A Crew Dragon test article successfully deployed its four main parachutes as planned during a test that saw the SpaceX-made test article dropped from a C-130 aircraft 26,000 feet above Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada. The Crew Dragon, designed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, will use four parachutes when returning to Earth. SpaceX plans to land the initial flight tests and missions in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX is working on a propulsive landing system the company intends to use in the future missions to propulsively land on land using its SuperDraco engines.
The parachute test is just one of an evaluation regimen that is expected to include many additional parachute drops of increasing complexity. SpaceX and NASA engineers will use the results throughout the test program to confirm the system and get it certified for use first on flight tests and then for operational missions. Photos by SpaceX.
Astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins floated outside the Quest airlock on the International Space Station at 8:04 a.m. EDT to begin a 6 1/2-hour EVA. The spacewalkers will connect the International Docking Adapter to the station so that visiting vehicles including those in development for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can connect to the station in the near future. The IDA itself, built by Boeing, has been pulled from the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft and positioned next to the port it will be connected to. The video below shows the IDA’s extraction, and you can watch NASA TV’s spacewalk coverage this morning in the window to the right, on Web streaming or on NASA TV. The coverage will include conversations with spacewalk officers, astronauts and Commercial Crew Program officials.
Also, you can tweet questions to astronaut Doug Wheelock – @Astro_Wheels – throughout the morning. Just use #AskNASA.
Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station looks different today after workers attached the Crew Access Arm and White Room to the Crew Access Tower. The work at the launch pad was done in preparation for missions to the International Space Station by astronauts aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. The addition completes major construction of the tower which was added to the launch pad specifically so astronauts could board the Starliner on launch day. The arm, a 50-foot-long, 90,000-pound structure, will provide a bridge from the tower to the hatch of the spacecraft as it stands atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Although the launch pad and Atlas V have launched many missions including some of NASA’s landmark exploration spacecraft, astronauts have never left the planet from that launch pad on an Atlas V. The companies are working with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to change that and to restore America’s capability to launch astronauts to the station from Florida’s Space Coast. Read more about today’s progress in our feature at http://go.nasa.gov/2aP3ALQ Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
A 50-foot-long, 90,000-pound bridge to space known as the Crew Access Arm was installed today at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station adjacent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Workers have been modifying the launch pad so astronauts can climb aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft ahead of NASA Commercial Crew Program missions to the International Space Station.
When poised for space on launch day, the Starliner will be standing atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The arm and a White Room were attached to the Crew Access Tower, a 200-foot-tall structure at the launch pad that has been built specifically for the unique needs of astronauts. For example, crews wearing pressure suits and helmets need more room to move around than people wearing regular clothes, so the areas and elevators are wide enough to accommodate them. There also was special care to avoid anything that could snag a spacesuit.
The construction by ULA has taken place even as the pad has remained active for launches of the Atlas V on missions to deliver satellites into orbit and to loft NASA spacecraft on their own missions, including September’s launch of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sampling spacecraft.
The arm’s placement is the latest in a growing list of accomplishments for the Commercial Crew Program and its partners as NASA works to restore America’s capability to launch astronauts to the space station from its own soil. With Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon flying astronauts to the station, the crew there can grow to seven residents and the amount of science time available for astronauts will double. That means enhanced research opportunities to figure out the mysteries of long-duration spaceflight as well as more time to work on aspects of life on Earth that can be improved with the help of science performed in space.
“You have to stop and celebrate these moments in the craziness of all the things we do,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It’s going to be so cool when our astronauts are walking out across this access arm to get on the spacecraft and go to the space station.”
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.
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.
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.
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