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.

Vice President Sees Commercial Crew Flight Hardware

Vice President Mike Pence and members of the National Space Council toured Boeing and SpaceX facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center today. The tour was part of the second meeting of the National Space Council held at the agency’s multi-user spaceport in Florida.

Following the council’s meeting inside Kennedy’s Space Station Processing Facility, the vice president, including NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Suni Williams, took a ride across the center first arriving to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Procession Facility, or C3PF, where Boeing is manufacturing the Starliner spacecraft for missions to and from the International Space Station. The Vice President saw various Starliners being built for the company’s Pad Abort Test and Crew Flight Test. The Pad Abort Test Starliner will demonstrate the spacecraft’s abort and landing system performance, and the crew test Starliner will fly astronauts to the space station. Both flight tests are scheduled later this year.

The next stop was the SpaceX hangar at Launch Complex 39A where the company horizontally integrates the Falcon 9 rocket for launch. SpaceX currently launches government and commercial missions from 39A. It also will be the launch site for commercial crew missions to the station. Inside of the hangar, the Vice President saw flight hardware from recent missions, including the company’s thirteenth cargo resupply mission to the space station, which occurred in December. The company also showcased the helmet astronauts will wear for missions to the station. SpaceX is slated to begin flight tests this year starting with an uncrewed flight test and then a crew test flight to the station, known as Demonstration Mission 1 and 2 respectively. SpaceX also will fly an in-flight abort test from the pad.

For more on the Vice President’s visit and the National Space Council meeting, visit: https://go.nasa.gov/2Ccpjug

For more on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in 2018, visit: https://go.nasa.gov/2E66N3P

NASA’s Continued Focus on Returning U.S. Human Spaceflight Launches

International Space StationNASA’s Commercial Crew Program and private industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, continue to develop the systems that will return human spaceflight to the United States. Both commercial partners are undertaking considerable amounts of testing in 2018 to prove space system designs and the ability to meet NASA’s mission and safety requirement for regular crew flights to the International Space Station.

“The work Boeing and SpaceX are doing is incredible. They are manufacturing spaceflight hardware, performing really complicated testing and proving their systems to make sure we get it right.” said Kathy Lueders, program manager NASA Commercial Crew Program. “Getting it right is the most important thing.”

Both Boeing and SpaceX plan to fly test missions without crew to the space station prior to test flights with a crew onboard this year. After each company’s test flights, NASA will work to certify the systems and begin post-certification crew rotation missions. The current flight schedules for commercial crew systems provide about six months of margin to begin regular, post-certification crew rotation missions to the International Space Station before contracted flights on Soyuz flights end in fall 2019.

As part of the agency’s normal contingency planning, NASA is exploring multiple scenarios as the agency protects for potential schedule adjustments to ensure continued U.S. access to the space station. One option under consideration would extend the duration of upcoming flight tests with crew targeted for the end of 2018 on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. The flights could be extended longer than the current two weeks planned for test flights, and likely less than a six-month full-duration mission. The agency also is assessing whether there is a need to add another NASA crew member on the flight tests.

This would not the first time NASA has expanded the scope of test flights. NASA had SpaceX carry cargo on its commercial demonstration flight to the International Space Station in 2012, which was not part of the original agreement. This decision allowed NASA to ensure the crew aboard the space station had the equipment, food and other supplies needed on the station after the end of the agency’s Space Shuttle Program.

As with all contingency plans, the options will receive a thorough review by the agency, including safety and engineering reviews. NASA will make a decision on these options within the next few months to begin training crews.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Target Test Flight Dates

The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements. To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly releasable dates for both providers.

Targeted Test Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): August 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): November 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (uncrewed): August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): December 2018

Commercial Crew 2018 Preview

Combined image with Boeing Starliner in production on the left, and SpaceX Falcon 9 build on the rightNASA and industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are targeting the return of human spaceflight from Florida’s Space Coast in 2018. Both companies are scheduled to begin flight tests to prove the space systems meet NASA’s requirements for certification in the coming year.

Since NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX, the companies have matured space system designs and now have substantial spacecraft and launch vehicle hardware in development and testing in preparation for the test flights. The goal of the Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station from the United States through a public-private approach. NASA, Boeing and SpaceX have significant testing underway, which will ultimately lead to test missions when the systems are ready and meet safety requirements.

Boeing’s Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will launch on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A.

After completion of each company’s uncrewed and crewed flight tests, NASA will review the flight data to verify the systems meet the requirements for certification. Upon NASA certification, the companies are each slated to fly six crew missions to the International Space Station beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2024.

Here’s a look at (some of) what’s ahead in 2018:

Boeing

Spacecraft: In 2018, Boeing will continue with the production and outfitting of three crew modules and multiple service modules inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing already has a structural version of its spacecraft going through loads, shock and separation test events in Huntington Beach, California. It will conduct a series of service module hot-fire tests in White Sands, New Mexico, as well as environmental testing to include thermal, vacuum and electromagnetic frequency in El Segundo, California.

Spacesuit: Boeing’s spacesuit will continue to undergo integrated system verification tests. These include environmental control and life support system testing, immersing the suit in water, egress demos with the aid of virtual reality, suited launch and landing cabin operations, prelaunch emergency exit with ground crews, ascent simulations with mission operations teams and post-landing egress.

SpaceX

Spacecraft: SpaceX is making significant progress on the six Crew Dragon spacecraft that the company currently has in various stages of production and testing. SpaceX’s structural qualification module has undergone extensive testing, which is scheduled to be complete in the first half of 2018. The company will continue ongoing hardware and software testing on its Environment Control and Life Support System, or ECLSS, module, through early 2018. The crew module that will be used to support SpaceX’s upcoming Demonstration Mission 1 has had its critical onboard avionics powered up and has completed integration of the module’s pressure section and service section’s structural components with preparations ongoing for its flight in 2018. Progress continues on SpaceX’s spacecraft for Demonstration Mission 2 and both of the company’s initial crew rotation missions.

Spacesuit: SpaceX will continue ongoing qualification and validation testing on its advanced spacesuits next year, including NASA’s four CCP flight test astronauts for a variety of the assessments, including suit-fit, reach and visibility assessments, and pressure tests. The company is in the process of manufacturing custom suits for each of the four astronauts, which will ensure a proper fit and comfortable ride to and from the International Space Station in the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Read the full feature here:
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-commercial-crew-program-mission-in-sight-for-2018

Commercial Crew Program 2017 Year in Review

In this composite image, at left, an astronaut wears the SpaceX spacesuit design. At right, an astronaut wears the Boeing spacesuit design.
Left: SpaceX unveiled the first look at its new spacesuit design that astronauts flying to and from the International Space Station will wear inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Right: Boeing unveiled the company’s new, blue spacesuit astronauts will wear while aboard the Starliner spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, made significant strides in 2017 to return human spaceflight to the United States. Each company continued to develop and test unique space systems to fly astronauts for the agency to and from the International Space Station. Both companies are targeting flight tests in 2018.

Here’s the 2017 year in review:

Crew Rotation Missions Secured
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program started the year by securing an additional four crew rotation missions from Boeing and SpaceX. The missions will carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station through 2024. The four additional missions fall under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts and bring the total number of crew rotation missions awarded to each provider to six. The missions will fly following NASA certification.

To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, each company will carry out a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions.

The Crew
NASA’s four astronauts training to fly the test flights on Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spent time evaluating both providers’ progress during 2017. The astronauts are learning about the systems, being fitted for spacesuits and readying for flight tests to and from the International Space Station.

The International Space Station
The International Space Station continued to prepare for the new commercial spacecraft to arrive. During Orbital ATK’s resupply mission to the space station in November, the cargo spacecraft maneuvered above the Harmony module prior to its release. There, it gathered data relevant to future rendezvous and docking operations for U.S. commercial crew vehicles that will be arriving for a linkup to Harmony’s international docking adapters. Other work included the space station crew installing and performing check-outs of a control panel on Harmony for the docking adapter.

Check out more progress – the full feature here:
https://www.nasa.gov/specials/CCP2017/

NASA Commercial Crew Program’s 2018 Calendar Ready for Download

Commercial Crew Program 2018 Children’s Artwork Calendar
Image credit: NASA

NASA Commercial Crew Program’s 2018 calendar is ready for the new year. The calendar is made from artwork submitted by children from around the world ages 4-12 years old. Getting our youth interested and excited in science, technology, engineering and math is important to future space exploration, and this art contest is just one of many ways we can help spark the imagination of our future scientists, engineers and explorers as we prepare to once again launch astronauts from the United States. Without further ado, please check out our Commercial Crew Program 2018 Children’s Artwork Calendar.

Please go to www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew to view and download the 2018 calendar.