The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will be used for the company’s uncrewed flight test, known as Demonstration Mission 1, arrived to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this week. The spacecraft recently underwent thermal vacuum and acoustic testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio.
United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V dual engine Centaur (ULA) Crew Flight Test dual engine, at left, and the Orbital Flight test dual engine, at right, for the Centaur stage of the Atlas V rocket are in production on June 11, 2018, at ULA’s factory in Decatur, Alabama. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will launch on its first uncrewed flight test on the ULA Atlas V rocket. The Starliner is being developed and manufactured in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to return human spaceflight capabilities to the U.S.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, ready to undergo testing in the In-Space Propulsion Facility—the world’s only facility capable of testing full-scale upper-stage launch vehicles and rocket engines under simulated high-altitude conditions. The chamber will allow SpaceX and NASA to verify Crew Dragon’s ability to withstand the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. This is the spacecraft that SpaceX will fly during its Demonstration Mission 1 flight test under NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract with the goal of returning human spaceflight launch capabilities to the U.S.
A joint NASA and commercial provider team pulls from expertise across key human spaceflight areas to design, test, assess, and plan missions aboard the Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft.
“Really the whole mission, from pre-launch through docking and undocking, entry, landing and post-landing, all of those need to be verified in the simulator. So we’ll have our astronauts going through each flight phase making sure all the tasks they have to do meet our workload, usability and error-rate requirements,” said Mike Good, a veteran astronaut who flew on space shuttle missions STS-125 and STS-132 and current program manager assistant for Crew Operations and Testing. “We’re also contributing by helping the provider complete their verification testing so that they can close requirements and we can go fly safely.”
Before Boeing and SpaceX will be able to begin flying regular missions to the space station, they must make sure all of the systems onboard the capsule meet NASA’s safety requirements. These criteria are designed to ensure a safe journey for the crew and the capsule.
Learn more: https://go.nasa.gov/2GXQt69
After completion of uncrewed and crew test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, NASA will review the data to ensure the vehicles meet the agency safety and performance requirements, as part of final certification efforts.
With test flights scheduled later this year, Boeing and SpaceX are working closely with the astronaut team to ensure crew safety and serviceability in their respective capsules.
Here’s more about what the commercial crew astronaut test pilots are looking forward to in the upcoming year:
Hurley, a NASA astronaut since 2000, flew on STS-127 and the final Shuttle flight, STS-135, totaling more than 28 days in space. Hurley is most excited about seeing all the spacecraft hardware coming together.
Williams, a NASA astronaut since 1998, flew to the space station on STS-116 as a member of Expeditions 14-15, returning on STS-117. Her second long-duration mission began aboard a Russian Soyuz for Expeditions 32-33. Cumulatively, she is approaching a year in space with more than 322 days in space.
Beyond the flight tests and launches, Williams is excited about the manufacturing underway.
“One of the coolest things is there’s hardware undergoing testing. This is a pretty exciting time. It’s like all the pieces and parts of the puzzle are coming together.”
NASA astronaut Eric Boe, one of four astronauts working with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, had the opportunity to check out the Crew Access Tower at Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) Wednesday with a United Launch Alliance Atlas V on the pad. Boe, along with launch operations engineers from NASA, Boeing, and ULA, climbed the launch pad tower to evaluate lighting and spotlights after dark. The survey helped ensure crew members will have acceptable visibility as they prepare to launch aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft on the Crew Flight Test to the International Space Station targeted for later this year.
The Atlas V at the pad is scheduled to carry NOAA’s GOES-S satellite to orbit later today for NASA’s Launch Services Program. For more information on today’s launch, visit https://blogs.nasa.gov/goes.
Vice President Mike Pence and members of the National Space Council toured Boeing and SpaceX facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center today. The tour was part of the second meeting of the National Space Council held at the agency’s multi-user spaceport in Florida.
Following the council’s meeting inside Kennedy’s Space Station Processing Facility, the vice president, including NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Suni Williams, took a ride across the center first arriving to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Procession Facility, or C3PF, where Boeing is manufacturing the Starliner spacecraft for missions to and from the International Space Station. The Vice President saw various Starliners being built for the company’s Pad Abort Test and Crew Flight Test. The Pad Abort Test Starliner will demonstrate the spacecraft’s abort and landing system performance, and the crew test Starliner will fly astronauts to the space station. Both flight tests are scheduled later this year.
The next stop was the SpaceX hangar at Launch Complex 39A where the company horizontally integrates the Falcon 9 rocket for launch. SpaceX currently launches government and commercial missions from 39A. It also will be the launch site for commercial crew missions to the station. Inside of the hangar, the Vice President saw flight hardware from recent missions, including the company’s thirteenth cargo resupply mission to the space station, which occurred in December. The company also showcased the helmet astronauts will wear for missions to the station. SpaceX is slated to begin flight tests this year starting with an uncrewed flight test and then a crew test flight to the station, known as Demonstration Mission 1 and 2 respectively. SpaceX also will fly an in-flight abort test from the pad.
For more on the Vice President’s visit and the National Space Council meeting, visit: https://go.nasa.gov/2Ccpjug
For more on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in 2018, visit: https://go.nasa.gov/2E66N3P
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and private industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, continue to develop the systems that will return human spaceflight to the United States. Both commercial partners are undertaking considerable amounts of testing in 2018 to prove space system designs and the ability to meet NASA’s mission and safety requirement for regular crew flights to the International Space Station.
“The work Boeing and SpaceX are doing is incredible. They are manufacturing spaceflight hardware, performing really complicated testing and proving their systems to make sure we get it right.” said Kathy Lueders, program manager NASA Commercial Crew Program. “Getting it right is the most important thing.”
Both Boeing and SpaceX plan to fly test missions without crew to the space station prior to test flights with a crew onboard this year. After each company’s test flights, NASA will work to certify the systems and begin post-certification crew rotation missions. The current flight schedules for commercial crew systems provide about six months of margin to begin regular, post-certification crew rotation missions to the International Space Station before contracted flights on Soyuz flights end in fall 2019.
As part of the agency’s normal contingency planning, NASA is exploring multiple scenarios as the agency protects for potential schedule adjustments to ensure continued U.S. access to the space station. One option under consideration would extend the duration of upcoming flight tests with crew targeted for the end of 2018 on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. The flights could be extended longer than the current two weeks planned for test flights, and likely less than a six-month full-duration mission. The agency also is assessing whether there is a need to add another NASA crew member on the flight tests.
This would not the first time NASA has expanded the scope of test flights. NASA had SpaceX carry cargo on its commercial demonstration flight to the International Space Station in 2012, which was not part of the original agreement. This decision allowed NASA to ensure the crew aboard the space station had the equipment, food and other supplies needed on the station after the end of the agency’s Space Shuttle Program.
As with all contingency plans, the options will receive a thorough review by the agency, including safety and engineering reviews. NASA will make a decision on these options within the next few months to begin training crews.
Sierra Nevada Corporation delivered its Dream Chaser spacecraft Wednesday to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, located on Edwards Air Force Base. The spacecraft will undergo several months of testing at the center in preparation for its approach and landing flight on the base’s 22L runway.
The test series is part of a developmental space act agreement SNC has with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The upcoming test campaign will help SNC validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser.
The Dream Chaser is also being prepared to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract beginning in 2019. The data that SNC gathers from this test campaign will help influence and inform the final design of the cargo Dream Chaser, which will fly at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the space station by 2024.
Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne have begun a series of developmental hot-fires tests with two launch abort engines similar to the ones that will be part of Boeing’s Starliner service module. The engines, designed to maximize thrust build-up, while minimizing overshoot during start up, will be fired between half a second and 3 seconds each during the test campaign. If the Starliner’s four launch abort engines were used during an abort scenario, they would fire between 3 and 5.5 seconds, with enough thrust to get the spacecraft and its crew away from the rocket, before splashing down in the ocean under parachutes.
Recently, Aerojet Rocketdyne also completed delivery of the first set of hardware for Starliner’s service module propulsion system.
The Starliner is under development in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program for crew missions to the International Space Station.