Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA’s aerospace industry partners for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their Space Act Agreements with the agency.
NASA engineers and specialists continue their review of the progress as the agency and partners move ahead with plans to develop the first American spacecraft designed to carry people into space since the space shuttle.
“Our partners are making great progress as they refine their systems for safe, reliable and cost-effective spaceflight,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It is extremely impressive to hear and see the interchange between the company and NASA engineering teams as they delve into the very details of the systems that help assure the safety of passengers.”
Arguably, no single event did more to inspire people around the world than the first moon landing by the crew of Apollo 11. This includes numerous astronauts, NASA engineers, and contractors inspired to go through rigorous scientific and engineering academic tracts after sitting in the living room of their house as children watching the fuzzy black-and-white image of Neil Armstrong move down the ladder of the lunar module and take humanity’s first steps onto another world.
Mike Good, a veteran astronaut who works with the Commercial Crew Program and whose missions include spacewalks to repair NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, put it this way when asked why he became an astronaut:
“I certainly remember as a little kid being influenced and inspired by the landing on the moon. I was 7 years old and watched it on a black-and-white TV in my living room. Like all the kids and everybody else, I thought that it was pretty cool. Then as I worked through school and got into college, I became interested in engineering. I made the decision to go into aerospace engineering in 1981, which was the first year that the space shuttle flew, so that definitely had an influence on me, too. I watched that and said, ‘You know, this is something that I’d like to be a part of.’ I didn’t necessarily think I was going to be an astronaut, but it was an industry that I wanted to be in. After college I went on to fly for the Air Force, and I was able to put the flying and engineering together, which are two things that I liked to do. After flying fighters for a while, I got to go through the Air Force’s test pilot school, which is really where you get to test new airplanes and weapons systems. From there, it was just kind of a natural progression to work toward the astronaut program. I put in a couple applications and finally got a call to come join.”
Every mission into space, whether carrying a crew or lofting a satellite or probe, is overseen by a collection of specialists who make sure everything is A-OK with the rocket and spacecraft through liftoff, ascent and beyond. At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Launch Control Center was the space agency’s answer to the gargantuan demands of processing and testing the Saturn V rockets and Apollo spacecraft that would carry astronauts to the moon. The aerospace industry partners of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will use control centers based on the unique needs of their systems and the capabilities of today’s computers and automation. With the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s liftoff from Kennedy tomorrow, here’s a look at what went into designing, building and operating the LCC.
This American flag was taken to the International Space Station in 2011 on STS-135, the final mission of the space shuttle. Flown on the first space shuttle mission in 1981, the flag is to be awarded to the first crew of astronauts to launch from U.S. soil to the orbiting laboratory. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with aerospace partners to make that flight happen by the end of 2017.
The Apollo astronauts took a rover with them to the moon so they could survey more of the lunar surface. The space shuttle used its robotic arm to perform numerous functions from operating experiments to grabbing satellites including the Hubble Space Telescope for repairs to maneuvering large modules into place during construction of the International Space Station. NASA’s next generation of human-carrying spacecraft are in development now. If it were up to you, what equipment would you include in the design and what would you use it for?
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program partners are featured in the new edition of Kennedy Space Center’s Spaceport Magazine posted July 1. You can read the online magazine at the ISSUU digital newsstand or download the pdf.
Jon Cowart, an engineer with a pioneering spirit and more than three decades of human spaceflight experience, recently was honored by NASA’s Astronaut Corps. Learn more about Cowart and his Silver Snoopy award at http://go.nasa.gov/VD2zdS.
You also can check out the outspoken engineer’s 2012 TEDx event called “A Retrospective on the Future of Space Exploration.”