NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Named Federal Engineer of the Year

Steve Stich is the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
Steve Stich, now manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, monitors the countdown during a dress rehearsal in preparation for the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in firing room four of the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has named Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), as the agency’s Federal Engineer of the Year. Sponsored by Professional Engineers in Government, the award honors engineers of federal agencies that employ at least 50 engineers worldwide.

Stich was recognized during a virtual award ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 24, alongside recipients from the National Park Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and others.

“This is such an honor and one granted based on the tremendous team with which I am privileged to work,” Stich said. “I’m so proud of everything that we’ve accomplished together, and I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead this year for CCP and NASA as a whole.”

Stich oversees the development of commercial spacecraft and the certification required to safely send astronauts to the International Space Station. As the CCP manager, Stich played a role in returning human spaceflight capability to the United States following the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

He led the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission that carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the space station and returned them safely to Earth, validating SpaceX’s transportation system for recurring, operational missions to the orbiting laboratory. Leading up to the mission, Stich provided final approval on vehicle design changes and system and vehicle component certifications. He also oversaw additional testing as required to reduce technical risk.

In the citation released from NASA Johnson Space Center’s Award Office, Stich is recognized for his “exceptional leadership, vehicle design expertise, and risk-mitigation, paving the way for NASA to enable commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) space transportation and for expanding access to space for users across the government, commercial customers, and academia.”

He first started his career at NASA in 1987 and, since then, has led teams within multiple organizations and programs, including Johnson’s Engineering, NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, the shuttle program, and Johnson’s Advanced Exploration Systems. His more than 33 years of expertise at NASA has allowed the agency to continue conducting technology and research investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory and also helped lay the framework for future deep space exploration missions under the Artemis program.

For a full list of award recipients, as well as the top 10 finalists for the NSPE 2021 Federal Engineer of the Year, visit https://www.nspe.org/resources/interest-groups/government/federal-engineer-the-year.

NASA, Boeing Update Starliner Orbital Flight Test Date

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft
NASA and Boeing teams are adjusting the launch date of Orbital Flight Test-2 to allow more time for CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and hardware processing. Photo credit: Boeing/John Proferes

NASA and Boeing now are targeting no earlier than Friday, April 2, for launch of the agency’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station.

As preparations continue for the second uncrewed flight test, teams remain focused on the safety and quality of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and successful launch of the end-to-end test to prove the system is ready to begin flying astronauts to and from the space station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Teams are adjusting the launch date to allow more time for spacecraft and hardware processing. Ahead of final propellant loading, the company recently replaced avionics units affected as a result of a power surge due to a ground support equipment configuration issue during final checkouts.

“NASA continues to work alongside Boeing to prepare for this first mission of 2021,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “The Boeing and NASA teamwork on all aspects of flight preparation including final certification, hazard analysis, and software testing is extraordinary. Even though this uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station is a key milestone on the path to the first Starliner crewed mission planned for later this year, we will fly when we are ready.”

With formal software tests completed, Boeing is continuing with flight preparations. The company is ready to conduct an end-to-end mission rehearsal, using high-fidelity flight hardware and final flight software, to ensure the readiness of the team and combined systems.

Boeing continues to support NASA as it reviews flight readiness, and teams have completed about 95% of the recommendations identified by the joint NASA and Boeing Independent Review Team, formed following the anomalies during the company’s first uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December 2019.

“We appreciate the significant work NASA is undertaking ahead of launch,” said John Vollmer, Starliner’s vice president and program manager at Boeing. “We’re fully engaged in the agency’s review process as a valuable investment of our time to ensure confidence in the spacecraft.”

Media Invited to Cover Prelaunch and Launch Activities for Boeing’s OFT-2

Boeing Starliner is lifted inside processing facility
Boeing’s Starliner crew module for the company’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) is lifted Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida prior to the vehicle having a weight and center of gravity test. Photo credit: Boeing/John Grant

Media accreditation now is open for prelaunch and launch activities for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station. Part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, NASA and Boeing are targeting no earlier than Thursday, March 25, for the second uncrewed launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

Starliner is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner and the Atlas V rocket from launch to docking to a return to Earth in the desert of the western United States.

Following a successful completion of the OFT-2 mission, NASA and Boeing are targeting no earlier than September 2021  for Starliner’s first flight with astronauts on board – NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT).

In addition to applying to cover launch, media may also separately apply for a photo opportunity of Starliner rolling out of Boeing’s Commercial Cargo and Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, March 10, ahead of the OFT-2 mission.

View the full release for accreditation deadlines and to submit your request.

NASA, SpaceX to Launch Second Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station

Members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station participated in training in Hawthorne, California on Jan. 11, 20201. Pictured from left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Photo Credit: SpaceX
Members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station participated in training in Hawthorne, California, on Jan. 11, 2021. Pictured from left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Photo Credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Tuesday, April 20, for launch of the second crew rotation mission with astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from the United States to the International Space Station.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission will launch four astronauts aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the space station. It will be the first mission to fly two international partner crew members as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join as mission specialists.

The mission will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long-duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.

Crew-2 also is expected to arrive at the space station to overlap with the astronauts that flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

Return of Crew-1 with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, is currently scheduled for late April or early May. Crew-2 astronauts are set to return in fall 2021.

NASA and SpaceX also continue preparations for the launch of the agency’s Crew-3 mission, which currently is targeted for fall of this year.

NASA and Boeing Target New Launch Date for Next Starliner Flight Test

Boeing’s Starliner crew module, with back shells installed, is inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center on December 8, 2020, in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). During the OFT-2 mission, the uncrewed Starliner spacecraft will fly to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Boeing’s Starliner crew module, with back shells installed, is inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center on December 8, 2020, in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). During the OFT-2 mission, the uncrewed Starliner spacecraft will fly to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Credit: Boeing/John Proferes

NASA and Boeing now are targeting March 29 for the launch of Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path toward flying crew missions for NASA.

For the OFT-2 mission, the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, dock to the International Space Station and return to land in the western United States about a week later as part of an end-to-end test to prove the system is ready to fly crew.

The OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft is nearing final assembly inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vehicle’s reusable crew module has been powered up and final checkouts of the avionics, power and propulsion systems are nearing completion. The spacecraft’s parachutes, landing airbags, base heat shield, and its back shells are installed signifying the completion of the vehicle build phase. In the coming weeks, teams will load the crew module with cargo, including Rosie the Rocketeer, and weigh the vehicle before mating it to its service module, which is already complete.

In parallel, Boeing technicians continue to refurbish the crew module flown on Starliner’s first Orbital Flight Test while also building a brand-new service module for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), which is now targeting launch in summer 2021, following a successful OFT-2 mission.

NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” WilmoreMike Fincke, and Nicole Mann continue to train for CFT, the inaugural crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft. After the completion of both test flights, NASA astronauts Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada and Jeanette Epps will launch on the Starliner-1 mission, the first of six crew rotation missions NASA and Boeing will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Read the full story here.

NASA, Boeing Complete Series of Starliner Parachute Tests Ahead of Future Flights with Astronauts

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner's three main parachutes slow the test article to a safe and soft landing during the final balloon drop parachute test Sept. 19, 2020, at White Sands, New Mexico.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner’s three main parachutes slow the test article to a safe and soft landing during the final balloon drop parachute test Sept. 19, 2020, at White Sands, New Mexico.
Credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing have completed Starliner’s last parachute balloon drop test ending a reliability campaign that will help strengthen the spacecraft’s landing system ahead of crewed flights to and from the International Space Station.

The campaign, developed by both Boeing and NASA, used six balloon drop tests of a Starliner test article to gather supplemental performance data on the spacecraft’s parachutes and landing system. Each drop test focused on a different set of adverse conditions and used pre-flown parachutes to evaluate reusability margins for future missions.

Starliner is the first American-made orbital crew capsule to land on land. The spacecraft uses a series of parachutes and airbags that deploy at specific altitudes allowing Starliner to touch down gently in the desert of the western United States. NASA also will use the data gathered from the parachute testing to model Starliner parachute performance in different mission scenarios.

For the final test, a high-altitude balloon provided by Near Space Corporation lifted the Starliner test article 35,000 feet above the New Mexico desert. Equipped with reused parachutes, Starliner’s landing system successfully executed an unlikely re-entry scenario simulating two separate faults.

Read the full story here.

Hatches Open, Crew Dragon Astronauts Join Expedition 64

The expanded seven-member Expedition 64 crew with Flight Engineers Kate Rubins, Victor Glover and Soichi Noguchi, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.
The expanded seven-member Expedition 64 crew with (from left) Flight Engineers Kate Rubins, Victor Glover and Soichi Noguchi, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.

NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor GloverShannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon have arrived at the International Space Station. Crew-1 joins Expedition 64 crew of Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA.

The crew members first opened the hatch between the space station and the pressurized mating adapter at 1:02 a.m. EST then opened the hatch to Crew Dragon.

NASA TV will continue to provide live coverage through the welcoming ceremony with NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Kathy Lueders joining to greet the crew from the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa joining from the Tsukuba Space Center in Japan. The welcome ceremony is targeted to begin about 1:40 a.m.

About 2 a.m., NASA will host a news conference following the welcome ceremony with the following participants:

  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations, NASA Headquarters
  • Johnson Center Director Mark Geyer
  • Ven Feng, deputy manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, program manager, International Space Station

Follow along with mission activities and get more information at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/station/. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Dragon Docks to Station, Hatches Open Soon

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four Commercial Crew astronauts is pictured approaching the International Space Station for a docking.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four Commercial Crew astronauts is pictured approaching the International Space Station for a docking.

NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor GloverShannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi arrived at the International Space Station Monday, as the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience docked to the complex a 11:01 p.m. EST over Idaho.

Following Crew Dragon’s link up to the Harmony module, the astronauts aboard the Resilience and the space station will begin conducting standard leak checks and pressurization between the spacecraft in preparation for hatch opening scheduled for 1:10 a.m.

Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will join the Expedition 64 crew of Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA.

NASA Television and the agency’s website are continuing to provide live continuous coverage of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

Follow along with mission activities and get more information at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/station/. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA, SpaceX Officials Thrilled With Crew-1 Launch Success

Crew-1 liftoff
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, blasts off from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

It was a picture perfect launch during a beautiful evening on Florida’s Space Coast, as NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) blasted off from Kennedy Space Center on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

“This is a great day for the United States of America and a great day for Japan,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We look forward to many more years of a great partnership — not just in low-Earth orbit but all the way to the Moon.”

After lifting off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A at 7:27 p.m., aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, crew members are now a few hours into their 27.5-hour trip to the International Space Station for a six-month science mission.

“Everybody is so fired up; they’re so excited about this mission. But we’re not done yet; we need to keep going,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA Headquarters. “That spacecraft is out there with those four precious crew members on it. And we’re going to get them safely to the International Space Station tomorrow.”

Crew-1 postlaunch news conference
From left, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA Headquarters; Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate; Steve Dickson, administrator, Federal Aviation Administration; and Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer, SpaceX participate in the postlaunch news conference at Kennedy.

Crew-1 is the first crew rotation flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the space station following the spacecraft system’s official human rating certification. Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will join the Expedition 64 crew of Commander Sergey Ryzhikov, and Flight Engineers Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins. The arrival of Crew-1 will increase the regular crew size of the space station’s expedition missions from six to seven astronauts, adding to the amount of crew time available for research.

Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website for continuous comprehensive coverage of the Crew-1 mission, including docking at the space station on Monday, Nov. 16, at approximately 11 p.m. EST.

A welcome ceremony with Lueders and JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa will take place Tuesday, Nov. 17, at approximately 1:40 a.m. EST. That will be followed by a post-docking news conference at approximately 2 a.m., with:

  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA Headquarters
  • Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • Ven Feng, deputy manager, Commercial Crew Program, Johnson
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station, Johnson

Follow along with mission activities and get more information at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Dragon Reaches Orbit, News Conference at 9:30 p.m. EST

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on their way to the International Space Station has safely reached orbit, and the nosecone has been opened.

At 9:30 p.m., NASA will host a postlaunch news conference from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Participants in the briefing will be:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations, NASA Headquarters
  • Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate
  • Steve Dickson, administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
  • Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer, SpaceX

NASA Television and the agency’s website will air the news conference. Mission commentary will switch to NASA TV’s Media Channel.

Follow along with mission activities and get more information at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.