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NASA/Charles Beason Artemis II NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman, and Christina Koch of NASA, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen signed the Orion stage adapter for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 27. The hardware is the topmost portion of the SLS rocket that they will launch atop during Artemis II when the four astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft will venture around the Moon.
From left, Artemis II astronauts Jeremy Hansen, Christina Koch, Victor Glover, and Reid Wiseman sign the SLS Orion stage adapter for the Artemis II mission during their visit to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 27.
Image credits: NASA/Charles Beason
The Orion stage adapter is a small ring structure that connects NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the SLS rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage and fully manufactured at Marshall. At five feet tall and weighing 1,800 pounds, the adapter is the smallest major element of the SLS rocket. During Artemis II, the adapter’s diaphragm will serve as a barrier to prevent gases created during launch from entering the spacecraft.
NASA is working to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, advanced spacesuits and rovers, the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission. Through Artemis, NASA will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and prepare for the next giant leap: sending astronauts to Mars.
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From the Philippines to the U.S. Air Force and Space Force: How one service members unique upbringing forged a path dedicated to military serviceBy Space Force
For Enterprise Talent Management Office Senior Enlisted Leader Chief Master Sgt. Swani Caraballo, military service runs in the family. However, her legacy is not forged from the traditional “military brat” paradigm. In fact, her father served in the German army, and her maternal grandfather wore the uniform for his home nation of the Philippines. While both of these influences indeed shaped her military destiny, it was actually a poignant experience as a young girl that solidified her desire to join the Air Force.
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NASA Glenn Helps Military Service Members Transition to Civilian Life
NASA Glenn Research Center’s Sydney Khamphoune (left) and Sam Yousef pose in front of U.S. and NASA flags.Credit: NASA/Sara Lowthian-Hanna John Glenn. Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin. Jim Lovell. Guion Bluford. These iconic astronauts shared a commonality before they began their careers at NASA: They all served in the United States military.
NASA values veterans and their commitment to serving America, and the agency seeks to hire veterans and military spouses, offer career development opportunities, and provide meaningful resources. Each NASA center has a resource group that connects veteran employees and their families with allies, creating a support network to help them through the unique challenges they face.
“It’s a complete culture shock coming home from the military and having to relearn how to be a part of a civilian society,” said Samantha Yousef, Veterans Employee Resource Group chair at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
Yousef organizes veteran observance events, introduces various programs focused on veteran resources to the center, and meets with group members to discuss how to improve inclusivity and potential outreach activities.
One initiative new to NASA Glenn is the Department of Defense SkillBridge program. SkillBridge gives transitioning service members an opportunity to gain civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships, or internships during their last 180 days of service.
“Many soldiers, sailors, and airmen enter the military directly out of high school or college with little to no workforce experience,” Yousef said. “They learn the importance of teamwork, leadership, and dedication to the mission at a young age. However, when it’s time to separate from the military, they’re sometimes lost in transition.”
Sydney Khamphoune is Glenn’s most recent SkillBridge fellow. Khamphoune joined the Navy after high school, and because she wanted to learn more about each job on her ship, she was classified as “undesignated.”
“Undesignated means you’re subject to the needs of the Navy, and you go wherever they need you,” Khamphoune said. “They put me into the Deck Department, so I was the person painting the side of the ship or pulling the ship in with the lines when we came into port.”
Stationed on the USS Oak Hill in Norfolk, Virginia, Khamphoune spent much of her time sweeping water off the deck of the ship and finishing work late into the night, even after her crewmates went to bed. After a year in the Deck Department, she had the opportunity to choose a new role and became a personnel specialist.
Like a human resources specialist in the civilian world, Khamphoune provided counseling related to Navy jobs and assisted with personnel transfers, separations, and retirements. She served in Virginia for five years before coming to Ohio to serve at the Department of Defense’s Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
She served in the Navy for nine years before deciding it was time to separate. In her Transition Assistance Program — a program that offers support for service members separating from the military — she learned about the SkillBridge program.
Sydney Khamphoune is NASA Glenn Research Center’s most recent SkillBridge fellow.Credit: NASA/Sara Lowthian-Hanna. “I saw NASA on the list and immediately applied,” Khamphoune said. “I wasn’t going to apply anywhere else. It was NASA or bust.”
Khamphoune was thrilled to receive a phone call — on her birthday, no less — from NASA assigning her to Glenn’s Procurement Office. In this role, she assists contracting officers, including those that work on contracts for construction or janitorial services, with their daily tasks.
“I’m learning so much. I came in with no knowledge, and now I can help the contracting officers,” Khamphoune said. “One contracting officer had a massive list of obligations to complete, and I offered to help. He trained me for two days, and then I knocked out the whole list.”
Khamphoune still thinks back to when she first enlisted in the Navy and appreciates where that journey has taken her.
“I never imagined being at NASA right now, and since I’ve been here, I’ve gained a lot more confidence,” Khamphoune said. “The environment they’re creating here is great. It doesn’t matter if you’re new or have been here for a while — your opinion has value, and you can bring something new to the table. I feel like this experience is precious and personal because I’m finding out who I am in a different way.”
Learn more about SkillBridge and the many routes to a NASA internship.
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NASA and Boeing are working to complete the agency’s verification and validation activities ahead of Starliner’s first flight with astronauts to the International Space Station. While Boeing is targeting March to have the spacecraft ready for flight, teams decided during a launch manifest evaluation that a launch in April will better accommodate upcoming crew rotations and cargo resupply missions this spring.
The Starliner team works to finalize the mate of the crew module and new service module for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test that will take NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams to and from the International Space Station.Boeing/John Grant Once the spacecraft meets the agency’s safety requirements, NASA’s Boeing Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT) will see astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams perform the first crewed mission of the spacecraft designed to take astronauts to and from the orbital laboratory.
Ahead of CFT, Boeing has completed P213 tape removal in the upper dome of the Starliner crew compartment and work is underway to remove or remediate the tape in the lower dome of the spacecraft. These hardware remediation efforts inside the Starliner production facility at NASA Kennedy are expected to be completed during the next several weeks. After the P213 tape remediation efforts conclude, engineers will conduct final assessments to ensure acceptable risk of any remaining tape.
A set of parachutes is on track to be delivered and installed on the CFT spacecraft by the end of this year to support the current target launch date. Separately, the team also is planning a drop test of Starliner’s updated drogue and main parachutes. The parachutes will incorporate a planned strengthening of main canopy suspension lines and the recent design of the drogue and main parachute soft-link joints, which will increase the safety factor for the system. The drop test is planned for early 2024 based on the current parachute delivery schedule.
Boeing and NASA also are planning modifications to the active thermal control system valves to improve long-term functionality following a radiator bypass valve issue discovered during ground operations earlier this year. As discussed during a Starliner media teleconference in June, teams have modified the spacecraft hardware and identified forward work to prevent a similar issue in the future. Options include a system purge to prevent stiction, component upgrades and operational mitigations.
Additionally, about 98% of the certification products required for the flight test are complete, and NASA and Boeing anticipate closure on remaining CFT certification products early next year. Meanwhile, NASA and Boeing have made significant progress on requirement closures related to manual crew control of the spacecraft and abort system analysis.
The latest version of Starliner’s CFT flight software completed qualification testing and is undergoing standard hardware and software integration testing inside Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab. Starliner’s crew and service modules remain mated and await continuation of standard preflight processing.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket also is in Florida at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station awaiting integration with the spacecraft.
The NASA astronauts who will fly aboard CFT continue to train for their roughly eight-day mission to the orbiting laboratory, which includes working with operations and mission support teams to participate in various simulations across all phases of flight.
Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests, including Orbital Flight Test-2, which docked to the space station on May 21, 2022, following a launch two days prior from Kennedy. The spacecraft remained docked to space station for four days before successfully landing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Follow NASA’s commercial crew blog or CFT mission blog for the latest information on progress. Details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on X, and commercial crew on Facebook.
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The International Space Station’s U.S. segment and portions of the Russian segment are pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly around of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Nov. 8, 2021. Prominent at the top in this view, are the Columbus laboratory module, the Harmony module and its space-facing docking port, and the Kibo laboratory module with its external pallet. NASA NASA and its industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are planning for the next set of missions to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission to the orbiting laboratory is targeted to launch no earlier than mid-February. The mission will carry NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, as well as Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin to the space station to conduct a wide range of operational and research activities. Routine maintenance and processing of the Crew-8 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft is in work. This will be the first spaceflight for Dominick, Epps, and Grebenkin, and the third for Barratt. Crew-8 is expected to return to Earth in late August 2024, following a short handover with the agency’s Crew-9 mission.
Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT)
The first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft, named NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), is planned for no earlier than mid-April. CFT will send NASA astronauts and test pilots Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a demonstration flight to prove the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system. Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, spend approximately eight days docked to the space station, and return to Earth with a parachute and airbag-assisted ground landing in the desert of the western United States.
NASA will provide an updated status of CFT readiness as more information becomes available.
Looking further ahead in 2024, NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than mid-August for the launch of the agency’s Crew-9, SpaceX’s ninth crew rotation mission to the space station for NASA. A crew of four will be announced at a later date.
10th Crew Rotation Mission
The 10th commercial crew rotation opportunity to the space station is targeted for early 2025. NASA is planning for either SpaceX’s Crew-10 or Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission in this slot. The Starliner-1 date was adjusted to allow for the post-flight review of the Crew Flight Test and incorporation of anticipated learning, approvals of final certification products, and completion of readiness and certification reviews ahead of that mission.
For more insight on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program missions to the orbiting laboratory follow the commercial crew blog. More details can be found @commercial_crew on X and commercial crew on Facebook.
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