Spacecraft 1 Major Components Arrive for Assembly

Boeing CST-100 Starliner

The last major element of a test version of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner arrived at the company’s spacecraft factory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin assembly. The upper dome of the craft the company is calling Spacecraft 1 rolled through the doors of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy on May 20 so engineers and technicians could begin outfitting it with systems before joining the upper dome to the docking hatch and lower dome elements that arrived earlier in May. The spacecraft’s arrival points toward a time when the company routinely produces and launches Starliners on operational missions taking astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Machined into a honeycomb pattern to reduce weight while maintaining strength, the upper and lower domes will form the crew compartment of the Starliner once assembled together. Thermal shielding will encase the domes on the outside and a base heat shield will be connected to the bottom to complete the spacecraft ahead of its pad abort flight test. That flight test will not carry people, but will include an attached service module holding propellant and supply tanks along with four powerful launch abort engines. The test will be an automated demonstration of the launch escape system’s ability of to lift the Starliner out of danger in the unlikely event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the climb into orbit.

The work is taking place as the Starliner’s structural test article – a complete Starliner spacecraft designed only for tests on Earth – finishes its assembly and is readied for shipping to California for analysis in conditions similar to those found in space. Read much more about the spacecraft’s arrival and its importance to NASA’s goals for the Commercial Crew Program and enhanced research on the space station: http://go.nasa.gov/1UtFLU4. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

 

I Will Launch America: Derek Otermat

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The communications systems on Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft have to be able to relay a significant amount of information to the crew inside the spacecraft, controllers at several locations on the ground and to other spacecraft. Even missing a small piece of information can cause alarm. That’s why the communications engineers spend years coming up with a system, working with individual components and then pairing them together to make an effective network.

That’s where Derek Otermat comes in. One of Boeing’s Engineer of the Year awardees, Otermat began his spaceflight career testing radio frequency elements of the communications network for the space station. The station can talk to Earth through ground stations in the United States, Europe and Russia but mostly relays telemetry, video and voice messages using NASA’s constellation of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites known as TDRS.

He is applying that expertise to the Starliner now. Although Starliners won’t have as much data to route to the crew and send back to Earth, in many phases of flight it will have to be sent quickly. For example, during launch when the Starliner is flying into orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the spacecraft and booster have to talk to each other many times a second to gauge the health of the booster and make sure everything is working properly.

“It’s really about criticality – health criticality and safety criticality,” Otermat said. “If our system isn’t working when the Starliner approaches the station, it’s actually a ‘no-go’ for docking.” Read more about Otermat and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at http://go.nasa.gov/1Uf7UhQ

Watch Commercial Crew Progress

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Spacecraft are under construction, launch infrastructure is being modified and systems testing of all sorts is underway as NASA’s Commercial Crew Program works closely with Boeing and SpaceX to advance the new generation of American spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States. Boeing and SpaceX are building flight-like CST-100 Starliners and Crew Dragons, respectively, for evaluations prior to their flight test campaigns. Watch the testing, qualification and hardware buildup completed so far in 2016 in the video below toward the program’s goal of developing safe, reliable, cost-effective crew transportation systems.

The Team That Will Launch America

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We’ve profiled some of the NASA and aerospace industry professionals behind Commercial Crew’s success and more are on the way as we debut our new “I Will Launch America” page featuring the engineers and spaceflight specialists designing, testing and soon to be operating the next generation of human-rated spacecraft to fly astronauts from American soil. From launch system specialists who are determining what the rocket needs to have aboard for a safe launch, to the team evaluating the control systems in the spacecraft that astronauts will use, the people on our “I Will Launch America” series are designing and building the future of American spaceflight. Rad more at http://go.nasa.gov/1QTTAZO

I Will Launch America: Steve Gauvain

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Tablets, a few physical buttons and a pair of joysticks will be the control tools for the next generation of NASA astronauts onboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Making those systems work – for both automated and manual use – is the domain of a team of engineers lead by Steve Gauvain, an amateur pilot who worked for years training astronauts to fly the space shuttle. Find out about Gauvain’s work and what it means to the future of human spaceflight in the latest edition of “I Will Launch America” at http://go.nasa.gov/1WIOSFh

 

Spaceport Magazine Features Commercial Crew

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If you have not already, be sure to check out the May edition of Kennedy Space Center’s Spaceport Magazine. It features several Commercial Crew Program stories and numerous awe-inspiring NASA programs and projects.

Read it now, at http://go.nasa.gov/1NPNcs6.

Astronauts ‘Fly’ Starliner Simulators During St. Louis Trip

IMG_9576IMG_0008Commercial Crew astronauts Suni Williams and Eric Boe put a pair of Boeing trainers through a host of mission paces Tuesday as they evaluated the systems that they and other astronauts will use to train for every detail and situation that could arise during a CST-100 Starliner mission to the International Space Station.

Built by Boeing at the company’s St. Louis facility, the machines are known as Crew Part-Task Trainers and are set up exactly like a Starliner’s control system. They will be shipped to the Jake Garn Training Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston later this year and will be joined by a full-size Starliner simulator that replicates an entire spacecraft.

In addition to Boe and Williams, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley also were selected in July 2015 to train for flight tests aboard spacecraft in development for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by Boeing and SpaceX. The astronauts have not been assigned to specific missions or spacecraft, so all four are cross-training on both the Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. Read more details about today’s training and the earlier eras of spaceflight that the simulators conjured in our feature story at http://go.nasa.gov/1rgpM4W Photo credits: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

I Will Launch America: Dayna Ise

I will Launch_Dayna_FB_finalAmerican-built rockets will soon once again launch astronauts from American soil, and Dayna Ise, an engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is excited to be part of the program making this possible.

“Of all the projects I have been part of with NASA in my 15 years, this is easily the work I am most proud of,” said Ise, who started her career working on space shuttle main engines. “I joined the team early on, almost five years ago, and it’s been fun to see it grow. It’s exciting to be part of program that will launch astronauts to the space station from American soil and allow NASA more resources for exploration deeper into our solar system.”

NASA’s ultimate goal with the Commercial Crew Program is to establish reliable and cost-effective human access to space. In the Launch Vehicle Office, Ise works with industry partners to ensure all launch vehicle requirements and standards are met before launching astronauts for NASA.

Learn more about Dayna and the work she is doing to return human spaceflight launches to the U.S. http://go.nasa.gov/1VrYllI

CCP at 5: The Verge of New Era

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Five years in, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is at the doorstep of launch for a new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles that will take astronauts to the International Space Station, enhance microgravity research and open the windows to the dawn of a new era in human space transportation.

The agency asked industry to take the lead in designing, building and operating a space system that would carry astronauts. NASA offered its expertise in human spaceflight and wrote out the top-level requirements for safety and other considerations to prepare for flight tests. NASA will certify the vehicles for flight tests and finally operational missions. The companies apply their own knowledge and skills in designing, manufacturing and running the systems. Ultimately, NASA will buy the flights as a service from the companies.

“It’s what we hoped the program to be and honestly a lot more,” said Wayne Ordway, who began as the manager of the Commercial Crew Program’s Spacecraft Office and rose to the position associate program manager.

This progress was hoped for, but took tremendous work and flexibility, according to members of the early efforts to transform the fledgling vision of a close partnership between NASA and private industry into a functioning organization capable of establishing requirements for a new generation of human-rated spacecraft and then seeing to it that those requirements were met.

“This is a new way of doing business, a new era in spaceflight, and when it’s all said and done, the Commercial Crew Program’s legacy will be bringing human spaceflight launches back to the U.S.,” said Kelvin Manning, who was involved in the early planning days of the commercial crew effort, and is now associate director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “That’s a big deal and our teams are making it happen.” Read the whole story at http://go.nasa.gov/1VVLruA

Water System Tested on Crew Access Arm

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Photos of the Emergency Evacuation Water Test at the CCP Crew Access Arm in Oak Hill, for Boeing/ULA.

Engineers and technicians gathered at dusk recently at a construction site near Kennedy Space Center in Florida to test systems that will support Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The Crew Access Arm and White Room saw some of the most dynamic testing thus far, when hundreds of gallons of water were sprayed along the arm and beneath it for an evaluation of its water deluge system. The system is a key safety feature for future launches on the Starliner, one of two commercial spacecraft in development to carry astronauts to the station.

In the unlikely event of an emergency, astronauts ready to launch on future missions aboard the Starliner would need a clear, safe path to exit. The arm and attached white room will provide a bridge between the Crew Access Tower and the spacecraft, as it prepares to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Two rounds of testing in different lighting conditions checked whether the water system could cover the arm adequately and the LED lights were up to the task of helping guide astronauts to safety.

The test mimicked what the system would need to do at the launch pad in case of an emergency. The tower’s main structure is already standing at Space Launch Complex 41, the launch site for the Starliner. After more testing on other systems, the arm will be moved to the launch pad later this summer before being lifted into place on the tower.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight capabilities to the U.S. on commercial spacecraft. Boeing and SpaceX are developing separate spacecraft and launch systems along with a network of mission and ground support capabilities. Commercial crew flights will add an additional crew member to the station, effectively doubling the amount of time dedicated to research aboard the orbiting laboratory. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky For more images, go to NASA Kennedy’s Flickr page.