Boeing is unveiling a new name for its CST-100 spacecraft along with the factory floor space where the structural test article is already coming together during a ceremony at the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event begins at 10 a.m. ET and will air on NASA TV, which you can watch here on the blog or in a separate window. The high bay of the C3PF, which used to be called Orbiter Processing Facility-3, is still under construction but a new mural over the front of the building showcases the facility’s role in building and processing a new spacecraft for the next generation of human-rated spaceflight.
Orbiter Processing Facility-3 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has a new spacecraft to assemble and prep for orbit: Boeing’s CST-100, which the company is developing in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The needs of the CST-100, short for Commercial Space Transportation-100, are quite different from those of the space shuttle fleet. The modern spacecraft calls for a modern facility, so about 78,000 square feet of processing areas inside the former OPF has been revamped.
More than 1,040 tons of steel and aluminum platforms, work stands and other hardware were removed from the building’s high bay to make room for the specialized equipment to allow an assembly line for CST-100 crew and service modules. Massive overhead cranes in the building capable of lifting up to 30 tons remain in place and are critical in moving spacecraft and heavy equipment into different areas as the CST-100 is built up from pressure vessel to operational spacecraft.
Look for more details tomorrow about the transformation of the OPF, now called the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, or simply the C3PF. Boeing is holding its grand opening for the C3PF during a ceremony at Kennedy starting at 10 a.m. EDT. Watch it live on NASA TV. In the meantime, check out these small but important details about the new facility and what it means for helping NASA re-establish its ability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from Florida!
SpaceX released this artist concept of Launch Pad 39A as it would look for the launch of its Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. The trunk of the Crew Dragon shimmers in the Florida sunshine in the depiction. Note the modifications to the service structure and surroundings of the pad area, along with the processing hangar at the base of the 40-foot-high pyramid.
The third of NASA’s Orbiter Processing Facilities built to protect the space shuttle fleet as engineers outfitted them for their next flights is nearing the end of its renovation into a factory for a new generation of spacecraft. The transformation required extensive work, starting with the removal of the tons of steel and aluminum work stands and platforms custom-built for shuttle servicing as seen in the video below. Space Florida, in coordination with Kennedy and Boeing, removes obsolete infrastructure so Boeing could modernize the facility.
Now called the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, or C3PF, the high bay and adjoining work areas will be the production, assembly and processing home for Boeing’s Commercial Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft. Developed in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the CST-100 is designed to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket to take astronauts to the International Space Station so they can add to the important science being performed every day in orbit.
You can see Florida taking shape on the front of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, better known as C3PF, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The 78,000 foot facility will be the production and processing home of Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft.
What do you expect Boeing will add to the wrap next?
The United States has always been the leader in aerospace innovation and inventions. So with Commercial Crew Program efforts under way, NASA and industry are expanding their talents to formulate new ways to develop spacecraft and launch vehicles capable of safely and efficiently carrying people into orbit and to the International Space Station. We’re on the cusp of launching astronauts from Florida to conduct more research on the station with a larger crew that has more time for science, which will continue to help us here on Earth and as we prepare for the journey to Mars. That’s why today’s National Aviation Day is particularly relevant for the nation because it signals NASA’s intent to let more people spread their wings into space in the near future!
SpaceX recently powered up its Crew Dragon avionics test bed at its facility in Hawthorne, California, by simulating a crew flight to the International Space Station. During the avionics functionality check, engineers were able to make sure the spacecraft’s hardware and software worked well together in a flight-like environment. The avionics are known as the brains of a spacecraft, controlling all the critical automated operations of a flight.
“It may not sound exciting, but it’s a really, really important tool. We can basically fly the Crew Dragon on the ground — flip the switches, touch the screens, test the algorithms and the batteries – all before testing the avionics system in flight,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of mission assurance for SpaceX. “It’s important to get the avionics right before putting it into the capsule.”
The SpaceX avionics test bed is similar to the Shuttle Avionics Integration Lab, or SAIL, in Houston, which was used throughout NASA’s Space Shuttle Program to test the interaction of hardware and software before modifying code on the vehicles for flight.
Astronauts for the first time nibbled a small crop of space-grown lettuce today in a look toward the future when crews head to deep space destinations like Mars with seeds ready to grow along the way. The red lettuce eaten Monday – accompanied by a dash of vinaigrette dressing – was grown in a specialized canister aboard the International Space Station during recent weeks and had sprouted from seeds that were glued into place on Earth. Astronauts placed the seeds and their pouches in a system that provided the water and light needed to make the plants grow. Half of the landmark crop was eaten while the other half will be returned to researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for closer study.
Scientists are deep into the next phases of the plant-growth experiments with platters of cabbage, tomatoes, peppers and radishes anticipated on upcoming flights. The research reflects the value of studies aboard the station ahead of our Journey to Mars in which crews will count on vegetables grown in space for a small amount of nutrients and added touch of home during missions that could last two years. The experimentation could also be boosted by the addition of a crew member on the station – something that would be allowed with the advent of commercial crew spacecraft now in development with NASA, Boeing and SpaceX.