T-17 days - solid rocket booster attached to Atlas V.

Technicians with United Launch Alliance installed a single AJ-60A Solid Rocket Motor to the Atlas V core stage earlier today, completing assembly of the first stage of OSIRIS-REx’s launch vehicle. The rocket is assembled in the Vertical Integration Facility at SLC-41.

The Centaur Upper Stage will be mated later this week. On August 24, OSIRIS-REx is slated to be encapsulated in the four-meter diameter payload fairing which will protect it during ascent out of Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft was attached to the Payload Fairing Adapter earlier today.

Since Atlas is flying in its 411 configuration, only a single Solid Rocket Motor will be attached. The rocket will produce more than 1,208,700 pounds of thrust at takeoff.

P/c: Dante Lauretta.


August 15 - Starliner crew access arm installed at SLC-41.

Marking a significant milestone for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the Crew Access Arm for Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft was attached to the Crew Access Tower at SLC-41 earlier today. 

The arm will allow technicians and astronauts to access Starliner while on the launch pad via the White Room - a clean room environment.

Constructed in between Atlas V launches in the second half of 2015, the Crew Access Tower is a 200-foot fixed structure that will provide personnel access and umbilical connections to Starliner while on the pad. The Atlas V 421 rocket it will launch upon will be serviced by the Atlas Mobile Launch Platform.

The arm has spent the last year and a half undergoing fabrication and testing in Oak Hill, just north of the Kennedy Space Center. It was delivered to SLC-41 last Thursday.

Astronauts will first use the access arm to board Starliner in late 2017, when the spacecraft will undergo its first crewed orbital test.

P/c: NASA.


Atlas V with OA-6 poised for launch

Orbital ATK’s OA-6 mission atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at SLC-41, March 22, 2016. Rollout from the Vertical Integration Facility to the pad occurred yesterday, March 21.

The 200-foot Atlas V rocket will fly in the 401 configuration, denoting a four-meter diameter payload fairing, no solid rocket boosters, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.

OA-6 is the 32nd flight of Atlas in the 401 configuration, 62nd flight of an Atlas V rocket, and the 106th flight of a ULA rocket.


August 11, 2016 - the Crew Access Arm that will give access to the Starliner spacecraft is seen being transported to SLC-41. The arm is the last major addition to the Crew Access Tower that was constructed at the launch pad in 2015.

Technicians will install the arm tomorrow morning, August 13, in a ceremony marked by NASA, ULA, and Boeing. 

The arm underwent fabrication and testing at its manufacturing site in Oak Hill, Florida, a few miles north of Titusville.

P/c: NASA.


T-2 hours (10:13 am EDT)

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket with GPS IIF-11 is seen at sunset yesterday, 30 October 2015.

AV-60 is scheduled to launch at 12:13 pm EDT this afternoon (31 October). Launch was originally scheduled for yesterday, but a malfunctioning water valve at SLC-41 used in the water suppression system had to be replaced, causing a 24-hour postponement of the mission.

See our earlier GPS IIF-11 coverage here, including our visit to the vehicle on the pad.


Starliner Crew Access Tower nears initial completion, prepares for outfitting.

Representatives from ULA described process of their Crew Access Tower at SLC-41 earlier this morning. Ground was broken on the tower in February, though actual vertical construction occurred from September to November.

16 of 20 construction phases have been completed, and workers are now adding the final outboard segments at the tower’s apex. These will support umbilical lines and a crew access arm. In addition to the crew access arm, 2016 will see outfitting of the tower’s umbilical lines, piping and electrical systems, and elevators.

The access arm is undergoing testing at its construction site near Titusville, Florida, and will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Equipment Test Facility in spring 2016. Here it will undergo testing for wind, vibration, and load conditions similar to what it will experience in use. It will then be installed on the CAT in July, 2016.

The 201 foot tower is being constructed to allow access to Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, one of two commercial vehicles NASA has contracted to carry crew to the International Space Station. Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will return human spaceflight to American soil after relying on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for ISS crew transport.

A 3D printed model of the completed tower and the Starliner spacecraft atop an Atlas V rocket were on site to offer visual contemplation.


International Space Station bound astronauts will enter the CST-100 Starliner capsule by way of the Crew Access Arm and Whiteroom, currently under testing at its fabrication facility in Oak Hill, Florida.

Engineers are currently testing the arm for emergency procedures, which could swing from its retracted position to against the capsule hatch in less than 15 seconds.

Boeing is expected to install the arm on the completed Crew Access Tower at SLC-41 by autumn of 2016. It won’t be tested with an actual Starliner capsule until that vehicle’s inaugural flight in mid-2017, where it will spend two weeks on the pad prior to launch.


Stacking on the CST-100 Starliner Crew Access Tower has reached its halfway point! Construction teams have been taking advantage of the nearly four week interval between Atlas V flights by stacking four of the seven segments of the CAT. The base segment was transported to SLC-41 and installed on September 9.

The tower was built in segments off-site in order to allow construction to continue without inhibiting Atlas V launches. The final segments will be stacked following the Morelos 3 mission October 2.

Following assembly of the CAT segments, workers will then outfit the tower with umbilicals, piping, and an elevator. A crew access arm to the CST-100 Starliner will be installed at the tower’s 180-foot level.


Atlas V (501) launching X-37B from SLC 41, viewed from KSC LC39 Press Site, Apr 2010.


Launch of Atlas V 551 with MUOS satellite, viewed by wide-angle GoPro launch pad camera.