Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will experience a variety of tremendous internal and external forces during missions to and from the International Space Station. When the Starliner launches in 2018, it won’t be the first time the spacecraft has encountered these forces. That is because Boeing built a Structural Test Article that will experience the rigors of spaceflight in a test facility in an effort to prove the design of the spacecraft. The module was built inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (top) before it was shipped it across the country to Huntington Beach, California, for testing (right).
It joined test versions of the service module, the launch vehicle adapter truss structure and other hardware that make up the upper stage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Testing of the article began shortly after it arrived to Boeing’s Test and Evaluation facility. The first test involved pressurizing the interior of the crew module to 1.5 times the maximum pressure a Starliner spacecraft would face during ascent, orbit, re-entry and landing for missions to and from the International Space Station.
Boeing’s facilities in southern California are outfitted with numerous test chambers that routinely evaluate spacecraft and other vehicles in a variety of environments to make sure they can handle the demands of flight.
Boeing is building the next generation of human space systems in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The Starliner will launch atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Commercial Crew Program also is partnering with SpaceX to develop its Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket for transporting astronauts to and from the orbiting microgravity laboratory. Photos by Boeing.
As commercial crew astronauts climb inside Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for the first time atop of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, there will be something very familiar about what they are doing.
This is because of a new simulator that arrived today at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The Boeing Mission Simulator is a full-scale mock-up of the Starliner outfitted with the same state-of-the-art interior as the real spacecraft. NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams worked with the simulator after its assembly in St. Louis before it was shipped to Texas.
The purpose of the simulator is to allow astronauts to rehearse all aspects of a mission to the International Space Station so the detailed functions they might need to perform will seem as routine as possible. The Starliner is autonomous, but the training tools designed for the spacecraft will allow an astronaut to go beyond the typical mission parameters to train for the unexpected while in a safe environment.
The simulator will join Boeing’s Crew Part-Task Trainers in the Jake Garn Mission Simulator and Training Facility, which were installed in 2016. The part-task trainers simulate specific aspects of a flight whereas the large mission simulator allows the astronaut to be fully immersed in the spaceflight experience from beginning to end. Last year, Boeing also unveiled an entire training facility in Houston call the Space Training, Analysis and Review Facility, or STAR, which will house two other training devices all designed to help astronauts and support teams from Mission Control to astronauts aboard the space station. Together, all training tools will prepare astronauts for variety of situations while in flight.
Boeing is building the Starliner system in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA is partnering with private industry to return human spaceflight to the United States. Boeing is one of two companies that will take astronauts to and from the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit so NASA can focus on deep-space exploration. The public-private partnership brings together industry innovation with NASA’s long history of human spaceflight experience.
The spacecraft and rocket systems that Boeing and SpaceX are creating in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program may not land on the surface of Mars. However, they are critical to the agency’s plans to send astronauts to the Red Planet. The systems will provide reliable access to the International Space Station, our test bed. Learn more: http://go.nasa.gov/2iIY0en
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program secured eight crew rotation missions from Boeing and SpaceX – four from each company. The missions will carry astronauts to the International Space Station through 2024. The four additional missions will fly following NASA certification. They fall under the current Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts, and bring the total number of crew rotation missions awarded to each provider to six.
The additional flights will allow the commercial partners to plan for all aspects of these missions while fulfilling space station transportation needs. The awards do not include payments at this time.
“Awarding these missions now will provide greater stability for the future space station crew rotation schedule, as well as reduce schedule and financial uncertainty for our providers,” said Phil McAlister, director of NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development Division. “The ability to turn on missions as needed to meet the needs of the space station program is an important aspect of the Commercial Crew Program.”
The two commercial spacecraft also will provide a lifeboat capability to allow the astronauts aboard the station to return safely to Earth in an emergency, if necessary.
Returning human launch capabilities to U.S. soil underscores NASA’s commitment to the station and the research that the orbiting laboratory makes possible including the advancement of scientific knowledge off the Earth, for the benefit of those on the Earth and to prepare for future deep space exploration.
The Commercial Crew Program will help NASA get full operational use from the national laboratory for scientific research by increasing the number of astronauts on the space station, and allowing the crew members to dedicate more time to research.
For more details about the missions and the work of the Commercial Crew Program, click here.
The past year marked a substantial transition for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its partners as they moved from design of critical elements and systems in previous years to the manufacturing of the spacecraft and launch vehicles. Working on independent spacecraft and launch systems, Boeing and SpaceX made substantial modifications to launch complexes in Florida and performed the first integrated simulations of the teams that will oversee the flights. Along the way, advances were overseen by NASA engineers and the astronauts who will fly the spacecraft into orbit for the flight tests. Read about the dynamic 2016 achievements here.
Take a break this holiday season with this Commercial Crew Program-inspired coloring sheet! Featuring Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, the scene plays out in a snowy environment quite unlike the typical climate of Florida’s Space Coast, where the companies will launch Commercial Crew Program missions to the International Space Station.
And don’t forget to download your own copy of the 2017 Children’s Artwork Calendar from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program! It features drawings from children all over the world as they imagine scenes of spaceflight playing out.
Our new Children’s Artwork Calendar is here and you can download and print your own right now! This is the same calendar that will be transmitted to the International Space Station where astronauts will be able to see it and put it to their own use. Kids from all over America and around the world (Hello Romania!) submitted wonderful and creative artwork.
For NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the calendar will mark the progress of a vital and important year as NASA and our industry partners – Boeing and SpaceX work toward establishing a new American capability to launch astronauts from the United States to the space station. A robust and vibrant space program will depend tremendously on the hard work our engineers, technicians and spaceflight specialists put in during this pivotal year.
So thank you children for sharing your own hard work with us and helping inspire us every day and with every page turn of this calendar!
The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements. To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation mission. The schedule below reflects a fourth quarter update from SpaceX and the dates Boeing released in October 2016.
Targeted Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test: June 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test: August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1: November 2017
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2: May 2018
What would you take to space? Astronaut Suni Williams took a cutout of her dog, Gorbie, on her first mission to the International Space Station. Kids 4 to 12, draw what you would take and enter it in our Children’s Artwork Calendar contest! Your entry could be beamed to the space station! http://go.nasa.gov/2fvRLNf
Boeing will use solar energy to power the company’s CST-100 Starliner for crew missions to and from the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The sun’s energy offers a reliable and efficient power source for the Starliner just as it does for the space station and satellites.
The Starliner will use solar cells made of three distinct cell layers to capture different portions of the energy spectrum to convert solar energy into more than 2,900 watts of usable electricity and allow astronauts to complete their journey to the orbiting laboratory. The system also will create enough power to run the Starliner’s systems while it is docked to the station for roughly six months at a time. The solar cells will be incorporated into the micro-meteoroid debris shield located at the bottom of the spacecraft’s service module. Spectrolab in Sylmar, California, is supplying the more than 3,500 solar cells for each spacecraft.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has partnered with private companies, Boeing and SpaceX, to take astronauts to and from the space station. Each company is building their own unique systems to meet NASA mission and safety requirements, and will return human launch capabilities to American soil. Photos credit: Boeing