Engineers and technicians gathered at dusk recently at a construction site near Kennedy Space Center in Florida to test systems that will support Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The Crew Access Arm and White Room saw some of the most dynamic testing thus far, when hundreds of gallons of water were sprayed along the arm and beneath it for an evaluation of its water deluge system. The system is a key safety feature for future launches on the Starliner, one of two commercial spacecraft in development to carry astronauts to the station.
In the unlikely event of an emergency, astronauts ready to launch on future missions aboard the Starliner would need a clear, safe path to exit. The arm and attached white room will provide a bridge between the Crew Access Tower and the spacecraft, as it prepares to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Two rounds of testing in different lighting conditions checked whether the water system could cover the arm adequately and the LED lights were up to the task of helping guide astronauts to safety.
The test mimicked what the system would need to do at the launch pad in case of an emergency. The tower’s main structure is already standing at Space Launch Complex 41, the launch site for the Starliner. After more testing on other systems, the arm will be moved to the launch pad later this summer before being lifted into place on the tower.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight capabilities to the U.S. on commercial spacecraft. Boeing and SpaceX are developing separate spacecraft and launch systems along with a network of mission and ground support capabilities. Commercial crew flights will add an additional crew member to the station, effectively doubling the amount of time dedicated to research aboard the orbiting laboratory. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky For more images, go to NASA Kennedy’s Flickr page.
Before anything is visible to even the most discerning eye surveying the launch vehicle, computers and multitudes of sensors on the rocket can pick up minuscule problems and correct for them. Making sure they do so correctly is part of the work of Ian Kappes, lead of the launch vehicle avionics systems team for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
“The avionics systems and its software are the brain and central nervous system of the entire launch vehicle,” Kappes said. “It is really just like our body’s nervous system – avionics tells you all sorts of information about the vehicle. It’s making the decisions necessary to fly. The avionics is telling you when equipment is within its parameters or when something will fail. It is also cross-communicating between the booster stages and the spacecraft, because the spacecraft and its crew need to know what’s going on with the vehicle.”
Kappes’ team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida works in tandem with engineers at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Armstrong Flight Research Center in Mojave, California, to certify the systems Boeing and SpaceX plan to use for commercial crew flights to the station. That means many hours poring over avionics architecture designs, working directly with both partners to identify and control hazards, followed by avionics component and software integrated testing. Read the full story at http://go.nasa.gov/1pyBsQ2
Download and print your own collector cards of the four astronauts training for Commercial Crew Program flight tests now! Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Wiliams are all veteran space explorers who served as test pilots before joining NASA.
They have not been assigned specific missions or spacecraft at this point, but all four are training very closely with teams at Boeing and SpaceX to learn flight systems and details about the hardware in final development. The companies are working in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and are independently developing human spaceflight systems that can safely fly astronauts to the International Space Station where they can increase the amount of research performed on the orbiting laboratory.
Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner, which will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and SpaceX is working on the Crew Dragon spacecraft to launch atop its Falcon 9 rocket. Both American-made systems are to launch from Florida’s Space Coast, restoring the United States’ ability to launch astronauts from its own shores.
Click on the cards above or the names below to download the five new trading cards – one for each astronaut plus a group card – and to find out more about the four astronauts and their paths to the stars!
Today, astronauts Tim Peake and Tim Kopra worked on a communications system inside the International Space Station, specifically tailored to the needs of future visiting vehicles, including Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon under development in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Known as Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles, or C2V2, the system uses both radio frequencies and hard-line connections to allow the station and spacecraft to talk to each other throughout rendezvous and docking operations, as well as when the spacecraft is connected to one of the station’s docking ports. The astronauts, two of the three people living and working on the station right now, are routing cables today inside the station.
The Commercial Crew Program spacecraft are designed to take astronauts to the space station using American spacecraft launching from Florida’s Space Coast. Carrying up-to four astronauts at a time plus a time critical of cargo, the spacecraft will add an additional member to the space station crew compliment, an increase that will double the amount of time astronauts have to devote to scientific research, which benefits us on Earth and prepares NASA for its journey to Mars.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is set to return human spaceflight launches to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. NASA shares accountability with our commercial providers, Boeing and SpaceX, to implement a robust process for the development of safe, reliable and cost effective commercial crew transportation systems. NASA’s critical obligation is to ensure crew safety and success for NASA missions, and the providers are each responsible for safe operations of commercial crew transportation systems.
“Collectively, we say our job is to make sure that when the crew enters the spacecraft prelaunch, that they go home to their family,” said Billy Stover, commercial crew’s Safety and Mission Assurance officer. “When we say it like that, it starts to become very crystal clear, at least to our team. When we talk safety, it’s about what can hurt the crew and how can we prevent it. That makes it very tangible, very realistic and something you can actually grasp.”
Veteran space shuttle, International Space Station and Soyuz astronaut Suni Williams is one of four astronauts training for flights aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Noting the start of Women’s History Month today, Williams set the records for most spacewalks by a woman and most time spacewalking by a woman in 2012 during Expedition 32 on the space station.
“We have the opportunity as the commercial crew cadre to go to both Boeing and SpaceX and check out what they’re doing and how they’re coming along with their spacecraft. These are things that are much different from both space shuttle and Soyuz, because they’re taking advantage of the technology from the last two decades or so. Some of the ideas are brand new, it makes us think out of the box from how we’ve done spacecraft and how we’ve flown spacecraft before,” Williams said. Read more from Suni about Commercial Crew, conducting research in orbit and what new astronauts should expect here.