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What’s in Store for 2017 at NASA?

What’s in Store for 2017 at NASA?

With 2016 behind us, we take the time to not only reflect on what we’ve
accomplished, but also take a look to what’s ahead for the next year.

Here are a few things to
look forward to in 2017… 

New Telescope in Town

This year marked big
progress on our James Webb Space Telescope and there are still a number of
large milestones before the telescope is launched in 2018. Once launched, JWST will
be the premier observatory of the next decade. It will study every phase in the
history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big
Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets
like Earth, to the evolution of our own solar system.


In 2017, the telescope
will be shipped to our Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where end-to-end
optical testing in a simulated cryo-temperature and vacuum space environment
will occur.

Epic Final Year at Saturn

After more than 12 years
studying Saturn, its rings and moons, our Cassini
spacecraft is in its
final year of its epic voyage. The conclusion of the historic scientific
odyssey is planned for September 2017, but not before the spacecraft completes
a daring two-part endgame.


Cassini’s final phase –
called the Grand Finale – begins in earnest in April 2017. During this time,
Cassini will make the closest-ever observations of Saturn, mapping the planet’s
magnetic and gravity fields with exquisite precision and returning ultra-close
views of the atmosphere.

Delivering Supplies to Space

Our ambitious commercial
space program has enabled a successful partnership with two American
companies to resupply the International Space Station. 


The companies are
successfully resupplying the space station, and more missions to deliver
scientific investigations and cargo are planned for 2017.  

Launching Two Earth Missions

New Earth science
missions got underway in 2016 to enable studies that will unravel the
complexities of our planet from the highest reaches of Earth’s atmosphere to
its core. In 2017, we will launch two Earth-observing instruments to the
International Space Station as part of our ongoing use of the orbiting space
laboratory to study our changing planet.


The Stratospheric
Aerosol and Gas Experiment III (SAGE III) will give us a new way to monitor
Earth’s protective ozone layer and document its ongoing recovery. The Lightning
Imaging Sensor (LIS) will measure both in-cloud and cloud-to-ground
lightning over much of the planet, data that will help improve our
understanding of lightning’s connections to weather and related phenomena.

Commercial Crew

Our Commercial
Crew Program is working with American aerospace industry as companies
develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable
of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.


In 2017, astronauts will
train for commercial flights and launch pad 39A will be completed at Kennedy
Space Center in Florida. Work is
wrapping up on a new structure built specifically for the needs of astronauts
climbing into Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner as it stands atop a United Launch
Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. In 2017, the
200-foot-tall Crew Access Tower and Crew Access Arm will see installation and testing
of emergency evacuation systems. 


has also overhauled the historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy and built new support
structures for the company’s line of Falcon rockets. The Crew Access Arm,
currently under construction, will be connected in mid-2017
to provide a bridge from the fixed service structure to the Crew Dragon
spacecraft so astronauts can board before launch

Orion Progress

Our Orion spacecraft is
being built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Orion will
serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide
emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel and
provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

What’s in Store for 2017 at NASA?

In 2017, computers in
the Orion
crew module for the spacecraft’s first mission with our Space Launch System
rocket will be turned on for the first time to verify the spacecraft can route
power and send commands. While the Orion outfitting and assembly process for
the first mission of the spacecraft atop the SLS rocket continues in 2017,
construction will also begin on the vehicle for the first Orion flight with
astronauts that will fly as early as 2021.

Cutting Edge Technology

Our Space Technology office
is dedicated to pushing the technological envelope, taking on challenges not
only to further space agency missions near Earth, but also to sustain future
deep space exploration activities. 


In 2016, the office focused on and made
significant progress in advancing technologies and capabilities that will
continue into 2017. 

Advances in Aeronautics

Our rich aeronautical
research heritage added to its history of technical innovation in 2016 with
advancements that will help make airplanes use less fuel, release fewer emissions
and fly more quietly…and that includes working to return supersonic flight to
the commercial marketplace.


We took steps in 2016 to
resume designing, building and flying several experimental aircraft, or
X-planes, as a means to demonstrate key green technologies and help accelerate
their use by industry. In 2017, this research will continue to grow and

Thanks for joining us in 2016, we look forward to sharing our progress with you in the coming year. 

Happy New Year!

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