Station Spacewalk Includes Preps for Commercial Crew Vehicles

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International Space Station astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren will don spacesuits and traverse the outside of the orbiting laboratory’s structure on Wednesday during a spacewalk that will take six-and-a-half hours and cover a number of important tasks. The two, each making the first spacewalks of their careers, will connect power system cables on the station so spacecraft from NASA partners Boeing and SpaceX can dock with the station during flights for the Commercial Crew Program.

The future missions are slated to carry up to four new crew members to the station in the near future in order to allow more research to be performed in orbit and to return American launch capabilities for its astronauts. The spacewalk will begin at 8:10 a.m. EDT. You can watch it live on NASA TV and streaming on www.nasa.gov/ntv beginning at 6:45 a.m. The astronauts will return to the station’s interior at about 2:40 p.m.

SpaceX Unveils Crew Dragon Interior

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Have you ever wondered what it will be like to be an astronaut flying aboard the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station? Check out these interior photos and videos from SpaceX that give us a glimpse of the astronauts’ inside view.

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SpaceX Offers Glimpse of 39A for Commercial Crew Launch

20886182720_4c92167fa9_oSpaceX released this artist concept of Launch Pad 39A as it would look for the launch of its Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. The trunk of the Crew Dragon shimmers in the Florida sunshine in the depiction. Note the modifications to the service structure and surroundings of the pad area, along with the processing hangar at the base of the 40-foot-high pyramid.

 

Crew Dragon Simulated Flight Ensures Hardware, Software are Ready for Missions

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SpaceX recently powered up its Crew Dragon avionics test bed at its facility in Hawthorne, California, by simulating a crew flight to the International Space Station. During the avionics functionality check, engineers were able to make sure the spacecraft’s hardware and software worked well together in a flight-like environment. The avionics are known as the brains of a spacecraft, controlling all the critical automated operations of a flight.

“It may not sound exciting, but it’s a really, really important tool. We can basically fly the Crew Dragon on the ground — flip the switches, touch the screens, test the algorithms and the batteries – all before testing the avionics system in flight,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of mission assurance for SpaceX. “It’s important to get the avionics right before putting it into the capsule.”

The SpaceX avionics test bed is similar to the Shuttle Avionics Integration Lab, or SAIL, in Houston, which was used throughout NASA’s Space Shuttle Program to test the interaction of hardware and software before modifying code on the vehicles for flight.

Lettuce Feast Previews Research Potential of Station

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Astronauts for the first time nibbled a small crop of space-grown lettuce today in a look toward the future when crews head to deep space destinations like Mars with seeds ready to grow along the way. The red lettuce eaten Monday – accompanied by a dash of vinaigrette dressing – was grown in a specialized canister aboard the International Space Station during recent weeks and had sprouted from seeds that were glued into place on Earth. Astronauts placed the seeds and their pouches in a system that provided the water and light needed to make the plants grow. Half of the landmark crop was eaten while the other half will be returned to researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for closer study.

Scientists are deep into the next phases of the plant-growth experiments with platters of cabbage, tomatoes, peppers and radishes anticipated on upcoming flights. The research reflects the value of studies aboard the station ahead of our Journey to Mars in which crews will count on vegetables grown in space for a small amount of nutrients and added touch of home during missions that could last two years. The experimentation could also be boosted by the addition of a crew member on the station – something that would be allowed with the advent of commercial crew spacecraft now in development with NASA, Boeing and SpaceX.

 

SpaceX Completes Road to Launch Pad

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LC39Aimage2Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, continues to take shape as SpaceX has completed the road from its processing hangar to the top of the launch stand.

LC39a_3A transporter-erector will move the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets to position them above the flame trench for liftoff on flights carrying astronauts to the International Space Station and other launches.

The rockets and Crew Dragon spacecraft will be processed in the hangar being built at the base of the pad. The company also continues upgrading the launch structure and pad area to modernize the facilities that supported historic launches of the Apollo-Saturn V missions and space shuttles.

 

Getting to Know Our Crew

Our astronauts had the chance to share the path forward for Commercial Crew and why they are excited to train and ultimately fly to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s
CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. Behnken Hurley Williams

Four Commercial Crew Astronauts Live on NASA TV Today

15-148The four NASA astronauts selected to train for Commercial Crew flight tests will share the stage today for interviews with national news outlets. NASA TV will carry the interviews live from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT. The experienced space travelers – Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Williams – will discuss their newest assignments, the value Commercial Crew brings to continuing critical science on board the International Space Station and our new era of human space exploration.

In the meantime, you can catch up on the agency’s big news from yesterday with our feature about the announcement, videos of the four astronauts and photos of them in space during previous missions, all found on this blog feed.

 

Four Astronauts Selected for Commercial Crew Flights

15-148“I am pleased to announce four American space pioneers have been selected to be the first astronauts to train for test flights to space on commercial crew vehicles, all part of our ambitious plan to return space launches to U.S. soil, create good-paying American jobs and advance our goal of sending humans farther into the solar system than ever before,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail — a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars.”

Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Williams will train to fly on flight tests aboard Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to certify them for operational use. Both spacecraft are in development with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Learn more about the new Commercial Crew astronauts here.