Wrapping Up The Future

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

One of the former processing bays for the space shuttles at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is getting a facelift this week as Boeing wraps the building that will be the production and processing home of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft. The interior of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, better known as the C3PF, is being outfitted for the precision demanded in assembling human-rated spacecraft and then processing the craft for flight.  The wrap, which will cover the front of the processing bay, will showcase the future Boeing intends to pursue with the CST-100 line. It is expected to take more than a week to complete the detailed illustration.

Boeing has been working to develop a crew transportation system that will transport NASA personnel, along with some equipment and supplies, to the International Space Station. NASA will certify that Boeing’s system meets the agency’s requirements. Once operational, the systems being developed under the Commercial Crew Program will save money, increase the amount of crew research time on the station and re-establish U.S. human access to space.

Spreading Our Wings – Into Space!

Airliner_to_Spaceliner_Mini_PosterThe United States has always been the leader in aerospace innovation and inventions. So with Commercial Crew Program efforts under way, NASA and industry are expanding their talents to formulate new ways to develop spacecraft and launch vehicles capable of safely and efficiently carrying people into orbit and to the International Space Station. We’re on the cusp of launching astronauts from Florida to conduct more research on the station with a larger crew that has more time for science, which will continue to help us here on Earth and as we prepare for the journey to Mars. That’s why today’s National Aviation Day is particularly relevant for the nation because it signals NASA’s intent to let more people spread their wings into space in the near future!

Crew Dragon Simulated Flight Ensures Hardware, Software are Ready for Missions


SpaceX recently powered up its Crew Dragon avionics test bed at its facility in Hawthorne, California, by simulating a crew flight to the International Space Station. During the avionics functionality check, engineers were able to make sure the spacecraft’s hardware and software worked well together in a flight-like environment. The avionics are known as the brains of a spacecraft, controlling all the critical automated operations of a flight.

“It may not sound exciting, but it’s a really, really important tool. We can basically fly the Crew Dragon on the ground — flip the switches, touch the screens, test the algorithms and the batteries – all before testing the avionics system in flight,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of mission assurance for SpaceX. “It’s important to get the avionics right before putting it into the capsule.”

The SpaceX avionics test bed is similar to the Shuttle Avionics Integration Lab, or SAIL, in Houston, which was used throughout NASA’s Space Shuttle Program to test the interaction of hardware and software before modifying code on the vehicles for flight.

Lettuce Feast Previews Research Potential of Station


Astronauts for the first time nibbled a small crop of space-grown lettuce today in a look toward the future when crews head to deep space destinations like Mars with seeds ready to grow along the way. The red lettuce eaten Monday – accompanied by a dash of vinaigrette dressing – was grown in a specialized canister aboard the International Space Station during recent weeks and had sprouted from seeds that were glued into place on Earth. Astronauts placed the seeds and their pouches in a system that provided the water and light needed to make the plants grow. Half of the landmark crop was eaten while the other half will be returned to researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for closer study.

Scientists are deep into the next phases of the plant-growth experiments with platters of cabbage, tomatoes, peppers and radishes anticipated on upcoming flights. The research reflects the value of studies aboard the station ahead of our Journey to Mars in which crews will count on vegetables grown in space for a small amount of nutrients and added touch of home during missions that could last two years. The experimentation could also be boosted by the addition of a crew member on the station – something that would be allowed with the advent of commercial crew spacecraft now in development with NASA, Boeing and SpaceX.


SpaceX Completes Road to Launch Pad


LC39Aimage2Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, continues to take shape as SpaceX has completed the road from its processing hangar to the top of the launch stand.

LC39a_3A transporter-erector will move the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets to position them above the flame trench for liftoff on flights carrying astronauts to the International Space Station and other launches.

The rockets and Crew Dragon spacecraft will be processed in the hangar being built at the base of the pad. The company also continues upgrading the launch structure and pad area to modernize the facilities that supported historic launches of the Apollo-Saturn V missions and space shuttles.


Four Commercial Crew Astronauts Live on NASA TV Today

15-148The four NASA astronauts selected to train for Commercial Crew flight tests will share the stage today for interviews with national news outlets. NASA TV will carry the interviews live from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT. The experienced space travelers – Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Williams – will discuss their newest assignments, the value Commercial Crew brings to continuing critical science on board the International Space Station and our new era of human space exploration.

In the meantime, you can catch up on the agency’s big news from yesterday with our feature about the announcement, videos of the four astronauts and photos of them in space during previous missions, all found on this blog feed.


Four Astronauts Selected for Commercial Crew Flights

15-148“I am pleased to announce four American space pioneers have been selected to be the first astronauts to train for test flights to space on commercial crew vehicles, all part of our ambitious plan to return space launches to U.S. soil, create good-paying American jobs and advance our goal of sending humans farther into the solar system than ever before,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail — a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars.”

Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Williams will train to fly on flight tests aboard Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to certify them for operational use. Both spacecraft are in development with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Learn more about the new Commercial Crew astronauts here.

NASA Selects Astronauts for First U.S. Commercial Spaceflights

15-148Four astronauts will train to fly Commercial Crew flight tests in 2017 aboard the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon. Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Williams have been selected to be the first astronauts to board those spacecraft.

Get to know our new crew:
Bob Behnken on the value the team brings to Commercial Crew:

Eric Boe on why he is excited for Commercial Crew:

Doug Hurley on the Commercial Crew and Providers efforts:

Suni Williams on what the announcement means:

Research Conference Highlights Station Science

17910241031_1c9a55fa47_oThe chance to add an additional crew member to the International Space Station once Commercial Crew spacecraft become operational will greatly increase the science potential for the orbiting laboratory. The station’s standard complement is six residents and that allows for about 40 hours a week of research work with the rest of the time dedicated to station operations and other duties. Adding just one more person to the station crew will enable about 40 more hours a week for scientific work.

The additional time will boost opportunities requiring human interaction, such as biological research key to understanding survival on a mission into deep space, growth experiments and space-based observations. Added together, a doubling of scientific time would better utilize the unique platform humans assembled 250 miles above Earth and have occupied for almost 15 years.

A key step to this research progress is the completion and operation of the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon systems now in the final phases of development with Commercial Crew. Both companies and NASA are making steady advances toward uncrewed flight tests before undertaking crew flight tests to the station. Together, the space agency and industry are paving the way to certification and operational missions, carrying four astronauts and a couple hundred pounds of powered cargo to the station at a time.

Learn more about the advancements currently being made on board the station and what the future holds by following along with the ISS R&D Conference in Boston this week via social media with #ISSRDC.