Tag Archives: NASA

Habitation Outpost

Northrop Grumman Corporation has successfully completed its initial Preliminary Design Review (PDR) event for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). The module will serve as living quarters for astronauts at the Gateway during lunar exploration missions.

HALO module
Artist illustration of Northrop Grumman’s HALO module and the Power Propulsion Element which form the first critical component of NASA’s Gateway

The design for HALO is based on Northrop Grumman’s flight-proven Cygnus spacecraft, a human-capable vehicle that delivers supplies, equipment and experiments to the International Space Station. Design upgrades for HALO include command and control systems, as well as environmental control and life support systems.

«By basing the HALO module on Cygnus, we are able to deliver an affordable and reliable flight-proven product on an accelerated timeline», said Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial satellites, Northrop Grumman. «Maturing HALO through its preliminary design marks a major milestone in the module’s production».

The HALO module is key to NASA’s Lunar Gateway, serving both as a crew habitat and docking hub for vehicles navigating between Earth and the moon. With NASA’s Orion spacecraft docked, HALO will be able to sustain up to four astronauts for up to 30 days as they travel to and from the lunar surface.

Northrop Grumman’s work on HALO is a follow-on to the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) program, where the company used virtual reality and 3-D printed models to support rapid prototyping of the NextSTEP-2 habitat modules.

In addition to HALO, Northrop Grumman is partnering on the Blue Origin-led human landing system team to develop the Human Landing System (HLS) for the Artemis program. Northrop Grumman will provide the Transfer Element vehicle that lowers the landing system into low lunar orbit. The company is also responsible for delivering boosters for the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion Ascent Abort System.

From the first lunar lander to the space shuttle boosters, to supplying the International Space Station with vital cargo, Northrop Grumman has pioneered new products and ideas that have been put into orbit, on the moon, and in deep space for more than 50 years. As a part of NASA’s Artemis program, we are building on our mission heritage with new innovations to enable NASA to return humans to the moon, with the ultimate goal of human exploration of Mars.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

Fully Assembled

Northrop Grumman Corporation and NASA have completed environmental testing on the James Webb Space Telescope.

James Webb Space Telescope
Northrop Grumman and NASA Complete Environmental Testing on the James Webb Space Telescope

The environmental testing demonstrated Webb’s ability to withstand harsh environmental characteristics during its upcoming rocket launch and journey to reach its orbit at the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L2), approximately one million miles away from Earth.

«The completion of environmental testing is a major step forward in our preparations for Webb’s historic launch and a testament to the remarkable dedication of the team», said Scott Willoughby, vice president and program manager, James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman.

Webb’s environmental testing consisted of a series of rigorous acoustic and sine-vibration tests spanning several weeks. Webb was first placed in Northrop Grumman’s acoustic testing chamber where it underwent high frequency oscillating sound pressure levels above 140 decibels to simulate the effects of being launched on a rocket. The completion of the acoustic tests and analysis validated that Webb’s hardware, science instruments, structure and electronics can successfully survive the planned rocket launch in a simulated environment.

Following the completion of acoustic testing, Webb transitioned to a separate chamber where it underwent a series of sine-vibration tests on a shaker table to simulate vertical and horizontal accelerations in lower frequencies. The observatory was rigorously exposed to vibration levels on the shaker that are well above the flight environment, exciting its resonances to demonstrate its capability to withstand the flight environment with significant margins.

The next series of major milestones for Webb will require NASA and Northrop Grumman engineers and technicians to deploy the observatory’s five-layered sunshield followed by wing deployments of its primary mirror in order to fully verify Webb’s flight worthiness. Lastly, Webb will undergo a full systems evaluation before it begins preparations for its historic journey to Kourou, French Guiana for its October 2021 launch.

Northrop Grumman leads the industry team for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the largest, most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. NASA leads an international partnership that includes the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Webb Telescope project, and the Space Telescope Science Institute is responsible for science and mission operations, as well as ground station development.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

The James Webb Space Telescope Completes its Final Environmental Tests

Kalpana Chawla

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Cygnus spacecraft was successfully captured by Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA using the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 at 5:32 a.m. EDT after its launch on the company’s Antares rocket on October 2 from Wallops Island.

Cygnus CRS NG-14
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft was successfully captured by Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA using the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 at 5:32 a.m. EDT after its launch on the company’s Antares rocket on October 2 from Wallops Island

The S.S. Kalpana Chawla executed a series of thruster burns during its three-day journey to the station. Once Cygnus was in close range, crew members grappled the spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm. Cygnus was then guided to its berthing port on the Earth facing side of the station’s Unity module and officially installed to the space station at 8:01 a.m. EDT.

«The S.S. Kalpana Chawla has successfully completed the first part of its mission with its arrival at the International Space Station», said Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager, tactical space systems, Northrop Grumman. «Northrop Grumman is proud to support both NASA and our commercial partners as we continue to play a critical role in support of humans living and working in space».

Cygnus will remain berthed to the International Space Station for approximately three months while more than 8,000 pounds/3,629 kg of cargo is unloaded and astronauts reload the vehicle with disposal cargo. Cygnus will then undock and complete its secondary mission of hosting both the Northrop Grumman-built SharkSat payload and the Saffire-V experiment. The SharkSat prototype payload is mounted to Cygnus and will collect performance data of new technologies in low Earth orbit. To learn more about these payloads, visit Northrop Grumman’s website.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

NASA Gateway

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract by NASA to execute the preliminary design and development of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). It is to be deployed in lunar orbit as the first crew module of the NASA Gateway, a space station orbiting the moon providing vital support for long-term human exploration of the lunar surface and deep space. This award is a follow-on to the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) Appendix A contract. A subsequent modification will be definitized for the fabrication, assembly, and delivery of the HALO module.

Northrop Grumman Awarded NASA Contract to Provide First Crew Module for Artemis Program Gateway

The HALO design is derived from Northrop Grumman’s highly successful Cygnus spacecraft, a human-capable vehicle that delivers supplies, spare equipment and scientific experiments to the International Space Station with 13 successful missions to date.

«The success of our Cygnus spacecraft and its active production line helps to enable Northrop Grumman to deliver the HALO module», said Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial satellites, Northrop Grumman. «HALO is an essential element in NASA’s long-term exploration of deep-space, and our HALO program team will continue its work in building and delivering this module in partnership with NASA».

Building off of Cygnus’ heritage pressurized cargo module, Northrop Grumman added command and control capabilities, including environmental control and life support systems, which, when coupled with NASA’s Orion spacecraft capabilities, can sustain up to four astronauts for up to 30 days as they embark on, and return from, expeditions to the lunar surface. By leveraging the active Cygnus production line, Northrop Grumman has the unique capability of providing an affordable and reliable HALO module in the timeframe needed to support NASA’s Artemis program.

The HALO module represents a critical component of NASA’s Gateway serving as both a crew habitat and docking hub for cislunar spacecraft, or spacecraft that navigate between the Earth and the moon. HALO will feature three docking ports for visiting spacecraft, including the Orion spacecraft and other lunar support vehicles.

From the first lunar lander to the space shuttle boosters, to supplying the International Space Station with vital cargo, Northrop Grumman has pioneered new products and ideas that have been put into orbit, on the moon, and in deep space for more than 50 years. As a part of NASA’s Artemis program, we are building on our mission heritage with new innovations to enable NASA to return humans to the moon, with the ultimate goal of human exploration of Mars.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

Service Module

The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with Airbus for the construction of the third European Service Module (ESM) for Orion, the American crewed spacecraft. The contract is worth around €250 million.

Airbus wins ESA contract to construct third European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft

By ordering this additional service module, ESA ensures the necessary continuity in NASA’s Artemis programme. The third European Service Module (Artemis III Mission) will be used to fly astronauts to Earth’s neighbour in space in 2024 – the first to land on the Moon since Apollo 17 following a hiatus of more than 50 years.

«Our know-how and expertise will enable us to continue to facilitate future Moon missions through international partnerships», said Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exloration at Airbus. «By working together with our customers ESA and NASA as well as our industrial partner Lockheed Martin, we now have a reliable planning basis for the first three lunar missions. This contract is an endorsement of the joint approach combining the best of European and American space technologies».

David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, said: «By entering into this agreement, we are again demonstrating that Europe is a strong and reliable partner in Artemis. The European Service Module represents a crucial contribution to this, allowing scientific research, development of key technologies and international cooperation – inspiring missions that expand humankind’s presence beyond Low Earth Orbit».

The first non-crewed Orion test flight with a European Service Module (Artemis I) will fly in 2021. It is as part of the following mission, Artemis II, that the first astronauts will then fly around the Moon and back to Earth.

The ESM will provide propulsion, power, air and water for the astronauts, as well as thermal control of NASA’s new spacecraft.

More than 20,000 parts and components are used in each ESM, from electrical equipment to engines, solar panels, fuel tanks and life support supplies for the astronauts, as well as approximately 12 kilometres/7.5 miles of cables. The first service module was delivered to NASA in November 2018 and has already been mated with the Crew Module. The fully integrated spacecraft already finished the thermal-vacuum testing at NASA’s facility in Ohio, USA, and returned to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, while the second service module is now being integrated and tested by Airbus in Bremen, with delivery set for the first half of 2021.

During the development and construction of the ESM, Airbus has drawn on its experience as prime contractor for ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which provided the crew on board the International Space Station with regular deliveries of test equipment, spare parts, food, air, water and fuel.

The ESM is cylindrical in shape and about four metres in diameter and height. It has four solar arrays (19 metres/62 feet across when unfurled) that generate enough energy to power two households. The service module’s 8.6 tonnes/18,960 lbs. of fuel can power one main engine and 32 smaller thrusters. The ESM weighs a total of just over 13 tonnes/28,660 lbs. In addition to its function as the main propulsion system for the Orion spacecraft, the ESM will be responsible for orbital manoeuvring and position control. It also provides the crew with the central elements of life support such as water and oxygen, and regulates thermal control while docked to the crew module.

The sixth flight

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 501 rocket carrying the United States Space Force-7 (USSF-7) mission for the U.S. Space Force lifted off on May 17, 9:14 a.m. EDT, from Space Launch Complex-41. This marks the 84th successful launch of an Atlas V rocket, 139th launch for ULA, the second launch for the U.S. Space Force and the sixth flight of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6).

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches the Sixth Orbital Test Vehicle for the U.S. Space Force

«The success of this mission resulted from collaboration with our customer while working through challenging, and ever changing, health and safety conditions», said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. «We were honored to partner with the U.S. Space Force to dedicate this mission to first responders, front-line workers, and those affected by COVID-19. It is truly a unique time in our history and I want to thank the entire team for their continued dedication and focus on mission success».

Along with OTV-6, this mission deployed FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy and sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to conduct experiments on orbit. The mission also carried two NASA experiments, including a material sample plate to determine the results of radiation and other space effects on various materials, and an experiment which will assess space effects on seeds used to grow food. Another experiment sponsored by the Naval Research Laboratory will examine the ability to transform solar power into radio frequency microwave energy which could be transmitted to the ground.

This mission launched aboard an Atlas V 501 configuration rocket that included a 5-meter-diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

ULA’s next launch is NASA’s Mars 2020 mission carrying the Perseverance rover on an Atlas V rocket. The launch is scheduled for July 17 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

To date ULA has a track record of 100% mission success with 139 successful launches.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully launched more than 135 missions to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

Orion Spacecraft

The Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis I mission has successfully completed several months of simulated space environment System level testing in the NASA-owned thermal vacuum chamber at Plum Brook Station in Ohio. The tests were conducted in two phases; a 47 day thermal vacuum test and a 14 day electromagnetic compatibility and interference test in ambient conditions which both simulate the conditions the spacecraft will encounter during its voyage to the Moon and back to Earth.

Orion spacecraft for Artemis I mission successfully completes major testing

Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus, said: «Today marked an important milestone for the Artemis I mission to the Moon. We proved to our customers ESA and NASA that the European Service Module, designed and built by our engineers in Bremen – supported by companies in 10 European countries – meets the requirements to withstand the harsh conditions in space. The Artemis programme will land the first woman and next man on the Moon and bring them back safely to Earth, we are proud to contribute to this endeavour with all our know-how, expertise and passion».

The engineering teams from Airbus, the European Space Agency (ESA), Lockheed Martin and NASA are pleased with the results of this crucial test, which proves that the spacecraft is suitable to navigate safely through the extreme conditions that it will experience in space.

Orion will be transported back to the Kennedy Space Center to undergo further testing and prepare the spacecraft for integration with the Space Launch System rocket, beginning the next era of exploration.

ESA’s European Service Module built by Airbus under an ESA contract, will provide propulsion, power, air and water for the astronauts, as well as thermal control of the entire spacecraft. Artemis I will travel around the Moon and back to Earth. Airbus in Bremen is already building the second Orion Service Module for Artemis II, where astronauts will fly to the Moon and back to Earth for the first time.

 

About the European Service Module (ESM)

More than 20,000 parts and components will be installed in the ESM, from electrical equipment to engines, solar panels, fuel tanks and life support materials for the astronauts, as well as approximately 12 kilometres/7.46 miles of cables. The first service module, which just finished the thermal-vacuum testing, was delivered to NASA in November 2018. The second service module is currently being integrated and tested by Airbus in Bremen.

During the development and construction of the ESM, Airbus has drawn on its experience as prime contractor for ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which provided the crew on board the International Space Station with regular deliveries of test equipment, spare parts, food, air, water and fuel.

The ESM is cylindrical in shape and about four meters in diameter and height. It has four solar arrays (19 metres/62.34 feet across when unfurled) that generate enough energy to power two households. The service module’s 8.6 tonnes/18,960 lbs. of fuel can power one main engine and 32 smaller thrusters. The ESM weighs a total of just over 13 tonnes/28,660 lbs. In addition to its function as the main propulsion system for the Orion spacecraft, the ESM will be responsible for orbital manoeuvring and position control. It also provides the crew with the central elements of life support such as water and oxygen, and regulates thermal control while it is docked to the crew module. Furthermore, the service module can be used to carry additional payload(s).

Core stage

Boeing on January 8, 2020 delivered the core stage of NASA’s first Space Launch System (SLS) deep space exploration rocket, moving it out of the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the agency’s Pegasus barge.

The Boeing-built core stage of NASA’s first Space Launch System (SLS) deep space exploration rocket arrives at the agency’s Pegasus barge on January 8 after rolling out of the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans (Boeing photo)

The event marks the first time a completed rocket stage has shipped out of Michoud since the end of the Apollo program. SLS Core Stage 1 is the largest single rocket stage ever built by NASA and its industry partners.

The rollout follows several weeks of final testing and check-outs after NASA’s declaration of «core stage complete» during a December 9 Artemis Day celebration at Michoud.

NASA will transport the SLS core stage to its Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in the next few days for «Green Run» hot-fire engine tests later this year. After inspection and refurbishing for launch, the stage moves to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At Kennedy, the core stage will be integrated with the Interim Cryogenic Upper Stage (ICPS) and NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the uncrewed Artemis I mission around the moon – the first launch of a human-rated spacecraft to the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

«The Boeing SLS team has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with NASA and our supplier partners to face multiple challenges with ingenuity and perseverance, while keeping safety and quality at the forefront», said John Shannon, Boeing SLS vice president and program manager.

SLS is the world’s most powerful rocket, evolvable and built to carry astronauts and cargo farther and faster than any rocket in history. Its unmatched capabilities will deliver human-rated spacecraft, habitats and science missions to the moon, Mars and beyond as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

«We are applying what we’ve learned from development of the first core stage to accelerate work on core stages 2 and 3, already in production at Michoud, as well as the Exploration Upper Stage that will power NASA’s most ambitious Artemis missions», said Shannon.

Mars 2020 Rover

The capsule-shaped aeroshell that will protect NASA’s Mars 2020 rover was delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida on December 13, 2019. Built by Lockheed Martin, the aeroshell will encapsulate and protect the Mars 2020 rover during its deep space cruise to Mars, and from the intense heat as the entry system descends through the Martian atmosphere to the surface of Mars.

The aeroshell for the Mars 2020 rover was designed and built at Lockheed Martin Space near Denver and is comprised of two parts, the heat shield and the backshell

Because of the large mass and unique entry trajectory profile that could create external temperatures up to 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit/2,093 degrees Celsius, the heat shield uses a tiled Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) thermal protection system instead of the Mars heritage Super Lightweight Ablator (SLA) 561V. This will only be the second time PICA has flown on a Mars mission.

«Even though we have the experience of building the nearly identical aeroshell for the Curiosity Rover, the almost 15-foot/4.5-meter diameter composite structure was just as big a challenge to build and test 10 years later», said Neil Tice, Mars 2020 aeroshell program manager at Lockheed Martin Space. «We’ve built every Mars aeroshell entry system for NASA of its 40 years of exploring Mars, so we pulled from that experience to build this important system».

Along with the Curiosity mission, this is the largest aeroshell/heat shield ever built for a planetary mission at 4.5 meters (nearly 15 feet) in diameter. In contrast, the aeroshell/heat shield of the InSight lander measured 8.6 feet/2.62 m and Apollo capsule heat shields measured just less than 13 feet/3.96 м.

The backshell and heat shield were transported from Lockheed Martin’s Waterton facility in Littleton, Colorado where they were built, to nearby Buckley Air Force Base. They were then loaded onto an Air Force transport plane and flown to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Recently, Lockheed Martin integrated the MSL Entry Descent and Landing Instrument (MEDLI2) onto the heat shield and backshell. Provided by NASA’s Langley and Ames Research Centers, MEDLI2 will collect temperature and pressure data during the spacecraft’s descent through the Martian atmosphere.

The Mars 2020 rover is in testing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California., which manages the Mars 2020 project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The mission will launch in July 2020 and land on Mars in February 2021 at the Jezero Crater.

RoMan

Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like Soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.

RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot with arms and hands – necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths (Photo by David McNally)

RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands – necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.

The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s (CCDC) Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.

As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (RCTA), the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.

The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.

«Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task», said CCDC ARL’s Doctor Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.

During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.

Kessens said Soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.

«Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting Soldiers in harm’s way», Kessens said.

This work, and other research, will be showcased October 17 at the RCTA’s integration capstone event at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center in Pittsburgh.

The CCDC Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL discovers, innovates and transitions science and technology to ensure dominant strategic land power. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our Nation’s wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.