Sorry for the recent silence and thank you all for being patient. I have had an extremely busy shooting schedule lately, mostly involving this project. I want to thank all of you who participated in the successful Kickstarter project which replaced this one, and those of you who didn't will still get another chance along with a chance at an exciting 2013 NASA photo calendar coming out soon. Your generous contributions to this project will help insure the ability to continue covering events here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for at least the rest of the year. There are many other events and tests happening at other NASA facilities all around the country and a second round funding attempt will launch shortly.
Since the last update.....
Orion, the Apollo style capsule spacecraft replacing the space shuttle has been in development for several years now. Over the last year I've been around a lot of Orion vehicles from Spincraft spaceframes testing new metal composite compounds and minature models for wind tunnel tests, all the way through to full-sized boiler plate models used for water landing tests and even chicken wire mock-ups to help engineers model the interior to people actually moving around inside. Recently the pressure vessel frame of the first spacebound Orion arrived here at Kennedy Space Center and was shown off to a large crowd inside the Operations & Checkout building (O&C) where construction will continue for the upcoming EFT-1 (Exploration Flight Test 1), the first test flight in space of the Orion program, currently scheduled for 2014. This building, now under lease and totally refurbished for the new millennium by Lockheed Martin, is where all the Apollo program spacecraft were readied for launch.
The International Space University (ISU), a critical post-graduate organization for those who wish to enter space related fields all over the world, holds their conference at somewhere different in the world every year and this year they visited us here at Kennedy Space Center for quite a while. Bill Nye, the scientist behind Disney's Bill Nye the Science Guy and the head of the University, held a great discussion panel on the future of spaceflight on the fifth floor of the Second Operations Support Building (OSB-II), a building most photographers will never see the inside of. Just before the discussion panel begun I had a couple very short minutes to shoot a full 360* panorama from the 5th floor balcony during a beautiful sunset, a view reserved for "VVVVVVVVIPs", meaning celebrities and foreign heads of state. The view was amazing, covering the iconic VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), SLC-39B which launched Apollo and space shuttle missions and has since been cleared out and upgraded in preparation for the shuttle's replacement, SLS (Space Launch System). The launch pad now features a greatly upgraded lightning suppression system (this is the lightning capitol of the US) as well as featuring universal hookups to be adaptable to just about anyone else who wants to use the pad. Just south of there you can see 39A, which still has the RSS and FSS service structures for shuttle flights intact, and south of there more rocket launch pads in the distance. What an amazing view!
The joint Canadian (CSA) and American (NASA) lunar drilling rover RESOLVE (Regolith & Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction) drilling rover arrived and was driven by remote contol in a grassy field here at Kennedy. While the other reporters were inside the control room, I got permission to go underneath and on top of RESOLVE and got some really unique shots. RESOLVE will land on the moon, drill a meter below the surface to extract water ice, break it down into hydrogen and oxygen (both well proven rocket fuels) and analyze it with a mass spectrometer. Then, so that no one can say lines on a mass spec reading are false, RESOLVE will reconstitute the steam into a water drop inside it's body, take a picture of the water drop and send it back to Earth!!
As NASA continues to develop inflatable habitat modules for construction of a moon base and talks of crewed deep space exploration get more serious, identifying a plentiful source of rocket fuel and an easy system to convert water ice into the rocket fuel to use the moon as a jump off point is critical. After leaving here RESOLVE went to Hawaii for further environmental suspension testing. Due to the difference in gravity and the weight needed to press the drill down onto the lunar surface VS here on Earth, the rover that will actually fly to the moon will be larger than the test article seen here.
ISU held their annual student model rocket launch, but this time they launched their model rockets (slightly taller than adult height), from SLC-39A, the intact space shuttle launch pad.
The Project Morpheus lander built at Johnson Space Center in Houston, an extremely minimal landing craft designed to fly autonomously here on Earth, recently arrived here at Kennedy and I got to photograph it. The idea is that NASA simply presses the launch button and it will fly a predetermined path and land in a pre-programmed spot in a very large hazard field of craters and rubble modeled after the lunar surface. It is built from Crawler Way gravel (road the shuttle and Apollo missions rolled out from the VAB to the launch pad) that has been crushed too fine to be used by the weight of the Space Shuttles and Crawler Transporter vehicles along with concrete rubble just at the south end of the Shuttle Landing Facility. The day I was there to photograph a flight test had quite a bit of lightning and the vehilce was moved back indoors where I photographed it before riding out to the shoot the hazard field while it was empty. The lander is also experimenting with liquid oxygen and methane propulsion instead of oxygen and hydrogen. This development of methane as rocket fuel will greatly further green fuel research which will make it into our lives through NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist NASA Spinoff program.
I'm all the way on the left behind the guy in the orange shirt http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=395695107157980&set=a.158127880914705.35542.156555054405321&type=1&relevant_count=1
Morpheus passed numerous flights tests in which is was tethered to a crane and bungees as well as free flight tests in Texas before moving here. As a precaution because of the cross-country move they began a series of tethered flight tests here at KSC which were to lead to free flight tests once the hardware still proved reliable. On 8/9, during the second untethered flight, just a few feet above the ground, a hardware failure caused the guidance system to malfunction. Not knowing which way was up or down, Morpheus turned itself upside down and flew straight down into the ground rupturing the liquid oxygen and methane tanks and exploded. There was no press coverage of that flight test or any others done here at KSC so the only pictures you will see are screen shots from the NASA TV cameras. The Project Morpheus crew has since packed up and went home to JSC, TX to build a new one, something they planned to do anyway. Their official statement and a video of the catastrophic failure can be seen on the project's blog http://morpheuslander.blogspot.com/2012/08/moving-forward-not-starting-over.html
In September, the new ALHAT (Autonomous precision Landing and Hazard Detection Avoidance Technology) system would have been installed onto Morpheus for testing which will check landing sites, ID debris and locate alternate clear sites nearby. The field has 5 good landing sites, and the system would be programmed to landing in the middle of the field in a blocked area, at which point the system would photograph a roughly 90 sq yd portion of the landing site from above, figure out that the programmed landing site is bad and find another one automatically, all within a fraction of a second using a parallel processing chip on loan from NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) who operates all the US spy satellites.
The NROL-15 top secret spy satellite launched aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket, the world's most powerful rocket currently operating. While the launch was not much to see (liquid rocket fuel doesn't leave a smoke trail and this one did not use any Solid Rocket Motors), the pre-dawn launch saw numerous technical delays allowing spectacular sunrise photos of a giant red sun coming up behind launch pad.
Over a period of numerous days, Space Shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour both got their main engine (dummies), dummy FRC (Forward Reaction Control aka the engine in the nose) and dummy OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) pods installed for the final time in preparation of museum display. All useable flight hardware has already been removed for use in the next generation and these are simply shells for museum display.
Back up on the balcony of OSB-II, with the gigantic VAB in the background, former astronaut and head of NASA Charlie Bolden made an announcement on which 3 of the 7 private commercial companies involved in the Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev) were selected to provide NASA with human resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS.) This will free NASA to concentrate on deep space only missions. To mine and everyone else's excitement there, Sierra Nevada's Dreamchaser, a super-modern winged craft that looks like a mini space shuttle, was selected. I was able to ask Administrator Bolden about Sierra's presence here in Florida and was even more excited to learn that they have been hiring, and will be renting facilities & launching from right here. It is going to make for some amazing launch pictures as well as the usual behind the scenes opportunities we get to photograph.
Space Shuttle Endeavour, completing her Transition & Retirement, had the tail cone installed over the main engines for her upcoming ferry flight to Los Angeles. Ferry flights were pretty rare in the Space Shuttle Program, as most missions landed back here in Florida, and tail cone installs here at KSC were even more rare since the shuttles are usually flying back to here from California for their next launch. With OPF-1 and 3 (Orbiter Processing Facility - the giant maintenance hangars built specially for the shuttles) already leased out, Endeavour, with tail cone installed, was taken out of OPF-2 and switched places with Atlantis inside the VAB. Between the two buildings they were bought nose to nose for the last time. Not many reporters were able to attend, and only 6 reporters were allowed onto the VAB roof 525ft (42 stories) up to shoot the bird's eye view while another small handful shot photos from the ground. Another way of saying that is there were only 6 people in the world allowed to take the pictures I took. Talk about exclusive!! Sometimes it is hard to remember that, but that is the case at every event NASA allows news media to attend. While I was up on the roof I also made sure to get a couple panoramas from the north and west sides.
The new multi-billion dollar, SUV sized robotic Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover named Curiosity, which launched from here in November, successfully arrived at Mars in what was the most complicated landing ever attempted in history. This was known as the 7 minutes of terror, seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISmWAyQxqqs . I photographed the aeroshell back shell & heat shield, the rocket powered sky crane and the rover itself; every piece of equipment in the above video, last July and August inside the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) cleanroom before launch. I also shot the Atlas V rocket which launched it laying vertical on a truck trailer just after arriving here.
So far everything is working perfectly and MSL is sending back beautiful color pictures of Gale Crater on Mars. National Geographic has been running a program called Martian Mega Rover about many of the technical challenges in development and testing that almost made this mission not happen. I recommend watching it, there is a lot of great information and footage.
On the Air Force side at Cape Canaveral's historic Launch Complex 14, where America's first astronauts launched, General Cotton who runs Cape Canaveral Air Force Station swore in a group of new delayed entry recruits which included his own son. It was amazing being inside the blockhouse and I stopped to get a few shots of the Mercury 7 memorial just outside of the entrance.
I also got a chance to head off site to Astrotech Space Operations who test all spacebound equipment before launch to make sure nothing was damaged during transportation. While there I went into their cleanroom and photographed the twin Radiation Belts Storm Probes (RBSP) satellites and the payload fairing they will be launched inside of.
While these only sound like a handful of events, each event often requires traveling back and forth several days in a row and expenses add up very quickly at over 100 miles of traveling nearly every day of the week. This Thursday's upcoming launch of the RBSP will require being up there at least Monday through Thursday for news conferences, rollout, launch pad photo ops, launch, etc, and then possibly several more days after that depending weather and technical delays. That is the normal course of operations. As always, if you would like to ask project scientists a question, post it on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Haber-Photography/126322097409341?ref=ts and then tune in live to NASA TV for the post-launch news conference. I will try to ask all questions as I am permitted. In order to save money I do not attend non-photo op events such as pre-launch news conferences unless I am already there for a photo op.
I am also trying to secure sponsors for camera equipment, custom built sound activated triggers, custom built protective housings, etc. to leave out of the launch pads during launch as the expense is currently out of reach. For now, the money raised so far will guarantee at least the remainder of this year's fuel expenses will be covered.
To help continue to fund this project I am putting together a second round Kickstarter funding project that I hope you will share with everyone, and I am also putting together a series of 2013 Calendars here on Kickstarter which will be available in time for winter. One of those calendars will be all NASA photos and will make great gifts for any age! I will send links when the Kickstarter projects for them launch.
As always I will keep you up to date of Facebook as things happen so I don't bombard you with too many Kickstarter updates. Please follow me at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Haber-Photography/126322097409341?ref=ts and https://twitter.com/#!/ChrisHaber_com