NASA News: Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report

WASHINGTON -- The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, or ASAP, has
released its 2011 annual report .

The ASAP holds quarterly fact-finding and public meetings and visits
NASA facilities to directly observe the agency's operations and
decision making. In this year's report, the panel highlighted issues
related to costs, schedules, resources, requirements and acquisition
strategies that may have an impact on safety.

"The pursuit of great reward often comes hand in hand with great risk,
so it has always been with explorers," panel Chairman Joseph W. Dyer
said. "So naturally, it was the panel's duty to ask, 'How safe is
safe enough?' We didn't answer that question, but we did point to
areas where that question may not produce the level of safety the
panel expects and requires."

Some of the panel's critical safety issues or concerns in the report
-- International Space Station
-- Commercial Crew
-- Space Launch System
-- Alcohol Use and Testing Policy

Congress established the ASAP in 1968 after the Apollo 1 fire to
provide advice and make recommendations to the NASA administrator on
safety matters.

For more information about the ASAP and to view its 2011 report, visit:



NASA's J-2X Engine Kicks Off 2012 With Powerpack Testing

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- A new series of tests on the engine that will
help carry humans to deep space will begin next week at NASA's
Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi. The tests on the J-2X
engine bring NASA one step closer to the first human-rated liquid
oxygen and liquid hydrogen rocket engine to be developed in 40 years.

Tests will focus on the powerpack for the J-2X. This highly efficient
and versatile advanced rocket engine is being designed to power the
upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System, a new heavy-lift launch
vehicle capable of missions beyond low-Earth orbit. The powerpack
comprises components on the top portion of the engine, including the
gas generator, oxygen and fuel turbopumps, and related ducts and
valves that bring the propellants together to create combustion and
generate thrust.

"The J-2X upper stage engine is vital to achieving the full launch
capability of the heavy-lift Space Launch System," said William
Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for the Human
Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "The testing today
will help insure that a key propulsion element is ready to support
exploration across the solar system."

About a dozen powerpack tests of varying lengths are slated now
through summer at Stennis' A-1 Test Stand. By separating the engine
components -- the thrust chamber assembly, including the main
combustion chamber, main injector and nozzle -- engineers can more
easily push the various components to operate over a wide range of
conditions to ensure the parts' integrity, demonstrate the safety
margin and better understand how the turbopumps operate.

"By varying the pressures, temperatures and flow rates, the powerpack
test series will evaluate the full range of operating conditions of
the engine components," said Tom Byrd, J-2X engine lead in the SLS
Liquid Engines Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala. "This will enable us to verify the components'
design and validate our analytical models against performance data,
as well as ensure structural stability and verify the combustion
stability of the gas generator."

This is the second powerpack test series for J-2X. The powerpack 1A
was tested in 2008 with J-2S engine turbomachinery originally
developed for the Apollo Program. Engineers tested these heritage
components to obtain data to help them modify the design of the
turbomachinery to meet the higher performance requirements of the
J-2X engine.

"The test engineers on the A-1 test team are excited and ready to
begin another phase of testing which will provide critical data in
support of the Space Launch System," said Gary Benton, J-2X engine
testing project manager at Stennis.

J-2X is being developed for Marshall by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of
Canoga Park, Calif.

For more information on the J-2X engine, visit:


For more information on the Space Launch System, visit:



Educators Selected to Fly on NASA's SOFIA Airborne Observatory

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- Twenty-six educators from the United States
have been selected for research flights aboard SOFIA, NASA's
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. As participants in
the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, the educators will
partner with professional astronomers using SOFIA for scientific
observations in 2012 and 2013.

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner equipped with a 100-inch
(2.5-meter) diameter telescope. The observatory enables the analysis
of infrared light to study the formation of stars and planets;
chemistry of interstellar gases; composition of comets, asteroids and
planets; and supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies.

"The unique design of SOFIA gives educators hands-on experience with
world-class astronomical research," said John Gagosian, SOFIA program
executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Working with
astronomers, educators participate in a research project from
beginning to end and integrate that unique perspective with classroom
lessons and public outreach programs."

SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program is a yearly
professional development opportunity extended to educators through a
competitive, peer-reviewed process. This year's educators are:

-- Melvin Gorman and Gordon Serkis, Chinle Junior High School in
Chinle, Ariz.
-- Ira Harden and Vincente Washington, City Honors College Preparatory
Charter School in Inglewood, Calif.
-- Clifford Gerstman and Susan Groff, Middle College High School in
Santa Ana, Calif.
-- Mike Cimino, Heritage Middle School, and John Clark, Deltona High
School in Deltona, Fla.
-- Randi Brennon, Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences in Pahoa, Hawaii
-- Jo Dodds, Twin Falls Senior High School in Twin Falls, Idaho
-- Ralph Peterson, North Gem High School in Bancroft, Idaho
-- Jennifer Carter and Claudett M. Edie, Rowan County Senior High
School in Morehead, Ky.
-- Chelen Johnson, Breck School in Golden Valley, Minn.
-- Matt Oates, Dilworth STEM Academy in Sparks, Nev.
-- Dan Ruby, Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center in Reno, Nev.
-- Ryan Munkwitz and John Walsh, Southampton Intermediate and High
School in Southampton, N.Y.
-- James Johnson, Children's Center for Treatment & Education in
Custer City, Pa.
-- Adriana Alvarez and Mariela Aguirre, Alicia R. Chacon International
School in El Paso, Texas
-- David V. Black, Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo, Utah
-- Carolyn Bushman, Wendover Jr./Sr. High School in Wendover, Utah
-- Sarah Scoles, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and Anne Smith,
Green Bank Middle School in Green Bank, W.Va.
-- Constance Gartner, Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan, Wis.

"These educators submitted applications describing how they plan to
take what they learn from SOFIA back to their classrooms and
communities to help promote increased literacy in science,
technology, engineering and math," said astronomer Dana Backman,
manager of SOFIA's education and public outreach programs. "Selection
for this unique opportunity is truly an honor for the educators, as
well as for their local schools and science centers."

SOFIA is a joint program between NASA and the German Aerospace Center
(DLR). The SOFIA program is managed at the Dryden Aircraft Operations
Facility in Palmdale, Calif., where the aircraft is based. NASA's
Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages SOFIA science
and mission operations in concert with the Universities Space
Research Association (USRA) in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA
Institute (DSI) in Stuttgart, Germany. SOFIA's education and public
outreach programs are managed by the SETI Institute in Mountain View,
Calif., and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco.

For more information about SOFIA, visit:


For information about SOFIA's science mission, visit:





NASA's NuSTAR Ships to Vandenberg Ahead of March 14 Launch

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR,
shipped to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Tuesday to be mated
to its Pegasus launch vehicle. The observatory will detect X-rays
from objects ranging from our sun to giant black holes billions of
light-years away. It is scheduled to launch March 14 from an aircraft
operating out of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

"The NuSTAR mission is unique because it will be the first NASA
mission to focus X-rays in the high-energy range, creating the most
detailed images ever taken in this slice of the electromagnetic
spectrum," said Fiona Harrison, the mission's principal investigator
at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.

The observatory shipped from Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles,
Va., where the spacecraft and science instrument were integrated. It
is scheduled to arrive at Vandenberg on Jan. 27, where it will be
mated to the Pegasus, also built by Orbital, on Feb. 17.

The mission will be launched from the L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft,
which will take off near the equator from Kwajalein Atoll in the
Pacific. NuSTAR and its Pegasus will fly from Vandenberg to Kwajalein
attached to the underside of the L-1011, and are scheduled to arrive
on March 7.

On launch day, after the airplane arrives at the planned drop site
over the ocean, the Pegaus will drop from the L-1011 and carry NuSTAR
to an orbit around Earth.

"NuSTAR is an engineering achievement, incorporating state-of-the-art
high-energy X-ray mirrors and detectors that will enable years of
astronomical discovery," said Yunjin Kim, the mission's project
manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.

NuSTAR's advanced telescope consists of two sets of 133 concentric
shells of mirrors, which were shaped from flexible-glass similar to
that found in laptop screens. Because X-rays require large focusing
distances, or focal lengths, the telescope has a lengthy 10-meter
(33-foot) mast, which will unfold a week after launch.

These and other advances in technology will enable NuSTAR to explore
the cosmic world of high-energy X-rays with much improved sensitivity
and resolution over previous missions. During its two-year primary
mission, NuSTAR will map the celestial sky in X-rays, surveying black
holes, mapping supernova remnants, and studying particle jets
travelling away from black holes near the speed of light.

NuSTAR also will probe the sun, looking for microflares theorized to
be on the surface that could explain how the sun's million-degree
corona, or atmosphere, is heated. It even will test a theory of dark
matter, the mysterious substance making up about one-quarter of our
universe, by searching the sun for evidence of a hypothesized dark
matter particle.

"NuSTAR will provide an unprecedented capability to discover and study
some of the most exotic objects in the universe, from the corpses of
exploded stars in the Milky Way to supermassive black holes residing
in the hearts of distant galaxies," said Lou Kaluzienski, NuSTAR
program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NuSTAR is a small-explorer mission managed by JPL for NASA's Science
Mission Directorate. The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences
Corporation. Its instrument was built by a consortium including
Caltech, JPL, Columbia University, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Md., the Danish Technical University, the University of
California, Berkeley, and ATK-Goleta. NuSTAR will be operated by U.C.
Berkeley, with the Italian Space Agency providing its equatorial
ground station located at Malindi, Kenya. NASA's Explorer Program is
managed by Goddard. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

For more information, visit:



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