James Webb Telescope at JSC

Back on May 31st the media was invited to Johnson Space Center to view the James Webb Space Telescope before it undergoes Cryo-Testing. We were taken up to a elevated platform which had a view into the clean room at the end of it. A short briefing was held, and we were then allowed to view the Webb through a window and interview experts.

 

Below are a few photos from the event. To see more photos and a few behind the scene shots, check out my Flicker album here.

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Building 32 at JSC. Credit: Michael Galindo/AmericaSpace.com

 

Chamber-A is now the largest high-vacuum, cryogenic-optical test chamber in the world. It is 55 feet (16.8 meters) in diameter by 90 feet (27.4 meters) tall. The main door alone is 40 feet in diameter (12.2 meters), weighs 40 tons, and is opened and closed hydraulically.

 

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James Webb Telescope seen at the opening of Chamber-A. Credit: Michael Galindo/AmericaSpace.com

 

From a NASA Press Release: The telescope was transported from NASA Goddard to NASA Johnson on May 4, 2017. After several weeks of unpacking, deploying, and instrumenting for the test, the chamber door will be closed and the flight hardware will be tested around-the-clock for 93 straight days. In the beginning, it will take a few weeks for everything inside the chamber to cool down and reach steady cryogenic temperatures, and similarly at the end it will take the final few weeks for everything to warm up to room temperature again, but every minute of the entire 93 days is jam-packed with specific tests to verify that the telescope performs as designed and will operate as it should in space. Subsequently, the telescope will continue on its journey to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, for final assembly and testing with the spacecraft bus and sunshield prior to launch in 2018

 

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A look at the gold Primary Mirror. Credit: Michael Galindo

 

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A look at the elevated platform that gave us a look into the clean room. Credit: Michael Galindo

 

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The door leading to both Chambers A & B. Credit: Michael Galindo

 

Keep an eye out for my next post which I will give you a better look at Chamber-A before the Webb arrived.

 

For more information on the James Webb Telescope visit: https://jwst.nasa.gov/.

 

Special Thank You to NASA’s Johnson Space Center & AmericaSpace.

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Testing the RS-25

Testing the RS-25

Some of the photos in this post were taken by me for AmericaSpace.com unless otherwise noted. All Text comes from NASA.

 

Built in 1961, Stennis Space Center is NASA’s rocket engine test center. Located in Hancock County, Mississippi, it has the nation’s largest test stands. Of these the A-1 test stand and the dual position B-1/B-2 test stand were built in the 1960s for NASA’s Apollo Program. They were re-used for Space Shuttle testing and now support various propulsion programs.

 

Facts About the Test Stands

 

-The stands use water to keep themselves cool. A flame deflector has thousands of holes that spray water to cool the heat and deaden the sound.

 

-Single RS-25 engines are tested on the A-1 Test Stand.

 

-The A-1 Test Stand is 158 feet tall and can support up to 1.1 million pounds of thrust.

 

-NASA’s A-1 Test Stand was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984.

 

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The A-1 Test Stand.

 

 

-The First two Core Stages will be tested on the B-2 Test Stand.

 

-B-2 is 360 feet tall and can support up to 3 million pounds of thrust.

 

-In the 1960s and ’70s, well water was pumped to the B stand. In the ’80s, water was diverted from a manmade canal system into a 66 million gallon reservoir.

 

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The B Test Stand. B-1 is on the right and B-2 where the SLS Core Stage will be tested is on the left.

 

 

Why Test the Engines?

 

-Engine Demands: RS-25 will be operating at 109% power versus 104.5%Routinely flown during the Space Shuttle program.

 

-New Conditions: Propellant inlet pressures will be higher. The propellant will be colder, and the nozzles will get hotter at launch due to their proximity to the booster nozzles.

 

-New Hardware: Along with new demands on the engine, the RS-25 also has a new engine controller and other components that have never flown or have never flown together that must be tested.

 

-New Core Stage: After the engines and engine controllers are installed, NASA needs to test the first SLS Flight Core Stage together with all four engines for the first time, known as the “Green Run”.

 

-Testing Testers: Testing also compares actual test readings against predictions made by humans and computers. Thus ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the predictions.

 

Want to see an actual RS-25 get tested on the A-1 Test Stand? Click here and turn up the volume!
See more photos of the Stennis Space Center test stands and RS-25 test here.

The RS-25 Engine

The RS-25 Engine

Some of the photos in this post were taken by me for AmericaSpace.com unless otherwise noted. All Text comes from NASA.

 

For three decades, the Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engine propelled the Space Shuttle. Now, this powerful engine has been selected for the Space Launch System (SLS) for its high performance and reliability.

 

When SLS is launched, its 4 RS-25 engines fire non-stop for 8.5 minutes. These proven engines, plus 2 Solid Rocket Boosters, make the SLS the most powerful rocket in the world. The 4 engines on the Core Stage of the SLS will produce 2 million pounds of thrust.

 

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Credit: AmericaSpace.com

 

RS-25 Facts:

-Each RS-25 engine is 14 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter, about the size of a compact car, and weighs approximately 8,000 pounds.

 

-Operating temperatures of the RS-25 range from -423*F to 6,000*F!

 

-Hot gasses exit the RS-25 nozzle at 13x the speed of sound! Fast enough to travel from Los Angeles to New York City in 15 minutes.

 

-The RS-25 burns clean. Its exhaust is water vapor not smoke. The exhaust is so dense that it actually can fall like rain.

 

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Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

 

What Do the Different Parts of the RS-25 Do?

Four powerful turbopumps perform much like giant hearts, creating immense pressure that controls the flow of liquid Hydrogen (LH2) and Liquid Oxygen (LOX) into the combustion chamber.

The main combustion chamber combines fuel and oxygen in the “belly” of the engine.

 

The nozzle directs the flow and increases the velocity of the exhaust.

 

The engine controller monitors engine conditions and operates the valves, pumps, and actuators that control thrust.

 

Want to see video of an actual RS-25 Engine being tested? Click here to see!

See more photos from the most recent RS-25 engine test by clicking here.

Credit: NASA

 

The Road to Launch

 

-The RS-25 engines are designed and built by Aerojet Rocketdyne in California.

 

-They are then shipped and assembled for testing at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

 

-Once tested they are integrated with the core stage at Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.

 

-They are then transported by barge to Florida for launch.
A big thank you to Michoud Assembly Facility, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Stennis Space Center.

The Journal of Voyager 2 (Part 12)

What follows below is an excerpt from the 1989 JPL Publication “The Voyager Neptune Travel Guide”.

 

 

The reader is now invited to share in the Journal of Voyager 2-an imaginary diary maintained by Voyager 2 for several million years into the remote future.

 

Star Date 2.745 (26,262 A.D.)

 

I had been entranced in a deep slumber when aroused by my automatic sensors as they locked onto a distant swarm of tiny bodies. The sight was beautiful to behold. I became aware that I was observing a small local concentration of cometary nucleii-part of the vast Oort Cloud. There, over a trillion of the solar system’s icy building blocks orbit in a disk extending from perhaps 20,000 to 200,000 AU.

 

At times, the inner orbiting comets become dislodged by interstellar clouds (or perhaps a “death star”). Occasionally these wayward travelers impact Earth. Some believe that cometary impacts are responsible for biological extinctions like the one that occurred on Earth over 65 million years ago. Its rather ironic that certain other scientists believe that life on Earth originated from organic molecules carried by comets.

 

Star Date 2.770 (28,635 A.D.)

 

Now the Oort Cloud is but the wake I left behind as I exited the solar system. How free I feel. The Sun, by now only a slight bit brighter than Sirius, no longer curtails me. I am ready to sit back and enjoy what will surely be the greatest show beyond Earth.

 

Star Date 3.522 (296,036 A.D.)

 

Today I fell in love with the night. I encountered Sirius, the brightest star visible to Earth with 23 times the luminosity of the Sun. I have traveled far to reach its shore. If I were and automobile driving across a bridge which wrapped around the circumference of the Earth, it would have taken me nearly four billion trips across the bridge to have completed the same distance. At 55 mph, the trip would have taken nearly 179 million years!

Revolutionary Camera Recording Propulsion Data Completes Groundbreaking Test

What follows is from a NASA Press Release dated Aug. 5, 2016.

 

While thousands turned out to watch NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) recently complete a full-scale test of its booster, few were aware of the other major test occurring simultaneously. NASA’s High Dynamic Range Stereo X (HiDyRS-X) project, a revolutionary high-speed, high dynamic range camera, filmed the test, recording propulsion video data in never before seen detail.

 

 

The HiDyRS-X project originated from a problem that exists when trying to film rocket motor tests. Rocket motor plumes, in addition to being extremely loud, are also extremely bright, making them difficult to record without drastically cutting down the exposure settings on the camera. Doing so, however, darkens the rest of the image, obscuring other important components on the motor.

 

 

Traditionally, video cameras record using one exposure at a time, but HiDyRS-X records multiple, slow motion video exposures at once, combining them into a high dynamic range video that perfectly exposes all areas of the video image.

 

 

The HiDyRS-X project began as part of NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Early Career Initiative (ECI), designed to give young engineers the opportunity to lead projects and develop hardware alongside leading innovators in industry. Howard Conyers, a structural dynamist at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, was awarded as an ECI grant in 2015. After initial proof of concept and a preliminary design review, the HiDyRS-X project was placed within NASA’s Game Changing Development program to complete its first prototype. Created in partnership with Innovative Imaging and Research Corporation, the project was tested on small rocket nozzle plumes at Stennis.

 

 

The massive booster test served as a rare opportunity to test the HiDyRS-X hardware in a full-scale environment. The Qualification Motor 2, or QM-2, test was held at Orbital ATK’s test facility in Promontory, Utah, and was the second and final booster test before SLS’s first test flight in late 2018. SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world, and will take our astronauts farther into deep space than ever before.

 

In moving from the smaller-scale tests to QM-2, Conyers says the most difficult challenges were seen in compensating for brightness of the booster plume, which is several orders of magnitude brighter than what they had tested before. They were also faced with transporting and assembling the equipment at the QM-2 test site located in the desert of Utah — a remote environment requiring the HiDyRS-X team to be self-sufficient, as well as deliberate and methodical in their preparation and set up. Unlike the smaller scale rocket engine tests at Stennis, boosters are extremely powerful and, once ignited, cannot be turned off or restarted. The HiDyRS-X team had one shot at getting good footage.

 

 

In the days prior to the test of QM-2, the HiDyRS-X team double- and triple-checked their connections and start procedures to allow the camera to collect as much footage as possible. Leading up to the day of the test, the team performed several more dry runs using the camera to ensure that everything was working perfectly, Conyers says.

 

 

With thousands of people assembled over a mile away to watch the fiery plume of the solid rocket booster, Conyers and his team monitored the camera from a safe distance, ready to act in case something went wrong. As the countdown clock ticked down to zero, the SRB ignited and the HiDyRS-X team watched the camera’s automatic timer fail to go off. Luckily, they were quick to hit the manual override, allowing the camera to turn on just moments after ignition.

 

 

Once engaged, the camera recorded several seconds of the two-minute test before the power source was suddenly disconnected. In an unanticipated series of events, the sheer power of the booster shook the ground enough for the power cable to be removed from the power box.

 

 

Having had two unexpected camera outages during the test, Conyers described being disappointed.

 

 

“I was bummed,” Conyers says. “Especially because we did not experience any failures during the dry runs.”

 

 

When the team reviewed the camera footage, they saw a level of detail on par with the other successful HiDyRS-X tests. The team saw several elements never before caught on film in an engine test.

 

 

“I was amazed to see the ground support mirror bracket tumbling and the vortices shedding in the plume,” Conyers says. The team was able to gather interesting data from the slow motion footage, and Conyers also discovered something else by speeding up the playback.

 

 

“I was able to clearly see the exhaust plume, nozzle and the nozzle fabric go through its gimbaling patterns, which is an expected condition, but usually unobservable in slow motion or normal playback rates.”

 

 

Although initially disappointed with the camera anomalies, Conyers and the HiDyRS-X team came out of QM-2 with proof that their technology worked and that it had the ability to provide unprecedented views of high exposure rocket motor tests. The test experience also left Conyers with two major lessons learned for the future. First, to start the camera a full ten seconds before ignition to allow the ground team time to start the camera manually in the event of a timer failure. The second lesson, Conyers adds, is to understand just how powerful the engine tests are to properly protect and secure the electronics hardware from damage or disconnection.

 

 

“Failure during testing of the camera is the opportunity to get smarter,” Conyers says. “Without failure, technology and innovation is not possible.”

 

 

HiDyRS-X will continue testing at Stennis, while a second prototype of the camera is built with more advanced high dynamic range capabilities, using data gathered from the past few years of experimentation. The second HiDyRS-X prototype will be made with an improved manufacturing process to enhance the alignment capabilities of multiple exposure settings — a challenge overcome in the first prototype.

 

 

HiDyRS-X not only stands as a game changing technology expected to revolutionize propulsion video analysis, but it also stands as a testament to ECI and the power of determined young engineers within NASA. Seasoned NASA employees and recent hires alike have the capacity to significantly contribute to NASA’s research and development goals. ECI’s emphasis on pairing young engineers with innovative industry partners enables technological leaps that would otherwise be impossible.

 

 

“The Stennis HiDyRS-X ECI project continues to be an exciting and challenging public-private collaboration of which we are proud to be a part,” says Mary Pagnutti, president of the Innovative Imaging and Research Corporation. “It’s giving us the chance to mentor early career technologists and advance the way we image and assess rocket motor firings.”

 

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Image of Space Launch System Qualification Motor 2 test or, QM-2, without using HiDyRS-X camera. Credit: NASA
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Image of Space Launch System Qualification Motor 2 test or, QM-2, with HiDyRS-X camera. Credit: NASA

1 Month till Asteroid Sample Return Mission Launches

September 8th is launch day for OSIRIS-REx. But today August 8th sees the parts and pieces of the launcher and spacecraft coming together.
OSIRIS-REx will launch atop a United Launch Allience Atlas V 411 rocket. The 411 stands for a 4 meter fairing, 1 Centaur main engine, and 1 solid rocket booster.

The ULA Atlas V Common Booster Core arriving at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: ULA
The Atlas V Centaur stage at CCAFS. Credit: ULA
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Credit: Lockheed Martin
Credit: OSIRIS-REx Team

What follows below is an excerpt from the 1989 JPL Publication “The Voyager Neptune Travel Guide”.

 

 

The reader is now invited to share in the Journal of Voyager 2-an imaginary diary maintained by Voyager 2 for several million years into the remote future.

 

Star Date 1.335 (2018 A.D.)

 

I have become to weak to operate my instruments. My electrical energy is fading, and I am feeling old and useless. The planet which gave me life said goodby. I will no longer hear its voice, nor it my heartbeat. The fear I feel right now is like a scream which shakes me from within. Will I grow mad in this solitude?

 

Star Date 2.135 (3965 A.D.)

 

God must have been dusting today. I saw a vast interstellar cloud in the distance. Actually, supernova remnants and strong stellar winds sweep up gas and dust to form these clouds. It was hard to say how far away the cloud was; some are a million times the mass of the sun. Interstellar clouds are the birthplace of new stars. Because complex organic molecules have been detected in these clouds, some scientists believe that the first stages of organic evolution occur there, also.

 

About once every 100 million years, the sun collides with an interstellar cloud of sufficient density that the force of impact effectively “blows out” the solar wind as if it were a candle and the Sun a birthday cake. The Sun reacts by increasing its emission of UV and X rays. This could have serious impact to life on Earth because it could lead to extreme climatic changes resulting in global overheating or deep freezing.

In 1990, Voyager 1 took the famous “Pale Blue Dot” picture looking back at Earth. In 2013, the Very Long Baseline Array got the reverse-angle shot — this radio telescope image showing the signal of the spacecraft as a similar point of light. Image credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF