Boeing Unveils New Home for Starliner Trainers

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ControlBridgeAstronauts have new training equipment at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston after Boeing installed its Crew Part-Task Trainers that simulate aspects of missions aboard the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The spacecraft and training systems are in development and manufacturing in partnership between the company and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in order to begin flying astronauts to the International Space Station from launch sites in Florida. 

Boeing officials, including former space shuttle commander Chris Ferguson, offered news media and others a tour of the facility in Houston where astronauts will rehearse for Starliner missions. Astronauts Suni Williams and Bob Behnken, two of four selected to train to fly Commercial Crew Program flight tests with Boeing and SpaceX, took the controls of the simulator to demonstrate the trainers as engineers looked on from separate workstations. During normal training operations, the engineers will oversee the situations as astronauts perform simulated missions. 

NASA’s astronauts have relied on simulators from the beginning of human spaceflight to practice the critical steps of a mission before they have to perform the real thing. As simulators increased in capability, the training became so life-like that astronauts routinely reported simulator flights being more stressful than actual missions. For more: http://go.nasa.gov/2d7dmv0

 

Every Day Closer to a New Way to Orbit

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A Delta II rocket launches with the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft payload from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. NPP is the first NASA satellite mission to address the challenge of acquiring a wide range of land, ocean, and atmospheric measurements for Earth system science while simultaneously preparing to address operational requirements for weather forecasting. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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Wide Angle Photos of SLC-41 from VIF

Two years after selecting the next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station, engineers and spaceflight specialists across NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Boeing and SpaceX are putting in place the elements required for successful missions. Here are eight things to know about Commercial Crew:

1. The Goal – The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is to return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety requirements. To accomplish this goal, we are taking a unique approach by asking private companies, Boeing and SpaceX, to develop human spaceflight systems to take over the task of flying astronauts to station.

Shots of Pad 39A for Commerical Crew Program (CCP).

2. Multi-User Spaceport – Boeing and SpaceX, like other commercial aerospace companies, are capitalizing on the unique experience and infrastructure along the Space Coast at our Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Kennedy has transitioned from a government-only launch complex to a premier multi-user spaceport. In the coming years, the number of launch providers along the Space Coast is expected to more than double.

3. Innovation – Our expertise has been joined with industry innovations to produce the most advanced spacecraft to ever carry humans into orbit. Each company is developing its own unique systems to meet our safety requirements, and once certified by us, the providers will begin taking astronauts to the space station.

tumblr_inline_odkp54dghC1tzhl5u_5004. Research – With two new spacecraft that can carry up to four astronauts to the International Space Station with each of our missions, the number of resident crew will increase and will double the amount of time dedicated to research. That means new technologies and advances to improve life here on Earth and a better understanding of what it will take for long duration, deep space missions, including to Mars.

5. Crew Training – Astronauts Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Williams have been selected to train to fly flight tests aboard the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. The veteran crew have sent time in both spacecraft evaluating and training on their systems. Both providers are responsible for developing every aspect of the mission, from the spacesuits and training, to the rocket and spacecraft.

6. Launch Abort System – Boeing and SpaceX will equip their spacecraft with launch abort systems to get astronauts out of danger … FAST!

7. Expedited Delivery – Time-sensitive, critical experiments performed in orbit will be returned to Earth aboard commercial crew spacecraft, and returned to the scientists on Earth in hours, instead of days – before vital results are lost. That means better life and physical science research results, like VEGGIE, heart cells, and protein crystals.

8. Lifeboat – The spacecraft will offer safe and versatile lifeboats for the crew of the space station, whether an emergency on-orbit causes the crew to shelter for a brief time in safety, or leave the orbiting laboratory altogether. Learn more: http://www.nasa.gov/content/new-craft-will-be-americas-first-space-lifeboat-in-40-years/

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OSIRIS-REx Interview with Jon Cowart

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CowartNASA’s Jon Cowart, a veteran space engineer going back to the space shuttle and other systems, offered a rundown of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program during Thursday’s launch broadcast ahead of the start of the OSIRIS-REx mission. In addition to a status update on the work under way by Boeing and SpaceX to build spacecraft and launch systems to take astronauts to the International Space Station, Cowart offered the role Commercial Crew plays in NASA’s overall goals of exploration.

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“The benefits (of Commercial Crew) are fantastic,” Cowart explained. “The Journey to Mars is going to take a dedicated team and that dedicated team can now focus on that task. They don’t have to worry about getting stuff to low-Earth orbit, which is where Commercial Crew comes in. We are going to enable that capability and free those folks up to worry about deep space and we are going to worry about getting things to low-Earth orbit using SpaceX and Boeing. This allows the money to be spent more on the deep space stuff, which we care deeply about. We all want to get to Mars at some point! So, that is the real thing, it frees up some money and also allows a dedicated team to go do that very important work.”

I Will Launch America: Mike Ravenscroft

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The opportunity to help NASA successfully usher in a new age of spaceflight in partnership with private aerospace companies is part of what drives Mike Ravenscroft to excel in his work as a Launch Site Integration lead for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Ravenscroft said the unique nature of commercial crew is exciting, because it is being performed in a tight partnership between the agency and aerospace companies Boeing and SpaceX. Both Boeing and SpaceX are building separate spacecraft and launch systems, along with their own unique launch pads at Kennedy and the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Instead of NASA dictating designs and owning the spacecraft, NASA is overseeing design and production and then buying the services from the companies to take astronauts to the International Space Station in order to enhance research there and to provide additional human launch capability from American shores.

“My personal opinion is, this is an opportunity to allow private industry to show what they can do,” Ravenscroft said. “We’ve given the companies requirements, but we’ve let them show how they can perform and answer the requirements. We have not forced them into a design we think they should have – we want them to innovate. It also allows them to achieve their own goals, which I believe is going to help sustain the industry.” Read more about what Ravenscroft is doing to help Launch America at http://go.nasa.gov/2bCj2a2

 

New Views of CST-100 Starliner Landing Tests

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Check out these two additional views of the drop tests campaign for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner design at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. The Starliner mock-up was dropped several times from about 30 feet and released on angles and at speeds to evaluate realistic conditions the spacecraft could encounter during the end phase of an actual mission when astronauts are aboard and the spacecraft is touching down in the American Southwest.

Starliner is equipped with airbags to help cushion the impact for the crew inside. Whether it lands on solid ground as planned, or has to splash down into water for an abort, the airbags are to inflate to provide a buffer for the spacecraft. The tests at Langley are being performed inside a landmark red and white gantry at the center that has been used throughout NASA’s history to evaluate many designs ranging from airplanes to the lunar lander for Apollo. The Starliner completed water landing qualification testing earlier this year in Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin. The results are used to confirm the design and NASA Commercial Crew Program engineers will also make their own evaluations from test results.

Starliner is one of two spacecraft in development in partnership with Commercial Crew to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. Tasked with carrying up to four people at a time, both the Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon are big enough to allow an expansion of the resident crew on the orbiting laboratory which means research time on the station will double.CTPD Drop Test

Starliner Tested for Ground-Landing Conditions

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Boeing Starliner Drop Test Campaign

Boeing Starliner Drop Test CampaignBoeing Starliner Drop Test CampaignBoeing engineers recently evaluated the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft’s ability to withstand the shocks and other challenges of landing on the ground with a series of drop tests at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Hoisted using a gantry at Langley that’s tested everything from private planes to the lunar lander of Apollo, a Starliner mockup with a full-size airbag system in place was released from about 30 feet to see how it behaved when contacting the Earth. The airbags have been designed to absorb much of the impact. A nominal Starliner mission, such as those planned to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station during Commercial Crew Program flights, is to end with the spacecraft touching down on land in the American southwest where ground support teams can more easily reach the spacecraft and crew than if they splashed down in water.

The Starliner was already tested in water-landing scenarios in the same gantry. All the results will be used by Boeing to confirm the designs of the landing systems and by NASA to certify the systems for use during upcoming flight tests without and then with a crew aboard. Rad many more details about the Starliner testing at http://go.nasa.gov/2bFMZZk

 

I Will Launch America: Brittani Sims

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Brittani Sims doubted at times she would ever get a chance to put her engineering acumen to work at NASA, but an internship stressing science, technology, engineering and math education – STEM – showed her what was possible.  She began her NASA career in the Space Shuttle Program and is now working in Commercial Crew as a certification systems engineer for the team working with SpaceX to develop the Crew Dragon spacecraft and launch systems to take astronauts to the International Space Station. Read more about Sims at http://go.nasa.gov/2bf9GFt

SpaceX Conducts Successful Crew Dragon Parachute System Test

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Drop_Test1_P1010568 Drop_Test2_P1010744A Crew Dragon test article successfully deployed its four main parachutes as planned during a test that saw the SpaceX-made test article dropped from a C-130 aircraft 26,000 feet above Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada. The Crew Dragon, designed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, will use four parachutes when returning to Earth. SpaceX plans to land the initial flight tests and missions in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX is working on a propulsive landing system the company intends to use in the future missions to propulsively land on land using its SuperDraco engines.

The parachute test is just one of an evaluation regimen that is expected to include many additional parachute drops of increasing complexity. SpaceX and NASA engineers will use the results throughout the test program to confirm the system and get it certified for use first on flight tests and then for operational missions. Photos by SpaceX.

Spacewalk Begins With Astronauts Focusing on IDA

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IDA-1onstationschematicAstronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins floated outside the Quest airlock on the International Space Station at 8:04 a.m. EDT to begin a 6 1/2-hour EVA. The spacewalkers will connect the International Docking Adapter to the station so that visiting vehicles including those in development for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can connect to the station in the near future. The IDA itself, built by Boeing, has been pulled from the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft and positioned next to the port it will be connected to. The video below shows the IDA’s extraction, and you can watch NASA TV’s spacewalk coverage this morning in the window to the right, on Web streaming or on NASA TV. The coverage will include conversations with spacewalk officers, astronauts and Commercial Crew Program officials.

Also, you can tweet questions to astronaut Doug Wheelock – @Astro_Wheels – throughout the morning. Just use .

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Crew Flight Test Engine Roars to Life

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Commerical Crew Program (CCP) astronauts visit Aerojet Rocketdyne to see engine test.

Can’t get enough of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s hot-fire test of one of the RL10 engines that will power the Centaur upper stage, the Starliner and its crew to the International Space Station for the Crew Flight Test? Watch the engine roar to life and read more about the test, at http://go.nasa.gov/2aZ2XPN.

As always, you can learn more about the Commercial Crew Program, at www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew.

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