NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Jan. 4, 2020, for a critical In-Flight Abort Test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, pending U.S. Air Force Eastern Range approval.
As part of the test, SpaceX will configure Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape shortly after liftoff and demonstrate Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the unlikely event of an in-flight emergency. The demonstration also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
The demonstration of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and is one of the final major tests for the company before NASA astronauts will fly aboard the spacecraft.
The In-Flight Abort Test follows a series of static fire engine tests of the spacecraft conducted Nov. 13 near SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The launch of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, now is targeted for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20. NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) agreed to target the new date to allow for completion of a critical prelaunch milestone, known as a wet dress rehearsal, on Friday, Dec. 6. The milestone occurred one day later than planned due to the weather-related launch delay of an International Space Station re-supply mission, which created a resource conflict with the U.S. Air Force Eastern Range.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is poised atop a fueled United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s (CCAFS) Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida for the program’s first ever Integrated Day of Launch Test, or IDOLT. Today’s rehearsal is practice for Boeing’s upcoming uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) to the International Space Station. The rocket’s booster has been filled with liquid oxygen and a form of rocket-grade kerosene called RP-1, and its Centaur upper stage loaded with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for today’s full run-through of the launch countdown.
Boeing, ULA and NASA teams are participating from several locations, including the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) at CCAFS; Boeing’s Mission Control Center (BMCC) at nearby Kennedy Space Center; and the flight control room supporting Starliner missions inside the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, slated to fly to the station on Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, monitored the rehearsal from consoles in the ASOC and BMCC.
Although OFT is uncrewed, rehearsals like today’s are standard for human spaceflight missions and similar rehearsals were a regular part of space shuttle missions. They provide a final opportunity for all teams to work through dynamic launch preparations in real time.
The Atlas V rocket will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA is working with its commercial partners to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.
The launch of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, now is targeted for 6:59 a.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 19. NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) agreed to target the new date to allow ULA sufficient time to resolve an issue with the rocket’s purge air supply. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch atop a ULA Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that will launch to the International Space Station on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has taken a significant step toward launch. Starliner rolled out of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, making the trek on a transport vehicle to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
At the pad, Starliner was hoisted up at the Vertical Integration Facility and secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for the flight test to the space station.
The Atlas V rocket that will carry Starliner comprises a booster stage and dual-engine Centaur upper stage, as well as a pair of solid rocket boosters.
The uncrewed flight test, targeted to launch Dec. 17, will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket, Starliner spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.
The data will be used as part of NASA’s process of certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.
NASA is working in partnership with Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. Safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation to and from the space station will allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration.
NASA and Boeing are preparing for the next step in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program on Thursday, Nov. 21, as the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft begins its transport for integration on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket ahead of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station.
During the operation, the fueled Starliner will be moved from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy to ULA’s Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Later the same day, the spacecraft will be stacked on top of an Atlas V rocket for final processing ahead of the launch.
Boeing’s uncrewed flight test, which is targeted for Dec. 17, will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the rocket, spacecraft and ground systems, as well as, in-orbit and landing operations. The data will be used toward certification of Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry through public-private partnerships to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. The goal of the program is safe, reliable and cost-effective human space transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time aboard the station and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, which includes sending astronauts to the Moon and Mars.
Today, SpaceX completed a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in advance of an in-flight launch escape demonstration, known as the In-Flight Abort Test.
The engine tests, conducted near SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, began with two burns for a duration of one-second each for two of Crew Dragon’s 16 Draco thrusters. The Draco thrusters are used for on-orbit maneuvering and attitude control, and would also be used for re-orientation during certain in-flight launch escapes. Following these initial Draco thruster burns, the team completed a full-duration firing for approximately nine seconds of Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines. The SuperDraco engines are designed to accelerate Dragon away from the F9 launch vehicle in the event of an emergency after liftoff.
In quick succession, immediately after the SuperDracos shut down, two Dracos thrusters fired and all eight SuperDraco flaps closed, mimicking the sequence required to reorient the spacecraft in-flight to a parachute deploy attitude and close the flaps prior to reentry. The full sequence, from SuperDraco startup to flap closure, spanned approximately 70 seconds.
In April, during a similar set of engine tests, the spacecraft experienced an anomaly which led to an explosion and loss of the vehicle. In the following months, an Anomaly Investigation Team made up of SpaceX and NASA personnel determined that a slug of liquid propellant in the high-flow helium pressurization system unexpectedly caused a titanium ignition event resulting in an explosion. Based on that investigation’s findings and months of testing, SpaceX redesigned components of the system to eliminate the possibility of slugs entering the high-flow pressurization system.
Today’s tests will help validate the launch escape system ahead of Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort demonstration planned as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX and NASA will now review the data from today’s test, perform detailed hardware inspections, and establish a target launch date for the In-Flight Abort Test.
On Monday, Nov. 4, the Atlas V’s first stage was lifted to the vertical position inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, followed by the mating of two solid rocket boosters to the booster. ULA teams then attached the Centaur upper stage and launch vehicle adapter atop the Atlas V first stage.
Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission will rendezvous and dock the Starliner spacecraft with the space station. OFT will help set the stage for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT), which will carry NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson to the space station and return them safely home.
As aerospace industry providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.
On Thursday, Nov. 7, Boeing Commercial Crew Vice President and Program Manager John Mulholland and NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders addressed preliminary results of the Nov. 4 CST-100 Starliner Pad Abort Test during a media teleconference.
Preliminary results indicate that the test, conducted from Launch Complex 32 at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, met NASA’s primary test objectives:
Validated the launch abort system’s capability to perform a safe abort
Safely separated CST-100 from a static launch vehicle adapter on the launch pad
Validated the launch abort system’s capability to propel Starliner safely to a target point to avoid re-contact with any potential debris or other pieces of hardware
Demonstrated stability and control characteristics of the launch abort system
Safely separated the crew module from the service module during the abort sequence
Deployed landing and recovery system to execute a controlled land landing
Validated functionality of guidance, navigation & control and command & data handling system for appropriate sequencing of commands to the propulsion controllers
During the test, two of three of Starliner’s main parachutes deployed and eased Starliner to the ground. Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test parameters and crew safety. Boeing has determined that the parachute anomaly occurred because the rigging between one of the three pilot and main parachutes was improperly connected. Boeing has verified this through closeout photos, and understands how this happened on a test vehicle. The company is validating that its processes were followed correctly on its Orbital Flight Test vehicle, which is targeted to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 17.
NASA is encouraged by the preliminary results of the Pad Abort Test and remains committed to working in concert with Boeing to ensure crew safety as we move to return astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Pad Abort Test is complete. The test began at 9:15 a.m. EST (7:15 a.m. MST) with ignition of the vehicle’s launch abort engines and orbital maneuvering and attitude control system, concluding a short time later with touchdown on a cushion of airbags.
The test was designed to verify that each of Starliner’s systems will function not only separately, but in concert, to protect astronauts by carrying them safely away from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency prior to liftoff. During the test, Starliner’s four launch abort engines and several orbital maneuvering and altitude control thrusters fired to push the spacecraft approximately 1 mile above land and 1 mile north of the test stand.
Boeing’s next mission, called Orbital Flight Test, will launch an uncrewed Starliner spacecraft to the station on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. Launch is targeted for Dec. 17.