NASA, Boeing Prepare for Crew Flight Test

NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Sunita "Suni" Williams pose for a picture during T-38 pre-flight activities at Ellington Field.
NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams pose for a picture during T-38 pre-flight activities at Ellington Field. Photo credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

NASA and Boeing are targeting an early February 2023 launch for the first CST-100 Starliner flight with astronauts to the International Space Station.

Preparations are underway for the launch of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) as teams work to ready the hardware, crew, and mission support teams for flight as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Two NASA astronaut test pilots, Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams, will fly on CFT to the space station, where they will live and work for approximately eight days. Mission and crew support teams and the CFT astronauts are continuing with preparations and training. NASA and Boeing teams recently conducted an integrated crew exercise to rehearse the prelaunch timeline and responses to various launch event scenarios. In the coming weeks, Wilmore and Williams will don their spacesuits and climb aboard their crew module to check out the vehicle systems and interfaces that support their health and safety.

Refurbishment of the CFT crew module following the first Orbital Flight Test in December 2019 is progressing. Its external shell and thermal protection system will be completed next, followed by preflight checks to finalize the crew module build and test phase. Production of a new service module also is progressing, with teams wrapping up acceptance testing of the thermal control system, installing the pressurant system and integrating the propulsion system. This service module incorporates the same valve mitigations as the OFT-2 spacecraft. That purge system performed as needed during OFT-2 and a similar system has been implemented into the service module for CFT as a preventative measure. Once both the crew module and service module are completed, the two will be mated for flight.

“The Starliner team has done an excellent job throughout the refurbishment process of incorporating all the learning from our uncrewed orbital test flight,” said Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “We expect to do even more learning on our next flight with astronauts to set Starliner up for certification and future operational missions.”

For the crewed flight, Boeing’s Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Following a successful CFT mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying the Starliner spacecraft and systems for crew missions to the space station.

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NASA Invites Media to Next SpaceX Commercial Crew Space Station Launch

From left to right: Anna Kikina, Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann and Koichi Wakata – the crew of NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station – poses for a group photo along with the official mission patch.
From left to right: Anna Kikina, Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann and Koichi Wakata – the crew of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station – poses for a group photo along with the official mission patch. Photo credit: NAS

Media accreditation now is open for the launch of the fifth SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station for a science expedition mission as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The earliest targeted launch date for the mission is Friday, Sept. 29, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Crew-5 launch will carry two NASA astronauts Mission Commander Nicole Mann and Pilot Josh Cassada, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, who will serve as mission specialists. This is the first spaceflight for Mann, Cassada and Kikina. It is the fifth trip for Wakata.

Following a crew handover period, astronauts from NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission are scheduled for return to Earth in October aboard their SpaceX Dragon Freedom.

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NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 Underway as Endurance Journeys to Station

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 10, 2021.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon atop, soars upward after liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 10, 2021. Aboard the Crew Dragon are SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts Raja Chari, commander; Tom Marshburn, pilot; and Kayla Barron, mission specialist; along with Matthias Maurer, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and mission specialist. Launch time was at 9:03 p.m. EST. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer are on their way to the International Space Station, following the picture-perfect launch of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance by the crew, launched atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida at 9:03 p.m. EST.

“What a beautiful evening for a launch. It was another great experience seeing those four guys take off into space on top of that Falcon 9 on that Dragon,” said NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana. “It is a huge challenge to safely get humans to and from low-Earth orbit, and the partnerships that we have with our international partners and our commercial crew partners has enabled this space economy that we have right now. What a great time to be part of America’s space program.”

Upon their arrival at the space station, the Crew-3 astronauts will be greeted by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov – the Expedition 66 crew already on board. During their six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, Chari, Marshburn, Barron, and Maurer will join the Expedition 66 crew in conducting a number of science and research investigations.

Some of these include a food physiology experiment that will study the impacts of an enhanced spaceflight diet on astronaut health, a sensor that will test a set of LED beacons with which Astrobee free-flying robots will interact during formation flight maneuvers, and a Human Research Program project that will collect a set of core measurements related to human spaceflight risks from astronauts before, during, and after long-duration missions.

The SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts wave to family and friends after walking out through the double doors below the Neil A. Armstrong Building’s Astronaut Crew Quarters at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on launch day, Nov. 10, 2021.
The SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts wave to family and friends after walking out through the double doors below the Neil A. Armstrong Building’s Astronaut Crew Quarters at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on launch day, Nov. 10, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Crew-3 is the third of six crew rotation missions NASA and SpaceX will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. This is the first flight for Chari, Barron, and Maurer, and the third for Marshburn, who flew on STS-127 and Expedition 34/35.

Crew-3 astronauts are slated to arrive at the space station tomorrow, Nov. 11, with docking targeted for 7:10 p.m. EST. Following docking and hatch opening, a welcoming ceremony is planned for 9:20 p.m. EST. Participants will include:

  • The Expedition 66 crew aboard the station
  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA
  • David Parker, director, Human and Robotic Exploration, ESA

Coverage of Crew-3’s arrival to the station will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website, beginning with docking at 7:10 p.m. EST.

For mission updates, visit the station blog at https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew-3 Postlaunch News Teleconference Set for 10 p.m.

NASA's SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts are seen inside SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft before lifting off on the agency's SpaceX Crew-3 mission.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts are seen inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft before lifting off on the agency’s Crew-3 mission on Nov. 10, 2021, from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. From left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer and NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron. Photo credit: SpaceX

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer on their way to the International Space Station has safely reached orbit, and the nosecone has been opened.

At 10 p.m., NASA will host a postlaunch news teleconference from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Participants in the briefing will be:

  • Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station Program, NASA Johnson
  • Sarah Walker, director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX
  • Frank de Winne, program manager, International Space Station, ESA

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following  @space_station  and @ISS_Research  on Twitter as well as the  ISS Facebook  and  ISS Instagram  accounts.

Separation Confirmed, Crew Dragon Now Flying Solo

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft separates from the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage for the agency's SpaceX Crew-3 mission on Nov. 10, 2021.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully separates from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, sending the Crew-3 astronauts on their solo journey to the International Space Station on Nov. 10, 2021. Photo credit: NASA

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance by the Crew-3 astronauts, has successfully separated from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage and is now flying on its own.

The spacecraft has safely reached orbit, and its nosecone has been opened. NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, along with ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer are slated to arrive at the International Space Station about 22 hours from now, around 7:10 p.m. EST on Nov. 11.

First Stage Sticks the Landing!

The first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully lands on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean following launch of the agency's SpaceX Crew-3 mission.
The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lands on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean following launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission on Nov. 10, 2021. Photo credit: NASA

The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has successfully landed on a droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket used for today’s mission previously flew on SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station in June 2021.

Next up, Crew Dragon will separate from the rocket’s second stage to continue its journey to the International Space Station.

Falcon 9 Second Stage Engine Shuts Down

Shutdown of the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage engines occurs right on time, and Crew Dragon is now in orbit. In just a moment, the rocket’s first stage will attempt to land on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Crew-3 Confirms Trajectory is Nominal

The call came in from Crew-3 Commander Raja Chari that trajectory is nominal, and the first stage has started its descent. The Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage will continue to burn for the next few minutes before intentionally shutting down.

Main Engine Cutoff; Falcon 9’s First Stage Separates

The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage has reached main engine cutoff, known as MECO, and the first and second stages have separated. As the second stage continues carrying Crew Dragon on its flight, the rocket’s first stage will attempt a targeted landing on a droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

LIFTOFF! Crew-3 Astronauts Begin Their Journey to the Space Station

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 10, 2021.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 10, 2021. Photo credit: NASA

We have liftoff! At 9:03 p.m. EST, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft lit up the night sky at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sending Crew-3 astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer on the start of a 22-hour journey to the International Space Station.

Coming up in just one minute, the rocket will pass through Max Q – the moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket. Following this, the Falcon 9’s first and second stages will separate.