NASA and Boeing Evaluating Launch Date for Orbital Flight Test-2

Technicians observe Boeing’s Starliner crew module being placed on top of the service module in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 14, 2021. The Starliner spacecraft is being prepared for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2). As part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, OFT-2 is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path to fly crew missions for NASA. Credit: Boeing/John Proferes

NASA and Boeing are evaluating a new target launch date for the CST-100 Starliner’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station after winter storms in Houston, and the recent replacement of avionics boxes, set the program back about two weeks. NASA also is weighing the volume of verification and validation analysis required prior to the test flight and the visiting vehicle schedule at the International Space Station.

Previously, the launch was targeted for no earlier than April 2.

An important factor the teams are evaluating is the visiting vehicle schedule at the International Space Station, which already has a scheduled crewed Soyuz launch and NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission in April. Based on the current traffic at the space station, NASA does not anticipate that OFT-2 can be accomplished later in April. NASA and Boeing are working to find the earliest possible launch date.

“Boeing and NASA have worked extremely hard to support an early-April launch but we need to assess alternatives to ensure NASA’s safety work can be accomplished. NASA and Boeing know we fly together,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “Boeing has done an incredible amount of work on Starliner to be ready for flight and we’ll provide an update soon on when we expect to launch the OFT-2 mission.”

“I’m grateful for the extraordinary work being undertaken by our NASA partners as we progress towards our OFT-2 mission,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “And I’m very proud of the Boeing Starliner team for working so diligently to get the hardware, software and certification closure products ready for flight. We’re committed to demonstrating the safety and quality of our spacecraft and progressing to our crewed test flight and the missions beyond.”

The company has been conducting dry-runs ahead of an end-to-end mission rehearsal that will allow the operations team to practice and observe integrated interactions through the whole mission profile, from launch to docking and undocking to landing. Additionally, power-on testing and checkouts of the OFT-2 vehicle, with new avionics boxes installed, have been completed successfully. Spacecraft fueling operations and the stacking of the launch vehicle are also ready to commence.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Named Federal Engineer of the Year

Steve Stich is the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
Steve Stich, now manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, monitors the countdown during a dress rehearsal in preparation for the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in firing room four of the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has named Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), as the agency’s Federal Engineer of the Year. Sponsored by Professional Engineers in Government, the award honors engineers of federal agencies that employ at least 50 engineers worldwide.

Stich was recognized during a virtual award ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 24, alongside recipients from the National Park Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and others.

“This is such an honor and one granted based on the tremendous team with which I am privileged to work,” Stich said. “I’m so proud of everything that we’ve accomplished together, and I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead this year for CCP and NASA as a whole.”

Stich oversees the development of commercial spacecraft and the certification required to safely send astronauts to the International Space Station. As the CCP manager, Stich played a role in returning human spaceflight capability to the United States following the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

He led the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission that carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the space station and returned them safely to Earth, validating SpaceX’s transportation system for recurring, operational missions to the orbiting laboratory. Leading up to the mission, Stich provided final approval on vehicle design changes and system and vehicle component certifications. He also oversaw additional testing as required to reduce technical risk.

In the citation released from NASA Johnson Space Center’s Award Office, Stich is recognized for his “exceptional leadership, vehicle design expertise, and risk-mitigation, paving the way for NASA to enable commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) space transportation and for expanding access to space for users across the government, commercial customers, and academia.”

He first started his career at NASA in 1987 and, since then, has led teams within multiple organizations and programs, including Johnson’s Engineering, NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, the shuttle program, and Johnson’s Advanced Exploration Systems. His more than 33 years of expertise at NASA has allowed the agency to continue conducting technology and research investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory and also helped lay the framework for future deep space exploration missions under the Artemis program.

For a full list of award recipients, as well as the top 10 finalists for the NSPE 2021 Federal Engineer of the Year, visit https://www.nspe.org/resources/interest-groups/government/federal-engineer-the-year.

Media Invited to Cover Prelaunch and Launch Activities for Boeing’s OFT-2

Boeing Starliner is lifted inside processing facility
Boeing’s Starliner crew module for the company’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) is lifted Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida prior to the vehicle having a weight and center of gravity test. Photo credit: Boeing/John Grant

Media accreditation now is open for prelaunch and launch activities for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station. Part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, NASA and Boeing are targeting no earlier than Thursday, March 25, for the second uncrewed launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

Starliner is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner and the Atlas V rocket from launch to docking to a return to Earth in the desert of the western United States.

Following a successful completion of the OFT-2 mission, NASA and Boeing are targeting no earlier than September 2021  for Starliner’s first flight with astronauts on board – NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT).

In addition to applying to cover launch, media may also separately apply for a photo opportunity of Starliner rolling out of Boeing’s Commercial Cargo and Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, March 10, ahead of the OFT-2 mission.

View the full release for accreditation deadlines and to submit your request.

View Today’s Live Broadcasts of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 Prelaunch Events

Crew-1 rocket on pad
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is seen on the launch pad at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on Tuesday, Nov. 10, after being rolled out overnight. NASA/Joel Kowsky

Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website today for live broadcasts of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission prelaunch events at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7:49 p.m. EST, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A.

Beginning at 10 a.m. today, watch a briefing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at Kennedy’s historic countdown clock. Participants are:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Steve Dickson, administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
  • Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana
  • Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate
  • NASA astronaut Jonny Kim
  • NASA astronaut Sunita Williams

Later today, key managers and officials from NASA and SpaceX will convene for the Launch Readiness Review — the final planned review before the Crew-1 mission begins. A live prelaunch news conference (on NASA TV and the agency’s website) will follow, approximately one hour after the review ends, with the following participants:

  • Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, Kennedy
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station, Johnson
  • Kirt Costello, chief scientist, International Space Station Program, Johnson
  • Norm Knight, deputy manager, Flight Operations Directorate, Johnson
  • Benji Reed, senior director, Human Spaceflight Programs, SpaceX
  • Arlena Moses, launch weather officer, U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 70% chance of favorable weather conditions at the launch pad for liftoff of Crew-1 based on Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch weather criteria. The primary weather concerns for the launch area are cumulus clouds and flight through precipitation.

Teams also will monitor weather conditions both for the launch area and downrange.

FORECAST DETAILS

Clouds                      Coverage           Bases (feet)             Tops (feet)
Cumulus              Scattered                   3,000                         8,000

Weather/Visibility: Isolated showers/7 miles
Temperature:  78 degrees

Astronauts Enter Quarantine for Upcoming Crew-1 Mission

NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts
The SpaceX Crew-1 crew members (from left) NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Credits: SpaceX

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), entered their official quarantine period beginning Saturday, Oct. 31, in preparation for their flight to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. They will lift off at 7:49 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 14 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon carried by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Crew-1 astronauts participate in a training exercise on July 22, 2020.
Pilot Victor Glover, spacecraft commander Michael Hopkins, mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, and mission specialist Shannon Walker participate in a SpaceX training exercise on July 22, 2020, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Photo credit: SpaceX

For crews preparing to launch, “flight crew health stabilization” is a routine part of the final preparations for all missions to the space station. Spending the final two weeks before liftoff in quarantine will help ensure the Crew-1 crew is healthy, protecting themselves and the astronauts already on the space station.

If they are able to maintain quarantine conditions at home, crew members can choose to quarantine from there until they travel to Kennedy. If they are unable to maintain quarantine conditions at home — for example, if a household member can’t maintain quarantine because of job or school requirements — they have the option of living in the Astronaut Quarantine Facility at Johnson Space Center until they leave for Kennedy.

Some additional safeguards have been added because of the coronavirus. Anyone who will come on site or interact with the crew during the quarantine period, as well as any VIPs, will be screened for temperature and symptoms. Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi, as well as those in direct, close contact with the crew, will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution.

The SpaceX Crew-1 official crew insignia features a dragon in silhouette, a Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the numeral 1 for Crew-1.Crew-1 astronauts will become the first crew to fly a full-duration mission to the space station on Crew Dragon for a six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory. They are scheduled to arrive at the space station Sunday, Nov. 15, to join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, as well as Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, cosmonauts of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

For the first time, the space station’s long-duration crew will expand to seven people with Expedition 64, increasing the amount of crew time available for research.

More details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Preparations Continue for SpaceX First Operational Flight with Astronauts

Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.
Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Norah Moran

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the company’s first operational flight with astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program arrived in Florida Tuesday, Aug. 18. The upcoming flight, known as NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission, will be the first of regular rotational missions to the space station following completion of NASA certification.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than Oct. 23, 2020. The spacecraft made its journey from the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, California over the weekend and is now undergoing prelaunch processing in the company’s facility on nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Preparations are also underway for the mission’s Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX completed a successful static fire test of the rocket’s second stage at its facility in McGregor, Texas, also on Tuesday. The Falcon 9 first stage booster arrived at the launch site in Florida in July to begin its final launch preparations.

The Crew-1 mission will send Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all of NASA, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi to the orbiting laboratory for a six-month science mission.

Crew Dragon on the Path Home

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, undocks from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed a significant milestone this evening as the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. EDT after more than two months of docked operations in orbit. Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, traveling aboard the spacecraft they named “Endeavour,” will spend one more night in space before beginning their journey back to Earth on Sunday in the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Aug. 1, 2020.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

With the spacecraft on its path home, the astronauts will settle in for an eight-hour sleep period. While they’re asleep, a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. EDT Sunday, Aug. 2 will set the Dragon Endeavour on the proper orbital path to a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

The deorbit burn, which slows the spacecraft’s forward speed enough to begin its descent, is scheduled for 1:51 p.m. EDT on Sunday, with splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Teams continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias and evaluate impacts to the landing sites in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle. Teams have several weather decision milestones ahead of and after undocking to adjust the splashdown location and time based on the forecasted conditions for recovery.

Follow along with the return and recovery activities here on the blog and on NASA Television.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 63 days aboard the station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

Departure Burn 3

An infographic illustrating the SpaceX Crew Dragon's different depart burns during its return to Earth.
An infographic illustrating the SpaceX Crew Dragon’s different depart burns during its return to Earth. Photo credit: NASA

The fourth and final departure burn, helping to send the Crew Dragon spacecraft along on its journey back to Earth, is complete. Coming up next, in a little over an hour, Crew Dragon’s Draco thrusters will begin the departure phasing burn.

Departure Burn 2

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

Crew Dragon has now completed three out of a series of four departure burns – the count starting at departure burn zero while undocking from the International Space Station – moving the spacecraft below and in front of the space station’s orbit.

 

Crew Dragon Exits Station’s Approach Ellipsoid

Black and white infographic depicting the Crew Dragon return timeline from departure to splashdown.
This infographic illustrates the Crew Dragon return timeline from departure through splashdown. Click the image to view larger version. Image credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has exited the approach ellipsoid, an imaginary boundary surrounding the International Space Station. Four kilometers long, two kilometers wide, and two kilometers deep, the approach ellipsoid governs all vehicles coming or going from the orbiting laboratory.