NASA’s Commercial Crew Program placed an order for the second operational mission to carry astronauts to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The order means that eight vehicles are now in different levels of planning for Commercial Crew flight tests and operational missions by SpaceX and by Boeing, which also is developing the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for human-rated missions to the space station. The eight missions in process are:
- 2 uncrewed flight tests, one for each company,
- 2 crewed flight tests, one each,
- 4 operational missions ordered to date.
The order was placed now because of the long lead time to build a spacecraft, test it and process it for launch.
“The order of a second crew rotation mission from SpaceX, paired with the two ordered from Boeing will help ensure reliable access to the station on American spacecraft and rockets,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “These systems will ensure reliable U.S. crew rotation services to the station, and will serve as a lifeboat for the space station for up to seven months.”
This is the fourth and final guaranteed order NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts. Boeing received its two orders in May and December of 2015, and SpaceX received its first order in November 2015. Both companies have started planning for, building and testing the necessary hardware and assets to carry out their first flight tests, and ultimately missions for the agency. NASA will identify at a later time which company will fly the first post-certification mission to the space station.
Jon Cowart is part of a team helping to lead the nation’s effort to facilitate the development and certification of commercial spacecraft to enable the safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation of humans to and from the International Space Station.
In his key role as a mission manager in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, he will guide the agency’s mission-related activities at Kennedy Space Center in Florida when astronauts are ready to fly to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Learn more about how Cowart will help Launch America’s new generation of human-rated spacecraft at http://go.nasa.gov/2amjD2V.
Boeing on Tuesday unveiled its clean-floor facility that serves as the hub for its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as they are manufactured and prepared for flight to and from the International Space Station, and where they’ll refurbished between missions. The high bay in the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, formerly known as Orbiter Processing Facility 3, is now modernized and ready to support the Starliner program.
It was once filled with about 1,000 tons of steel work platforms that enshrouded the space shuttle orbiters as they were refurbished and prepared for flight. Today, the facility contains several pieces of hardware and a mock-up that are key to Boeing’s and NASA’s efforts to launch astronauts from Florida’s Space Coast through the Commercial Crew Program.
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(Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
The small jets designed to steer Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in orbit were fired in a vacuum chamber recently at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. Testing continues for elements of the new Starliner spacecraft before components are installed into the first space-bound capsule. Aerojet Rocketyne built the reaction control engines and used a chamber to pulse fire three engines up to 4,000 times for a total of 1,600 seconds each. Both are record times for lightweight thrusters with composite chambers.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is testing and will provide the service module propulsion system production hardware, including launch abort engines, orbital maneuvering and attitude control engines and reaction control system engines. Boeing will assemble hardware kits into the service module section of the Starliner spacecraft at its Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Starliner is one of two spacecraft in development in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. While Boeing develops and manufactures Starliners, SpaceX is doing the same with its own spacecraft, Crew Dragon. Both companies plan to launch astronauts from Florida’s Space Coast on missions to the International Space Station. With up to four astronauts at a time, plus more than 200 pounds of cargo, the new line of spacecraft will allow the station’s crew to grow to seven. That addition gives astronauts In orbit another 35 hours of research time to enhance the science conducted on the orbiting laboratory.
(Photo credits: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
A new era of human spaceflight in America is approaching on the horizon five years after the space shuttle era ended with the touch down of Atlantis on the runway at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Built from the best of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program’s expertise plus the innovation of top American aerospace companies, spacecraft and rockets designed and built using a new approach to development are taking shape inside factories across the nation. Intensive test programs are underway on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon transportation systems, both built to take astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States. A lot has happened during the past five years, and the pace is picking up: http://go.nasa.gov/24QDPuA
The Dragon spacecraft that SpaceX launched early Monday morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida arrived at the International Space Station today carrying a docking adapter that is crucial to future spacecraft including those in development with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The International Docking Adapter-2 will be pulled from the trunk of the Dragon by the station’s robotic arm Aug. 16. Then astronauts will make a spacewalk two days later to permanently connect the adapter to the end of the station’s Harmony node.
The adapter – a 1,020-pound metal ring big enough for astronauts to move through – has been built with a host of sensors that visiting spacecraft will use to help them dock to the station autonomously. Another docking adapter currently in assembly at Kennedy Space Center will be flown to the station on a future flight and connected to give the orbiting laboratory a second updated docking location. Currently, supply craft such as the Dragon have to be captured by the robotic arm and placed at a hatch. That process requires extensive work by the astronauts aboard the station. With the adapter in place however, automated systems on the spacecraft can steer towards the station and make a safe connection.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are designed with computerized guidance and navigation systems that will conduct the flight plan by themselves even when astronauts are aboard. Of course, the both spacecraft also include the ability for astronauts to take over if needed.
When he’s not building model rockets, Payne is hard at work performing launch integration for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Both Boeing and SpaceX are developing spacecraft and launch systems to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Read what Payne is doing to help Launch America’s new generation of human-rated spacecraft at http://go.nasa.gov/29W32UN
Boeing is evaluating the flight deck designs for its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as development work continues toward the final layout of the seating and control panels. Former astronaut Chris Ferguson, now deputy program manager and director of Crew and Mission Operations for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, is performing the tests that look into a number of factors of comfort and usability for the systems. The Starliner is being developed by Boeing in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to take astronauts to the International Space Station. The spacecraft will launch into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, just a few miles from the Starliner’s assembly factory at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: Boeing
Pressure vessels built by SpaceX to test its Crew Dragon designs are going through structural testing so engineers can analyze the spacecraft’s ability to withstand the harsh conditions of launch and spaceflight. A pressure vessel is the area of the spacecraft where astronauts will sit during their ride into orbit. It makes up the majority of the Crew Dragon’s structure but does not include the outer shell, heat shield, thrusters or other systems.
Even without those systems in place, however, the company and NASA can learn enormous amounts about the design’s strength by placing the pressure vessel in special fixtures that stress the structure. SpaceX completed two pressure vessels that will be used for ground tests and two more are in manufacturing right now to fly in space during demonstration missions for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
After the ground testing, the pressure vessels will be outfitted with all the systems they would need to be fully functional spacecraft. Photo credit: SpaceX