Monthly Archives: May 2015

Commercial Crew Rotation Mission in Motion

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4-astros_webfeature-graphicNASA took another step toward returning America’s ability to launch crew missions to the International Space Station from the United States in 2017. Commercial Crew ordered its first crew rotation mission from The Boeing Company. SpaceX is expected to receive its first order later this year. Determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time.

“Final development and certification are top priority for NASA and our commercial providers, but having an eye on the future is equally important to the Commercial Crew and station programs,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of Commercial Crew. “Our strategy will result in safe, reliable and cost-effective crew missions.”

Missions flown to the station on Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of scientific research that can be conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory. A standard mission to the station will carry four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days and serve as an emergency lifeboat during that time.

“Commercial Crew launches are critical to the International Space Station Program because it ensures multiple ways of getting crews to orbit,” said Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist. “It also will give us crew return capability so we can increase the crew to seven, letting us complete a backlog of hands-on critical research that has been building up due to heavy demand for the National Laboratory.”

Read more here.

 

Station Module Relocation Completed

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PMMRelocationThe relocation of the Permanent Multipurpose Module is complete. The PMM was robotically relocated from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module on the International Space Station to the forward port of the Tranquility module in the next step to reconfigure the complex for the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew vehicles. Robotic flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, working in tandem with the Mobile Servicing System Operations Center at the Canadian Space Agency’s headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec, Canada, used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to maneuver the 11-ton module a short distance to its new location. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA supervised the commanding of the bolting of the PMM to Tranquility. The PMM’s hatch will be reopened tomorrow.

The operation opened the Earth-facing port of Unity as another berthing location for U.S. commercial cargo vehicles. Future U.S. commercial crew vehicles will arrive at the space-facing and forward ports of the Harmony module, which will continue its transformation later this year when a pair of International Docking Adapters will be delivered on the seventh and ninth NASA-contracted SpaceX cargo resupply missions. The IDAs will be attached to Pressurized Mating Adapters 2 and 3, enabling the station to host up to two U.S. commercial cargo and two U.S. commercial crew vehicles at any given time.

Coverage of Station Module Relocation on Now

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The International Space Station’s Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) was detached from a berthing mechanism on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 5:50 a.m. EDT by robotics flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, working in tandem with Canadian Space Agency (CSA) engineers at the robotics support center located at CSA Headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec, Canada. Used as a supply depot for the orbital laboratory, the 11-ton PMM is being maneuvered to an installation position at the forward port of the Tranquility module through the use of the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. NASA Television will provide coverage of the final steps of the installation and provide a replay of pertinent video from the start of the operation beginning at 8 a.m. EDT.

Once it is in the proper position, Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA will oversee the module’s final attachment to Tranquility. Virts and Kelly will reopen the hatch to the PMM at its new location tomorrow.

This move will clear the Unity port for its use as a second berthing location for U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft; the Earth-facing port on Harmony is currently used as the home port for U.S. cargo craft. The relocation of the PMM is the next step in the reconfiguration of the station that will allow U.S. commercial crew vehicles to dock to new docking ports on the forward and space-facing side of the Harmony module. That will provide a total of four ports for U.S. vehicles arriving at the orbital outpost.

Watch Relocation of Station Module for Commercial Crew Prep

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PMMRelocationThe International Space Station Program will take the next step in expanding a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit when work continues Wednesday, May 27, to prepare the orbiting laboratory for the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew and cargo vehicles. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the activity beginning at 8 a.m. EDT.

NASA is in the process of reconfiguring the station to create primary and back up docking ports for U.S. commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by Boeing and SpaceX to once again transport astronauts from U.S. soil to the space station and back beginning in 2017. The primary and backup docking ports also will be reconfigured for U.S. commercial spacecraft delivering research, supplies and cargo for the crew.

On Wednesday, robotics flight controllers at the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will detach the large Permanent Multipurpose Module, used as a supply depot on the orbital laboratory, from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module and robotically relocate it to the forward port of the Tranquility module. This move will clear the Unity port for its conversion into the spare berthing location for U.S. cargo spacecraft; the Earth-facing port on Harmony is the primary docking location. Harmony’s space-facing port currently is the spare berthing location for cargo vehicles, so this move frees that location to be used in conjunction with Harmony’s forward port as the arrival locations for commercial crew spacecraft.

The transformation of Harmony’s space-facing and forward ports for crew arrivals will continue later this year, when a pair of International Docking Adapters will be delivered on the seventh and ninth NASA-contracted SpaceX cargo resupply missions. The IDAs will be attached to Pressurized Mating Adapters 2 and 3, which enable the spacecraft to equalize internal pressure with the ISS.

Crew Access Tower Coming Together for CST-100

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Workers are deep into construction of the first two tiers of the new crew access tower for Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Boeing and United Launch Alliance are building the tower so astronauts and ground support teams can access the CST-100 spacecraft for missions to the International Space Station. Offsite construction of the tiers was essential to be able to sustain the launch schedule of the Atlas V rocket – which will carry the CST-100 – and still provide a human-rated service structure NASA needs for its Commercial Crew flights.

The first two structures will be outfitted with nearly everything they will need at the launch pad except wiring and the elevator shafts before they are stacked and trucked over to the launch pad. It will take seven tiers to complete the 200-foot-tall structure. While the tiers are assembled a few miles away, workers at SLC-41 are preparing the foundation of the structure. Pile drivers, cement trucks and other heavy equipment are establishing a firm support base for the tower.

Commercial Crew In Your City: Chatsworth’s Aitech to Build CST-100 Crew Computer, Displays

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CCP-boeingcockpit-fergieThe CST-100 spacecraft Boeing is developing to take astronauts to the International Space Station will feature a crew interface system computer and displays built by Aitech Defense Systems of Chatsworth, California.  Aitech’s work will allow pilots of the CST to assume direct control over the spacecraft in orbit to adjust its attitude, height and direction with precision.

Three CST-100s are to be built at Boeing’s Kennedy Space Center location in preparation for a pad abort test, unpiloted flight test and piloted flight test to the station in 2017. The spacecraft will include numerous systems and subsystems built by subcontractors all over America.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with Boeing and SpaceX under separate Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts to return crew launch capabilities to the United States. The new spacecraft also will increase research capacity on the station by adding a crew member to the orbiting laboratory and allowing scientific time available to double to 80 hours a week. 

Administrator Bolden on the Meaning of Today’s Test

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Charles F. Bolden Official PortraitNASA is committed to returning American space launches to U.S. soil, and an important step toward achieving that goal took place today as our commercial partner, SpaceX, undertook a flight test to see how its Crew Dragon capsule performed on a simulated escape from an emergency at launch.

SpaceX and The Boeing Company both are working on commercial space transportation systems to launch American astronauts from the United States by 2017 and end our sole reliance on the Russians to reach space. As we move toward certification of these systems, safety remains our number one priority. The pad abort test today gives us crucial insight into how SpaceX’s system would perform if a booster failed at liftoff or in any other scenario that would threaten astronauts inside the spacecraft.

The test was one of the milestones NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX agreed to as part of the developmental effort for a privately owned and operated crew transportation system that can safely and economically carry crews to and from low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft was equipped to gather lots of information about the test and the engines, with 270 sensors and a life-sized dummy as part of the cargo.

Commercial crew is a critical component of our journey to Mars. It will enable regular service to low-Earth orbit with astronauts by 2017 while NASA develops technologies like solar electric propulsion and radiation shielding that will take us farther into the solar system. The innovation of our partners has opened a whole new segment of the economy, created good jobs, and yielded new technologies for traveling to orbit. Our investment in commercial space is paying off with achievements like this pad abort test, as well as regular cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. We must continue those investments if we are to meet our goal of launching from America again in 2017.

We’re proud of the continued progress our commercial partners are making and look forward to a robust commercial crew program as part of an integrated strategy for fully utilizing the International Space Station as a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system and sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. Today’s test gets us closer to this challenging but achievable goal.

Sieck Enjoys Launch Sans Rocket

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bobsieckspeaksLegendary former launch director Bob Sieck has seen countless launches of all sorts from
Florida’s Space Coast during a distinguished career that began during Gemini and lasted through most of the space shuttle era. But watching today’s test of the SpaceX Crew Dragon from Kennedy Space Center was substantially different, he said.

“First time I watched the launch of a spacecraft – without the benefit of a rocket!”

In case you are wondering where prior crew escape systems were tested, the launch escape systems for Mercury capsules were tested at Wallops Island, Virginia, and the Apollo escape tower was tested at White Sands, New Mexico. Gemini used ejection seats for its astronauts. None have been tested at Cape Canaveral until today.

 

SpaceX Demonstrates Astronaut Escape System for Crew Dragon Spacecraft

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padabortest-releasemainpic17364986436_93808ae456_oA loud whoosh, faint smoke trail and billowing parachutes marked a successful demonstration Wednesday by SpaceX of its Crew Dragon spacecraft abort system – an important step in NASA’s endeavor to rebuild America’s ability to launch crews to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. The successful test of the spacecraft’s launch escape capabilities proved the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of a life-threatening situation on the launch pad.

The Crew Dragon simultaneously fired its eight SuperDraco engines at 9 a.m. EDT and leapt off a specially built platform at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The engines fired for about six seconds, instantly producing about 15,000 pounds of thrust each and lifting the spacecraft out over the Atlantic Ocean before jettisoning its trunk, as planned, and parachuting safely into the ocean. The test lasted about two minutes from engine ignition to splashdown.

“This is a critical step toward ensuring crew safety for government and commercial endeavors in low-Earth orbit,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Congratulations to SpaceX on what appears to have been a successful test on the company’s road toward achieving NASA certification of the Crew Dragon spacecraft for missions to and from the International Space Station.”

The flight test is a vital milestone in the company’s development effort and furthers its plan to meet a major requirement for the next generation of piloted spacecraft — an escape system that can quickly and safely take crew members away from their rocket while on the pad and through their ascent to orbit. SpaceX can use the test data to help refine its aerodynamic and performance models, and its design, to help ensure crew safety throughout all phases of flight.

SpaceX was founded with the goal of carrying people to space, and today’s pad abort test represented an important milestone in that effort,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer. “Our partnership with NASA has been essential for developing Crew Dragon, a spacecraft that we believe will be the safest ever flown. Today’s successful test will provide critical data as we continue toward crewed flights in 2017.”

The test was the first with a full-size developmental spacecraft using a complete set of eight SuperDraco engines in the demanding real-world conditions of a pad abort situation. SpaceX built the SuperDracos for pad and launch abort use. Each engine, the chambers of which are 3-D printed, burns hypergolic propellants monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.

More than 270 special instruments, including temperature sensors and accelerometers, which are instruments that measure acceleration, were strategically placed in and around the vehicle to measure a variety of stresses and acceleration effects. A test dummy, equipped with sensors, went along for the ride to measure the effects on the human body. To further maximize the value of the test, weights were placed inside the capsule at crew seat locations to replicate the mass of a crewed launch.

The trunk, an unpowered cylinder with stabilizing fins, detached from the spacecraft when it reached maximum altitude and fell back to Earth, while the capsule rotated on as planned for a couple seconds before unfurling its drogue parachutes, which then deployed the main parachutes. Boat crews have begun the process of retrieving the Crew Dragon from the ocean and returning it to land for further analysis.

Spacecraft development and certification through the Commercial Crew Program is performed through a new arrangement that encourages innovation and efficiency in the aerospace industry, bringing to the process the space agency’s expertise in the form of safety and performance requirements for the spacecraft, boosters and related systems.

The pad abort test is a payment milestone funded by the Commercial Crew Program under a partnership agreement established with the company in 2012. The agency awarded contracts last year to Boeing and SpaceX to build their respective systems for flight tests and operational missions to the space station. Known as Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, the awards allow continued work on Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at a pace that is determined by their respective builders, but that also meets NASA’s requirements and its goal of flying crews in 2017.

“Our partners have met many significant milestones and key development activities so far, and this pad abort test provides visual proof of one of the most critical safety requirements — protecting a crew in the event of a major system failure,” Lueders said.

NASA already is preparing the space station for commercial crew spacecraft and the larger station crews that will be enabled by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100. NASA plans to use the new generation of privately developed and operated spacecraft to carry as many as four astronauts each mission, increasing the station crew to seven and doubling the amount of science that can be performed off the Earth, for the Earth.

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