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CRS-14 Pre-Launch Presser

CRS-14 Pre-Launch Presser



  • Stephanie Schierholz, NASA Communications Office
  • Joel Montalbano, ISS Program Deputy Manager
  • Jessica Jensen, SpaceX Director of Dragon Mission Management
  • Pete Hasbrook, ISS Program Science Office Associate Program Scientist
  • Mike McAleenan, 45th Weather Squadron Launch Weather Officer

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Good afternoon. I'm Stephanie Schierholz, from NASA's Office of Communications. We're here at Kennedy Space Center preparing for launch Monday, tomorrow, at 4:30PM Eastern Time, for SpaceX's 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will carry about 5,800lbs of supplies and payloads, including critical materials to directly support science and research investigations for Expeditions 55 and 56. Here to talk with us about preparations for this mission and joining us by phone are Joel Montalbano, Deputy Manager of the International Space Station program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Jessica Jensen, Director of Dragon Mission Management for SpaceX. Pete Hasbrook, Associate Program Scientist for the ISS Program Science Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center. And Mike McAleenan, Weather Officer for the 45th Weather Squadron. We'll begin with remarks from Joel, if you have the phone.

Joel Montalbano, ISS Program: Well, happy Easter, and welcome, again, to the SpaceX-14 pre-launch news conference. We're excited to be at launch minus one day for another cargo mission, and with all the work going down at Kennedy Space Center in preparation, it's just another good day to be in the space business. As Stephanie said, SpaceX will carry about 5,800lbs of hardware and supplies, stay for about a month, and then return with over 4,000lbs. Of the up-mass that we talked about, 3,750lbs will be pressurized and 2,050lbs will be unpressurized. Of the pressurized hardware, over 2,000lbs will be dedicated to the utilization, research, and science programs onboard the International Space Station. The remaining hardware consists of support for computer resources, crew supply, spacewalk hardware, and vehicle hardware. On the external side, we'll have three payloads in the trunk of the Dragon. A U.S. materials facility that'll be installed and collect critical information for us as we look forward to exploration. We'll have a European Earth observation payload, designed to study high altitude thunderstorms. And then a pump package, which is a spare package for our external cooling system. Each of the items weighs anywhere between 650 and 680lbs each. As Stephanie said, launch is scheduled for 4:30PM Kennedy Time on Monday. And we're planning a capture Wednesday morning, 7:00AM Kennedy time. As most of you have been accustomed to, space station operations continues to be busy onboard, with the recent Soyuz launch and return of three of six crew onboard space station, and then last week's very successful EVA. The increment has a plan for about 184 experiments, with 49 of them being new experiments to the International Space Station. So thank you again, happy Easter, and with that I'll hand it over to Jessica.

Jessica Jensen, SpaceX: Thanks Joel. So as Stephanie and Joel both mentioned, we are targeting a launch tomorrow at 4:30PM. This is going to be an instantaneous launch window. The reason for that is that is what is required for Dragon to catch the space station. It'll be approximately flying over at that time. Dragon is going to rendezvous with the space station very early morning on Wednesday, April 4th. And it's going to stay attached to the space station for approximately 30 days before returning to Earth. For those of you interested in the precise launch times, the launch attempt tomorrow is at 4:30:38PM, and we also have a backup attempt on 4/3, in the event we have to scrub for any reason tomorrow. That launch time is 4:08:03PM. So one of the things I wanted to bring up was, this is the second resupply mission for NASA where we're not only flying a flight-proven booster, but we're also flying a Dragon that has already been to the International Space Station. So this booster launch the CRS-12 mission back in August of last year, and this Dragon flew the CRS-8 mission to the space station in April of 2016. And what's really neat about that is, if you think about it, this is the second time that NASA has done this, and this is also, we recently had our one year anniversary of re-flying the first flight-proven booster, ever. And in that time, we have already launch ten flight-proven booster. And that's on top of our manifest of new missions as well. So what's really neat about this is, it's becoming the norm. And we like that. Reusability is really important for the future of spaceflight. It's the only way we're going to get thousands of people to space to explore the stars, the moon, Mars, and to make life multi-planetary. Otherwise, it's just going to be a cost-prohibitive dream. So we want to make a note that while SpaceX has put in all our own money, we developed all this technology on our own. We did have guidance from our partners. So we did invest in this technology because we think it's that important. So we did all the research and testing that got us to this point. And I just want to say a thank you, especially to NASA, and to all of our customers who have helped us out along the way to keep this dream alive for the future. So CRS-14 is going to be the 14th of 20 missions under the initial CRS-1 contract. And then we also have the follow-on contract. It is called CRS-2, so Cargo Resupply Services number two. That is where we are going to also deliver cargo, take cargo to and from the space station, through the year 2024. NASA has granted us authority to proceed on those first two missions. I'd like to close by thanking our customer, NASA, and also thanking the Air Force, the range, and the FAA for their support, as always, for getting us to launch day. And we're looking forward to a successful launch tomorrow.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Excellent. Thank you, Jessica. Pete?

Pete Hasbrook, ISS Science Office: Okay. Thank you, Stephanie. And thank you all for being here today, and especially those friends and fans that are following us on the web. We're really excited to be here today for this briefing and to tell you about all the great science that's going on, on the International Space Station. The space station is a world-class and a multi-disciplinary in space, and our commercial crew providers bring us great strides in bringing the science forward and keeping it going on space station, and bringing benefits back to us on Earth. Dragon brings a lot of cargo, as you heard. Brings it to the space station, but also an important thing is it brings so much cargo and samples for us back, for analysis and refurbishment. The current increment, 55/56, we estimate a little higher than what Joel gave to you, because we keep new statistics as we get them, we have over 280 different experiments that will be done during this six-month period, and SpaceX is bringing cargo either up or bringing home that affect over 50 fifty of those experiments. We, over the course of the station's history as a laboratory, and by the way, we're celebrating our 20th anniversary this coming November, the 20th anniversary of the first element launched. We have had over 2,500 different experiments conducted, and many of those are still ongoing. We've had over 1,500 different scientific publications, which is how scientists share the results and the benefits with the rest of the world. We've got some cool stuff happening in space biology. One of the experiments is studying a common grass called Brachypodium distachyon, also known as purple false brome. This is a grass that is studied, and they're going to compare its performance in space with gene expression and other changes, with Arabidopsis thaliana, which is a plant that's studied in space and been studied very thoroughly, so scientists know what to expect there. Now they can compare the grass with the Arabidopsis that's so well-known. We have an experiment that's studying the effects of probiotics on controlling yeast growth. Yeast in the sense that it may cause diseasents or sicknesses in humans. We also have a couple of experiments involving fruit flies, and fruit flies always mystify me, how you can learn so much by studying such a small model organism. Well it turns out that their genetics are relatively similar to ours, especially in the areas of immune system and responding to diseases. So we've got two different fruit fly experiments that we're launching, in some of the new hardware as well, supported and provided by our commercial providers. In the field of human research, we've got a lot going on, and SpaceX is supporting many of our ongoing experiments. We have an experiment that's studying the bone marrow of humans, and how the growth of fat cells in microgravity may affect the growth of red blood cells. We have an experiment that's called Cerebral Auto-Regulation, which is studying the brain's ability to self-regulate its blood flow, even if the heart and the blood vessels are not performing as they should. We're continuing the fluid shifts investigation, which studies how fluid shifts in astronauts bodies and affects their vision negatively. We're studying bone turnover, with the goal of improving counter-measures of bone loss in space, as well as age-related bone loss here on the ground. Scientists are testing technology to monitor the cardiopulmonary system, and doing that without limiting astronauts mobility. And they're also studying advanced textiles to keep astronauts cool and comfortable when they exercise. I think it's worth noting that all of these human research experiments that I just mentioned have a lot of international participation. Either they're led by scientists from other countries, or led by a U.S. scientist with participation from scientists in other countries. It just kind of shows you that we can do much more together than we could do in this area just by ourselves. We have a lot of technology demonstrations going on, including advanced computer systems in space, and we're continuing the additive manufacturing work that we're doing in space. We're also doing a lot of work in the physical sciences areas, and one of the samples that's going up onboard this mission is going to be studying the sintering process, which is a way of creating a solid from powders by heating the powders to the point that they fuse together, but not so hot that they're actually melting. We also have a furnace in space that's an electromagnetic levitation furnace, which is a way of using the microgravity environment for container-less processing. So metal alloys, graphites, glasses. We also have Dragon delivering the MISSE external flight facility. MISSE is a materials in space experiment. And it's a way to use the outside environment of space to expose materials to that harsh environment. It's a good example of the cooperation between NASA and the national laboratory. This is a commercially, external-provided facility, but all of the experiments that are flown for the first flight are NASA experiments to validate that the facility works properly. The other external payload that Joel mentioned is the Atmosphere Space Interactions Monitor, or ASIM, which will be mounted on the European Columbus module. CASIS and our national lab partners are also sponsoring a large number of education and outreach activities. And many of them are experiments that were designed by students, and in some cases the students won a competition to be able to fly their experiment on the space station. At the end of the berthed mission, Dragon's going to bring home a lot of science samples for us in the fields of biology, such as protein crystal growth and plants and cell research, as well as the human research experiments that I talked about. Also bringing home hardware for refurbishment, or analysis of how the technology demonstration hardware performed in orbit. And one of those tech demos that everybody knows fairly well is the Robonaut technology demonstration. Bringing it home to repair it and eventually re-launch it for it to actually perform the mission that it was supposed to. I do have one more highlight for you, our office, the ISS Program Science Office maintains the database on the web of all of the experiments that I talked about, and many more of them. And we're going through a year-long effort to improve that, improve your displays that you can see. We just rolled out an advanced search capability, so it's easier to look up the strange terms that we might be using up here. you can get there by going to either and browse from there, or you can do just a web search for Space Station Research Explorer [note: only the latter directly brings you to the new site - ed]. Anybody who's using the cell phone who might want to use it, it works on a cell phone, just turn your phone sideways and it displays a lot better. I'd like to almost conclude here. We'd like to share with you a video that was put together by our CASIS colleagues that gives an overview of the national lab portion of this mission.

[video begins]

Ken Shields, Director of Operations, CASIS: SpaceX's 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station will mark the first opportunity of 2018 to replenish this U.S. national laboratory with new and exciting research. Let's learn more about some of the featured investigations and facilities that are destined to station as part of this mission.

Voiceover: 490 BioTech will examine anti-cancer therapeutics through a novel bioluminescent kit. This research could have far-reaching impacts on the drug development process, to include the timing of when therapeutics come to market. Two student investigations, as part of the Genes in Space flight competition, will be evaluating various DNA experiments aboard the space station. Students from across the country have the ability to submit DNA amplification experiments through this program, which is sponsored by The Boeing Company. The Materials International Space Station Experiment flight facility, or MISSE, was developed by Alpha Space. This exciting facility will enable academic, commercial, and other government agencies the ability to put materials experiments on the outside of the space station, exposing these experiments to the extreme environments of space. The Multi-use Variable-gravity Platform, developed by Techshot, includes two internal carousels that simultaneously produce artificial gravity. This facility can be used to conduct research in space with a wide variety of sample types. A cube satellite developed in partnership with NanoRacks will focus efforts on the ability to remove debris in Low Earth Orbit. The mission will deploy two cubesats as artificial debris targets to demonstrate technologies such as net capture, harpoon capture, and vision-based navigation.

Ken Shields, Director of Operations, CASIS: This mission provides an assortment of research on space station that will benefit life on Earth, and will also bring new facilities to the International Space Station to further enhance our capabilities in Low Earth Orbit. And we wish our partners at NASA, SpaceX, and all of our principle investigators the best of luck for a great year of research in 2018.

[video ends]

Pete Hasbrook, ISS Science Office: So all this activity shows you that the laboratory in space is always getting better and better. We've got more advanced experiments coming, and especially advanced experiment hardware. Which in turn enables more advanced experiments in the future, which brings us better results back to Earth as well as benefits to all of us on Earth.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Thank you for that excellent overview, Pete. Mike, would you talk to us about the weather, please?

Mike McAleenan, 45th Weather Squadron: Well, after a dreary couple of days in central Florida, I'm happy to report that we have some sunshine outside now. The frontal boundary that kind of gets down to our neck of the woods and stalls out, it's kind of typical this time of year, that is gradually eroding. So I think we're going to have a pretty good shot at launch tomorrow. If you look to the satellite picture, you can kind of see the remnants of that boundary just to our south, mostly over the water. It is creating some enhanced cumulus activity, maybe just north of Lake Okeechobee, there's some, several showers down there. We did have some thunderstorms in the area just offshore yesterday. The closest cloud-to-ground lightning stroke that we did to Complex 40 was about ten nautical miles. So no threat there. You can also see a big fog boundary just offshore. That was over all of central Florida this morning, and now it is just over the cooler waters just immediately adjacent to shore. We might see that push back in over the nighttime hours as we cool off again, but I don't think that's going to impact any processing, or certainly it'll be well burned off by when we get to T-0 tomorrow. If we can go to the forecast for tomorrow, it looks pretty good. We're going to have some sunshine and cumulus clouds around. We're going to have winds out of the southeast, ten to fifteen, well below constraints. It'll just be a particularly unlucky day to have that cumulus cloud or shower rule right over the pad at our instantaneous window at 4:30. But that's what the 20% is trying to get a picture of. So that's the chance of one of those things happening. Generally we have southeast flow, most of those clouds should move inland, but the upper-level steering flows are back towards the east. So there's a chance we could see some of those develop, and that's basically the probability that we're looking at, as a worst case. Next slide will be the backup date, on Tuesday, if necessary. Should be a little bit drier out there, so no chance of the rain shower moving overhead, but with that frontal boundary still decaying, we could have some mid-level clouds that could violate thick cloud criteria, or again, with the heating, we could get some cumulus clouds. So again, a 20% chance of violation on Tuesday, with just leaving the showers out of the forecast for that day. So overall I think we're looking pretty good for 4:30PM tomorrow, as long as those showers and clouds don't roll over just at the wrong time. Thank you.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Excellent. Thank you. We'll now move to questions. So we do have some participants on the phone, we can take some questions by phone. We also can take questions submitted using social media. Please use the hashtag #askNASA to send your question in. And for those in the room, please wait until a microphone gets to you, and give us your name, your media outlet, and to whom you are directing your question. First question?

Chris Gebhardt, NASASpaceFlight: Chris Gebhardt with NASASpaceFlight. For Jessica. Can you talk a little bit about refurbishment of this particular Dragon from CRS-8. Is the process becoming easier? Are there things you're seeing that are more or less the same in the refurbishment processes? And if you do have to delay from tomorrow, are there any swap outs of late-stow items?

Jessica Jensen, SpaceX: So I'll answer your second question first. So, if we have to scrub tomorrow and launch on Tuesday, we do not have to swap out any items. That's typical of a 24-hour delay. We usually don't have to swap anything out. If it's beyond 24 hours, then that's usually when we have to swap out all the time-critical science. For Dragon refurbishment, what's interesting about this vehicle is, this is the vehicle that previously flew on the CRS-8 mission in 2016, and at that point in time, we had obviously had many Dragons leading up to that, and one of the things that we implemented on this vehicle was additional water sealing. So I think as you all know, Dragon splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. So there is salt water around it, and what we did for the CRS-8 vehicle, was we had improved water sealing. And it really paid off. So we were able to reuse many more components on this vehicle compared to previous Dragons. So actually, on this vehicle that's flying on SpaceX-14, there's only a handful on things that we are not reusing. Obviously the trunk is all new, and then we still have to have a new heatshield, as well as new parachutes. But almost everything on the interior of the capsule we were able to reuse.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: And Ken?

Ken Kremer, RocketSTEM / Space UpClose: Ken Kremer, RocketSTEM, Space UpClose. Just to follow up a little bit. Are you going to use one of these three times at all? I'm also wondering about the trunk. Is it pretty much full, and is this the heaviest trunk of cargo that you've taken?

Jessica Jensen, SpaceX: So, for your first question. So, for Dragon 1, and basically for Dragon and Falcon 9, every component on our vehicles, as well as the overall vehicles themselves have a service lifetime. So we qualify it, and then we check in on it each flight to see, did it exceed its maximum life, are we still staying under its number of pressure cycles, or whatever it might be. So we still evaluate that. Basically every component gets evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For Dragon 1, we are certifying to be qualified for a maximum of three flights. So there is a chance that something could fly three times. That is the max we are currently certifying for the Dragon 1 vehicle. And then for the trunk, this is one of the heavier missions, but not the heaviest. I believe the BEAM, the Bigelow expandable module, as well as the CREAM payload, they were some of our heavier payloads. So even though this trunk is carrying three FRAM payloads in the trunk, it's a pretty standard mission for us. But yeah, definitely on the heavier side. But well within requirements and we're excited for all the science.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Great. Thank you. We'll take a question on the phone. Irene Klotz. And then come back into the room.

Irene Klotz: Hi. Thanks very much. Joel, I wanted to just ask if there were any updates in science for additional year-long crewed flights.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Joel, were you able to hear the question?

Joel Montalbano, ISS Program: No, I can't hear any of the questions.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Okay. Joel, so Irene Klotz asked if there's any updates to future one-year crew missions.

Joel Montalbano, ISS Program: Thank you, Irene. Good question. We continue to look for opportunities to support additional one-year missions. Our human research program has asked us to see if we can find ten to twelve additional subjects. At this time there's nothing firm on the books, but we continue to look for opportunities where we can slide in a one-year crew member.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Irene, were you able to get that?

Irene Klotz: I did, thank you.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Excellent. Okay. Another question here in the room.

Randy Segal, WSTU Radio: Randy Segal, WSTU Radio, for Jessica. Currently, how many first stages do you have that you're going to be reusing? Currently, and most of them I assume are going to be expendables because you're waiting for the newest versions of the engines, correct?

Jessica Jensen, SpaceX: Correct. Well, I wouldn't say they're all expendable. So what it is, is, I don't have the count off the top of my head. We are starting to reuse these a lot, which, it's getting good to lose count. So I do know, in the past year, we have flown ten flight-proven boosters. And then, over the year coming up now, we're going to fly about 50% more than that. So yeah, we are just getting these and turning them around, and like I said for Dragon, we can evaluate the service lifetime of any component, or the entire booster itself. The Block 5 version of Falcon 9, with its upgraded engines, yes, we have designed that vehicle to have improved and increased reusability. So we are expecting that vehicle to be able to be reused for ten flights or more.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Another question in the room.

Emre Kelly, Florida Today: Hi, Emre Kelly with Florida Today. Jessica, there's been a lot of chatter online about why this CRS mission is expendable. Could you just provide more of an official statement and discussion on why that is. Thank you.

Jessica Jensen, SpaceX: Sure thing. So again, every mission is looked at on a case-by-case basis. So for this mission in particular, what we wanted to do is, and we've done this on a few other ones, is, again, we are looking forward to reuse in the long term. And it's always good for us if we can get data that is sort of pushing the bounds. So in this case, we have a booster that has already flown, we are looking at the service lifetime of that and trading it with, hey, should we bring it back to land, or drone-ship, or should we do a demonstration mission. And this one seemed like a really good opportunity to fly a trajectory a little bit out more towards the limits. And that way our engineers can collect additional data not only during re-entry but during the landing that will be useful for the future.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Okay, let's take a couple questions from social media.

NASA Social Media: So our first question comes from [@ashire?]. They would like to know, will we be able to watch the Dragon capsule once in orbit?

Jessica Jensen, SpaceX: Is that for me? Okay. So, on the video, so yes. Yes. You will be able to see Dragon once it's in orbit. So Dragon is deployed into orbit approximately ten minutes after liftoff, and yes we have video coverage them. Usually you can see the solar arrays deploy depending on if we're over a ground station. So yes, you will have that coverage. Also, when we come up to the rendezvous day with the space station, so very early morning on Wednesday, April 4th, NASA TV usually airs live coverage of the entire rendezvous all the way up through capture. So all of that will be available, again, pending ground stations and downlinks available. But yeah, we are expecting no restrictions for the CRS-14 launch.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Yes, with a nominal launch, people can tune in on Wednesday morning to NASA TV and watch that.

NASA Social Media: Our second question comes from @ak4me, and they would like to know from Pete, are there any amateur radio projects or upgrades onboard this launch.

Pete Hasbrook, ISS Science Office: I'm not aware of any on this launch.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Another question.

Robert Perlman, Hi. Robert Perlman with Just to go back to that previous question about coverage of Dragon on orbit, what was it that differentiated the launch on Friday with the NOAA restrictions, and this launch, that allows you to broadcast Dragon once it separates?

Jessica Jensen, SpaceX: So I really only know about the Dragon missions. I know we have no restrictions for CRS-14. It's the exact same coverage we've had for every mission. So I can't really talk about the difference, but I do know that for this mission, it's the exact same that we've had in the past for all previous CRS missions. No restrictions.

Stephanie Schierholz, Moderator: Do we have any final questions for our panel before we conclude for the day? Okay. Thank you so much for joining us to discuss the first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station in 2018. Join us again tomorrow at 4:00PM Eastern Time for NASA Television's live coverage of the launch. You can follow along with all the news related to Monday's launch at, and the life and sciences aboard the space station at Thank you for joining us.

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