Boeing’s Starliner Makes Progress Ahead of Flight Test with Astronauts

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, left, Mike Fincke, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, right
NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, left, Mike Fincke, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, right, pose for a photograph on Sept. 11, 2019, as they, along with teams from NASA, Boeing and the White Sands Missile Range, rehearse landing and crew extraction from Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing continue to make progress toward the company’s second uncrewed flight test of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft prior to flying astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The Commercial Crew Program currently is targeting no earlier than December 2020 for launch of the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) pending hardware readiness, flight software qualification, and launch vehicle and space station manifest priorities.

Over the summer, Boeing’s Starliner team focused on readying the next spacecraft for its upcoming flight tests as well as making improvements identified during various review processes throughout the beginning of the year. NASA also announced an additional crew assignment for its first operational mission, NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1, with astronauts to the space station.

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Cassidy and Behnken Wrap up Battery Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken is pictured tethered to the space station during a spacewalk to swap batteries on the orbiting lab's truss structure.
NASA astronaut Bob Behnken is pictured tethered to the space station’s truss structure during a spacewalk to swap batteries and route cables.

NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Robert Behnken concluded their spacewalk at 12:14 p.m. EDT. During the six hour and one-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts completed half the work to upgrade the batteries that provide power for one channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. The new batteries provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for operations.

They successfully moved and connected one new, powerful lithium-ion battery and its adapter place to complete the circuit to the new battery and relocated one aging nickel-hydrogen battery to an external platform for future disposal.

They also loosened the bolts on nickel-hydrogen batteries that will be replaced to complete the power capability upgrade on the far starboard truss and complete the station’s battery replacement work that began in January 2017 with the first series of power upgrade spacewalks. Behnken and Cassidy will complete the work during the final two spacewalks later this month.

Cassidy and Behnken also will route power and ethernet cables in preparation for the installation of a new external wireless communications system with an enhanced HD camera and to increase helmet camera coverage for future spacewalks. To support future power system upgrades, they also will remove a device called an “H-Fixture” that was installed before the solar arrays were launched to the space station.

This was the eighth spacewalk for both each astronaut. Cassidy now has spent a total of 43 hours and 22 minutes spacewalking. Behnken has now spent a total of 49 hours and 41 minutes spacewalking.

Behnken and NASA astronaut Doug Hurley arrived at the space station in May aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program’s Demo-2 mission. The end-to-end test flight is designed to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations, paving the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station.

Space station crew members have conducted 229 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 60 days and 34 minutes working outside the station.

At 4 p.m. today, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will discuss her upcoming second mission to the International Space Station, along with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, during a news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston that will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

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

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 ‘Go’ for Liftoff Wednesday After Today’s Launch Readiness Review

Demo-2 media teleconference
Representatives from NASA, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron participate in a media teleconference following the Launch Readiness Review at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 25, 2020, in advance of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. From left to right are: Norm Knight, deputy director, NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Operations; Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program; Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program; Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX; and Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed its final major review today at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and teams received the “go” to proceed toward launch. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A.

The mission will return human spaceflight to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on an American rocket and spacecraft as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Demo-2 will be SpaceX’s final test flight to validate its crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, launch pad and operations capabilities.

“We’re burning down the final paper. All the teams are a go, and we’re continuing to progress toward our mission,” said Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program. “I’m very proud of the team. We are continuing to be vigilant and careful, and make sure we do this right.”

In this morning’s official forecast, the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicted a 60% chance of unfavorable weather conditions for the Demo-2 mission. The primary weather concerns that could prevent launch are flight through precipitation, thick and cumulus clouds.

However, 45th Weather Squadron Launch Weather Officer Mike McAleenan pointed out things are looking up.

“It certainly has been trending better over the last day or two for launch weather,” McAleenan said. “If I was to issue the forecast today, right now, we would probably be down to 40% chance of violation.”

Crew members Behnken and Hurley remain in quarantine, a routine part of prelaunch preparations for astronauts journeying into space. On Saturday, they took part in a full dress rehearsal of launch day, including suiting up and climbing aboard the Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A.

“It was a really good review today, and from a crew perspective, we were very happy with the discussions that took place — the thoroughness of the review,” said Norm Knight, deputy director, Flight Operations, NASA Johnson Space Center. “We’re definitely ready to press forward.”

Upon arriving at the space station, Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew to conduct important research as well as support station operations and maintenance. While docked to the station, the crew will run tests to ensure the Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable on future missions of remaining connected to the station for up to 210 days.

“I think the on-orbit crew is definitely ready for some company, and very much looking forward to the launch this Wednesday,” said Kirk Shireman, manager, NASA International Space Station Program. “The ISS team is ready to support the docking of Crew Dragon.”

The specific duration for this mission will be determined after arrival based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. Finally, the mission will conclude with the Crew Dragon undocking from the station, deorbiting and returning Behnken and Hurley to Earth with a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Launch Readiness Review Complete; Media Teleconference at 6 p.m. EDT

The Launch Readiness Review for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission has concluded at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX key managers have given the “go” for launch on a mission that will return human spaceflight to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on an American rocket and spacecraft as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A.

A media teleconference is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT. Live audio of the Demo-2 mission patchteleconference will be streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

Participants are:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Kirk Shireman, manager, NASA International Space Station Program
  • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Norm Knight, deputy director, Flight Operations, NASA Johnson Space Center
  • Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

Demo-2 will be SpaceX’s final test flight to validate its crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, launch pad and operations capabilities. During the mission, the crew and SpaceX mission controllers will verify the performance of the spacecraft’s environmental control system, displays and control system, maneuvering thrusters, autonomous docking capability, and more.

Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew on the station to conduct important research as well as support station operations and maintenance. While docked to the station, the crew will run tests to ensure the Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable on future missions of remaining connected to the station for up to 210 days. The specific duration for this mission will be determined after arrival based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. Finally, the mission will conclude with the Crew Dragon undocking from the station, deorbiting and returning Behnken and Hurley to Earth with a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA, SpaceX Complete Final Major Flight Test of Crew Spacecraft

SpaceX in-flight abort test
NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 19, 2020. The test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency. Credits: NASA Television
Watch the prelaunch activities and launch

NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The launch escape test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 a.m. just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

Teams of personnel from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Operations Group’s Detachment-3 out of Patrick Air Force Base will recover the spacecraft for return to SpaceX facilities in Florida and begin the recovery effort of the Falcon 9, which broke apart as planned.

“The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “We started with a full dress rehearsal of what Bob and I will do for our mission. Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon.”

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. Commercial human space transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbiting laboratory. The program also has the benefit of facilitating and promoting for America a vibrant economy in low-Earth orbit.

In-Flight Abort Post-Test News Conference Underway

A post-test news conference for NASA and SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration is taking place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Station in Florida.

An update from SpaceX and NASA officials, including NASA Commercial Crew Program astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, is underway. Tune in to the post-test news conference, which is being broadcast live from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Participants include:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Elon Musk, chief engineering, SpaceX
  • Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program

Today’s in-flight abort blogging will conclude with a wrap-up post featuring comments from the post-test news conference.

Post-Test News Conference No Earlier Than 11:30 a.m. EST

SpaceX's In-Flight Abort Test
NASA and SpaceX successfully completed the in-flight abort test. The Crew Dragon spacecraft is now in the process of being recovered from the Atlantic Ocean. A post-test news conference is scheduled for today, no earlier than 11:30 EST.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down offshore in the Atlantic Ocean at 10:39 a.m. EST after a launch on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Teams of personnel from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Operations Groups Detachment-3 out of Patrick Air Force Base will recover the spacecraft for return to SpaceX facilities in Florida, and a dedicated team will begin the recovery effort of the Falcon 9, which broke apart as planned.

Next up on NASA television and the agency’s website:

  • 11:30 a.m. (no earlier than) – Post-test news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • Elon Musk, chief engineering, SpaceX
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program

Today’s in-flight abort blogging will conclude with a wrap-up post featuring comments from the post-test news conference.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Spacecraft Splashes Down Safely in the Atlantic Ocean

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has splashed down into the ocean! The test was completed in less than 10 minutes.

The next step is recovery of the spacecraft. That process is expected to take approximately two hours.

Stay tuned for a preview of the post-test news conference.

Crew Dragon Chutes Deploy

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test
Crew Dragon’s drogue and main parachutes will enable the spacecraft to have a soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Crew Dragon’s parachutes have deployed and the spacecraft is descending toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Splashdown is expected in about six minutes.

Spacecraft Maneuvers for Chute Deployment

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test
The in-flight abort test will demonstrate the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch.

Crew Dragon separated from the Falcon 9 rocket and the spacecraft’s trunk has deployed.

Parachute deploy is expected at about the four-minute mark.