When astronauts splash down into the ocean after their journey to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, recovery teams must be able to transport them to land quickly. In the unlikely event of an astronaut medical emergency, SpaceX has outfitted its recovery ship, GO Searcher, with a medical treatment facility and a helipad in the center of the vessel.
Recently the company completed helicopter landing and patient loading rehearsals on the ship, practicing how the helicopter will pick up astronauts and fly them to a nearby hospital.
The aircraft will also serve to carry doctors and paramedics to care for the astronauts. This will allow the SpaceX medical team to provide the best possible care to astronauts on the ship, in-flight, and get them safely to a hospital.
In a normal scenario, Crew Dragon will splash down off of Florida’s eastern coast. GO Searcher is equipped with a crane to lift the capsule out of the water and onto the main deck of the ship. NASA and SpaceX doctors will work together to evaluate the crew onboard the vessel. From there, GO Searcher will head for Cape Canaveral, Florida, where SpaceX teams will take the astronauts to a nearby airport for transport back to Houston.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with Boeing and SpaceX to begin launching astronauts from American soil for the first time since 2011. The goal of the program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station from the United States. Commercial transportation to and from the space station will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Commercial crew astronauts are rehearsing their movements in space for when they launch on Boeing and SpaceX missions to the International Space Station. Astronauts Suni Williams (above) and Mike Hopkins (below left) recently practiced spacewalking in the Virtual Reality Lab at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The training is designed to be as realistic as possible, with real time graphics and motion simulators to replicate the space environment.
NASA uses virtual reality for spacewalk training. The astronauts see a virtual representation of the space station through their goggles and are able to practice moving around on its exterior, without the drag that they would experience from the water in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, NASA’s enormous swimming pool where astronauts practice spacewalking underwater. They can practice maneuvering safely back to the space station as well as plotting paths from worksite to worksite.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with Boeing and SpaceX to return human spaceflight launches to the United States in 2019. Williams is assigned to Boeing’s first operational mission after the company’s test flight with crew. Hopkins is assigned to SpaceX’s first operational mission after the company’s test flight with crew.
The dual-engine Centaur upper stage that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station has arrived at Cape Canaveral, Fla. for final processing by United Launch Alliance technicians.
The stage arrived Oct. 19 aboard the Mariner cargo ship, the ocean-going vessel that ULA uses to transport rocket stages from the manufacturing plant in Decatur, Alabama to the launch sites.
Wrapped in a protective covering for the transit, the Centaur was offloaded at the Port Canaveral wharf and driven on a specialized trailer to ULA’s Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center for initial arrival checks.
Later, it will move to the Delta Operations Center to be raised vertically, mounted onto the interstage structure and fitted with the adapter that will support Starliner atop the rocket. That combined stack will then be ready for mating to the Atlas V first stage at the Vertical Integration Facility early next year.
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 reflects the most recent publicly releasable flight planning dates for both providers.
Test Flight Planning Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): March 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): August 2019
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): January 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): June 2019
Following the test flights, NASA will review the performance data and resolve issues as necessary to certify the systems for operational missions. Boeing, SpaceX and the Commercial Crew Program are actively working to be ready for the operational missions; however, as with all human spaceflight development, learning from each test and adjusting as necessary to reduce risk to the crew may override planning dates.
Anticipated Readiness Dates for Operational Missions: First operational mission: August 2019
Second operational mission: December 2019
Boeing and SpaceX are getting ready to launch astronauts from U.S. soil, but getting off the ground is just the beginning. Once they arrive at the International Space Station, astronauts will be working on research to improve life on Earth, and help us send humans into deep space—farther than ever before.
We are finalizing plans with SpaceX for launch day operations at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as they prepare for the company’s first flight test with astronauts on board.
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