NASA, Boeing Perform Landing and Recovery Rehearsals in New Mexico

Teams from NASA, Boeing and the White Sands Missile Range, rehearse landing and crew extraction from Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, which will be used to carry humans to the International Space Station, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the White Sands Missile Range outside Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Teams from NASA, Boeing and the White Sands Missile Range, rehearse landing and crew extraction from Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which will be used to carry humans to the International Space Station, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the White Sands Missile Range outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Boeing, NASA and the U.S. Army conducted exercises, known as mission dress rehearsals, for Boeing’s upcoming CST-100 Starliner missions to the International Space Station. This series of rehearsals at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico focused on the landing and recovery aspect of Starliner’s mission, and was one of three of Boeing’s formal dress rehearsals that took place over the last couple of weeks as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Unlike any other American-made orbital crew capsule, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is designed to land on land, and is expected to touch down at one of five potential landing zones in the western United States, including two at White Sands, New Mexico. During last week’s integrated rehearsal, teams practiced recovering Starliner and extricating crews in more than a half dozen different landing scenarios covering both the upcoming uncrewed and crewed test flights. The rehearsals included all of the recovery personnel and equipment necessary to locate, safe and cool the spacecraft prior to opening the hatch.

Astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann of NASA and Chris Ferguson from Boeing observed a few of the exercises to better understand what will be happening outside Starliner before ground teams can open the hatch and officially welcome them back to Earth. During the final “run-for-record,” obstacles were introduced in order to simulate an emergency scenario, in which the team succeeded at locating the Starliner and opening the hatch in less than an hour.

Using a convoy of vehicles Boeing uses to recover their spacecraft after landing and a boiler plate test article of the Starliner capsule, the teams worked through the steps necessary to safe the vehicle and get future crew members out of the Starliner to return home.
The teams worked through the steps necessary to safe the vehicle and get future crew members out of the Starliner to return home. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Earlier rehearsals included simulating a Starliner launch and ascent through docking to the space station, as well as undocking from station through landing the spacecraft on land in the western United States.

These exercises are a necessary step in preparing the teams for all aspects of a mission from launch to landing. This series of rehearsals has taken place ahead of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the space station, in which the Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

As commercial crew providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

Astronauts and Ground Teams Put Emergency Escape Procedures to the Test

An emergency medical technician cares for an astronaut with simulated injuries during a joint emergency escape and triage exercise led by NASA, along with Boeing and United Launch Alliance, at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 24, 2019. The simulation is part of a series in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA led a joint emergency escape and triage simulation with Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) on July 24 at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the International Space Station. The exercise ranged from astronauts and support teams quickly escaping the launch pad to emergency personnel practicing rescue and life support procedures focused on the safety of the launch site teams.

Medical and fire-rescue personnel park ambulances and set up a decontamination and triage area for the joint emergency escape and triage simulation.

In the event of an emergency on launch day, astronauts and support teams would need to exit the launch pad as quickly as possible. The exercise was designed to validate the escape procedures from the crew access tower – the nearly 200-foot-tall structure astronauts will ascend to the same level as the spacecraft on top of the rocket – to a pre-staged medical location a safe distance away from the launch pad. The second half of the rehearsal included the rescue teams that would conduct initial triage for the crew and ground team.

NASA astronauts Josh Cassada, currently in training for the second flight with crew aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, and Eric Boe, along with astronaut candidate Jasmin Moghbeli, served as flight crew for the simulation.

During the exercise, the astronauts and support teams put on portable respirators and made their way to the emergency egress system – a commercial, off-the-shelf zip line modified and constructed as a safety measure for human spaceflight – for escape. The emergency system is on the same level of the crew access tower as the crew access arm, the bridge astronauts walk across to enter the Starliner. The launch teams, secured in seats, descended the tower to the pad perimeter below.

Wearing portable respirators, astronauts and personnel with simulated injuries exit an armored vehicle during the simulation.

Next, using mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, the crew members drove just under a mile north to a helipad, where flight surgeons and the emergency medical services teams waited with ambulances and a decontamination vehicle. Astronauts evacuating from a pad emergency may come into contact with hazardous substances, such as fuel from the rocket or spacecraft, and must be decontaminated to allow medical personnel to safely treat them. In a true emergency, anyone injured would then be transported via helicopter to area hospitals.

Personnel from Kennedy Space Center emergency medical services, pad rescue teams and environmental health, along with CCAFS fire and rescue and the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing worked in tandem with NASA, Boeing and ULA to whisk the astronauts to safety – and, in the process, test necessary procedures and equipment, while providing new team members valuable experience.

The simulation is one of several NASA has conducted with our commercial crew partners, Boeing and SpaceX, in preparation to launch astronauts from American soil. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program continues to place astronaut safety at the forefront of preparations for human spaceflight.

NASA Provides Update on SpaceX Crew Dragon Static Fire Investigation

NASA continues to work closely with SpaceX as they lead the accident investigation into the April 20 Crew Dragon static fire anomaly at Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Teams have completed work to ensure the site is safe and are focusing on the root cause analysis, which will determine the impact to commercial crew flights tests. SpaceX had several Crew Dragon vehicles in production, and plans to shift the spacecraft assignments forward. The spacecraft originally assigned to Demo-2, the first flight test with a crew onboard, now will be used for the company’s in-flight abort test and the first operational mission spacecraft will be used for Demo-2.

The Crew Dragon static fire was designed as a health check of the spacecraft’s Draco systems and to demonstrate integrated system SuperDraco performance. During the static fire, SpaceX successfully completed a firing of 12 service section Dracos with the anomaly occurring during the activation of the SuperDraco system. Over the course of development, SpaceX has tested the SuperDraco thrusters hundreds of times.

Following the test, NASA and SpaceX immediately executed mishap plans established by the agency and company. SpaceX fully cleared the test site and followed all safety protocols. Early efforts focused on making the site safe, collecting data and developing a timeline of the anomaly, which did not result in any injuries. NASA assisted with the site inspection including the operation of drones and onsite vehicles.

NASA and SpaceX remain committed to the safety of our astronaut and ground crews and will proceed with flight tests when ready.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Boeing Test Flight Dates and SpaceX Demo-2 Update

Illustration of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon in Earth orbit, along with International Space Station and Moon*NASA, Boeing and SpaceX provided an update on July 30, 2019. For the details on the flight tests and the latest schedule, visit https://go.nasa.gov/2YqiJHi.

NASA and Boeing are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation for crew systems that will return human spaceflight launches from American soil on missions to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station.

Boeing now is targeting the company’s uncrewed mission, called Orbital Flight Test, in August 2019, although this is a working target date and to be confirmed. The CST-100 Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The decision to adjust the launch date was guided by limited launch opportunities in April and May, as well as a critical U.S. Air Force national security launch – AEHF-5 – atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in June.

Following the uncrewed flight, Boeing is planning to fly a test mission with crew on board to the space station in late 2019, with the specific date to be confirmed closer to that timeframe. NASA and Boeing have agreed to extend the duration of that flight test to the International Space Station after completing an in-depth technical assessment of the Starliner systems. Boeing also will fly a Pad Abort Test before those two orbital flights to demonstrate the company’s ability to safely carry astronauts away from a launch vehicle emergency, if necessary. Find a full mission and Boeing progress feature here: https://go.nasa.gov/2FM8zcQ.

Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve any necessary issues to certify the systems for operational missions. NASA and Boeing 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.

The following planning dates reflect updated schedule inputs for Boeing’s test flights as of March 26, 2019.

Test Flight Planning Dates:
Boeing Pad Abort Test: Summer 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): current target working date August 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): current target working date late 2019

SpaceX Demo-2 Update

NASA also is working with SpaceX to return human spaceflight launches to American soil. The company completed an uncrewed flight test, known as Demo-1, to the space station in March.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX are reevaluating target test dates.

Crew Dragon Lifted Onto Recovery Ship

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is safely aboard the company's recovery vessel, Go Searcher, following splashdown at 8:45 a.m. EST on Friday, March 8, 2019.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is safely aboard the company’s recovery vessel, Go Searcher, following splashdown at 8:45 a.m. EST on Friday, March 8, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

About 200 miles off Florida’s east coast, SpaceX teams have recovered the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and lifted it aboard SpaceX’s primary recovery ship, Go Searcher. The spacecraft splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST, wrapping up the Demo-1 flight test that began one week ago today with liftoff aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Demo-1 is the first flight test of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership. The mission also marks a significant step toward returning to the nation the capability to launch astronauts on a U.S.-built spacecraft from U.S. soil.

Splashdown!

The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida's east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast, returning from the uncrewed Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station and the company’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The mission, known as Demo-1, is a critical step for NASA and SpaceX to demonstrate the ability to safely fly missions with NASA astronauts to the orbital laboratory.

The Crew Dragon launched March 2 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station and autonomously dock to the station. To complete the docking, both the station and Crew Dragon’s adapters used the new international docking standard.

Crew Dragon is returning to Earth some critical research samples from science investigations conducted to enable human exploration farther into space and develop and demonstrate in the U.S. ISS National Laboratory new technologies, treatments, and products for improving life on Earth.

Also traveling aboard the spacecraft is an anthropomorphic test device named Ripley outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in Crew Dragon.

SpaceX’s recovery ship, Go Searcher, is equipped with a crane to lift Crew Dragon out of the water and onto the main deck of the ship within an hour after splashdown.

NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to review the systems and flight data to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts. Already planned upgrades, additional qualification testing, and an in-flight abort test will occur before NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will climb aboard for Demo-2, the crewed flight test to the International Space Station that is necessary to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

Crew Dragon Chutes Deployed

The SpaceX Crew Dragon descends under its four main parachutes toward a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon descends under its four main parachutes toward a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

The main parachutes have deployed and are slowing the SpaceX Crew Dragon as it approaches the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off the Florida coast. SpaceX has two recovery ships standing by, ready to recover the spacecraft as the Demo-1 flight test comes to a close.

Crew Dragon Heads Toward Splashdown

The returning SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft viewed from a camera on board a NASA WB-57 aircraft.
The returning SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft viewed from a camera on board a NASA WB-57 aircraft. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Crew Dragon is making its final plunge through Earth’s atmosphere, heading toward a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast.

At about 8:41 a.m. EST, drogue parachutes will deploy, and the four main chutes will begin to open less than a minute later to slow the Crew Dragon during its final descent prior to its water landing at about 8:45 a.m. EST.

Crew Dragon’s Nosecone Closed

In this view from the Crew Dragon spacecraft, the nosecone has closed.
In this view from the Crew Dragon spacecraft, the nosecone has closed. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Crew Dragon’s nosecone has closed in preparation for re-entry. The spacecraft is on its way toward a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m. EST.

Did you know? The last time a U.S. spacecraft designed for humans landed in the Atlantic Ocean was on March 13, 1969, when the Apollo 9 vehicle and crew splashed down.

Crew Dragon undocked from the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST and is on track for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the eastern shore of Florida. SpaceX’s two recovery ships are positioned nearby to recover Crew Dragon and return it to Port Canaveral. The “Go Searcher” is the company’s primary recovery vessel responsible for recovering the spacecraft.

 

The Demo-1 mission is SpaceX’s first flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The flight test marks a significant step toward returning to the nation the capability to launch astronauts on a U.S.-built spacecraft from U.S. soil.

Deorbit Burn Complete: Crew Dragon on Journey Home

In this view from the Crew Dragon spacecraft, the nosecone has closed.
In this view from the Crew Dragon spacecraft, the nosecone has closed. Image credit: NASA TV

Deorbit burn is complete and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is on its way back to Earth. It will take the uncrewed spacecraft about 35 to 40 minutes to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on its way to a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m. EST.

This is a view from the Crew Dragon during the deorbit burn.
This is a view from the Crew Dragon during the deorbit burn. Image credit: NASA TV

The Crew Dragon undocked from the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST and is on track for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the eastern shore of Florida. SpaceX’s two recovery ships are positioned nearby to recover Crew Dragon and return it to Port Canaveral. The “Go Searcher” is the company’s primary recovery vessel responsible for recovering the spacecraft.

The Demo-1 mission is SpaceX’s first flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The flight test marks a significant step toward returning to the nation the capability to launch astronauts on a U.S.-built spacecraft from U.S. soil.