NASA, Partners Update Commercial Crew Launch Dates

NASA and its Commercial Crew Program providers Boeing and SpaceX have agreed to move the target launch dates for the upcoming inaugural test flights of their next generation American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight. Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April.

These adjustments allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers.

The uncrewed test flights will be the first time commercially-built and operated American spacecraft designed for humans will dock to the space station. The first flights are dress rehearsals for missions with astronauts aboard the vehicles. Commercial crew has continued working toward these historic missions throughout the month of January.

SpaceX Demo-1 static fire
SpaceX Demo-1 static fire

“The uncrewed flight tests are a great dry run for not only our hardware, but for our team to get ready for our crewed flight tests,” said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager. “NASA has been working together with SpaceX and Boeing to make sure we are ready to conduct these test flights and get ready to learn critical information that will further help us to fly our crews safely. We always learn from tests.”

In January, SpaceX successfully completed a static fire test of its Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon atop the rocket at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida, in preparation for Demo-1.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner continues to undergo testing in preparation for its Orbital Flight Test, and United Launch Alliance is conducting final processing of the Atlas V rocket that will launch Starliner from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“There still are many critical steps to complete before launch and while we eagerly are anticipating these launches, we will step through our test flight preparations and readiness reviews,” said Lueders. “We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight.”

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 and the space station on systems that meet safety and performance requirements.

To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. After the uncrewed flight tests, Boeing and SpaceX will complete a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The following planning dates reflect inputs by the Commercial Crew Program and the two companies and are current as of Feb. 4, 2019.

Test Flight Planning Dates:
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

SpaceX also completed a pad abort test in 2015. Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve any necessary issues to certify the systems for operational missions. Boeing, SpaceX and the Commercial Crew Program are actively working to be ready for the operational missions. As with all human spaceflight vehicle development, learning from each test and adjusting as necessary to reduce risk to the crew may override planning dates.

NASA Announces Updated Crew Assignment for Boeing Flight Test

Astronaut Edward M. (Mike) Fincke, Expedition 9 NASA ISS science officer and flight engineer, performs one of multiple tests of the Capillary Flow Experiment investigation in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station in September 2004.
Astronaut Edward M. (Mike) Fincke, Expedition 9 NASA ISS science officer and flight engineer, performs one of multiple tests of the Capillary Flow Experiment investigation in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station in September 2004. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronaut E. Michael “Mike” Fincke has been added to the crew of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner’s Crew Flight Test, scheduled to launch later this year.

Fincke takes the place of astronaut Eric Boe, originally assigned to the mission in August 2018. Boe is unable to fly due to medical reasons; he will replace Fincke as the assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Fincke will begin training immediately alongside NASA’s Nicole Mann and Boeing’s Chris Ferguson, who were both assigned to the mission in August 2018.

The Starliner’s Crew Flight Test will be the first time that the new spacecraft, which is being developed and built by Boeing as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, is launched into space with humans on board.

For more information: https://go.nasa.gov/2UaSBOV.

SpaceX Demo-1 Launch Update

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A and went vertical for a dry run to prep for the upcoming Demo-1 flight test.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A and went vertical for a dry run to prep for the upcoming Demo-1 flight test. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are continuing to work on the activities leading toward the Demo-1, uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews. NASA and SpaceX will confirm a new target date after coordination with the Eastern Range and the International Space Station Program.

Ready to Rumble: Flight Tests Launching in 2019

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and private industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, will make history in 2019 with the return of human spaceflight launches to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. Get ready for the rocket rumble: 2019 Preview

 

SpaceX Demo-1 Spacecraft and Rocket at Launch Pad

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are positioned at the company’s hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ahead of the Demo-1 flight test targeted for January 17, 2019.

On Dec. 18, Vice President Mike Pence had the opportunity to tour the hangar and see the launch hardware up close.

The Demo-1 flight test is the precursor to the company’s Demo-2 flight test, which will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Demo-2 is targeted for June 2019.

Final Rocket Segment Arrives in Florida

The first stage of the rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test has arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida, completing delivery of all hardware for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

The Atlas V first stage booster rolled off of the Mariner cargo vessel on Dec. 7 at the Cape Canaveral wharf for the short drive to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center for receiving inspections and checkout.

Mariner is the ship that ULA uses to transport rocket segments, or stages, from the company’s manufacturing plant in Decatur, Alabama to the launch site in Florida. The Atlas V stage departed the factory Nov. 28 for the journey of nearly 2,000 miles.

Early in 2019, the stage will move further north to the Vertical Integration Facility to be raised on the mobile launch platform. The twin solid rocket boosters will be mounted to the bottom of the first stage. Then, the top of the rocket stack, which consists of the interstage, Centaur upper stage and payload adapter, will be hoisted into position.

This delivery means all of the hardware that ULA needs to launch the first Boeing Starliner has been received at the launch site for final integration.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with Boeing and SpaceX to return human spaceflight launch capability to the United States. Following Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test in March 2019, the Starliner will launch on the Atlas V rocket with astronauts aboard for a Crew Flight Test to the space station targeting August 2019. Boeing also will fly a pad abort test in between the uncrewed and crew test missions.

 

First Starliner to Launch Crew Ready for Environmental Testing

Boeing technicians carefully close Starliner’s shipping container at the company’s Florida factory ahead of its trip to El Segundo, Calif.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft destined to fly astronauts to the International Space Station for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT) as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is ready to undergo a series of flight-like simulations similar to the actual environments the spacecraft will experience during different stages of flight.

Boeing’s first crewed Starliner finished initial production at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. and is readied for its cross-country trip.

The spacecraft recently arrived at the company’s facilities in El Segundo, California for the series of tests. In order to ship the spacecraft, technicians painstakingly prepared and secured Starliner inside its shipping container on Nov. 12, before the spacecraft completed its 10-day, cross-country trip.

Now, Starliner will begin the test campaign wherein acoustic and vibration testing will simulate the environment during launch and ascent, thermal vacuum testing will expose Starliner to the extreme heat and cold it will experience in orbit, and electromagnetic interference/electromagnetic compatibility testing will make sure that those signals or radiation do not interfere with operations on Starliner or with sensitive equipment on station. The series of tests are expected to last about three months.

Starliner is unboxed inside Boeing’s satellite test facilities in California to prepare for environmental qualification testing.

The company’s CFT is targeted for August 2019, and will be Starliner’s first flight with crew onboard. Following the CFT, Boeing will refurbish the spacecraft for regular crewed missions to the space station.

During these environmental tests, Boeing also expects to complete production in its Florida factory on the Starliner to be flown in the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test, targeted for March 2019.

The shipping container with Starliner’s crew module arrives at Boeing’s facilities in El Segundo, Calif.

Boeing is developing the Starliner spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Target Test Flight Dates

*NASA, Boeing and SpaceX provided an update on Feb. 6, 2019. For the details on the flight tests and the latest schedule, visit https://go.nasa.gov/2ShTHvF.

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 carry out spacecraft abort tests to demonstrate their crew escape capability during an actual on-pad, or ascent emergency. The final test flights for each company will be crew flight tests to the space station prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The following target dates reflect the current schedule as of Thursday, Jan. 10.

Test Flight Planning Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): March 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: Between OFT and CFT
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): August 2019
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): No earlier than February 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: Between Demo-1 and Demo-2
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): June 2019

SpaceX also completed a pad abort test in 2015. 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

For more information, see https://go.nasa.gov/2QwW3Sd.

Astronauts Tour SpaceX Rocket Facility in Texas

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Bob Behnken at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas.

NASA astronauts who will be the first humans to fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft recently toured the company’s Rocket Development Test Facility in McGregor, Texas.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are set to crew SpaceX’s Demo-2 flight test in June 2019, which will be the first flight of Crew Dragon with people onboard.

NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas.

NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will crew SpaceX’s first regular mission to the International Space Station, following Demo-2 and NASA’s certification of SpaceX commercial crew systems.

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with SpaceX and with Boeing to return human spaceflight launch capability from the United States.

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas.

Launch Teams Simulate Boeing Uncrewed Flight Test Prelaunch Procedures

Inside the Boeing Mission Control Center at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., launch control teams for the CST-100 Starliner rehearse a fully integrated prelaunch simulation of the spacecraft’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test. Boeing Spacecraft Launch Conductor Louis Atchison speaks on console to the Mission Management Team as the countdown in the launch simulation progresses.

Boeing, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and NASA completed an integrated rehearsal of prelaunch procedures for Boeing’s first uncrewed test flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket for commercial crew missions to the International Space Station. The simulation, conducted on Nov. 7, focused on launch procedures beginning at five hours before launch, and continuing through a simulated scrub before liftoff.

Inside the White Flight Control Room in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Boeing’s Flight Control Team rehearses prelaunch procedures for the company’s Orbital Flight Test of Starliner.

The rehearsal consisted of launch teams participating from Boeing and NASA facilities at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Johnson Space Center in Houston. It incorporated voice communications, pad closeout events, polling for tanking, or fueling, readiness, and discussions about conditions, including flight hardware and weather.

Boeing’s Pad Team Lead, Melanie Weber, performs simulated prelaunch operations inside the Boeing Mockup Trainer for the Starliner located in Houston. As launch control teams from NASA, Boeing and ULA participate in a prelaunch rehearsal for the Starliner’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test, Weber practices her launch day pad operations from inside the trainer.

Prelaunch anomalies were introduced into the rehearsal to provide opportunities for the teams to execute their resolution process. A scrub was called during the countdown rehearsal, allowing participants to test procedures for a delay and a decision to de-tank and prepare for a launch attempt the next day.

Boeing’s first uncrewed test flight, known as Orbital Flight Test (OFT), is slated for launch aboard an Atlas V rocket in March 2019. This will be the first flight of the Starliner, and it is a major step toward demonstrating that the spacecraft is ready to begin carrying astronauts to the space station.

Members of NASA’s launch support team gather in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. to rehearse prelaunch operations for the Orbital Flight Test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. The EOC is where directors for medical triage and launch rescue will execute real-time responses in the unlikely event of an emergency on launch day.

Boeing is manufacturing three Starliner spacecraft in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Starliner is designed to be reused up to 10 times.