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Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report
George Diller
NASA Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

LAUNCH PAD: SLC 17-A/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
LAUNCH DATE: November 17, 2004
LAUNCH WINDOW: 12:09 p.m. - 1:09 p.m. (EST)

Swift, riding atop its spacecraft transporter, departed NASA's Hangar AE at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:15 a.m. Monday, Nov. 8. It arrived at Pad 17-A on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:15 a.m. and was hoisted atop the Boeing Delta II rocket at 6:30 p.m. The Flight Program Verification, an integrated test of the spacecraft/launch vehicle combination and the last major test before launch, is under way today. Fairing installation is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 12. The Flight Readiness Review is set for Saturday, Nov. 13.

Loading of liquid oxygen aboard the Delta first stage was performed on Oct. 21 to check for leaks. This also serves as a "minus count" crew certification exercise for the launch team. On Oct. 22, a Flight Simulation was conducted. This is a "plus count" flight events test verifying the operation of the vehicle's systems during powered flight. Testing of the guidance system aboard the Boeing Delta II rocket was completed on Oct. 20.

The Swift observatory will pinpoint the location of distant yet fleeting explosions that appear to signal the births of black holes. Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe, emitting more than 100 billion times the energy that the Sun does in a year. Yet they last only from a few milliseconds to a few minutes, never to appear in the same spot again.

The Swift satellite is named for the nimble bird, because it can swiftly turn and point its instruments to catch a burst "on the fly" to study both the burst and its afterglow. This afterglow phenomenon follows the initial gamma-ray flash in most bursts and it can linger in X-ray light, visible light and radio waves for hours or weeks, providing great detail for observations.

Swift is a medium-class Explorer mission managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The observatory was built for NASA by Spectrum Astro, a division of General Dynamics. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for Swift's integration with the Boeing Delta II rocket and the countdown management on launch day.

MISSION: Deep Impact
LAUNCH PAD: SLC 17-B/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
LAUNCH DATE: December 30, 2004
LAUNCH WINDOW: 2:39:42 p.m. (EST) instantaneous

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft arrived in Florida on Oct. 23 to begin final preparations for launch on Dec. 30. The spacecraft was shipped from Ball Aerospace & Technologies in Boulder, Colo., to the Astrotech Space Operations facility located near the Kennedy Space Center.

Deep Impact was removed from its shipping container and is undergoing its Functional and Mission Readiness testing, scheduled for completion on Nov. 23. These tests involve the entire spacecraft flight system (including the flyby and impactor, associated science instruments and the spacecraft's basic subsystems), along with loading updated flight software.

The high gain antenna used for spacecraft communications will be installed on Nov. 29. The solar array will then be stowed and an illumination test performed as a final check of its performance on Nov. 30. Deep Impact will then be ready to begin preparation for fueling on Dec. 6 and is scheduled to be completed on Dec. 9.

The stacking of the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle on Pad 17-B will begin on Nov. 22 with the hoisting of the first stage into the launcher. Hoisting of the nine strap-on solid rocket boosters, in sets of three, is scheduled for Nov. 23, Nov. 29, and Dec. 1. The second stage will be hoisted into position atop the first stage on Dec. 3.

The overall Deep Impact mission management for this Discovery class program is conducted by the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. Deep Impact project management is handled by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The spacecraft has been built for NASA by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation.

MISSION: Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART)
LAUNCH PAD: Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB)
LAUNCH DATE: Under Review

The launch of NASA's DART spacecraft aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 9, has been postponed indefinitely.

A review of projected loads data, or the G-forces that the DART payload will experience upon ignition of the Pegasus second stage, are being re-evaluated to assure mission success.

The Pegasus rocket is being demated today, Nov. 10, from the L-1011 carrier aircraft and returned to its hangar for the present time. A new launch date will be determined once the loads analysis concern has been resolved.

DART was designed and built for NASA by Orbital Sciences Corporation as an advanced flight demonstrator to locate and maneuver near an orbiting satellite. The DART spacecraft weighs about 800 pounds and is nearly 6 feet long and 3 feet in diameter. The Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL vehicle will launch DART into a circular polar orbit of approximately 475 miles.

The DART satellite provides a key step in establishing autonomous rendezvous capabilities for the U.S. Space Program. While previous rendezvous and docking efforts have been piloted by astronauts, the unmanned DART satellite will have computers and cameras to perform its rendezvous functions.

Once in orbit, DART will make contact with a target satellite, the Multiple Paths, Beyond-Line-of-Sight Communications (MUBLCOM), also built by Orbital Sciences and launched in 1999. DART will then perform several close-proximity operations, such as moving toward and away from the satellite using navigation data provided by on-board sensors. The entire mission will last only 24 hours and will be accomplished without human intervention. The DART flight computer will determine its own path to accomplish its mission objectives.