire STP-2 mission has been assembled.”
The four payloads include a mix of standalone satellites and payloads hosted on other STP-2 spacecraft. The Green Propellant Infusion Mission is a spacecraft that will demonstrate the use of a “green” propellant called AF-M315E that is safer to handle than hydrazine.
Christopher McLean, principal investigator for the mission at Ball Aerospace, said that the benefits of this propellant go beyond being environmentally friendly. “If I compare this to a standard monoprop hydrazine system, we have 50 percent more total impulse available, mainly due to the density,” he said.
NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock will fly as part of the Orbital Test Bed satellite, built by General Atomics. It will demonstrate an atomic clock far more precise than those flown on GPS satellites that could be used on future missions to aid in precise tracking. A spacecraft equipped with such a clock could determine its position simply by receiving signals from Earth.
“One-way tracking with a high-accuracy clock is a much more efficient and flexible way to track a spacecraft and it’s a better way to navigate deep space,” said Jill Seubert, deputy principal investigator for the Deep Space Atomic Clock at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Another NASA hosted payload on STP-2 is the Space Environment Testbeds, which will be a part of the Air Force’s Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX) spacecraft. The payload consists of four small technology demonstrations to study how spacecraft electronics respond to space radiation.
The test, said Nicola Fox, director of NASA’s heliophysics division, will examine how now just how the electronics hold up but also their margins. “You certainly don’t want to be launching a battleship if a dinghy will do,” she said. “We don’t want to be overdesigning.”
The fourth NASA payload on STP-2 is Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment, a pair of three-unit cubesats. The satellites will help scientists study the formation of bubbles in the ionosphere that can disrupt communications by transmitting precise signals at several frequencies that will be recorded on the ground. Similar beacons will be on the six COSMIC-2 GPS radio occultation satellites, also being launched on STP-2.
Those bubbles are linked to large-scale weather patterns in the lower atmosphere, said Richard Doe, payload program manager for the Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment at SRI International. “If we understand bubble growth and generation,” he said, “we can generally improve forecasting. If you can forecast, you can take some chances to mitigate their effects.”
Some of those payloads have been waiting to fly for an extended time, Reuter said. “As we had them in storage, on a periodic basis we made sure working,” he said. “We had a little more time to refine the operational phase, and we took advantage of that as well.”
Reuters said that NASA did consider alternative ways of flying those payloads given the extended STP-2 delays. “Ultimately we stayed where we were,” he said, “and we’re really excited now.”