NASA’s Commercial Crew Program set out from its beginning to provide a setting that would combine the expertise of NASA’s 50 years of human spaceflight experience with the aerospace industry’s know-how in manufacturing to produce cutting-edge spacecraft to take astronauts into low-Earth orbit. The payoff has been a level of innovation in numerous areas of spacecraft development and operation.
“From the outset we received very creative ideas and original approaches to development of individual systems along with new processes used to build several spacecraft in rapid succession,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “The companies painted for us an exciting picture of innovation and we’ve worked together to first refine our requirements and now to ensure that they are met as the crewed vehicles are taking shape.” Read more: http://go.nasa.gov/2fsl2IE
Five years in, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is at the doorstep of launch for a new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles that will take astronauts to the International Space Station, enhance microgravity research and open the windows to the dawn of a new era in human space transportation.
The agency asked industry to take the lead in designing, building and operating a space system that would carry astronauts. NASA offered its expertise in human spaceflight and wrote out the top-level requirements for safety and other considerations to prepare for flight tests. NASA will certify the vehicles for flight tests and finally operational missions. The companies apply their own knowledge and skills in designing, manufacturing and running the systems. Ultimately, NASA will buy the flights as a service from the companies.
“It’s what we hoped the program to be and honestly a lot more,” said Wayne Ordway, who began as the manager of the Commercial Crew Program’s Spacecraft Office and rose to the position associate program manager.
This progress was hoped for, but took tremendous work and flexibility, according to members of the early efforts to transform the fledgling vision of a close partnership between NASA and private industry into a functioning organization capable of establishing requirements for a new generation of human-rated spacecraft and then seeing to it that those requirements were met.
“This is a new way of doing business, a new era in spaceflight, and when it’s all said and done, the Commercial Crew Program’s legacy will be bringing human spaceflight launches back to the U.S.,” said Kelvin Manning, who was involved in the early planning days of the commercial crew effort, and is now associate director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “That’s a big deal and our teams are making it happen.” Read the whole story at http://go.nasa.gov/1VVLruA
Congratulations from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program are again in order for Blue Origin following the launch Friday of its New Shepard sub-orbital rocket and spacecraft. The launch at the company’s West Texas test site set a new mark because it was performed with the same booster that flew a similar mission profile three months ago. The test is significant because rocket reusability could drive down spaceflight hardware costs.
In both flights, the New Shepard booster flew high into the sky before separating from the uncrewed capsule. The flight reached above the 100 kilometer Karman line, which is considered to mark the beginning of space. In both missions, the booster returned to Earth and landed on its four legs. The spacecraft, designed for humans but not carrying people yet, parachuted back to the ground. Blue Origin has worked with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program on the development of the vehicle and rocket engine since 2010. NASA did not have a hand in this flight test, but the space agency will support two milestones this year.
Some of the best works of art come from children who are only limited by their imaginations, like the more than 150 young explorers from across the country who submitted artwork depicting human spaceflight as they see it. Sixteen masterpieces were chosen to be included in the Commercial Crew Program’s 2016 Children’s Artwork Calendar, which is now available for download here. We offer a huge “thank you!” to all the explorers, ranging in age from four to 12, who submitted their work and hope that everyone will enjoy and use this calendar next year.
Blue Origin made history Monday night with the launch into space and safe recovery of an unpiloted New Shepard Crew Capsule and its Propulsion Module. Flying from the company’s Van Horn launch site in West Texas, the Blue Origin capsule and propulsion module rocketed more than 100 kilometers into the sky, meaning the capsule reached an altitude considered space. The capsule, designed to eventually carry humans into the realm of microgravity, parachuted safely to the Texas desert area.
Just as impressive, the propulsion module that lofted the capsule returned to Earth and fired its BE-3 engine to make a soft-landing on a concrete pad to complete the flight as well as a full recovery of the propulsion module. The successful flight test was a major accomplishment to the private company which is designing a propulsion module, engines and capsule with an eye toward launching people into orbit in the future.
Watch for the Blue Origin Flight test in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program next year.
Blue Origin set the stage today at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for assembling and flying its rockets and spacecraft from Florida’s Space Coast and we could not be more thrilled to have them as neighbors!
Blue Origin and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program began working together on the company’s booster and spacecraft systems in 2010 when NASA selected Blue Origin as one of five companies funded for early developmental work on their own projects under Space Act Agreements.
That first partnership with Blue Origin covered design work on a pusher-style launch abort system and composite pressure vessel for the company’s spacecraft. A second round of agreements continued development of both the launch abort system and spacecraft, along with developing a propellant tank and the hydrogen- and oxygen-fueled BE-3 engine. Blue Origin’s newest engine, known as the BE-4, will power the company’s reusable boosters as they loft spacecraft on orbital flights on a variety of missions.
Taken together with continuing advances by NASA’s other commercial crew partners including Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation, a new generation of American-made systems is on the verge of opening space travel to more people than ever before!
Space doesn’t carry sound, but you can see all sorts of colors up there! From the whites of the distant stars to the red glow from Mars, the universe is alive with a palette all its own. And that doesn’t include all the human-made spacecraft up there! What colors would you use on your spacecraft? Think about it a bit then take your artistic talents to this picture and show us what you came up with! Just print out the picture – your parents can help you – and apply some crayons, markers or colored pencils to provide your own hue of success. Then scan it or take a picture and send it to us by Twitter or Facebook post or in email to firstname.lastname@example.org
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program sends a hearty congratulations to Blue Origin today after the company performed its first developmental flight test of the New Shepard spacecraft and booster! The flight test saw the prototype spacecraft soar to 307,000 feet above West Texas on Wednesday before the spacecraft separated and parachuted back to the ground. Blue Origin, the company behind the spacecraft, booster and the new BE-3 liquid-fueled, cryogenic engine, worked with Commercial Crew early in the development of the vehicle and rocket engine though NASA did not have a hand in this flight test.
Company founder Jeff Bezos released a statement about the flight:
“Today we flew the first developmental test flight of our New Shepard space vehicle. Our 110,000-lbf thrust liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen BE-3 engine worked flawlessly, powering New Shepard through Mach 3 to its planned test altitude of 307,000 feet. Guidance, navigation and control was nominal throughout max Q and all of ascent. The in-space separation of the crew capsule from the propulsion module was perfect. Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return.”
The Commercial Crew Program is four years old this week, and what a four years it has been — every year seems to bring accomplishments that outpace those of the year before! The program was formed to facilitate the development of U.S. commercial crew space transportation systems with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.
In the past year, we’ve expanded our focus beyond the development stages of spacecraft and launch vehicle systems to complete crew transportation systems. We are working closely with four industry partners — Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX — with our sights firmly set on the horizon of a new dawn of spaceflight in the very near future. We’re moving into the flight testing and certification phase with Boeing and SpaceX, the two companies chosen to take astronauts from American launch sites to the International Space Station.
We have a lot of work to do, but the goal is within reach! So let’s light these candles — one for each partner — and get on with our innovations! (By the way, we light our candles on the bottom for liftoff!)
We’re looking forward to an exciting 2015 here at Commercial Crew. A sampling of our calendar: two abort tests, a free-flight test, and component evaluations. All of these are important steps as NASA and our partners progress toward launching space station crews again from American soil!