A key question the program and the company have been assessing is whether the astronauts will climb aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft before or after SpaceX fuels the Falcon 9 rocket. NASA has made the decision to move forward with SpaceX’s plan to fuel the rocket after the astronauts are in place. While the agreement makes this plan the baseline for operations, it is contingent upon NASA’s final certification of the operation. Learn more: https://go.nasa.gov/2Mwl1mh
Hear from the five astronauts who will be the first to flying Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX‘s Crew Dragon to the International Space Station on the companies’ flight tests in 2019!
*NASA, Boeing and SpaceX provided an update on Feb. 6, 2019. For the details on the flight tests and the latest schedule, visit https://go.nasa.gov/2ShTHvF.
The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements. To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demo-1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly releasable dates for both providers.
Targeted Test Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): late 2018 / early 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): mid-2019
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): November 2018
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): April 2019
When our astronauts arrive before their missions, they will spend eight to nine days quarantined in astronaut crew quarters. The crew quarters occupies about 26,000 square feet of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy. Access is restricted to this area, which features 23 bedrooms — each with a bathroom — and the iconic suit room, where astronauts are helped into their pressure suits moments before boarding a vehicle to take them to the pad for launch.
A significant, recently completed upgrade will await the commercial crew astronauts when they arrive at Kennedy. There are new carpets and ceiling tiles, and fresh paint on the walls. Appliances all have been replaced, as has the audio/visual teleconference system in both conference rooms. The suit room, last used in an official capacity in July 2011 for STS-135, the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program, has been reactivated and remodeled. The area is furnished with new recliners and tables, and there are now three suit containment rooms — one each for Orion, Boeing and SpaceX.
Learn more about the upgrades to crew quarters here: https://go.nasa.gov/2OyFmp0
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will participate in the announcement of the astronauts assigned to the first crews aboard the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. The event will begin at 10 a.m. CDT Friday, Aug. 3 at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana will join Bridenstine to introduce the crews of the first two flights for each spacecraft. Boeing and SpaceX representatives will also participate in the event. The crew assignment event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Learn More: https://go.nasa.gov/2mLohf4
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.”