Teams Working Through Demo-1 Reviews

Nine engines of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roar to life in a brief static firing on Jan. 24, 2019. The test took place at historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX, International Space Station (ISS) Program, and Commercial Crew Program managers reviewed the work their teams have done to be ready for the Demo-1 launch. The team is midway through the flight readiness review agenda. They went through snapshots of various items reviewed and closed to meet requirements for the flight test. The board had a good discussion with the SpaceX, commercial crew and station engineering communities regarding the flight plan and redundancies built into the spacecraft systems and procedures. They additionally discussed how the data from this flight test that will be important for the next flight of Crew Dragon with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard. 

The station program science office also discussed the unique qualities that make the space station such a fascinating and important place to conduct research. The Expedition 58 crew will work on 216 investigations during their time aboard the space station. Approximately a quarter of those are completely new, and 140 are NASA/U.S.-led investigations. A featured ISS U.S. National Laboratory investigation called LambdaVision is creating protein-based artificial retinas that may be used as prosthesis to restore sight in patients with incurable diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. This investigation was featured in a briefing of What’s on Board for SpaceX’s 16th commercial resupply services mission. A new physics facility called the Cold Atom Lab creates a temperature ten billion times colder than the vacuum of space, and the microgravity environment on station makes it possible to study Bose-Einstein Condensates much longer than it would be possible on the ground.

 

This afternoon the board will get more detailed briefings focused on special topics for consideration and discuss human health and performance. The space station international partners also will have the opportunity to speak with the teams. Finally, Kathy Lueders, manager for the Commercial Crew Program, and Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program, will lead a concluding discussion amongst the participants prior to a launch readiness poll William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, will lead.

Demo-1 Flight Readiness Review Begins

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A and went vertical for a dry run to prep for the upcoming Demo-1 flight test.

NASA and SpaceX are holding a flight readiness review today at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX will launch its first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The flight is an important step in returning human launches on American rockets and spacecraft to the International Space Station from U.S. soil since 2011. The meeting provides NASA and SpaceX the opportunity to assess the mission status, the currently targeted launch date and the work that needs to be completed prior to the critical flight test.

 

William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, is leading the meeting. The senior SpaceX official at the review is Hans Koenigsmann, vice president for Build and Flight Reliability.

More than 100 people from across the agency and at SpaceX are gathered to hear presentations from key leaders such as Kathy Lueders, manager for the Commercial Crew Program, and Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program. The emphasis of the review is on the readiness of flight for the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and systems for an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station, the readiness of the station program and international partners to support the flight during the current mission, Expedition 58, and the certification of flight readiness.

The mission objectives for this flight test, referred to as Demo-1 are to demonstrate end-to-end operations performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations. Systems under review include on-orbit operation of the Crew Dragon’s avionics system, docking system, communications/telemetry systems, environmental control systems, solar arrays and electrical power systems and the propulsion systems. The test flight will demonstrate performance of the guidance, navigation and control systems of the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon through ascent, on-orbit, and entry.

Following the flight, teams will assess acoustic and vibration levels, and loads across the Crew Dragon exterior and interior.

The flight test will provide valuable data NASA will review as part of the process to certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system is as safe as possible for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

The meeting will conclude with a poll of all the members of the review board. Approximately one hour after conclusion of the meeting, NASA will hold a news briefing that can be watched online at http://www.nasa.gov/live

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program on the Verge of Making History

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) and private industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are on the verge of making history with the return of human spaceflight launches to the International Space Station from United States soil.

The upcoming flights of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will be the first time NASA has sent astronauts to space on systems owned, built, tested and operated by private companies. By allowing industry to provide transportation services to the space station, the agency can concentrate on developing emerging technologies for exploring distant destinations well beyond low-Earth orbit such as the Moon and Mars.

In September 2014, the agency announced the selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station. This also will mark the return of launching U.S. astronauts on American spacecraft and rockets to low-Earth orbit since the final space shuttle mission in 2011.

The inaugural flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, known as Demo-1, will be uncrewed and is designed to validate end-to-end systems and capabilities, leading to certification to fly a crew. SpaceX’s first crewed flight, Demo-2, will fully demonstrate the company’s ability to safely fly NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the space station. Behnken and Hurley have each flown two space shuttle missions.

In the near future, the uncrewed, opening act for Boeing’s Starliner, known as its Orbital Flight Test, will demonstrate the human transportation capabilities in advance of certification to fly astronauts to space. The first flight with crew aboard a Starliner, the Crew Flight Test, will fully demonstrate Boeing’s ability to fly humans safely to and from the International Space Station. Onboard will be NASA astronaut Mike Finke, a veteran of three spaceflights; NASA astronaut Nicole Mann; and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, who previously led Starliner’s Crew and Mission Systems and flew three space shuttle missions.

CCP will provide safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit destinations, and it will end reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. As a result, the station’s current crew of six can grow, enabling more research aboard the unique microgravity laboratory.

Launch Teams Simulate Boeing Uncrewed Flight Test Countdown

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke monitors Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) launch simulation. Fincke is assigned to Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, the first crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner following OFT.

In preparation for Boeing’s uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA, United Launch Alliance (ULA), Boeing and Department of Defense personnel conducted a successful integrated crew exercise on Feb. 12.

NASA Operations Integration Manager Michael Hess

Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) of Starliner will launch on a ULA Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The joint team executed a mock countdown that practiced fueling the Atlas V and operating the unique launch day timeline that features a four-hour built-in hold to allow launch teams to work any technical issues that arise in the countdown. The hold is lifted four minutes prior to launch.

NASA OFT Mission Manager Eugene “Trip” Healey

The team was presented with simulated issues with hardware and downrange assets to exercise troubleshooting, problem resolution procedures and the coordination that goes into adjusting the countdown as necessary. There were even simulated challenges from the weather, forcing officials to react to changing weather conditions at the pad. The exercise culminated with a successful liftoff and climb into space.

Boeing Spacecraft Launch Conductor Louis Atchison

Formal rehearsals like this one allow launch teams in geographic locations across the country to function as one well-coordinated team.

Steve Payne, Launch Integration Manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

OFT will be the uncrewed test of Starliner as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, during which Starliner will fly to the International Space Station for an automated rendezvous and docking, complete a short stay and then return to Earth; the mission is the precursor to Boeing’s flight test with crew.

You can find the latest targeted launch dates for Commercial Crew missions at https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/2019/02/06/nasa-partners-update-commercial-crew-launch-dates/.

NASA, Partners Update Commercial Crew Launch Dates

NASA and its Commercial Crew Program providers Boeing and SpaceX have agreed to move the target launch dates for the upcoming inaugural test flights of their next generation American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight. Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April.

These adjustments allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers.

The uncrewed test flights will be the first time commercially-built and operated American spacecraft designed for humans will dock to the space station. The first flights are dress rehearsals for missions with astronauts aboard the vehicles. Commercial crew has continued working toward these historic missions throughout the month of January.

SpaceX Demo-1 static fire
SpaceX Demo-1 static fire

“The uncrewed flight tests are a great dry run for not only our hardware, but for our team to get ready for our crewed flight tests,” said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager. “NASA has been working together with SpaceX and Boeing to make sure we are ready to conduct these test flights and get ready to learn critical information that will further help us to fly our crews safely. We always learn from tests.”

In January, SpaceX successfully completed a static fire test of its Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon atop the rocket at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida, in preparation for Demo-1.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner continues to undergo testing in preparation for its Orbital Flight Test, and United Launch Alliance is conducting final processing of the Atlas V rocket that will launch Starliner from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“There still are many critical steps to complete before launch and while we eagerly are anticipating these launches, we will step through our test flight preparations and readiness reviews,” said Lueders. “We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight.”

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit and the space station on systems that meet safety and performance requirements.

To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. After the uncrewed flight tests, Boeing and SpaceX will complete a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The following planning dates reflect inputs by the Commercial Crew Program and the two companies and are current as of Feb. 4, 2019.

Test Flight Planning Dates:
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

SpaceX also completed a pad abort test in 2015. Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve any necessary issues to certify the systems for operational missions. Boeing, SpaceX and the Commercial Crew Program are actively working to be ready for the operational missions. As with all human spaceflight vehicle development, learning from each test and adjusting as necessary to reduce risk to the crew may override planning dates.