Last Tuesday a team of students traveled to Kennedy Space Center to deliver NanoRack-2, CubeLab-3 and CubeLab-4, meeting the "on-dock" date for a May flight on Shuttle Atlantis to the ISS (STS-132/ULF4).
After delivery, we made our way to another wing of the massive maze-like Space Station Processing Facility to visit NanoRack-1, FIRSTLab, and CubeLab-2, which were already sealed in a cargo transfer bag ready for loading into the cargo modules for Shuttle Discovery (STS-131/19A). Next we checked out Endeavor which was on the pad 39A ready for launch in February. Finally, we paid a visit to the Shuttle Payload Processing Facility and got to see the impressive SPACEHAB module, the ULF4 platform packed with supplies for station, and the Russian MRM-1 module and airlock that will be added to the ISS as part of of the STS-132 mission (and, coincidentally, will fly to orbit with Rack-2 and CubeLab-3 and CubeLab-4 nestled inside).
On Monday this week, another team traveled to NASA Wallops to integrate the SOCEM payload and the mass models for the SOCEM satellites for vibration testing, spin-balance and a test deployment of the satellites. The payload section is much bigger than than we expected and it was amazing to see it integrated. All of the testes were completed successfully, culminating in a successful test deployment on Wednesday, and clearing the way for integration of the flight models in a few weeks. The launch window opens at 10a ET on February 24.
At the same time, another team of students traveled to NASA Marshall to attend a series of meetings to discuss the ins and outs of operating payloads on the ISS. Finally, as you probably heard, NASA Launch Services announced this week that KySat-1 our first orbital free-flying satellite is officially manifested on the Glory Mission. Pictures of all these events to follow soon (except for the MRM-1 which we can not post). This has been quite a week, I can't wait to see what happens next week. Stay tuned here to find out!
Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Kentucky
Faculty Advisor, Kentucky Space
These last 3 days some of the Kentucky Space team was able to visit NASA Wallops Flight Facility as NSROC tested the payload section of Hall 12.067, the launch vehicle for SOCEM. The payload section passed vibration testing in all 3 axes, was spin balanced, and then, today, underwent the spin-up and deployment test in which the payload section was spun up and the pyro holding the deployment door was fired, thereby releasing the two CubeSats (ADAMASat and the Cal Poly 1U) and the beanie. In this final test, all three pieces of hardware successfully exited the rocket body and inspection after the test did not reveal any damage to the payloads nor the rails of the PCL. Congratulations to all who have worked on SOCEM!
Anthony Karam - University of Ketucky, Kentucky Space
Second stage test firings were successfully conducted by SpaceX, bringing Falcon 9 closer to its inaugural flight. Space.com:
SpaceX announced this week that the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage successfully completed a full-duration test firing at the company's proving grounds in Texas. The test was the last hurdle for the upcoming demonstration launch, which is targeted to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...
'This was the final stage firing required for launch, so the second stage will soon be packaged for shipment and should arrive at Cape Canaveral by the end of the month,' said SpaceX founder Elon Musk in a Jan. 4 update. 'Depending on how well our full vehicle integration goes, launch should occur one to three months later.'
Finding out why microbes grow better in space is an emerging new business.
Thomas Pickens (son of the billionaire energy entrepreneur, T. Boone Pickens) doesn't care all that much why this phenomena occurs?—he just wants to cash in on it. ...Pickens established a subsidiary to develop vaccines using the fruits of space research like last month's experiment. "We found it commercially viable to send microbes to space," he says. "They just jump off the charts in terms of growth."
To make it easy on the astronauts, researchers at AstroGenetix placed the staph cultures in a fortified can; all the astronauts had to do was crank a handle to expose the cultures to nutrients inside. When it is time to come home, the astronauts turn the handle again to kill the cultures and bring the grown staph cells back to Earth for DNA testing. The rapid growth makes it easy to isolate the genes that make the microbes more virulent. Microbes that are stripped of these genes could be used as a basis for vaccines. There are multiple layers of protection to keep the samples from contaminating the environment of the ISS, Pickens says.
The very first Nanorack is currently on its way to Florida for a March Shuttle flight to the International Space Station. The January date for the suborbital "SOCEM" mission Kris refers to was recently mentioned @kyspace on Twitter. For the most recent information, you may want to follow Kentucky Space there.