NASA Podcasts

This Week @ NASA, June 15, 2012
› Listen Now
› View Now
This Week at NASA…

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited the facilities of Space Exploration Technologies following the successful round-trip of the company’s Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. Dragon demonstrated its ability to maneuver and berth to the ISS, then make its safe return to Earth.

At the SpaceX Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas , Bolden and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk signed documents officially transferring to NASA the cargo returned by Dragon from the orbiting laboratory.

“How are you doing? Where are you from? Fort Hood? Wow!”

Bolden, Musk and others were at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California the next day for a "Concept Baseline Review”. The CBR, essentially a final draft of specific system designs, is a required milestone of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator: “You have now allowed NASA to take time to start developing vehicles that are going to get us beyond low Earth orbit because we don’t have to worry about getting people to low Earth orbit anymore, we don’t have to worry about getting cargo and people to the International Space Station because companies like SpaceX have taken on that challenge.”

Deputy Administrator Lori Garver opened NASA’s Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass. Five teams of engineers from across the country are competing at WPI for an agency-funded prize of $1.5 million.

Lori Garver: These technologies don’t build themselves; these rockets don’t build themselves it’s all about people. It is the people throughout the agency and our contractor community and our academic partners who help us create the future.

Mason Peck: When we invest in these technologies we take on these hard problems we inspire people to make advances in every area of technology. The direct investment we make in specific technologies can make small businesses’ successful products for the future but can also lead to things we don’t even know now.

Part of NASA's Centennial Challenges prize competitions, the Sample Return Robot challenge, is to design and develop the next generation of autonomous robots to explore the landscapes of other worlds by locating, collecting and returning simulated "planetary samples" on their own. The competitors can pursue whatever design approach they like, and are awarded the cash prizes by NASA only if they’re successful. Centennial Challenges, part of NASA’s Space Technology Program, stimulate private sector investment many times greater than the cash value of the prize by addressing a particular problem or technological need of national or international significance.

For more information, visit:

Langley Research Center recently played host to Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada Space Systems. NASA and Sierra Nevada are marking the fifth year of a partnership to design and develop the Dream Chaser Space System, an orbital crew vehicle based upon Langley's HL-20 lifting body spacecraft. Sirangelo joined Center Director Lesa Roe on a tour of Langley’s Transonic Dynamics Tunnel. Here, Dream Chaser is being tested to evaluate fluctuations the launch vehicle stack may experience during its ascent to low-Earth orbit.

A 1,150-second test of the J-2X powerpack, a subset of the engine, became the longest duration firing ever conducted in the Stennis Space Center’s A Test Complex.

Surpassing the previous record by more than a full minute, the June 8th test marked a milestone in the development of a next-generation rocket engine designed to carry humans deeper into space than ever before.

Thomas Carroll, J-2X Systems Engineer: “The significance of this test is to look specifically at the pumps and what they’re producing to see how they react in different environments. And we’re making sure that everything we’ve put on paper and that we’ve developed on computer models is working in real life.”

The J-2X is the first human-rated liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen rocket engine developed in 40 years and will provide upper-stage power for NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, the heavy-lift vehicle that’ll send the new Orion capsule beyond low-Earth orbit.

Small regional companies and government agencies near the Michoud Assembly Facility that may want to help develop and support the SLS were hosted at Contact 2012. Seventy-three companies exhibited their services at the networking event co- sponsored by NASA, the Louisiana Small Business Administration and Jacobs Technology.

NASA has narrowed the landing target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity. When it sets down on the Red Planet in August, the car-sized rover will now be closer to Gale Crater’s Mount Sharp, where it’ll conduct its science. Fear of any additional risk that comes with putting down nearer the mountain’s hazardous slope was overcome by confidence in Curiosity’s precision landing technology. Rock layers located in the mountain are the prime location for rover research.

Launched in November 2011, Curiosity is scheduled to land at approximately 1:31 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6. Following checkout operations, Curiosity will begin a two-year study of whether the landing vicinity ever offered an environment favorable for microbial life.

In the night skies above Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, was released from the belly of an L-1011 Stargazer aircraft, then sent into space by its Pegasus XL rocket.

In low-Earth orbit near the equator, NuSTAR will team with other telescopes already in space, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, to hunt for, and provide a more complete picture of the most powerful and exotic objects in space, such as black holes, dead stars and jets of energy traveling near the speed of light. NuSTAR has more than 10 times the resolution, and more than 100 times the sensitivity of its predecessors operating in a similar range of X-rays.

NASA is asking the help of accredited American universities in finding innovative, early-stage space technologies that can insure the success of future science and human exploration missions. Among these technologies: improved shielding from space radiation, a known danger to the health of astronauts; better methods for storing cryogenic propellants in fuel tanks and filling stations in space over long periods of time and distance; and advanced optical systems for the next generation of lightweight mirrors and telescopes.

Ten awards, each as much as 250-thousand dollars, are expected to be made this fall by NASA’s Space Technology Program, managed by the Office of the Chief Technologist. For information on submitting proposals, visit:

HOUSTON SHUTTLEBRATION – JSC (CP) Beth Weissinger Reporting
Johnson Space Center, Houston and surrounding communities welcomed a full-scale replica of the space shuttle recently with a weekend of activities to commemorate its arrival.

The replica, which arrived by barge from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 1, was welcomed to its new home by thousands who gathered to watch its arrival and kick off the Shuttlebration Weekend.

The crowd cheered as the space shuttle arrived at the same dock that saw the arrival of the Saturn V rocket in 1977. The shuttle, escorted by a flotilla of boats and a Coast Guard helicopter, was welcomed by a fire boat spray and red, white, blue confetti salute.

Michael Coats, Director-Johnson Space Center: “The arrival today of the incredible full scale replica of the Space Shuttle is a credit to the hard work of this community and to Space Center Houston. It’s to help secure our legacy for our community and reminds us that we are the explorers; we make the dreams a reality. We’re ready for the next great mission.”

Early on June 3, crowds lined the street of Nassau Bay as the replica made its nearly four-hour trek down NASA Parkway to its permanent home at Space Center Houston, the official visitor’s center of the Johnson Space Center.

The new attraction will provide visitors a close-up view of a shuttle, including what it’s like to be inside the cockpit – an experience that will only be available at Space Center Houston.

NASA ANNIVERSARY June 18, 1952 Blunt Nose Reentry
Sixty years ago, on June 18, 1952, H. Julian Allen, a scientist working at the Ames Research Center for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NASA’s predecessor organization, conceived of the design upon which every early U.S. astronaut would rely for his safe return to Earth. Harvey Allen, as he was widely known, later became center director at Ames, but would be best remembered for his "Blunt Body Theory" of re-entry aerodynamics. Allen’s technique was used in NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules – and will be used on the new Orion vehicle as well.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

For more on these and other stories, or to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, log on to
› Listen Now
› View Now