Workers are deep into construction of the first two tiers of the new crew access tower for Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Boeing and United Launch Alliance are building the tower so astronauts and ground support teams can access the CST-100 spacecraft for missions to the International Space Station. Offsite construction of the tiers was essential to be able to sustain the launch schedule of the Atlas V rocket – which will carry the CST-100 – and still provide a human-rated service structure NASA needs for its Commercial Crew flights.
The first two structures will be outfitted with nearly everything they will need at the launch pad except wiring and the elevator shafts before they are stacked and trucked over to the launch pad. It will take seven tiers to complete the 200-foot-tall structure. While the tiers are assembled a few miles away, workers at SLC-41 are preparing the foundation of the structure. Pile drivers, cement trucks and other heavy equipment are establishing a firm support base for the tower.
The CST-100 spacecraft Boeing is developing to take astronauts to the International Space Station will feature a crew interface system computer and displays built by Aitech Defense Systems of Chatsworth, California. Aitech’s work will allow pilots of the CST to assume direct control over the spacecraft in orbit to adjust its attitude, height and direction with precision.
Three CST-100s are to be built at Boeing’s Kennedy Space Center location in preparation for a pad abort test, unpiloted flight test and piloted flight test to the station in 2017. The spacecraft will include numerous systems and subsystems built by subcontractors all over America.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with Boeing and SpaceX under separate Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts to return crew launch capabilities to the United States. The new spacecraft also will increase research capacity on the station by adding a crew member to the orbiting laboratory and allowing scientific time available to double to 80 hours a week.
SpaceX currently is targeting no earlier than Tuesday, May 5, for a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon development spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The ability to abort from a launch or pad emergency and safely carry crew members out of harm’s way is a critical element for NASA’s next generation of crew spacecraft.
The company will have a four-hour window to conduct the test, beginning at about 9:30 a.m. EDT. SpaceX has an additional test opportunity on Wednesday, May 6. NASA TV will provide live coverage of the test. NASA TV also will air a media briefing previewing the test with SpaceX and NASA representatives at 10 a.m. Friday, May 1.
SpaceX will perform the test under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, but can use the data gathered during the development flight as it continues on the path to certification. Under a separate Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will certify SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 rocket, ground and mission operations systems to fly crews to and from the International Space Station.
More about media credentialing and coverage details available here.
Boeing took its CST-100 spacecraft mock-up and a scale model to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., recently for a series of tests designed to evaluate different aspects of the design. The CST-100 is the spacecraft Boeing is developing in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to carry astronauts to the International Space Station using American spacecraft and rockets launching from the United States. The full-scale version of thespacecraft was dropped into water at Langley to judge how the spacecraft would behave in case it had to make a quick return to Earth and could not land on the ground. The CST-100 is designed to descend from orbit under parachutes with inflatable bags cushioning the landing for crew members inside. A smaller model was used inside one of the Langley wind tunnels to determine how the air flows around the outside of the spacecraft when it inside Earth’s atmosphere and different phases of flight. Read more about this critical evaluation cycle for the CST-100 at http://go.nasa.gov/1Df0i9A
SpaceX ignited two of its SuperDraco engines together at the company’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, during a recent test of the reusable system. This specific test was a demonstration of a pad abort test profile, with two SuperDraco engines igniting simultaneously and throttling as they will during an upcoming flight test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The SuperDraco engine is vital to the safety of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft under development to carry crew to the International Space Station. Four SuperDraco pods, with two engines in each for a total of eight engines, are to be arranged on the sides of a Crew Dragon capsule. During launch and ascent into space, the eight rocket engines would be called on to push the spacecraft and crew out of danger in case of an abort.
The pad abort test will be performed under the company’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA. SpaceX can use the data gathered during the development flight as it continues on the path to certification. Under a separate Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, SpaceX is working with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to certify the Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 rocket, ground and mission operations systems to fly crews to and from the space station.
Their tail numbers are AV-073 and AV-080 and they are two of the Atlas V rockets expected to make history when they launch Boeing’s CST-100 on a pair of flight tests to set the stage for operational flights in the future carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. The first flight will not carry anyone but will perform orbital checkouts to prove the CST-100 systems. The second flight is to have people aboard and run a mission profile similar to the ones NASA will ask for when it begins regular Commercial Crew missions to the orbiting laboratory. Read the full story at http://go.nasa.gov/1bk4ifJ
The International Space Station passes around the world once about every 90 minutes giving astronauts and cosmonauts spectacular views like this one that shows a pass over America with the familiar Florida peninsula in the frame. Florida will be the launch site for the next generation of American-built spacecraft carrying astronauts to the station. They won’t be going just for the chance to look on the world below, though. Like the current crew, station residents spend their day on station work and research. The new spacecraft from Boeing and SpaceX will increase the research performed on the station by adding a seventh crewmember. With seven people aboard, the research work will double from the current 40 hours a week to 80.
NASA released redacted versions of the contracts the agency signed with Boeing and SpaceX in September 2014 to begin the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability phase of final development and certification work. The contracts outline goals and obligations that both NASA and the providers agreed to, however, the focus of the agency’s involvement is not just in milestones but in the day-to-day work the NASA team is performing. The agency’s efforts revolve around understanding the providers’ designs and ensuring progress is being made toward meeting safety and performance requirements before crew flight tests and missions to the International Space Station.
Astronauts Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore will make the third spacewalk Sunday to complete the first in a series of work to outfit the International Space Station with the mechanisms needed for Commercial Crew spacecraft to dock to the orbiting laboratory. The two adapters were built by Boeing and will be carried to the station on upcoming SpaceX cargo missions. The adapters will serve the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft when they fly astronauts to the station.
During Sunday’s spacewalk, Virts and Wilmore will deploy 400 feet of cable along the truss of the station and install antennas as part of the new Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles system that will provide rendezvous and navigational data to visiting vehicles approaching the station, including the new U.S. commercial crew vehicles.
NASA TV coverage Sunday will begin at 6 a.m. EST. The spacewalk will begin around 7:10 a.m. and is expected to last about 6 hours, 45 minutes. NASA TV is available online at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.