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 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 Demonstration Mission 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 schedule reflects the most recent publicly releasable dates for both providers.
Targeted Test Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): August 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): November 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (uncrewed): April 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): August 2018
At NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, a mock-up of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft has endured a series of land landing qualification tests to simulate what the actual spacecraft and crew members may experience while returning to Earth from space.
The Starliner is being developed in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the spacecraft is part of the agency’s effort to return America’s capability to launch astronauts from Florida’s Space Coast to the International Space Station, or ISS.
The team recently kicked off a new series of land landing tests, which is designed to measure the vehicle’s airbag systems and how the crew responds to land landing scenarios.
“The accommodations inside the test article have become incrementally more flight-like throughout our test campaign,” said Boeing test engineer Preston Ferguson. “And the test dummies simulating crew members are very sophisticated, allowing us to identify responses through instrumentation on the head, neck and lumbar areas.”
The capsule – designed for landing on land, making it reusable up to ten times with a six-month turnaround time between launches – can accommodate up to five passengers to and from the space station. For NASA missions to station, the Starliner will carry up to four astronauts and about 220 pounds of cargo.”
“The first test series verified that the vehicle would be stable in all landing conditions,” said Richard Boitnott, Langley project test engineer. “We are constantly reaching higher levels of fidelity with our testing, and have flight-representative parts in critical locations.”
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser completed an important step toward orbital flight on Wednesday, with a successful captive carry test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, located on Edwards Air Force Base. A helicopter successfully carried a Dream Chaser test article, which has the same specifications as a flight-ready spacecraft, to the same altitude and flight conditions of an upcoming free flight test.
The captive carry is part of a series of tests for a developmental space act agreement SNC has with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The data from the tests help SNC validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser.
The Dream Chaser is a lifting-body, winged spacecraft that will fly back to Earth in a manner similar to NASA’s space shuttles. The successful captive carry test clears the way for a free flight test of the spacecraft later this year in which the uncrewed Dream Chaser will be released to glide on its own and land.
The test campaign will also help finalize the design for cargo version of the Dream Chaser in preparation for the spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract beginning in 2019. The cargo Dream Chaser will fly at least six resupply missions to and from the space station by 2024.
The addition of Boeing Starliners and SpaceX Crew Dragons to the manifest of spacecraft heading to the International Space Station in the near future raises more than the opportunities for astronauts to fly to and from space aboard American spacecraft. It also increases the amount of science and broadens the research that can be performed aboard the orbiting laboratory.
That’s because the new generation of human-rated spacecraft are being designed to carry time-critical science to and from the space station along with astronauts. Researchers will be able to work with astronauts aboard the station to undertake a wide array of different science investigations and will benefit from the increased opportunity to see their research returned back to Earth for continued examination.
The spacecraft also will aid in the goal of establishing and maintaining a crew of seven astronauts, which could increase the research time in microgravity. Mission planners anticipate that increasing the crew size on the U.S. segment by just one crew member could effectively double the amount of time dedicated each week to research.
SpaceX, NASA and Air Force personnel who will help astronauts out of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft returning from a mission to the International Space Station have begun practicing for that using a full-size model of the spacecraft. In certain unusual recovery situations, SpaceX may need to work with the U.S. Air Force to send parajumpers to recover astronauts from the capsule in the water. Recently, the Recovery Trainer was lowered into the Indian River Lagoon near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center so Air Force pararescue and others could learn techniques for getting aboard the spacecraft and rescuing the astronauts.
Such rescue practice is typical of all human missions because it gives astronauts and support teams many opportunities to practice and refine the critical steps in safely rescuing the crew in a contingency situation. A number of procedures will be developed and then practiced over time to deal with recoveries in many different conditions.
SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. The Recovery Trainer was built by SpaceX and subsequently modified by Kennedy’s Prototype Lab to SpaceX specifications. The same dimensions as the outside mold line of a Crew Dragon, it has indicators where thrusters will be and other markings on the exterior. Inside, the crew area matches that of the operational spacecraft and includes an instrument panel.
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 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 Demonstration Mission 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 mission. The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly-releasable dates for both providers.
Targeted Test Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test: June 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test: August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1: February 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): June 2018
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 http://go.nasa.gov/2kjLBR6
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).
It 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 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.
The spacecraft and rocket systems that Boeing and SpaceX are creating in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program may not land on the surface of Mars. However, they are critical to the agency’s plans to send astronauts to the Red Planet. The systems will provide reliable access to the International Space Station, our test bed. Learn more: http://go.nasa.gov/2iIY0en
The past year marked a substantial transition for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its partners as they moved from design of critical elements and systems in previous years to the manufacturing of the spacecraft and launch vehicles. Working on independent spacecraft and launch systems, Boeing and SpaceX made substantial modifications to launch complexes in Florida and performed the first integrated simulations of the teams that will oversee the flights. Along the way, advances were overseen by NASA engineers and the astronauts who will fly the spacecraft into orbit for the flight tests. Read about the dynamic 2016 achievements here.