LIFTOFF!

On July 7, three crew members launched from Earth; headed to their new home on the International Space Station

Crewmembers Kate Rubins of NASA, Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will spend approximately four months on the orbital complex, returning to Earth in October. 

Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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Five Things to Know About NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins

Among the newest crew on the International Space Station is U.S. astronaut Kate Rubins, who will assume the role of Flight Engineer for Expeditions 48 and 49. Here are five things you should know about her:

1. She was chosen from a pool of over 3,500 applicants to receive a spot on our 2009 astronaut training class.

After being selected, Rubins spent years training at Johnson Space Center to become an astronaut. She learned how to use the complex station systems, perform spacewalks, exercise in space and more. Some training even utilized virtual reality.

2. She has a degree in cancer biology.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of California, San Diego in 1999, Rubins went on to receive a doctorate in Cancer Biology from Stanford University Medical School Biochemistry Department and Microbiology and Immunology Department in 2005. In other words, she’s extremely smart.

3. Her research has benefited humanity.

Rubins helped to create therapies for Ebola and Lassa viruses by conducting research collaboratively with the U.S. Army. She also aided development of the first smallpox infection model with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NBD. It will be exciting to see the research come out of a mission with a world-class scientist using a world-class, out-of-this-world laboratory!

4. She is scheduled to be the first person to sequence DNA in space.

During her time at the space station, Rubins will participate in several science experiments. Along with physical science, Earth and space science and technology development work, she will conduct biological and human research investigations. Research into sequencing the first genome in microgravity and how the human body’s bone mass and cardiovascular systems are changed by living in space are just two examples of the many experiments in which Rubins may take part.

5. In her spare time, she enjoys scuba diving and triathlons…among other things.

Rubins was on the Stanford Triathlon team, and also races sprint and Olympic distance. She is involved with health care/medical supply delivery to Africa and started a non-profit organization to bring supplies to Congo. Her recent pursuits involve flying airplanes and jumping out of them – not simultaneously. 

Rubins is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station at 12:12 a.m. Saturday, July 9. After her launch on Wednesday, July 6, the three crew members traveled 2 days before docking to the space station’s Rassvet module. 

Watch live coverage of docking and their welcoming starting at 11:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 8 on NASA Television.

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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Our solar system is huge, let us break it down for you. Here are a few things you should know this week: 

1. Closeup of a King

For the first time since it entered orbit around Jupiter in July, our Juno spacecraft has flown close to the king of planets—this time with its eyes wide open. During the long, initial orbit, Juno mission managers spent time checking out the spacecraft “from stem to stern,” but the science instruments were turned off as a precaution. During this latest pass, Juno’s camera and other instruments were collecting data the whole time. Initial reports show that all went well, and the team has released a new close-up view that Juno captured of Jupiter’s north polar region. We can expect to see more close-up pictures of Jupiter and other data this week.

+Check in with Juno

2. Getting Ready to Rocket

Our OSIRIS-REx mission leaves Earth next week, the first leg of a journey that will take it out to an asteroid called Bennu. The mission will map the asteroid, study its properties in detail, then collect a physical sample to send back home to Earth. The ambitious endeavor is slated to start off on Sept. 8.

+See what it takes to prep for a deep space launch

3. New Moon Rising

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has already mapped the entire surface of Earth’s moon in brilliant detail, but the mission isn’t over yet. Lunar explorers still have questions, and LRO is poised to help answer them.

+See what’s next for the mission

4. A Mock-Eclipse Now

We don’t have to wait until next year to see the moon cross in front of the sun. From its vantage point in deep space, our Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) sometimes sees just that. Such an event is expected on Sept. 1.

+See the latest sun pictures from SDO

5. Jupiter’s Cousins

Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around. Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE

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Getting to Mars: A New Rocket for the Journey

Do you know what the structural backbone is of our new rocket, the Space Launch System? If you answered the core stage, give yourself a double thumbs up! Or better yet, have astronaut Scott Kelly do it!

We’re on a journey to Mars. For bolder missions to deep space, we need a big, powerful rocket like SLS to take astronauts in the Orion spacecraft to places we’ve never gone before. The core stage is a major part of that story, as it will house the fuel and avionics systems that will power and guide the rocket to those new destinations beyond Earth’s orbit. Here’s how:

It’s Big, and It’s Fast.

The core stage will be the largest rocket stage ever built and is under construction right now at our Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. It will stand at 212 feet tall and weigh more than 2.3 million pounds with propellant. That propellant is cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines. In just 8.5 minutes, the core stage will reach Mach 23, which is faster than 17,000 mph!

It’s Smart.

Similar to a car, the rocket needs all the equipment necessary for the “drive” to deep space. The core stage will house the vehicle’s avionics, including flight computers, instrumentation, batteries, power handling, sensors and other electronics. That’s a lot of brain power behind those orange-clad aluminum walls. *Fun fact: Orange is the color of the rocket’s insulation.

It’s a Five-Parter.

The core stage is made up of five parts. Starting from the bottom is the engine section, which will deliver the propellants to the four RS-25 engines. It also will house avionics to steer the engines, and be an attachment point for the two, five-segment solid rocket boosters. The engine section for the first SLS flight has completed welding and is in the final phases of manufacturing at Michoud.

Next up is the liquid hydrogen tank. It will hold 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen cooled to -423 degrees Fahrenheit. Right now, engineers are building the tank for the first SLS mission. It will look very similar to the qualification test article that just finished welding at Michoud. That’s an impressive piece of rocket hardware!

The next part of the core stage is the intertank, which will join the propellant tanks. It has to be super strong because it is the attachment point for the boosters and absorbs most of the force when they fire 3.6 million pounds of thrust each. It’s also a “think tank” of sorts, as it holds the SLS avionics and electronics. The intertank is even getting its own test structure at our Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

And then there’s the liquid oxygen tank. It will store 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen cooled to -297 degrees. If you haven’t done the math, that’s 733,000 gallons of propellant for both tanks, which is enough to fill 63 large tanker trucks. Toot, toot. Beep, beep! A confidence version of the tank has finished welding at Michoud, and it’s impressive. Just ask this guy.

The topper of the core stage is the forward skirt. Funny name, but serious hardware. It’s home to the flight computers, cameras and avionics. The avionics system is being tested right now in a half-ring structure at the Marshall Center.

You can click here for more SLS core stage facts. We’ll continue building, and see you at the launch pad for the first flight of SLS with Orion in 2018!

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