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This Week @ NASA, January 4, 2013
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This Week at NASA…



The core stage of NASA's Space Launch System -- America's new flagship rocket – has successfully completed a major technical review at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The Preliminary Design Review ensured the SLS design met system requirements within acceptable risk, and fell within schedule and budget constraints. Also, the review proved that the core stage, which will be built at the Michoud Assembly Facility, would integrate safely with other elements of the rocket's main engines and solid rocket boosters, the Orion crew capsule, and launch facilities at the Kennedy Space Center.

The first flight test of the SLS, propelling an un-crewed Orion spacecraft beyond the moon, is scheduled for 2017.



Powering the upper stage of the SLS will be the J-2X engine. Engineers at the Stennis Space Center have wrapped up their 13-test series of an important J-2X component: its powerpack assembly.

Last year’s hot-fire tests saw the powerpack assembly use millions of pounds of propellants during more than 90 minutes of burn-time. NASA engineers at Stennis will next focus on testing the fully-integrated engine.



NASA has completed a set of flight tests for a technology that can autonomously take a spacecraft safely to the Moon, Mars or even an asteroid. It’s called the Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology, better known as ALHAT. Led by the Johnson Space Center and supported by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Langley Research Center, ALHAT is designed to enable a planetary lander to touch down safely and precisely by detecting and avoiding obstacles like holes, rocks and slopes. Instrumentation has been verified in flight tests aboard a NASA Huey helicopter at Langley and the Kennedy Space Center. Future evaluations are planned on a vertical test bed that will have ALHAT put down autonomously on a lunar-like surface.


@NASAKennedy, @NASAGoddard

NASA’s newest Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-K, has been delivered to the Kennedy Space Center by an Air Force C-17. The satellite is set to be launched into geostationary orbit on Jan. 29. TDRS-K is the first of three next-generation satellites NASA's Space Communications and Navigation Program , or SCaN, is adding to its fleet to ensure its operational continuity. Each new TDRS satellite will have more spacecraft power to service more SCaN customers with different and evolving communication needs.



Unique devices built by teams of middle and high school students from Southern California were put to the test during the 15th annual Invention Challenge, hosted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The challenge of the “Streaming Tissue Toss Contest” was to build a device that could propel an officially-supplied roll of toilet tissue into the air and produce the longest, unbroken stream of tissue. The competition gave students a chance to be creative AND have fun with science, engineering and math. The twenty teams at the event were invited to JPL based on performances in two regional contests. Nine teams of JPL engineers and scientists also competed in the event.



With the passing of Jesco von Puttkamer on Dec. 28, NASA lost a family member of 50 years who contributed to one of the agency’s greatest achievements. Von Puttkamer came from Germany to NASA in 1962 when, as a newly-graduated engineer, he was invited by Wernher von Braun to join his fellow countryman's Saturn V rocket team at the Marshall Space Flight Center and work on Apollo.

Jesco von Puttkamer, 1933-2012: “We corresponded and he always gave me good advice; what subjects to concentrate on and so on and so I asked him one day -- well I want to come to America but since I’m a Greenhorn, I probably should get some experience first – learn the ropes – go to industry first. So I immediately got a telegram from him and then a letter – ‘don’t go to industry come to Huntsville, we are flying to the moon!’’”

Von Puttkamer transferred in 1974 to NASA Headquarters in Washington, where he most recently worked with the International Space Station Program. Among the numerous awards received by von Puttkamer was NASA's prestigious Exceptional Service Medal in 2004. Jesco von Puttkamer died after a brief illness at age 79.



On Jan. 7, 1968, Surveyor 7 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center. The fifth and final spacecraft of the Surveyor series to land softly on the Moon, Surveyor 7 helped NASA’s coming Apollo missions by testing landing technology; providing data about the compatibility of the Apollo design with conditions on the lunar surface; and, gathering science about the Moon itself.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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