Tag Archives: NASA

X-plane

Supersonic commercial travel is on the horizon. On April 3, 2018, NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract to design, build and flight test the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, an X-plane designed to make supersonic passenger air travel a reality.

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ X-plane design will cruise at 55,000 feet/16,764 m, Mach 1.4, and will generate a gentle, supersonic heartbeat instead of a sonic boom
The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ X-plane design will cruise at 55,000 feet/16,764 m, Mach 1.4, and will generate a gentle, supersonic heartbeat instead of a sonic boom

«It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale», said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics. «Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues».

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works will build a full-scale experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, of its preliminary design developed under NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) effort. The X-plane will help NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning commercial supersonic travel over land.

«We’re honored to continue our partnership with NASA to enable a new generation of supersonic travel», said Peter Iosifidis, Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. «We look forward to applying the extensive work completed under QueSST to the design, build and flight test of the X-plane, providing NASA with a demonstrator to make supersonic commercial travel possible for passengers around the globe».

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and NASA have partnered for more than a decade to enable the next generation of commercial supersonic aircraft. NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract in February 2016 for the preliminary design of the supersonic X-plane flight demonstrator.

The aircraft will be built at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, and will conduct its first flight in 2021.

Clean Room

All the major elements of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now reside in a giant clean room at Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Redondo Beach facility, setting the stage for final assembly and testing of the giant space telescope that will explore the origins of the universe and search for life beyond our solar system.

NASAs James Webb Space Telescope Optics and Science Instruments in Northrop Grumman’s Clean Room
NASAs James Webb Space Telescope Optics and Science Instruments in Northrop Grumman’s Clean Room

The Optical Telescope and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) arrived at Northrop Grumman in February. It was previously at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it successfully completed cryogenic testing.

OTIS and the spacecraft element, which is Webb’s combined sunshield and spacecraft bus, now both call Northrop Grumman home. Webb is scheduled to launch from Kourou, French Guiana in 2019.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space observatory of the next decade. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

InSight Spacecraft

NASA’s latest mission to Mars took its first trip on its long journey to the Red Planet. On February 28, Lockheed Martin delivered NASA’s InSight Mars lander to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The lander will now undergo final processing in preparation for a May 5 launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket.

Lockheed Martin delivered NASA’s InSight spacecraft to its California launch site on February 28, 2018. The Mars lander was shipped aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado to Vandenberg Air Force Base where it will undergo final processing in preparation for a May launch
Lockheed Martin delivered NASA’s InSight spacecraft to its California launch site on February 28, 2018. The Mars lander was shipped aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado to Vandenberg Air Force Base where it will undergo final processing in preparation for a May launch

The InSight lander will study the deep interior of Mars and will address one of the most fundamental questions of planetary and solar system science: how do terrestrial planets form? By mapping the basic structure of the planet, the mission will help scientists understand the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system more than four billion years ago. Lockheed Martin designed and built the spacecraft and is responsible for testing, launch processing and spacecraft flight operations.

«InSight is an amazing spacecraft and we can’t wait to see it on the surface of Mars later this year», said Stu Spath, InSight program manager and director of Deep Space Exploration Systems at Lockheed Martin Space. «We’ve worked closely with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to design and build this spacecraft. Its environmental testing is complete, and now the launch team is moving to California to perform final preparations for a May launch».

The 1,380-pound/626-kg spacecraft, consisting of the lander, aeroshell and cruise stage, was shipped aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane, courtesy of the Air Force Air Mobility Command, in an environmentally controlled container. The plane, spacecraft and support personnel took off from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado and touched down at Vandenberg Air Force Base. While at Vandenberg at the Astrotech Space Operations facility, the spacecraft will undergo final processing including system-level checkout, propellant loading and a final spin balance test.

The InSight mission’s principal investigator is JPL’s Bruce Banerdt. The Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France’s space agency, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are each contributing a science instrument to the two-year scientific mission. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

James Webb

The two halves of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now reside at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, where they will come together to form the complete observatory.

The Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea (STTARS) container enclosed with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Optical Telescope and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) arriving at Northrop Grumman Redondo Beach, California facilities on Friday, February 2
The Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea (STTARS) container enclosed with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Optical Telescope and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) arriving at Northrop Grumman Redondo Beach, California facilities on Friday, February 2

«This is a major milestone», said Eric Smith, program director for Webb at NASA. «With the arrival of the science payload at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility, we will now carefully test the observatory to ensure the work of thousands of scientists and engineers across the globe is ready for launch and will enable people to seek the first luminous objects in the universe and search for signs of habitable planets».

The Optical Telescope and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) of Webb arrived at Northrop Grumman on Friday, February 2. It was previously at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it successfully completed cryogenic testing.

In preparation for leaving Johnson, OTIS was placed inside a specially designed shipping container called the Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea. The container was then loaded onto a U.S. military C-5 Charlie aircraft at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, just outside of Johnson. From there, OTIS took an overnight flight to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Upon its arrival, OTIS was driven from LAX to Northrop Grumman. OTIS and the spacecraft element, which is Webb’s combined sunshield and spacecraft bus, now both call Northrop Grumman home.

«It’s exciting to have all three Webb elements – OTIS, sunshield and spacecraft bus, here at our campus», said Scott Willoughby, vice president and program manager for Webb at Northrop Grumman. «The team is excited to begin the final stages of integration of the world’s largest space telescope».

During the summer, OTIS will receive additional testing before being combined with the spacecraft element to form the complete James Webb Space Telescope observatory. Once the telescope is fully integrated, the entire observatory will undergo more tests during what is called observatory-level testing.

Webb is scheduled to launch from Kourou, French Guiana, in 2019.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space observatory of the next decade. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Major milestone

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser program passed a major NASA milestone for its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) contract with the completion of a successful Free-Flight test, which produced subsonic flight and landing performance data.

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser Spacecraft Passes Major NASA Milestone after Free-Flight Test
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser Spacecraft Passes Major NASA Milestone after Free-Flight Test

Milestone 4B validated the spacecraft’s design for a safe and reliable return of cargo services to Earth through a gentle runway landing, signaling the program is one step closer to orbital operations.

The Dream Chaser will go to the space station for at least six cargo resupply missions starting in 2020 under a separate contract, NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2).

The NASA Commercial Crew Program reviewed the data, confirming it fully met or exceeded all requirements and authorized full payment of the milestone.  Additionally, SNC collected a significant amount of additional information that will be used for the final vehicle design.

«The test was a huge success and when we looked at the data, we were thrilled to see how closely our flight performance projections matched the actual flight data», said Steve Lindsey, vice president of SNC’s Space Exploration Systems business unit. «This gives us high confidence in our atmospheric flight performance as we move towards orbital operations».

The approach and landing test included intentional maneuvers both to assess the responsiveness of the Dream Chaser to control inputs and to measure the resulting stability of the vehicle under very dynamic, stressful conditions. This showcased the aerodynamic capability of the Dream Chaser as well as performance of the integrated computer system that autonomously returned the vehicle to a safe runway landing. These are critical components for orbital missions to and from the International Space Station.

Mark Sirangelo, executive vice president for SNC’s Space Systems business area, commented, «Achievements of this magnitude require the involvement and collaboration of many people. The Free-Flight test took place at the same historic location where the sound barrier was broken 70 years ago and where the Space Shuttle program began 40 years ago. With that historic legacy, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to our whole flight team».

«I want to especially thank NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Director, David McBride, the entire Armstrong team, the U.S. Air Force, NASA’s Commercial Crew and CRS2 programs, and our industry partners, including Draper Laboratories, who helped design our flight software. Most importantly, I want to say how proud I am of the SNC Dream Chaser flight and program teams who have performed above and beyond to make the flight and milestone a success», Sirangelo added.

The Free-Flight test of the Dream Chaser was performed at Edwards Air Force Base, California on November 11. The vehicle’s next milestone will be the CRS2 Dream Chaser Critical Design Review, scheduled for 2018.

 

About Dream Chaser Spacecraft

Owned and operated by SNC, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission space utility vehicle. It is capable of transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station resides, and is the only commercial, lifting-body vehicle capable of a runway landing. The Dream Chaser Cargo System was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery and disposal services to the space station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. All Dream Chaser CRS2 cargo missions are planned to land at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

Free-Flight test

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces a successful atmospheric Free-Flight test of its Dream Chaser spacecraft, signaling the program is another achievement closer to orbital operations.

The Dream Chaser landing after the Free-Flight test at Edwards AFB, CA on Saturday, November 11
The Dream Chaser landing after the Free-Flight test at Edwards AFB, CA on Saturday, November 11

The full-scale Dream Chaser test vehicle was lifted from a Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter on Saturday, released and flew a pre-planned flight path ending with an autonomous landing on Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.

«The Dream Chaser flight test demonstrated excellent performance of the spacecraft’s aerodynamic design and the data shows that we are firmly on the path for safe, reliable orbital flight», said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space System business area.

The first orbital vehicle is scheduled to go to the International Space Station as soon as 2020 for at least six missions as part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract (CRS2). The missions will supply astronauts with much needed supplies and technical support elements and enable the gentle return of scientific experiments. The test vehicle was originally developed under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities agreement (CCiCap).

«The Dream Chaser spacecraft today has proven its atmospheric flight performance along with its return and landing capability. This advances our program and the Dream Chaser towards orbital flight, while meeting the final milestone for our NASA CCiCap agreement and supporting milestone 5 of the CRS2 contract», Sirangelo added.

The test verified and validated the performance of the Dream Chaser spacecraft in the final approach and landing phase of flight, modeling a successful return from the space station.  Most critically, by flying the same flight path that would be used returning from orbit, this free-flight proves the highly important landing attributes needed to bring back science and experiments from the space station.

SNC and NASA will evaluate information from the test, including the Dream Chaser aerodynamic and integrated system performance from 12,400 feet/3,780 meters altitude through main landing gear touchdown, nose landing gear touchdown and final rollout to wheel-stop on the runway. The Edwards Air Force Base runway is very similar to the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility runway that Dream Chaser will land on for CRS2 flights.

This approach and landing test expands on phase one flight testing, with key differences including adding specific program test inputs into the trajectory, which helps the engineers refine the aerodynamic characteristics of the vehicle. Saturday’s test also included orbital vehicle avionics and flight software for the first time, providing orbital vehicle design validation.

«I’m so proud of the Dream Chaser team for their continued excellence. This spacecraft is the future and has the ability to change the way humans interact with space, and I couldn’t be happier with SNC’s dedicated team and the results of the test», said Fatih Ozmen, CEO of SNC.

The Dream Chaser has been at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center since January undergoing a variety of tests in preparation for the Free-Flight. The spacecraft used the same historic hangar occupied by the Enterprise Shuttle.

Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser underwent a captive carry test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center here August 30. The test was part of the spacecraft’s Phase Two flight test efforts to advance the orbiter closer to space flight, according to an SNC press release.

The Dream Chaser prepares for a captive carry test August 30, 2017, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The test was part of the spacecraft’s Phase Two flight test efforts to advance the orbiter closer to space flight (U.S. Air Force photo/Kenji Thuloweit)
The Dream Chaser prepares for a captive carry test August 30, 2017, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The test was part of the spacecraft’s Phase Two flight test efforts to advance the orbiter closer to space flight (U.S. Air Force photo/Kenji Thuloweit)

A Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter carried the Dream Chaser over Edwards for about an hour. The goal was to reach an altitude and flight conditions the spacecraft would experience before being released on a free flight test, said company officials.

The Dream Chaser was delivered to Armstrong January 25 to undergo several months of testing at the center in preparation for its upcoming approach and landing flight on one of Edwards Air Force Base’s (AFB) runways.

The test series is part of a developmental space act agreement SNC has with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The test campaign will help SNC validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser, according to NASA.

Lee Archambault, SNC director of flight operations for the Dream Chaser program, said in a press release, «We are very pleased with the results from the captive carry test and everything we have seen points to a successful test with useful data for the next round of testing».

The August 30 captive carry test is one of two planned at Edwards for this year. The test obtained data and evaluated both individual and overall system performance, said the release. If the second captive carry test is a success, it will clear the way for a free-flight test.

The Dream Chaser is also being prepared to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract beginning in 2019. The data that SNC gathers from this test campaign will help influence and inform the final design of the cargo Dream Chaser, which will fly at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the space station by 2024, according to NASA.

A Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter carries the Dream Chaser over Edwards Air Force Base, California, for a captive carry test August 30, 2017 (U.S. Air Force photo/Kenji Thuloweit)
A Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter carries the Dream Chaser over Edwards Air Force Base, California, for a captive carry test August 30, 2017 (U.S. Air Force photo/Kenji Thuloweit)

Sunshield Layers

The five sunshield layers responsible for protecting the optics and instruments of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope are now fully installed. Northrop Grumman Corporation, which designed the Webb telescope’s optics, spacecraft bus, and sunshield for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, integrated the final flight layers into the sunshield subsystem.

Sunshield Layers Fully Integrated on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
Sunshield Layers Fully Integrated on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

Designed by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, the sunshield layers work together to reduce the temperatures between the hot and cold sides of the observatory by approximately 570 degrees Fahrenheit/299 degrees Celsius. Each successive layer of the sunshield, which is made of Kapton, is cooler than the one below.

«This is a huge milestone for the Webb telescope as we prepare for launch», said Jim Flynn, Webb sunshield manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. «The groundbreaking tennis-court sized sunshield will protect the optics from heat making it possible to gather images of the formation of stars and galaxies more than 13.5 billion years ago».

«All five sunshield membranes have been installed and will be folded over the next few weeks», said Paul Geithner, deputy project manager – technical for the Webb telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The Webb telescope’s sunshield will prevent the background heat from the Sun, Earth and Moon from interfering with the telescope’s infrared sensors. The five sunshield membrane layers that were manufactured by the NeXolve Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama, are each as thin as a human hair. The sunshield, along with the rest of the spacecraft, will fold origami-style into an Ariane 5 rocket.

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

Wind Tunnel Tests

Supersonic passenger airplanes are another step closer to reality as NASA and Lockheed Martin begin the first high-speed wind tunnel tests for the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Mechanical technician Dan Pitts prepares the model for wind tunnel testing (Credit: NASA)
Mechanical technician Dan Pitts prepares the model for wind tunnel testing (Credit: NASA)

The agency is testing a nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s X-plane design in Glenn’s 8’ × 6’ Supersonic Wind Tunnel. During the next eight weeks, engineers will expose the model to wind speeds ranging from approximately 150 to 950 mph/241 to 1,529 km/h (Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6) to understand the aerodynamics of the X-plane design as well as aspects of the propulsion system. NASA expects the QueSST X-plane to pave the way for supersonic flight over land in the not too distant future.

«We’ll be measuring the lift, drag and side forces on the model at different angles to verify that it performs as expected», said aerospace engineer Ray Castner, who leads propulsion testing for NASA’s QueSST effort. «We also want make sure the air flows smoothly into the engine under all operating conditions».

The Glenn wind tunnel is uniquely suited for the test because of its size and ability to create a wide range of wind speeds.

«We need to see how the design performs from just after takeoff, up to cruising at supersonic speed, back to the start of the landing approach», said David Stark, the facility manager. «The 8’ × 6’ supersonic wind tunnel allows us to test that sweet spot range of speeds all in one wind tunnel».

Recent research has shown it is possible for a supersonic airplane to be shaped in such a way that the shock waves it forms when flying faster than the speed of sound can generate a sound at ground level so quiet it will hardly will be noticed by the public, if at all.

«Our unique aircraft design is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, dramatically reducing the aircraft’s loudness», said Peter Iosifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. «Our design reduces the airplane’s noise signature to more of a ‘heartbeat’ instead of the traditional sonic boom that’s associated with current supersonic aircraft in flight today».

According to Dave Richwine, NASA’s QueSST preliminary design project manager, «This test is an important step along the path to the development of an X-plane that will be a key capability for the collection of community response data required to change the rules for supersonic overland flight».

NASA awarded Lockheed Martin a contract in February 2016 for the preliminary design of a supersonic X-plane flight demonstrator. This design phase has matured the details of the aircraft shape, performance and flight systems. Wind tunnel testing and analysis is expected to continue until mid-2017. Assuming funding is approved, the agency expects to compete and award another contract for the final design, fabrication, and testing of the low-boom flight demonstration aircraft.

The QueSST design is one of a series of X-planes envisioned in NASA’s New Aviation Horizons (NAH) initiative, which aims to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise through innovations in aircraft design that depart from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape. The design and build phases for the NAH aircraft will be staggered over several years with the low boom flight demonstrator starting its flight campaign around 2020, with other NAH X-planes following in subsequent years, depending on funding.

Acceptance testing

Raytheon completed factory acceptance testing of the flight operations system for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). With seven times the light-collecting power of its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, this next-generation telescope will gather data and images of dust clouds, stars and galaxies deeper into space.

The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror
The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror

Over 800 requirements were successfully verified on the JWST ground control system during the testing conducted at Raytheon’s Aurora, Colorado, facility, bringing NASA’s next space observatory one step closer to the scheduled 2018 launch.

«The JWST flight operations system is our latest generation of mission management and command and control capabilities for satellite operations», said Matt Gilligan, vice president of Raytheon Navigation and Environmental Solutions. «Our ground control system will download data from space and fly the telescope as it penetrates through cosmic dust to unlock the universe’s secrets like never before».

JWST takes observations in the infrared spectrum to penetrate cosmic dust to reveal the universe’s first galaxies, while observing newly forming planetary systems. JWST is expected to make observations for five years, will carry enough fuel for 10 years, and is designed to withstand impacts of space debris as it orbits far beyond the Earth’s Moon.

Raytheon installed the ground control system for JWST on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, under contract to the Space Telescope Science Institute.

 

Vital Facts

Proposed Launch Date JWST will be launched in October 2018
Launch Vehicle Ariane 5 ECA
Mission Duration 5 – 10 years
Total payload mass Approximately 6,200 kg/13,669 lbs, including observatory, on-orbit consumables and launch vehicle adaptor
Diameter of primary Mirror ~6.5 m/21.3 feet
Clear aperture of primary Mirror 25 m2/269 square feet
Primary mirror material beryllium coated with gold
Mass of primary mirror 705 kg/1,554 lbs
Mass of a single primary mirror segment 20.1 kg/44.3 lbs for a single beryllium mirror, 39.48 kg/87 lbs for one entire Primary Mirror Segment Assembly (PMSA)
Focal length 131.4 m/431.1 feet
Number of primary mirror segments 18
Optical resolution ~0.1 arc-seconds
Wavelength coverage 0.6 – 28.5 microns
Size of sun shield 21.197 × 14.162 m/69.5 × 46.5 feet
Orbit 1.5 million km from Earth orbiting the second Lagrange point
Operating Temperature under 50 K/-370 °F
Gold coating Thickness of gold coating = 100 × 10-9 meters (1000 angstroms). Surface area = 25 m2. Using these numbers plus the density of gold at room temperature (19.3 g/cm3), the coating is calculated to use 48.25 g of gold, about equal to a golf ball (A golf ball has a mass of 45.9 grams)