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Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA conducted the third RS-25 engine hot fire in a critical 12-test certification series Nov. 29, demonstrating a key capability necessary for flight of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket during Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.
NASA is conducting the series of tests to certify new manufacturing processes for producing RS-25 engines for future deep space missions, beginning with Artemis V. Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies Company and lead engines contractor for the SLS rocket, is incorporating new manufacturing techniques and processes, such as 3D printing, in production of new RS-25 engines.
Crews gimbaled, or pivoted, the RS-25 engine around a central point during the almost 11-minute (650 seconds) hot fire on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The gimbaling technique is used to control and stabilize SLS as it reaches orbit.
During the Nov. 29 test, operators also pushed the engine beyond any parameters it might experience during flight to provide a margin of operational safety. The 650-second test exceeded the 500 seconds RS-25 engines must operate to help power SLS to space. The RS-25 engine also was fired to 113% power level, exceeding the 111% level needed to lift SLS to orbit.
The ongoing series will stretch into 2024 as NASA continues its mission to return humans to the lunar surface to establish a long-term presence for scientific discovery and to prepare for human missions to Mars.
Four RS-25 engines fire simultaneously to generate a combined 1.6 million pounds of thrust at launch and 2 million pounds of thrust during ascent to help power each SLS flight. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne modified 16 holdover space shuttle main engines, all proven flightworthy at NASA Stennis, for Artemis missions I through IV.
Every new RS-25 engine that will help power SLS also will be tested at NASA Stennis. RS-25 tests at the site are conducted by a combined team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Syncom Space Services operators. Syncom Space Services is the prime contractor for Stennis facilities and operations.
Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on X, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtags #Artemis, #NASAStennis, #SLS. Follow and tag these accounts:
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Ham Radio in Space: Engaging with Students Worldwide for 40 Years
In May 2018, a student at Mill Springs Academy in Alpharetta, Georgia, Andrew Maichle, talked to NASA astronaut Scott Tingle on the International Space Station via amateur or ham radio. The experience profoundly affected Maichle, who went on to study electrical engineering at Clemson University in South Carolina.
“It was so cool to see in real time the utmost levels of what people in science are able to accomplish, and to talk to and interact with someone at that level,” Maichle recalls. “The space station is an incredible work of engineering and to interact with someone in space was just mind-boggling. I was extraordinarily honored and very lucky to have had the opportunity.”
40 Years of Contact
As of November 2023, students have been talking to astronauts in space for 40 years. Crew members on the space shuttle Columbia first used an amateur radio to communicate with people on Earth in 1983. That program, the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX), ended in 1999.
In October 2000, amateur radio equipment launched to the space station along with its first crew members, who deployed it on Nov. 13, 2000. ISS Ham Radio, also known as Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), has operated continuously since then. Each year, the program hosts about a hundred contacts. It has now directly connected over 100 crew members with more than 250,000 participants from 49 U.S. states, 63 countries, and every continent. These experiences encourage interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and help inspire the next generation.
“The ham radio program represents an amazing opportunity to engage with kids all over the world,” said NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who participated on each of his missions. “It provides the opportunity for educators and ham operators to encourage and inspire their students with STEM topics culminating in a real-time conversation with astronauts living and working on the space station.”
Before a scheduled contact, students study related topics. They have about nine minutes to ask questions, often discussing career choices and scientific activities aboard the orbiting laboratory.
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren talks on the space station’s ham radio set. NASA Inspiration Beyond Education
These contacts go beyond inspiring students – sometimes they encourage entire communities. Students at Canterbury School in Fort Myers, Florida, spoke with crew members on Oct. 24, 2022. Just a few weeks earlier, Hurricane Ian displaced 30 percent of the school’s population.
“Before the hurricane, our had students spent months building their own satellite tracking antenna,” said Christiana Deeter, science department head at the school. “After the storm, so many people came forward to make sure that we had what we needed. It was a great opportunity for our kids to stop looking around and look up.”
The school spoke with NASA astronaut Josh Cassada. “He has kids of his own and was just as excited as our kids were,” said Deeter. “I asked him if he had a message for the families and he talked about coming together as a community and not giving up hope. Our school was on a high the rest of the year.”
Canterbury School student Isaac Deeter asks a question during the school’s ham radio contact while student Samantha Pezzi waits her turn. Canterbury School From an Astronaut’s Perspective
Ham radio also contributes to astronaut well-being. In addition to scheduled contacts, crew members often crank up the radio during free time to catch calls from around the world.
Lindgren spoke to amateur radio operators or “hams” on all seven continents. His favorite memory is connecting with eight-year-old Isabella Payne and her father Matthew Payne in the United Kingdom. “Hearing her young, accented voice cut through the static – I was very impressed to hear her calling the space station,” said Lindgren. “It made my day!”
Lindgren’s contact with Payne was on Aug. 2, 2022. On Aug.18, 2023, Payne’s school, St Peter-In-Thanet CE Primary, conducted a scheduled contact with NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli.
UK student Isabella Payne, who contacted NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren via ham radio, is shown on Lindgren’s device floating in the space station.NASA The program also fosters international cooperation. Crew members are trained by multi-national teams. Italian teams designed and built antennas, while German teams built repeater stations that improve ham contacts. Amateur radio even serves as an emergency backup communications network for the space station.
How Schools Can Get Involved
ARISS is a partnership between NASA, amateur radio organizations, and international space agencies. While there is no cost to a host location for the contact, there may be some equipment-related costs. Scheduling is subject to mission operations and may change, so hosts need to be flexible.
The astronaut and the ham radio operator, who is the technical point of contact on the ground, must be licensed. While students do not have to be licensed, many choose to obtain their license after the experience.
Information about applying is available at www.ariss.org or can be requested from email@example.com.
The Next 40 Years
“I hope the program continues for a long time,” said Maichle. “It is so important for kids trying to figure out what you want to accomplish in life. It is cool to have that memory that sticks with you. It inspires so many people.”
And as those involved celebrate 40 years of ham radio in space, some are dreaming even bigger.
“I would love for there to be a continued amateur radio presence in human spaceflight,” said Lindgren. “I expect we’ll have a radio on the space station for as long as it operates. Then can we put a ham radio station on the Moon? Now that would be cool.”
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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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On Nov. 28, 1983, space shuttle Columbia took to the skies for its sixth trip into space on the first dedicated science mission using the Spacelab module provided by the European Space Agency (ESA). The longest shuttle mission at the time also included many other firsts. Aboard Columbia to conduct dozens of science experiments, the first six-person crew of Commander John W. Young, making his record-breaking sixth spaceflight, Pilot Brewster H. Shaw, Mission Specialists Owen K. Garriott and Robert A.R. Parker, and the first two payload specialists, American Byron K. Lichtenberg and German Ulf Merbold representing ESA, the first non-American to fly on a U.S. space mission. During the 10-day Spacelab 1 flight, the international team of astronauts conducted 72 experiments in a wide variety of science disciplines.
Left: The STS-9 crew patch. Middle: Official photo of the STS-9 crew of Owen K. Garriott, seated left, Brewster H. Shaw, John W. Young, and Robert A.R. Parker; Byron K. Lichtenberg, standing left, and Ulf Merbold of West Germany representing the European Space Agency. Right: The payload patch for Spacelab 1.
In August 1973, NASA and the European Space Research Organization, the forerunner of today’s ESA, agreed on a cooperative plan to build a reusable laboratory called Spacelab to fly in the space shuttle’s cargo bay. In exchange for ESA building the pressurized modules and unpressurized pallets, NASA provided flight opportunities for European astronauts. In December 1977, ESA named physicist Merbold of the Max Planck Institute in West Germany, physicist Wubbo Ockels of The Netherlands, and astrophysicist Claude Nicollier of Switzerland as payload specialist candidates for the first Spacelab mission. In September 1982, ESA selected Merbold as the prime crew member to fly the mission and Ockels as his backup. Nicollier had in the meantime joined NASA’s astronaut class of 1980 as a mission specialist candidate. In 1978, NASA selected biomedical engineer Lichtenberg of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as its payload specialist with physicist Michael L. Lampton of CalTech as his backup. In April 1982, NASA assigned the orbiter crew of Young, Shaw, Garriott, and Parker. As commander of STS-9, Young made a record-breaking sixth flight into space. The mission’s pilot Shaw, an astronaut from the 1978 class, made his first trip into space. The two mission specialists had a long history with NASA – Garriott, selected as an astronaut in 1965, completed a 59-day stay aboard the Skylab space station in 1973, and Parker, selected in 1967, made his first spaceflight after a 16-year wait. Although the crew included only two veterans, it had the most previous spaceflight experience of any crew up to that time – 84 days between Young’s and Garriott’s earlier missions.
Left: Arrival of the Spacelab 1 long module at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Middle: Workers place the Spacelab module and pallet into Columbia’s payload bay in KSC’s Orbiter Processing Facility. Right: The Spacelab pallet, top, pressurized long module, and tunnel in Columbia’s payload bay.
The pressurized module for the first Spacelab mission arrived at KSC on Dec. 11, 1981, from its manufacturing facility in Bremen, West Germany. Additional components arrived throughout 1982 as workers in KSC’s Operations and Checkout Building integrated the payload racks into the module. The ninth space shuttle mission saw the return of the orbiter Columbia to space, having flown the first five flights of the program. Since it arrived back at KSC after STS-5 on Nov. 22, 1982, engineers in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) modified Columbia to prepare it for the first Spacelab mission. The completed payload, including the pressurized module, the external pallet, and the transfer tunnel, rolled over to the OPF, where workers installed it into Columbia’s payload bay on Aug. 16, 1983.
Left: In the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers lift space shuttle Columbia to mate it with its external tank (ET) and solid rocket boosters (SRBs) for the first time. Middle: Space shuttle Columbia’s first trip from the VAB to Launch Pad 39A. Right: In the VAB, workers have disassembled the stack and prepare to reposition the ET with its SRBs.
Rollover of Columbia to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) took place on Sept. 24, where workers mated it with an external tank (ET) and two solid rocket boosters (SRBs). Following integrated testing, the stack rolled out to Launch Pad 39A four days later for a planned Oct. 29 liftoff. However, on Oct. 14, managers called off that initial launch attempt after discovering that the engine nozzle of the left hand SRB contained the same material that nearly caused a burn through during STS-8. The replacement of the nozzle required a rollback to the VAB. Taking place on Oct. 17, it marked the first rollback of a flight vehicle in the shuttle’s history. Workers in the VAB demated the vehicle and destacked the left hand SRB to replace its nozzle. Columbia temporarily returned to the OPF on Oct. 19, where workers replaced its fuel cells using three borrowed from space shuttle Discovery and also replaced its waste collection system. Columbia returned to the VAB on Nov. 3 for remating with its ET and SRBs and rolled back out to the launch pad on Nov. 8.
Left: The STS-9 crew during their preflight press conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Middle: On launch day at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the STS-9 astronauts leave crew quarters to board the Astrovan for the ride to Launch Pad 39A. Right: In the VIP stands to watch the STS-9 launch, Steven Spielberg, left, and George Lucas.
Liftoff of space shuttle Columbia on STS-9 carrying the first Spacelab science module.
Ground track of STS-9’s orbit, inclined 57 degrees to the equator, passing over 80 percent of the world’s land masses.
On Nov. 28, 1983, Columbia thundered off KSC’s Launch Pad 39A to begin the STS-9 mission. The shuttle entered an orbit inclined 57 degrees to the equator, the highest inclination U.S. spaceflight at the time, allowing the astronauts to observe about 80 percent of the Earth’s landmasses. Mounted inside Columbia’s payload bay, the first Spacelab 18-foot long module provided a shirt-sleeve environment for the astronauts to conduct scientific experiments in a variety of disciplines. During the Spacelab 1 mission, the STS-9 crew carried out 72 experiments in atmospheric and plasma physics, astronomy, solar physics, materials sciences, technology, astrobiology, and Earth observations. For the first time in spaceflight history, the crew divided into two teams working opposite 12-hour shifts, allowing science to be conducted 24 hours a day. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, launched the previous April during the STS-6 mission, and now fully operational, enabled transmission of television and significant amounts of science data to the Payload Operations Control Center, located in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Left: View of the Spacelab module in the shuttle’s payload bay. Middle: Several STS-9 crew members struggle to open the hatch to the transfer tunnel. Right: Owen K. Garriott, left, Ulf Merbold, and Byron K. Lichtenberg enter the Spacelab for the first time to begin activating the module.
Upon reaching orbit, the crew opened the payload bay doors and deployed the shuttle’s radiators. Shortly after, following a few tense minutes during which the astronauts struggled with a balky hatch, they opened it, translated down the transfer tunnel, and entered Spacelab for the first time. Garriott, Lichtenberg, and Merbold activated the module and turned on the first experiments. For the next nine days, the Red Team of Young, Parker, and Merbold, and the Blue Team of Shaw, Garriott, and Lichtenberg performed flawlessly to carry out the experiments. Young and Shaw managed the shuttle’s systems while the mission and payload specialists conducted the bulk of the research. With ample consumables available, Mission Control granted them an extra day in space to complete additional science. One afternoon, the astronauts chatted with U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan in the White House and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, attending the European Community Summit in Athens, Greece. The two leaders praised the astronauts for their scientific work and the cooperation between the two countries that enabled the flight to take place.
Left: Robert A.R. Parker, left, Byron K. Lichtenberg, Owen K. Garriott, and Ulf Merbold at work inside the Spacelab module. Middle: Garriott preparing to draw a blood sample from Lichtenberg for one of the life sciences experiments. Right: Garriott, front, and Lichtenberg at work in the Spacelab module.
Left: The rotating dome experiment to study visual vestibular interactions. Middle: Owen K. Garriott prepares to place blood samples in a passive freezer. Right: Inflight photograph of the STS-9 crew.
A selection of the STS-9 crew Earth observation photographs. Left: The Manicougan impact crater in Quebec, Canada, with the shuttle’s tail visible at upper right. Middle: Hong Kong. Right: Cape Campbell, New Zealand.
On Dec. 8, their last day in space, the crew finished the experiments, closed up the Spacelab module, and strapped themselves into their seats to prepare for their return to Earth. Five hours before the scheduled landing, during thruster firings one of Columbia’s five General Purpose Computers (GPC) failed, followed six minutes later by a second GPC. Mission Control decided to delay the landing until the crew could fix the problem. Young and Shaw brought the second GPC back up but had no luck with the first. Meanwhile, one of Columbia’s Inertial Measurement Units, used for navigation, failed. Finally, after eight hours of troubleshooting, the astronauts fired the shuttle’s Orbital Maneuvering System engines to begin the descent from orbit. Young piloted Columbia to a smooth landing on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert, completing 166 orbits around the Earth in 10 days, 6 hours, and 47 minutes, at the time the longest shuttle flight. Shortly before landing, a hydrazine leak caused two of the orbiter’s three Auxiliary Power Units (APU) to catch fire. The fire burned itself out, causing damage in the APU compartment but otherwise not affecting the landing. The astronauts safely exited the spacecraft without incident. On Dec. 14, NASA ferried Columbia back to KSC to remove the Spacelab module from the payload bay. In January 1984, Columbia returned to its manufacturer, Rockwell International in Palmdale, California, where workers spent the next two years refurbishing NASA’s first orbiter before its next mission, STS-61C, in January 1986.
Left: John W. Young in the shuttle commander’s seat prior to entry and landing. Middle: Space shuttle Columbia lands at Edward Air Force Base in California to end the STS-9 mission. Right: The six STS-9 crew members descend the stairs from the orbiter after their successful 10-day scientific mission.
Left: Workers at Edwards Air Force Base in California safe space shuttle Columbia after its return from space. Middle: Atop a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, Columbia begins its cross country journey to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Right: The STS-9 crew during their postflight press conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The journal Science published preliminary results from Spacelab 1 in their July 13, 1984, issue. The two Spacelab modules flew a total of 16 times, the last one during the STS-90 Neurolab mission in April 1998. The module that flew on STS-9 and eight other missions is displayed at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, while the other module resides at the Airbus Defence and Space plant in Bremen, Germany, not on public display.
The Spacelab long module that flew on STS-9 and eight other missions on display at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia.
Enjoy the crew narrate a video about the STS-9 mission. Read Shaw’s, Garriott’s, and Parker’s recollections of the STS-9 mission in their oral histories with the JSC History Office.
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By European Space Agency
ESA’s first human spaceflight mission lifted off 40 years ago today. Accompanied by the first ESA astronaut, Ulf Merbold, the Spacelab module took flight inside the Space Shuttle’s cargo bay, turning NASA’s ‘space truck’ into a mini-space station for scientific research. Europe continues to be highly active in the crewed module business to this day.
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