Astronauts 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
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.
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.
4. 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.
NASA’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.
“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.”