Boeing Target Flight Dates

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner prepares for electromagnetic interference and electromagnetic contamination (EMI/EMC) testing in a specialized test chamberNASA and Boeing continue to evaluate flight dates to deliver realistic schedules to the public and both have agreed on the following target dates:

  • Boeing Pad Abort Test: Nov. 4, 2019 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test: Dec. 17, 2019 at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

NASA and its commercial partners remain committed to flying astronauts as quickly as we can without compromising crew safety, and we always will give safety precedence over schedule.  As more dates are reviewed, NASA will update its schedule.

NASA, SpaceX Test Pad Emergency Egress System

NASA and SpaceX conduct a formal verification of the company's emergency escape system on Sept. 18, 2019 at Launch Complex 39A.
NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, in front, and Bob Behnken participated in the exercise to verify the crew can safely and quickly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency before liftoff of SpaceX’s first crewed flight test, called Demo-2. During the escape verification, Walker and Behnken pass through the water deluge system on the 265-foot level of the crew access tower. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX conducted a formal verification of the company’s emergency escape, or egress, system at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida on Sept. 18, 2019. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Shannon Walker participated in the exercise to verify the crew can safely and swiftly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency before liftoff of SpaceX’s first crewed flight test, called Demo-2.

At tower level on the pad, Walker and Behnken practiced loading into a slidewire basket and simulating an emergency escape to ground level.
At tower level on the pad, Walker and Behnken practiced loading into a slidewire basket and simulating an emergency escape to ground level. Photo credit: SpaceX

“This demonstration allowed all the various teams responsible for ground operations, system design, ground safety and emergency management to observe and verify the system is ready for operational use,” said Steve Payne, launch operations integrator for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. “It’s a system we hope we never have to use, but we have to be prepared for every scenario.”

During the exercise, Behnken and Walker demonstrated two escape methods to show the crew could leave the 265-foot-level of the launch tower quickly. One method was an expedited non-emergency egress, where the crew started at the end of the crew access arm, called the white room, as if they just exited the capsule, and descended the crew access tower by taking the elevator to the base of the launch pad. Then, they were picked up by the pad team to be returned to crew quarters.

The other method involved an emergency egress, where the crew and pad team started at the crew access arm and escape to the ground using the slidewire baskets, with all alarms and fire suppression systems activated. From there, they boarded an armored vehicle that took them to safety.

“Safety of crew members is the top priority,” Walker said. “This was a great opportunity to test the emergency egress system and procedures on the pad.”

SpaceX provided a demonstration of activating alarms and beacons, putting on emergency breathing air bottles and activating the water deluge system on the crew access level, followed by egress from the white room. The astronauts also practiced loading into the baskets. The release mechanisms were also tested, and a weighted empty basket was sent down the length of the slidewire cable to the landing area.

The slidewire baskets have had a number of design improvements since they were used during the shuttle era. A new braking system was added that regulates the speed as astronauts descend the slidewire, which makes for a smoother ride for the crew.  Adjustments to the system have also made dismounting the slidewire baskets much easier than with the previous design.

Also, the platform used for emergency escape on the tower was relocated and reinstalled to the 265-foot-level, up 70 feet from its original shuttle-era location, in order to accommodate a taller launch vehicle.

“If the emergency egress system were ever to be needed to escape from a hazardous event, we want to have complete confidence that it will operate as designed and get our flight crew and pad personnel off the tower quickly and safely,” Payne said.

The verification team also included personnel from the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA Flight Surgeons, SpaceX systems engineers, Kennedy Aero Medical, Commercial Crew Program Safety, and other observers.

“Each time today when we headed down the crew access arm, I couldn’t help but think about what it will be like to strap into Dragon on launch day,” Behnken said. “It’s exciting to have this verification test behind us on our way to the SpaceX Demo-2 mission.”

As commercial crew providers SpaceX and Boeing begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

Commercial Crew Program Testing Fosters Improvements in Parachute Safety

Crew Dragon parachutes successfully deploy during a development test.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX has been developing and testing the Crew Dragon parachute system, which is comprised of two drogue parachutes and four main ring-sail parachutes—the same type of parachutes that have been commonly and successfully used for human spaceflight in the past.

SpaceX conducts a Crew Dragon parachute test.

In the last four years, SpaceX has completed 30 drop tests and 18 system-level tests of their parachute system, including the successful Demo-1 mission flight test. Through this test campaign, the SpaceX team, in partnership with NASA, has gained insight that could change the way parachutes are developed, tested and integrated into spacecraft design. Throughout this process, NASA has shared lessons learned from its own human spaceflight heritage to assist in parachute development.

One of the most relevant benefits originating from the rigorous, multi-year parachute testing campaign is a better understanding of how to safely design and operate parachute clusters. Specifically, NASA and SpaceX now have greater insight into what is termed “Asymmetry Factor,” an integral part of how safety in design is measured and weighed. This asymmetry factor is an indicator of uneven load distribution between individual suspension lines attached to the parachute canopy. As a cluster of parachutes is deployed, the first parachute to open may crowd or bump others as they open up, causing an uneven load distribution on the main parachutes. If the lines or the joints are not designed to account for the unevenness or asymmetry, they might get damaged or even fail.

Crew Dragon parachutes successfully deploy during a development test.

In April 2019, SpaceX performed a developmental test designed to simulate the loss of one of its four main parachutes. During the test, there was an unexpected failure which has offered a unique insight into parachute loading and behavior. The test results have ultimately provided a better understanding of parachute reliability and caused a closer examination of the current industry standard used to calculate the asymmetry factor.

SpaceX is using this new data to calculate structural margins and influence parachute design. The unique results allow more accurate prediction of reliability in the flight parachute configuration. In fact, this new data further verified SpaceX’s most recent successful developmental test, which simulated a pad abort, where the vehicle is tumbling at low altitude before parachute deploy.

Through testing, SpaceX has sought to better characterize margins on their current and future parachute designs, using more robust materials, operational mitigations, and continuation of model refinement based on data from almost 50 recent tests and counting, 19 Cargo Dragon parachute landings, and the successful Demo-1 mission, to ensure that Crew Dragon has the safest parachute design possible. Additionally, these new findings are being shared within NASA to ensure that all human spaceflight applications are assessed for adequate margin and reliability.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a public-private partnership with Boeing and SpaceX to take the experience of NASA and couple it with new technology and designs being pioneered by private industry. Together, we are making space travel safer and available for all. This is one of many steps that advances NASA’s goal to return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil on commercially-built and operated American rockets and spacecraft and prepare for a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

NASA, Boeing Perform Landing and Recovery Rehearsals in New Mexico

Teams from NASA, Boeing and the White Sands Missile Range, rehearse landing and crew extraction from Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, which will be used to carry humans to the International Space Station, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the White Sands Missile Range outside Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Teams from NASA, Boeing and the White Sands Missile Range, rehearse landing and crew extraction from Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which will be used to carry humans to the International Space Station, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the White Sands Missile Range outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Boeing, NASA and the U.S. Army conducted exercises, known as mission dress rehearsals, for Boeing’s upcoming CST-100 Starliner missions to the International Space Station. This series of rehearsals at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico focused on the landing and recovery aspect of Starliner’s mission, and was one of three of Boeing’s formal dress rehearsals that took place over the last couple of weeks as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Unlike any other American-made orbital crew capsule, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is designed to land on land, and is expected to touch down at one of five potential landing zones in the western United States, including two at White Sands, New Mexico. During last week’s integrated rehearsal, teams practiced recovering Starliner and extricating crews in more than a half dozen different landing scenarios covering both the upcoming uncrewed and crewed test flights. The rehearsals included all of the recovery personnel and equipment necessary to locate, safe and cool the spacecraft prior to opening the hatch.

Astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann of NASA and Chris Ferguson from Boeing observed a few of the exercises to better understand what will be happening outside Starliner before ground teams can open the hatch and officially welcome them back to Earth. During the final “run-for-record,” obstacles were introduced in order to simulate an emergency scenario, in which the team succeeded at locating the Starliner and opening the hatch in less than an hour.

Using a convoy of vehicles Boeing uses to recover their spacecraft after landing and a boiler plate test article of the Starliner capsule, the teams worked through the steps necessary to safe the vehicle and get future crew members out of the Starliner to return home.
The teams worked through the steps necessary to safe the vehicle and get future crew members out of the Starliner to return home. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Earlier rehearsals included simulating a Starliner launch and ascent through docking to the space station, as well as undocking from station through landing the spacecraft on land in the western United States.

These exercises are a necessary step in preparing the teams for all aspects of a mission from launch to landing. This series of rehearsals has taken place ahead of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the space station, in which the Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

As commercial crew providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

NASA, SpaceX Coordinate Crucial Astronaut Recovery Exercise

Teams from NASA and SpaceX, rehearse crew extraction in Port Canaveral
NASA astronaut Doug Hurley, along with teams from NASA and SpaceX, rehearse crew extraction from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which will be used to carry humans to the International Space Station, on Aug. 13, 2019 at the Trident Basin in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Teams from NASA and SpaceX practiced removing astronauts from a Crew Dragon spacecraft on Tuesday, Aug. 13, at Port Canaveral in Florida, preparing for when humans return to Earth from a mission to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The joint simulation involved a mock-up of the spacecraft and Go Searcher, one of the SpaceX ships that will recover the spacecraft and astronauts after splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who will fly to and from the space station aboard Crew Dragon for the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, participated in the exercise.

Teams from NASA and SpaceX, rehearse crew extraction from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in Port Canaveral
Using SpaceX’s Go Searcher ship and a mock-up of the Crew Dragon, NASA and SpaceX teams worked through the steps necessary to get NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken out of the Dragon and back to dry land. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

“Integrated tests like today’s are a crucial element in preparing for human spaceflight missions,” Hurley said. “This opportunity allowed us to work with the recovery team and ensure the plans are solid for the Demo-2 mission.”

The event marked the first time a fully integrated NASA and SpaceX team worked together on the ship to go through an end-to-end practice run of how the teams will recover and extract the astronauts when they return from the space station in Crew Dragon. Hurley and Behnken were taken out of the spacecraft, given a mock medical evaluation and then transported to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Skid Strip, or airport.

“We’re making sure that the team integrates together — that’s a key to any successful mission,” said Ted Mosteller, the NASA recovery director in charge of the agency’s team for the Commercial Crew Program. “We worked on successfully doing what we need to do to take care of the crew once they return to Earth.”

Teams from NASA and SpaceX, rehearse crew extraction from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in Port Canaveral
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken work with NASA and SpaceX teams during an astronaut recovery exercise in Port Canaveral, Florida. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The purpose of the exercise, Mosteller pointed out, was to ensure participants knew their roles and responsibilities — and where they were supposed to be staged on the 150-foot vessel. He was extremely pleased with the results.

“It feels really good; it has been a lot of hard work to get us to this point,” Mosteller said. “There was a lot of collaboration, and it was a very positive experience for the integrated team.”

For Hurley and Behnken, it’s another milestone on the path to their historic flight.

“We are both looking forward to the Demo-2 flight and having the opportunity to return to the International Space Station,” Behnken said. “Each of these exercises puts us one step closer to fulfilling NASA’s mission of returning astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.”

As commercial crew providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

SpaceX Demo-2 Astronauts Walkthrough Launch Day Operations

SpaceX recently held a training event at its facility in Hawthorne, California for prelaunch operations with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and ground operators for the company’s Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The training provided an opportunity for the integrated team to dry run all of the activities, procedures and communication that will be exercised on launch day when a Crew Dragon spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

The astronauts performed suit-up procedures alongside the SpaceX ground closeout team and suit engineers using the same ground support equipment, such as the seats and suit leak check boxes, that will be used on launch day. Following crew suit-up, the teams performed a simulated launch countdown with the astronauts inside a Crew Dragon simulator and performed several emergency egress, or exit, scenarios.

The training exercise is one of several that NASA astronauts have participated in with our commercial crew partners, Boeing and SpaceX, in preparation for crew flight tests. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program continues to place astronaut safety at the forefront of preparations for human spaceflight.

 

 

 

Astronauts and Ground Teams Put Emergency Escape Procedures to the Test

An emergency medical technician cares for an astronaut with simulated injuries during a joint emergency escape and triage exercise led by NASA, along with Boeing and United Launch Alliance, at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 24, 2019. The simulation is part of a series in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA led a joint emergency escape and triage simulation with Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) on July 24 at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the International Space Station. The exercise ranged from astronauts and support teams quickly escaping the launch pad to emergency personnel practicing rescue and life support procedures focused on the safety of the launch site teams.

Medical and fire-rescue personnel park ambulances and set up a decontamination and triage area for the joint emergency escape and triage simulation.

In the event of an emergency on launch day, astronauts and support teams would need to exit the launch pad as quickly as possible. The exercise was designed to validate the escape procedures from the crew access tower – the nearly 200-foot-tall structure astronauts will ascend to the same level as the spacecraft on top of the rocket – to a pre-staged medical location a safe distance away from the launch pad. The second half of the rehearsal included the rescue teams that would conduct initial triage for the crew and ground team.

NASA astronauts Josh Cassada, currently in training for the second flight with crew aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, and Eric Boe, along with astronaut candidate Jasmin Moghbeli, served as flight crew for the simulation.

During the exercise, the astronauts and support teams put on portable respirators and made their way to the emergency egress system – a commercial, off-the-shelf zip line modified and constructed as a safety measure for human spaceflight – for escape. The emergency system is on the same level of the crew access tower as the crew access arm, the bridge astronauts walk across to enter the Starliner. The launch teams, secured in seats, descended the tower to the pad perimeter below.

Wearing portable respirators, astronauts and personnel with simulated injuries exit an armored vehicle during the simulation.

Next, using mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, the crew members drove just under a mile north to a helipad, where flight surgeons and the emergency medical services teams waited with ambulances and a decontamination vehicle. Astronauts evacuating from a pad emergency may come into contact with hazardous substances, such as fuel from the rocket or spacecraft, and must be decontaminated to allow medical personnel to safely treat them. In a true emergency, anyone injured would then be transported via helicopter to area hospitals.

Personnel from Kennedy Space Center emergency medical services, pad rescue teams and environmental health, along with CCAFS fire and rescue and the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing worked in tandem with NASA, Boeing and ULA to whisk the astronauts to safety – and, in the process, test necessary procedures and equipment, while providing new team members valuable experience.

The simulation is one of several NASA has conducted with our commercial crew partners, Boeing and SpaceX, in preparation to launch astronauts from American soil. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program continues to place astronaut safety at the forefront of preparations for human spaceflight.

Flight Test Dates Under Review

SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's Starliner will transport astronauts to the International Space Station.*NASA and Boeing provided updates on Oct. 11, 2019. For the details on Boeing flight tests and the schedule, visit https://go.nasa.gov/328xeSL.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and private industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are working to return human spaceflight launches to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on American rockets and spacecraft.

NASA and our partners want to fly astronauts as quickly as we can without compromising the safety of our astronauts and always will give safety precedence over schedule. However, our schedules matter. The NASA Administrator has directed all programs in the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate to reexamine flight dates once new leadership is in place to deliver realistic schedule plans.

This is a pivotal time for NASA and our partners. The final phase of our development and testing is critical to the safety of our astronauts and the success of our mission – regular, reliable and cost-effective human transportation to and from the International Space Station on commercially-owned and operated American space systems.

We are testing, learning and incorporating changes to improve the design and operation of these next-generation human space transportation systems. As a result, our providers have improved the safety of these systems, and the effect of these changes have impacted schedules.

NASA, SpaceX Earn Emmy Nomination for Demo-1 Mission Coverage

NASA and SpaceX were nominated for an Emmy! Teams from the agency’s Commercial Crew Program are among six finalists in the Outstanding Interactive Program category for their coverage of SpaceX’s Demo-1 mission in March 2019.

The nomination recognizes the teams’ tremendous efforts in sharing with the world Crew Dragon’s historic journey to the International Space Station. The mission marked the first time a commercially operated spacecraft docked with the space station, and brought the United States a critical step closer to launching astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil.

The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft s pictured with its nose cone open revealing its docking mechanism while approaching the International Space Station's Harmony module on March 3, 2019.
The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is pictured with its nose cone open revealing its docking mechanism while approaching the International Space Station’s Harmony module on March 3, 2019. Image credit: NASA

NASA and SpaceX spent years preparing a collaborative approach to mission coverage, which featured multiple live broadcasts from agency and company facilities across the country during each phase of the mission, continuing through Crew Dragon’s stunning return to Earth. Throughout NASA’s coverage, the agency engaged social media users around the world and at local social media influencer gatherings at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony will be held Sept. 14-15, 2019.

SpaceX Provides Update on Crew Dragon Static Fire Investigation

SpaceX held a joint teleconference with NASA on Monday, July 15, to update media on the company’s investigation into its Crew Dragon static fire mishap on Saturday, April 20. SpaceX’s full statement on the investigation and the current findings can be found at: https://go.nasa.gov/2GeGLyH