In the next year, the International Space Station will gain two new docking ports for spacecraft visiting the orbiting laboratory, including the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon under development in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Earlier this year, NASA astronauts conducted three spacewalks to rig the power, data, and communications cables for the docking ports.
The next step is to add the International Docking Adapters that will provide a flawless fit between the space station and any visiting spacecraft so crews can safely move between them through connecting hatches. The first docking adapter now is deep into processing at Kennedy Space Center to prepare for its delivery to the station on the seventh SpaceX commercial resupply services mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than June 19. The second adapter will go through similar processing later this year for launch on the ninth SpaceX resupply mission.
Engineers will continue in-depth analysis and measurements of the ports before they are launched. Commercial Crew providers, Boeing and SpaceX, are using the precise measurements and standards of the adapters and space station as they build the spacecraft and docking mechanisms they will launch to carry astronauts to the station.
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
The Commercial Crew Program is four years old this week, and what a four years it has been — every year seems to bring accomplishments that outpace those of the year before! The program was formed to facilitate the development of U.S. commercial crew space transportation systems with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.
In the past year, we’ve expanded our focus beyond the development stages of spacecraft and launch vehicle systems to complete crew transportation systems. We are working closely with four industry partners — Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX — with our sights firmly set on the horizon of a new dawn of spaceflight in the very near future. We’re moving into the flight testing and certification phase with Boeing and SpaceX, the two companies chosen to take astronauts from American launch sites to the International Space Station.
We have a lot of work to do, but the goal is within reach! So let’s light these candles — one for each partner — and get on with our innovations! (By the way, we light our candles on the bottom for liftoff!)
We always get asked what our Commercial Crew logo means, so here’s a little bit of detail about the stylized swoosh and star that means so much to us here. The central design was inspired by the astronaut symbol of three lines converging at a point topped by a star and unified by a circle representing the goal of putting an astronaut into orbit, shown on the right.
For Commercial Crew, we brought the three lines together but gave them different colors – red, white and blue for America – and leaned the whole arrangement to the right to represent moving into the bright future of a stylized spacecraft represented by the star. The three lines also represent NASA working together with the American aerospace industry to accomplish the common goal of safely and cost-effectively launching astronauts into Earth orbit. We also retained a semi-circle representing orbital spaceflights, but we made it into two concentric partial circles that produce a pair of C’s for Commercial Crew.
It takes teamwork on a lot of levels to meet substantial goals and the logo was the result of a lot of hard work by Commercial Crew engineer Jon Cowart along with Carol Scott and Mike Sterling who took the time to get the feel just right. They created imagery we could all take pride in and something that would reflect America’s space-faring accomplishments and ambitions.
Former International Space Station commander and space shuttle astronaut Mike Fincke is part of the team working toward launching people again from American launch pads along Florida’s Space Coast on research missions to the station. The orbiting laboratory is a one-of-a-kind scientific platform built for microgravity research relating to fields of biology, technology and materials science. One more person on the station will allow the orbiting team to double the amount of crew time dedicated to research there to 80 hours a week. By carrying a fourth astronaut, for a total of seven crew members, NASA will be able to utilize the station to its fullest potential.
By working with the commercial aerospace industry, NASA is able to focus on sending astronauts deeper into space than ever before with the Orion Spacecraft and Space Launch System. How cool is that?
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.