Engineers in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently tested the mechanisms that will connect future commercial crew spacecraft with the second International Docking Adapter. IDA-2, as it’s called, will be taken to the space station on a future cargo resupply mission. It will be one of two connection points for commercial crew spacecraft visiting the orbiting laboratory. The systems and targets for IDA-2 are set to be put through extensive tests with both Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon before the adapter is loaded for launch.
“We set IDA-2 up horizontally for the alignment checks with the CST-100 to more closely mirror how the two would connect in space,” said Steve Bigos, project manager for orbital replacement unit processing at Kennedy. “There is a lot of new technology, so it’s very interesting.”
The targets are much more sophisticated than previous docking systems and include lasers and sensors that allow the station and spacecraft to autonomously communicate distance cues and enable alignment and connection. Think of it as a car that can park itself.
Our astronauts had the chance to share the path forward for Commercial Crew and why they are excited to train and ultimately fly to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s
CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
The cargo Dragon spacecraft set to launch this morning is carrying a 1,000-pound International Docking Adapter that will make it easier for Commercial Crew spacecraft to connect to the station. IDA-1, as the component is called, will be connected to the port on the end of the Harmony module on the space station. Equipped with modernized docking targets and sensors, the IDA, made by Boeing, will give the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon a place to dock. Many of the sensors and targets are set up so the spacecraft can steer safely to the station and dock automatically to the IDA. A second IDA will be sent into space later will be connected to another port on the station to provide a backup parking place for spacecraft. There’s a lot more to the IDA’s story, including the cooperation it has taken to make, test and launch. For those details, go to http://go.nasa.gov/1Ik5HjQ. .
A new crew access tower is taking shape one segment at a time at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where metalworkers are assembling steel beams into tiers which will be stacked atop each other to form a 200-foot-tall structure fit to host astronauts as they embark on a mission to the International Space Station. The structure is being tailored by United Launch Alliance to the specifications of Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft which is to lift off from Space Launch Complex 41 aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket to take astronauts to the orbiting laboratory for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Read more, at http://go.nasa.gov/1NkRbYY.
“Sometimes when you are an engineer, you have to get it wrong, before you can get it right,” said Rebecca Regan, an employee at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Yesterday, Regan taught 17 elementary school students at Kennedy’s Child Development Center about the Commercial Crew Program and the need to have American-made spacecraft and rocket systems to carry people to and from space. After the lesson, each student built their own spacecraft out of cardboard boxes and art supplies.
Take a look at the designs these budding engineers created.
Want to build your own spacecraft this summer? We used the following supplies:
Disposable plates (for portholes)
Pictures (to place on the portholes)
Plastic cups (to make rocket engines)
Foil (to cover the cups)
Tissue Paper – red, orange and yellow (to make fire for the engines)
NASA has approved a $30 million milestone agency’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with the company following a recent and successful pad abort test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Data gathered during the test is critical to understanding the safety and performance of the Crew Dragon spacecraft as the company continues on the path to certification for crew missions to the International Space Station, and helping return the ability to launch astronauts from the United States.
The exterior skin begins to take shape of what will become SpaceX’s new 300-foot-long horizontal hangar at the base of Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A. Inside, the company will process the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket before being rolled out for launch. The company also is refurbishing the historic complex for Commercial Crew and Falcon Heavy launches.
“It’s good to see the actual hardware up there and coming together in space,” Lisa Colloredo, associate program manager for Commercial Crew, told a luncheon of the National Space Club today. “It’s really an exciting time, especially for people in Florida who are used to having the hardware close by. From the get-go, the people of Commercial Crew knew this program would only be as successful as our commercial providers. It’s a big job, its difficult and it’s never been done before. I can tell you that industry has really stepped up. This is a hard job and they stepped up in a big way.”