Partnerships Drive Low-Earth Orbit Marketplace


NASA’s efforts to establish new partnerships began about 10 years ago with agreements that would become regular cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station by rockets owned and operated by private companies. NASA continues to drive for safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to low-Earth orbit with a growing diversity of crewed vehicles and cargo-carrying craft – all privately developed and operated with insight from NASA’s spaceflight experts. As NASA focuses on deep space exploration, industry stands on the cusp of the emerging marketplace of low-Earth orbit:

Behnken Discusses Commercial Crew Program on NASA TV

CCPBlog-Stitch2Veteran astronaut Bob Behnken is discussing NASA’s Commercial Crew Program development and training during an interview on NASA TV. Behnken is one of four NASA astronauts training for flight tests for the Commercial Crew Program. Boeing and SpaceX are working closely with NASA to build a new generation of human-rated spacecraft capable of flying astronauts to the International Space Station in order to return America’s capability to launch its astronauts from its own soil and to enhance research on the unique orbiting laboratory. Along with Behnken, astronauts Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Williams are training with Boeing and SpaceX for missions aboard spacecraft and launch systems that each company is building and will operate.

Behnken’s interview comes as NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet conduct a spacewalk this morning to further outfit the station for commercial spacecraft that will dock to the station in the future. You can watch the interview and spacewalk live here on the Commercial Crew Blog, on NASA TV or on the NASA TV website at

A rundown of the spacewalk activities can be seen in the video below, too.

Campaign Tests Parachutes Designed to Provide Astronauts a Soft Landing


Starliner-ParachuteTestopeningA flight-sized boilerplate of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner touched down gently under parachutes against the backdrop of the San Andres Mountains in late February, providing a preview of how the spacecraft will return to Earth in upcoming NASA missions. Boeing is developing the Starliner to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The parachute test is one in a series that will allow the vehicle to pick up the same velocity as the actual spacecraft when returning to Earth in the southwest region of the United States from the International Space Station. The goal of the test series is to prove the design of the Starliner’s parachutes.

“Completion of this test campaign will bring Boeing and NASA one step closer to launching astronauts on an American vehicle and bringing them home safely,” said Mark Biesack, spacecraft systems lead for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

The test began at the Spaceport America facility near the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. During the test, the Starliner was lifted about 40,000 feet in the air, the flying altitude of a typical commercial airline flight, by a Near Space Corp. helium balloon and then released over the White Sands Missile Range. Read the full story at

ECLSS Systems Put to the Test for Commercial Crew Missions

ECLSS_Test - 110916 - 129A1616The Environmental Control and Life Support System of a spacecraft provides astronauts with breathing air and handles everything from temperature regulation to removing carbon dioxide as astronauts breathe.

That’s why engineers with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program work so closely with the companies building the next generation of human-rated spacecraft to make sure the systems meet agency requirements for missions to the International Space Station. Read more about the systems testing under way at

Astronauts Evaluate Crew Dragon Controls

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Astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Eric Boe evaluated the controls, seating and other aspects of the crew compartment of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during a recent visit to the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Sitting in a mock-up of the Crew Dragon cockpit, the two studied many aspects of the layout including spacing of displays and ease of movement.

The testing is taking place as SpaceX develops the Crew Dragon with an eye toward launching the spacecraft into orbit in the near future on a flight test to and from the International Space Station. Later, the Crew Dragons, launching atop Falcon 9 rockets, will perform operational missions to rotate crews aboard the orbiting laboratory. Companies build high fidelity models of their spacecraft and systems to help determine everything from practicality and operation to fit and comfort.

Boeing also is building a spacecraft and launch system to take astronauts to and from the station. Both companies are developing their systems under contracts with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program as the agency strives to return America’s human launch capability with domestic companies.

Behnken and Boe along with Doug Hurley and Suni Williams are the four NASA astronauts who travel across the country to evaluate design and manufacturing by Boeing and SpaceX. The astronauts have not been assigned to specific test flights yet and are pooling their test pilot expertise and engineering prowess to help the companies meet NASA requirements. Other astronauts also take part in the analysis of spacecraft, launch vehicles and the myriad ground systems that are under construction to make sure they meet NASA’s strict requirements for use, safety and reliability. Photos by SpaceX.

I Will Launch America: Trip Healey


A successful space mission requires the coordinated efforts of human spaceflight experts, working thousands of hours, to come together at just the right moment – not only on launch day, but months and even years ahead of time.

For one Marine veteran, tapping into his military background to coordinate those fine details is part of the fun and accomplishment he sought when he came to NASA.

“I am a Marine, and as a Marine it’s all about mission accomplishment, taking care of your troops, and getting the job done,” said Trip Healey, mission manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “I think that background helps me in my position here.”

The role of a mission manager is to facilitate collaboration between NASA and the commercial providers, and ensure the requirements and processes necessary to conduct a successful flight are in place and ready prior to the flight. Healey is one of two mission managers assigned to Boeing. He will manage Boeing’s uncrewed flight test and first crew rotation mission from a NASA perspective, while his teammate in Houston will manage the company’s crewed flight test and second crew rotation mission. Read the full story at

New Spacesuit Unveiled for Starliner Crews


Operation Tigergrass - CST-100 Starliner Space Suit Ingress & EgBoeing Unveils CST-100 Starliner Space SuitAstronauts heading into orbit aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will wear lighter and more comfortable spacesuits than earlier suits astronauts wore. The suit capitalizes on historical designs, meets NASA requirements for safety and functionality, and introduces cutting-edge innovations. Boeing unveiled its spacesuit design Wednesday as the company continues to move toward flight tests of its Starliner spacecraft and launch systems that will fly astronauts to the International Space Station.

The full suit, which includes an integrated shoe, weighs about 20 pounds with all its accessories – about 10 pounds lighter than the launch-and-entry suits worn by space shuttle astronauts.

The new Starliner suit’s material lets water vapor pass out of the suit, away from the astronaut, but keeps air inside. That makes the suit cooler without sacrificing safety. Materials in the elbows and knees give astronauts more movement, too, while strategically located zippers allow them to adapt the suit’s shape when standing or seated.

“The most important part is that the suit will keep you alive,” astronaut Eric Boe said. “It is a lot lighter, more form-fitting and it’s simpler, which is always a good thing. Complicated systems have more ways they can break, so simple is better on something like this.” Read more details at  Photo credits: middle by Boeing, lower by NASA/Cory Huston

Starliner STA Arrives in California for Testing

Boeing's CST-100 Structural Test Article Ready for Shipment to B Boeing's CST-100 Structural Test Article Arrival - Boeing's Faci Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will experience a variety of tremendous internal and external forces during missions to and from the International Space Station.  When the Starliner launches in 2018, it won’t be the first time the spacecraft has encountered these forces. That is because Boeing built a Structural Test Article that will experience the rigors of spaceflight in a test facility in an effort to prove the design of the spacecraft. The module was built inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (top) before it was shipped it across the country to Huntington Beach, California, for testing (right).

Boeing's CST-100 Structural Test Article Shipment from C3PF to BIt joined test versions of the service module, the launch vehicle adapter truss structure and other hardware that make up the upper stage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Testing of the article began shortly after it arrived to Boeing’s Test and Evaluation facility. The first test involved pressurizing the interior of the crew module to 1.5 times the maximum pressure a Starliner spacecraft would face during ascent, orbit, re-entry and landing for missions to and from the International Space Station.

Boeing's CST-100 Structural Test Article Arrival - Boeing's FaciBoeing’s facilities in southern California are outfitted with numerous test chambers that routinely evaluate spacecraft and other vehicles in a variety of environments to make sure they can handle the demands of flight.

Boeing is building the next generation of human space systems in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The Starliner will launch atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Commercial Crew Program also is partnering with SpaceX to develop its Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket for transporting astronauts to and from the orbiting microgravity laboratory.  Photos by Boeing.

Starliner Simulator Arrives in Houston

Boeing Mission Simulator for CST-100 Arrives at JSCBoeing Mission Simulator with CCP Astronauts CCP Astronauts, Eric Boe and Suni Williams, near the Boeing Mission Simulator located in St Louis Missouri.

Date:01-10-2017 Location:B5 Subject:Photograph arrival and installation of Boeing CST-100 BMS hardware for installation in Bldg. 5North Photographer: David DeHoyos

As commercial crew astronauts climb inside Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for the first time atop of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, there will be something very familiar about what they are doing.

This is because of a new simulator that arrived today at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The Boeing Mission Simulator is a full-scale mock-up of the Starliner outfitted with the same state-of-the-art interior as the real spacecraft. NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams worked with the simulator after its assembly in St. Louis before it was shipped to Texas.

The purpose of the simulator is to allow astronauts to rehearse all aspects of a mission to the International Space Station so the detailed functions they might need to perform will seem as routine as possible. The Starliner is autonomous, but the training tools designed for the spacecraft will allow an astronaut to go beyond the typical mission parameters to train for the unexpected while in a safe environment.

The simulator will join Boeing’s Crew Part-Task Trainers in the Jake Garn Mission Simulator and Training Facility, which were installed in 2016. The part-task trainers simulate specific aspects of a flight whereas the large mission simulator allows the astronaut to be fully immersed in the spaceflight experience from beginning to end. Last year, Boeing also unveiled an entire training facility in Houston call the Space Training, Analysis and Review Facility, or STAR, which will house two other training devices all designed to help astronauts and support teams from Mission Control to astronauts aboard the space station. Together, all training tools will prepare astronauts for variety of situations while in flight.

Boeing is building the Starliner system in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA is partnering with private industry to return human spaceflight to the United States. Boeing is one of two companies that will take astronauts to and from the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit so NASA can focus on deep-space exploration. The public-private partnership brings together industry innovation with NASA’s long history of human spaceflight experience.