30 years ago, after launching from SLC-41, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft captured images of Uranus during an historic flyby of the gas giant. Today, the same launch pad is getting ready to launch human Voyagers – NASA’s Commercial Crew astronauts – on a new generation of spacecraft.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program took vital steps in 2015 to move America closer to flying astronauts from its own soil aboard American spacecraft in 2017. Boeing and SpaceX, each a partner with NASA on separate crew transportation systems, performed systems tests, built up assembly areas and modified the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to safely launch crew members from the storied shores of Florida’s Space Coast.
We chose the top 15 accomplishments, including:
– NASA Named First Four Astronauts to Train with Boeing and SpaceX
– United Launch Alliance Completed Crew Access Tower Column at SLC-41
– Crew Dragon Completed Pad Abort Test
Take a look at the full list at http://go.nasa.gov/1InI6kr
Some of the best works of art come from children who are only limited by their imaginations, like the more than 150 young explorers from across the country who submitted artwork depicting human spaceflight as they see it. Sixteen masterpieces were chosen to be included in the Commercial Crew Program’s 2016 Children’s Artwork Calendar, which is now available for download here. We offer a huge “thank you!” to all the explorers, ranging in age from four to 12, who submitted their work and hope that everyone will enjoy and use this calendar next year.
Have you ever wanted to explore to a galaxy far, far away? Is the Force strong in you? NASA seeks sky walkers to join the astronaut alliance. Learn more, at www.nasa.gov/astronauts.
Four astronauts training for test flights with NASA’s Commercial Crew program joined the festivities at Space Launch Complex 41 Thursday morning as one of the highest steel beams was placed on the Crew Access Tower during a “topping off” ceremony with United Launch Alliance, Boeing and Hensel Phelps at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site in Florida.
“It’s really an honor to get down here. We’re humbled to be a part of launching rockets for the United States again,” said Doug Hurley, a veteran of space shuttle missions and one of the four chosen to work closely with partners of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program during development, testing and training. Bob Behnken, Eric Boe and Suni Williams were also selected and took part in the employee-focused event.
A large crowd of employees from numerous companies gathered mid-morning to sign the 650-pound beam and watch a crane lift it into place atop the 200-foot-tall Crew Access Tower constructed over the past year. It was built in segments complete with stairs, cable trays and other fittings a few miles from the launch pad, then those segments were stacked on top of each other to form the tower. The Crew Access Arm and White Room the astronauts looked over today will be attached to the tower after several months’ of testing and fit checks.
“We’ve poured 1,000 cubic yards of concrete and mounted nearly 1 million pounds of steel, and we’ve done it in spectacular fashion,” said Howard Biegler, launch operations lead for ULA’s Human Launch Services.
Employees were asked to sign the beam before it was lifted into place and welded to the top of the tower.
“Today you are part of history,” said Kathy Lueders, program manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Stop and enjoy this moment. I hope everyone has been able to write their name on the beam because you are part of the critical safety network that is making this all possible.”
Prior to the ceremony at SLC-41, the astronauts toured the White Room and Crew Access Arm undergoing testing at a construction yard near Kennedy Space Center. The White Room will be the stepping off point to space for astronauts as they board a Boeing CST-100 Starliner for liftoff on a ULA Atlas V rocket. Designed as a clean area to keep contaminants out of the spacecraft and off the astronauts’ suits, white rooms are the place where technicians make last-minute additions to the spacesuit and make sure everything is ready to flight as the flight crew climbs inside for launch. White rooms have always been a part of NASA’s human spaceflight efforts, from Mercury to Gemini and Apollo to the space shuttle.
“This is the last thing that whoever flies the Starliner is going to see before they go into space,” Hurley told the workers who built the structures.
Boeing and SpaceX are developing a new generation of spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station beginning in 2017. Both companies are also deep into construction and modification of launch facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to safely host astronaut crews as they launch from American soil for the first time since 2011. Designs for launch facilities have been confirmed through NASA panels and in-depth examinations.
For Boeing, launching from SLC-41 meant building the Crew Access Tower, the first crew-focused structure at Cape Canaveral since Apollo 7. SpaceX is modifying historic Launch Pad 39A for its commercial crew missions on the Crew Dragon spacecraft launching on its Falcon 9 rockets. It also will have a White Room tailored to its designs that will offer astronauts and ground crew safety as they board and a way to leave the spacecraft in a hurry before launch in the unlikely event of an emergency. Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett
News media and NASA Social participants were treated to a close-up look at the structural test article for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as they toured the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Tuesday afternoon.
Danom Buck, manager of the Manufacturing and Engineering team, said the test version will be built using the same techniques and processes planned for the operational spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Two flight tests, one without a crew and the second with a crew aboard, will be performed before the company begins operational flights to the station that will allow for an extra resident there and double the amount of astronaut time devoted to science.
Commercial Crew team members with NASA and our aerospace industry partners showed what a season of advances has meant for the launch sites where NASA astronauts will lift off on missions to the International Space Station in the near future.
At Launch Pad 39A, Carol Scott, who works technical integration for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, showed news media and NASA Social participants the new look SpaceX is applying to the launch complex to make it suit the company’s needs for Crew Dragon missions.
Boeing and United Launch Alliance spent the last couple months building a new Crew Access Tower at Space Launch Complex 41, the place where Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will fly from on missions with astronauts. NASA’s Steve Payne, who works in Launch Integration, and ULA’s Howard Biegler, Launch Operations lead of Human Launch Service, detailed the work that went into constructing the tower that will contain all the systems needed to safely support human crews and ground support staff for a Starliner launch.
The progress is important for NASA because it will restore American capabilities to launch astronauts to low-Earth orbit. For the orbiting laboratory of the space station, the flights will increase the crew by one and double the amount of time astronauts can devote to cutting-edge research to answer the vexing issues of a journey to Mars and to conduct science off the Earth for all those on the Earth.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program wants you to help draw our future in space exploration! We are looking for your artistic vision for this year’s 12 categories, ranging from rockets to experiments in space, and Florida Space Coast launches to NASA’s journey to Mars. Can you help?
We are producing our 2016 calendar in a few weeks and we need your drawings to fill its pages. Children ages 4-12, regardless of NASA affiliation, can submit their artwork. Selections may be featured on the Commercial Crew website!
The deadline for submissions is Dec. 4 at noon EST. We’re looking for the best artwork related to the following themes:
- Astronauts: NASA’s astronauts have many skills and experiences that make them perfect for the variety of jobs they do both in space and on the ground. During their careers, astronauts could pilot a spacecraft, run experiments on the International Space Station, train new astronauts and even help guide other astronauts through challenging work in space from Earth. What job would you want to do if you were an astronaut?
- Rockets: The commercial crew rockets that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station will be smaller than NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, as well as the agency’s previous Saturn V and space shuttle systems. Their missions are different, so their designs are different. Think of it like riding your bike to see your next door neighbor. You would ride a bike to see your neighbor, but you would take a bus to travel across the country. Let’s see your best rocket drawing!
- Spacecraft: Spacecraft carrying astronauts are stacked on top of rockets before launching them into space. Orion is the first spacecraft since Apollo that NASA has built with an eye on distant worlds. NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, now in development, will enable humans to reach asteroids beyond lunar orbit, Mars and other potential destinations. At the same time, the space agency is working with commercial companies to launch astronauts to the space station and return them home safely. The commercial crew spacecraft astronauts will fly to the International Space Station—the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner—will be lightweight, but tough enough to withstand meteorites. What would your spacecraft look like?
- Spacecraft Interior: Every spacecraft’s interior has been unique and advanced for its time. In the past, NASA’s spaceships, which also are called spacecraft, had thousands of knobs and dials. Today’s spacecraft could feature tablet-like technology, parts like engines and seats that are printed on a machine called a 3-D printer, Wi-Fi and much more. What would you want inside your spacecraft?
- Spacesuits: An astronaut’s spacesuit is like his or her own personal spacecraft. Spacesuits keep astronauts safe by providing breathable air and keeping them warm and cool. Spacesuits also are pressurized like the inside of a flying airplane so that the astronauts are safe in space. Spacesuits allow the astronauts to be in constant communication with doctors and medical professionals who track their health here on the ground. Design your own spacesuit . . . think about ease of motion and what tools you’d need a suit to have outside the spacecraft.
- Florida Space Coast Launches: The rumble . . . the glow . . . the excitement! Every time NASA has launched people off the surface of Earth and into space, it has been from Florida’s Space Coast. In the next couple years, we will see commercial crew spacecraft rockets glow orange and make huge plumes of smoke as astronauts launch to the International Space Station from Florida. In the 2030s, we also will see astronauts launching from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center as they begin their journey to Mars. Draw who you plan to watch launches with… family, friends, perhaps Florida’s abundant wildlife.
- International Space Station: Look up! The International Space Station is orbiting about 250 miles above the surface of Earth, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 17,500 miles every hour. Aboard, astronauts conduct very important experiments that help us here on Earth. They also are learning how to live for long periods of time in space, which will help future astronauts on their journey to Mars. Commercial crew spacecraft will carry up to four crew members to the station so that even more experiments can be done! Show us your best drawing of the space station. Remember it’s the size of a football field!
- Experiments: Every day, astronauts perform experiments aboard the International Space Station, which is commercial crew’s destination in space. Those experiments make our lives better here on Earth, help us understand more about our own planet and space, and prepare us for missions to Mars. What kind of experiments would you do in space?
- Space Safety: Commercial crew spacecraft that will fly astronauts to the International Space Station are designed to keep astronauts safe throughout their entire mission. The spacecraft are designed to separate from a rocket, as well as safely and quickly carry the station’s crew back to Earth in an emergency. How would you keep a crew safe in space?
- Landing: Spacecraft landings are quite impressive. After flying through space and re-entering the atmosphere at 17,500 miles per hour, spacecraft have to land smoothly to protect the astronauts and science experiments they carry. Commercial crew engineers are looking at different ways to land with parachutes and airbags, fly to a runway like an airplane, or land using only rocket engines. Show us what you think a spacecraft landing looks like.
- NASA’s Journey to Mars: NASA’s Space Launch System rocket will be the most powerful rocket ever built, designed to take astronauts to deep space, eventually even to Mars. At the same time, the experiments that astronauts are doing on the International Space Station help NASA understand what future astronauts will need to live on Mars. What do you think it will be like to live on Mars?
- You Could Fly To Space: Right now, only astronauts can fly to space, but soon NASA astronauts won’t be the only people flying into space in new commercial crew spacecraft. American companies will own their own spacecraft and rockets to carry other people into space. People will be able to buy tickets to take a short trip into space and come right back
to Earth. . . will you be one of them? Draw what you would do if you could fly to space.
And here’s all you need to get started: CCP Artwork and Consent Form
The 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.
The 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.