Hardware Put to the Test

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, ready to undergo testing in the Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility—the world’s largest thermal vacuum chamber. The chamber will allow SpaceX and NASA to verify Crew Dragon’s ability to withstand the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. This is the spacecraft that SpaceX will fly during its Demonstration Mission 1 flight test under NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract with the goal of returning human spaceflight launch capabilities to the U.S.

Lueders Featured in NASA Podcast

Kathy Lueders Manager of the Commercial Crew Program, Kathy Lueders, is featured on Episode 49 of “Houston We Have a Podcast.” The episode discusses a brief history of the space program, how it started, and where it is now. Lueders talks about two commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, and the work they are doing to design, build and launch new spacecraft that will carry our astronauts to and from the International Space Station. You can listen here: https://go.nasa.gov/2JOqEHU

 

New Cameras to Enhance Views of Starliner, Crew Dragon Docking

Tune into NASA TV now to watch NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel install new high-definition cameras on the International Space Station. The cameras will give NASA enhanced views of the next generation of commercial American spacecraft as they approach and dock to the space station during upcoming flight tests. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will begin launching from U.S. soil later this year, and will each carry out an uncrewed flight test before putting astronauts on board. To enable the enhanced views, the two spacewalkers are installing brackets and the cameras near the international docking adapter mated to the front end of the station’s Harmony module. They also routed the ethernet and power cables to connect the cameras to the station. The booms holding the cameras also expand the wireless network at the orbiting laboratory.

Team Simulates Commercial Crew Flights to Space Station

Commercial Crew Program Joint Test Team

A joint NASA and commercial provider team pulls from expertise across key human spaceflight areas to design, test, assess, and plan missions aboard the Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“Really the whole mission, from pre-launch through docking and undocking, entry, landing and post-landing, all of those need to be verified in the simulator. So we’ll have our astronauts going through each flight phase making sure all the tasks they have to do meet our workload, usability and error-rate requirements,” said Mike Good, a veteran astronaut who flew on space shuttle missions STS-125 and STS-132 and current program manager assistant for Crew Operations and Testing. “We’re also contributing by helping the provider complete their verification testing so that they can close requirements and we can go fly safely.”

Before Boeing and SpaceX will be able to begin flying regular missions to the space station, they must make sure all of the systems onboard the capsule meet NASA’s safety requirements. These criteria are designed to ensure a safe journey for the crew and the capsule.

 

Learn more: https://go.nasa.gov/2GXQt69

Commercial Crew Program Simulates Astronaut Rescue Missions

A C-17 Globemaster aircraft from the Alaska Air National Guard’s 249th Airlift Squadron flies overhead as pararescue specialists from the 304th Rescue Squadron, located in Portland, Oregon complete an astronaut rescue training exercise inside a covered life raft on the Atlantic Ocean. The pararescue specialists, supporting the 45th Operations Group’s Detachment 3, based out of Patrick Air Force Base, conducted the exercise in April with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX off of Florida’s eastern coast. The specially designed 20-person life raft is equipped with enough food, water and medical supplies to sustain both rescuers and crew for up to three days, if necessary.

As NASA, Boeing and SpaceX prepare for commercial human spaceflight launches, they are training for a variety of contingencies, including emergency water landings. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Landing and Recovery Team is leading a multi-agency operation to practice astronaut rescue missions.

Rescue and recovery involves meticulous planning and close coordination between NASA, the Department of Defense (DOD), and company recovery teams for Starliner and Crew Dragon. These are the spacecraft of Boeing and SpaceX that will fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station from U.S. soil. In the event of a variety of contingency landings, an elite team of pararescue specialists is prepared to rescue the crew anywhere in the world.

For more details, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/rescue-operations-take-shape-for-commercial-crew-program-astronauts

Young Engineer Shapes Commercial Human Spaceflight Policy

Kathleen O’Brady is a certification systems engineer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Kathleen O’Brady’s five-year-old son can name all of the planets in our solar system and even some nearby stars. Perhaps the brightest star he knows though is his mom. She is helping shape policy in the new era of commercial human spaceflight.

O’Brady plays a key role in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which has partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to develop spacecraft to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, and return them safely home. NASA is in the process of certifying two new crew transportation systems—Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon—at the same time. As a certification systems engineer in the program’s Systems Engineering and Integration Office at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, O’Brady was responsible for defining an integrated plan for certification which is being executed by both providers.

“I honestly loved it,” O’Brady said. “It’s like putting a puzzle together. Half the problem is trying to make sure you understand what all the pieces are, and then you start slowly integrating those pieces.”

Boeing and SpaceX are targeting test flights with crew on board for late this year. “We all have to do the job right,” O’Brady said. “We have a duty to return our astronauts to flight. We’re going to use these private companies and they’re going to do a fantastic job.”

Astronaut Perspective

After completion of uncrewed and crew test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, NASA will review the data to ensure the vehicles meet the agency safety and performance requirements, as part of final certification efforts.

With test flights scheduled later this year, Boeing and SpaceX are working closely with the astronaut team to ensure crew safety and serviceability in their respective capsules.

Here’s more about what the commercial crew astronaut test pilots are looking forward to in the upcoming year:

 

Bob Behnken

Behnken, a NASA astronaut since 2000, flew on space shuttle missions STS-123 and STS-130 accumulating more than 29 days in space.

Eric Boe

Boe, a NASA astronaut since 2000, flew on STS-126 and STS-133 and has logged more than 6,000 hours of flight training and 28 days in space. He is most excited about seeing the hardware.

Doug Hurley

Hurley, a NASA astronaut since 2000, flew on STS-127 and the final Shuttle flight, STS-135, totaling more than 28 days in space. Hurley is most excited about seeing all the spacecraft hardware coming together.

Suni Williams

Williams, a NASA astronaut since 1998, flew to the space station on STS-116 as a member of Expeditions 14-15, returning on STS-117. Her second long-duration mission began aboard a Russian Soyuz for Expeditions 32-33. Cumulatively, she is approaching a year in space with more than 322 days in space.

Beyond the flight tests and launches, Williams is excited about the manufacturing underway.

“One of the coolest things is there’s hardware undergoing testing. This is a pretty exciting time. It’s like all the pieces and parts of the puzzle are coming together.”

NASA, Boeing May Evolve Flight Test Strategy

An artist image of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft docking to the International Space Station.
An artist image of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft docking to the International Space Station. Image credit: Boeing

NASA updated its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract with Boeing, which provides flexibility in its commercial flight tests to the International Space Station. Boeing, one of the agency’s two commercial crew partners, approached NASA last year and proposed adding a third crew member on its Crew Flight Test (CFT) to the International Space Station. Adding a third crew member on Boeing’s flight test could offer NASA additional flexibility to ensure continued U.S. access to the orbital laboratory. The modification also identifies cargo capabilities for the company’s uncrewed and crewed test flights. Exact details of how to best take advantage of the contract modification are under evaluation, but the changes could allow for additional microgravity research, maintenance, and other activities while Starliner is docked to station.

For more details, visit https://go.nasa.gov/2GVbxy6.

Parachute Testing Lands Partners Closer to Crewed Flight Tests

At left, Boeing conducted the first in a series of parachute reliability tests its Starliner flight drogue and main parachute system Feb. 22, 2018, over Yuma Arizona. Photo Credit: NASA. At right, SpaceX performed its fourteenth overall parachute test supporting Crew Dragon development March 4, 2018, over the Mojave Desert in Southern California. The test demonstrated an off-nominal, or abnormal, situation, deploying only one of the two drogue chutes and three of the four main parachutes. Photo credit: SpaceX
At left, Boeing conducted the first in a series of parachute reliability tests its Starliner flight drogue and main parachute system Feb. 22, 2018, over Yuma Arizona. Photo Credit: NASA. At right, SpaceX performed its fourteenth overall parachute test supporting Crew Dragon development March 4, 2018, over the Mojave Desert in Southern California. The test demonstrated an off-nominal, or abnormal, situation, deploying only one of the two drogue chutes and three of the four main parachutes. Photo credit: SpaceX

Crew safety is paramount in the return of human spaceflight launches from Florida’s Space Coast, and the latest round of parachute testing is providing valuable data to help industry partners Boeing and SpaceX meet NASA’s requirements for certification.

On March 4, SpaceX performed its 14th overall parachute test supporting Crew Dragon development. During this test, a C-130 aircraft transported the parachute test vehicle, designed to achieve the maximum speeds that Crew Dragon could experience on reentry, over the Mojave Desert in Southern California and dropped the spacecraft from an altitude of 25,000 feet. In February, the first in a series of reliability tests of the Boeing flight drogue and main parachute system was conducted by releasing a long, dart-shaped test vehicle from a C-17 aircraft over Yuma, Arizona. Both tests resulted in successful touchdowns of the parachute systems.

SpaceX will conduct its next parachute system test in the coming weeks in the California desert, and Boeing is scheduled for its third of five planned qualification tests of its parachute system in May. Both providers’ parachute system qualification testing is scheduled to be completed by fall 2018. The partners are targeting the return of human spaceflight from Florida’s Space Coast this year, and are currently scheduled to begin flight tests late this summer.

Astronaut Surveys Launch Pad for Crew Flights to Station

NASA astronaut Eric Boe, one of four astronauts working with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, had the opportunity to check out the Crew Access Tower at Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) Wednesday with a United Launch Alliance Atlas V on the pad. Boe, along with launch operations engineers from NASA, Boeing, and ULA, climbed the launch pad tower to evaluate lighting and spotlights after dark. The survey helped ensure crew members will have acceptable visibility as they prepare to launch aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft on the Crew Flight Test to the International Space Station targeted for later this year.

The Atlas V at the pad is scheduled to carry NOAA’s GOES-S satellite to orbit later today for NASA’s Launch Services Program. For more information on today’s launch, visit https://blogs.nasa.gov/goes.