NASA heliophysics fleet plans first ever mission to study space weather


On Wednesday night, program officials announced a successful initial safety check and confirmed the timing of the historic test flight.

"There are a lot of things you can prepare for on the ground, and through analysis and tests - and we do all that on the ground - but there's nothing like flying a mission to be able to really check out all the key systems ... to get ready for our next mission", Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA Commercial Crew Program, said last week during a news conference.

"I fully expect we're going to learn something on this flight", said Bill Gerstenmaier, Nasa's head of human spaceflight.

Acknowledging that there may be delays with the SpaceX and Boeing crew capsules, NASA has purchased two more future seats aboard the Soyuz rockets, one in 2019 and one in 2020, Space News reports. Because both companies are behind schedule, there is added pressure for a flawless test flight.

"It´s been a long eight years", said Bob Cabana, the Kennedy Space Center´s director and a former astronaut. Boeing is targeting an April test flight of its Starliner capsule without crew, and a launch with three astronauts no earlier than August.

Summer and fall came and went with neither spacecraft leaving the ground.

"Space weather is important because it can have profound impacts-affecting technology and astronauts in space, disrupting radio communications and, at its most severe, overwhelming power grids", says NASA. The astronaut crews for those later launches have already been chosen and are in training.

NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co $6.8 billion to build competing rocket and capsule systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil for the first time since the U.S. Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011. That question should get a partial answer within the next 24-hours, thanks to a test named "Demo-1".

Everything will have to function according to a strict plan: the separation of the capsule and the rocket, the 27 hours orbiting towards the space station and then docking with it.

"We'll measure the responses on the human body, obviously, and measure the environment".

SpaceX vice president for build and flight reliability, Hans Koenigsmann, told reporters on Thursday that the company has completed "an incredible amount of testing to make sure that everything is safe and ready to go".

The Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) mission will cost Dollars 42 million and is planned to launch in August 2022, attached to the exterior of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS). Next week, the craft will de-orbit and splash down into the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast, where it will be promptly retrieved by SpaceX.