NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station

2015-3366NASA took a significant step Friday toward expanding research opportunities aboard the International Space Station with its first mission order from Hawthorne, California based-company SpaceX to launch astronauts from U.S. soil.

This is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts. The Boeing Company of Houston received its first crew mission order in May.

“It’s really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan.” Read details at http://go.nasa.gov/1N0L2TX

 

Next Generation Astronaut, Meet Next Generation Spacecraft

CCP-Spacecraft_shareable_SpaceX_v3The next class of astronauts NASA hires may fly on any of four different U.S. vessels during their careers: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development – the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon — and NASA’s Orion spacecraft that will launch aboard the Space Launch System with astronauts to conduct missions in deep space.

SpaceX designed its Crew Dragon to accommodate technological advances in numerous ways to perform the mission of taking astronauts safely to the International Space Station. The launch abort system is integrated into the sidewall of the Crew Dragon. It boasts eight hypergolic-powered engines designed to lift the spacecraft and astronauts inside to safety at any point during launch and ascent. Inside the Crew Dragon, touchscreens replace the myriad of dials and barber poles that defined earlier spacecraft instrument panels. The company developed its cargo-transport version of the Dragon with an eye on carrying crews into space. SpaceX has used its experiences to refine the crew version and provide essential opportunities to automatically perform critical functions, such as rendezvous with the space station and flying through the atmosphere safely to come back home.

If you think you have what it takes to fly this new generation of spacecraft, NASA will start taking applications Dec. 14 for its next astronaut class.

New Rides Worthy of the New Generation

CCP-Spacecraft_shareable_Boeing_v5The astronauts chosen for the next class of explorers will come in to the agency at a time when a new era of spacecraft crosses from design screens and test flights to operational missions. For the first time, there will be three spacecraft and rockets launching humans from Florida’s Space Coast: two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by U.S. companies, and NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

Today, we feature Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which along with the SpaceX Crew Dragon,  is one of the two spacecraft under development in partnerships with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to take astronauts to the International Space Station. Although it has a familiar shape, the new spacecraft is more advanced from top to bottom than anything that has flown to date. From advanced avionics and a launch abort system to a spacious cabin and the ability to take both astronauts and cargo on the same vehicle, the Starliner is expected to provide a safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation from America to the space station.

If you think you have what it takes to fly this new generation of spacecraft, NASA will start taking applications Dec. 14 for its next astronaut class.

Your Spaceflight Experience Begins Here

CCP-Four-Crew_BeAnAstronautBefore you can become an astronaut and fly to the International Space Station or explore dazzling deep space destinations, you have to apply – and at the right time. The good news is the right time is only about a month away – NASA will begin accepting astronaut applications Dec. 14. The requirements are available here now and the link to apply will be available when the application period opens on usajobs.gov.

There may not be a better time to update your resume and take a leap into the world of professional space explorer! After all, NASA’s American aerospace partners are building a new generation of spacecraft for astronauts to fly to the space station and the agency has designed a heavy-lift rocket and vehicle designed to safely take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. In the words of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a veteran space flier, your spaceflight experience begins here.

NASA hires astronauts from a diverse pool of applicants with a variety of backgrounds. Candidates from the last astronaut class included schoolteachers, doctors, scientists and engineers.

Crew Dragon Propulsion System Completes Development Testing

SuperDracoMontage3aThe propulsion system SpaceX would use to power its Crew Dragon out of danger has been test-fired 27 times as the company refines the design for the demands of operational missions carrying astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX evaluated the system utilizing various thrust cycles on a test stand at its McGregor, Texas, rocket development facility.

Named SuperDracos, the engines are arranged in four pairs – SpaceX calls them ‘jetpacks’ – integrated around the outside of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Firing all at once, the eight engines produce 120,000 pounds of thrust – enough power to accelerate a Crew Dragon from zero to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds. In the unlikely event of an emergency, that power means the ability to lift the crew a safe distance off the launch pad or far away from a booster failing on the way to orbit. That capability was demonstrated earlier this year in a pad abort test that confirmed the SuperDraco design in a flight-like condition.

A normal launch of the Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket would not offer the SuperDracos anything to do during the mission since their only responsibility is to fire in an emergency to rescue the crew onboard. Eventually, SpaceX plans to use the SuperDracos in the place of a parachute during landing.

They use hypergolic propellants common in spacecraft thruster systems because the propellants ignite as soon as they contact each other. The engines are noteworthy for a number of reasons, including that they are built using 3-D printing methods instead of machining them from larger pieces.

After the development cycle, the propulsion system and SuperDracos will continue evaluations at the company’s test stand to qualify them for use on operational missions.

SpaceX and Boeing are developing a new generation of American-made, human-rated transportation systems capable of taking astronauts to the space station in partnership with NASA. The Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will carry up to four NASA astronauts at a time, which ultimately adds another crew member to the space station and will allow twice as much time for astronauts to conduct research aboard the one-of-a-kind laboratory.

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Happy Anniversary Apollo 4!

apollo_4_at_pad-full_0The Apollo spacecraft launched on the first all-up test flight of the Saturn V 48 years ago today to confirm launch loads and dynamic characteristics of the systems that would carry astronauts to the surface of the moon. The flight proved aspects of the Apollo heat shield and re-entry operations.

Two years from now, at the 50th anniversary of that unpiloted Apollo 4 mission, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will have undergone unpiloted flight tests to confirm their designs.

 

Join Our Crew!

Want to be an astronaut? Now is a good time to get your resume together, sort out your references and decide whether you have the right stuff to join NASA’s elite corps of space travelers. For our part, we can offer the world out your window and a new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles unlike any flying today.

With the International Space Station’s ability to host unique science experiments and journeys to deep space and Mars on the horizon, now is an exciting time to don the blue suit and think about what your voyage into space would accomplish for everyone on Earth! By the way, you don’t have to be a pilot or bring military experience.

Applications for our next astronaut class open on Dec. 14! Visit https://www.nasa.gov/astronauts/ for more information and the requirements.CCP-Same-Crew-BeAnAstronaut_shareable

Construction Tops Off Crew Access Tower at SLC-41

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It took only 35 days to build the main column of a new fixture to the skyline along the Florida Space Coast. The 200-foot-tall Crew Access Tower at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida will meet the unique needs of astronauts and ground crews at Space Launch Complex 41, or SLC-41, where Boeing will launch its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on Atlas V rockets operated by United Launch Alliance, also known as ULA. Read all the details here. Photos by NASA/Kim Shiflett (top) and Daniel Casper (right).

Astronauts to Mark Station’s 15-Year Anniversary

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Humans have lived aboard the International Space Station continuously for 15 years, a record accomplishment that astronauts and cosmonauts will discuss from orbit this morning at 10:05 eastern on NASA TV. Although placed in orbit in 1998, the station did not welcome its first three residents until Nov. 2, 2000. That was the day NASA astronaut Bill Shepard and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev docked with the fledgling orbital outpost.

It would take dozens more astronauts and cosmonauts along with space shuttle missions and more than 180 spacewalks to turn the station into the functioning, cutting-edge laboratory it is today. Expedition 45 crew members will talk to the world’s news media about the space exploration milestone and what it means for research for those on the Earth and how it will help our goals for deep-space exploration in the future. The anniversary also comes as NASA stands at the cusp of launching a new generation of human-rated spacecraft to the station with partners Boeing and SpaceX.

Well-suited for years more research from its unique place in space, the International Space Station will host twice as much research time when the new spacecraft – called the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon – begin making operational flights to orbit carrying four station crew members at a time.

Get Your Scare On With New Commercial Crew Coloring Sheet!

CCP-Halloween-Coloring-Sheet_web_link_imageCelebrate Halloween with our new coloring sheet featuring kids dressed up as members of the NASA Commercial Crew team! Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon are highlighted on their launch pads in Florida getting ready to carry astronauts to the International Space Station passing overhead.  To get started, print out the coloring sheet linked here and start filling it in. Happy Halloween!