Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA’s aerospace industry partners for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their Space Act Agreements with the agency.
NASA engineers and specialists continue their review of the progress as the agency and partners move ahead with plans to develop the first American spacecraft designed to carry people into space since the space shuttle.
“Our partners are making great progress as they refine their systems for safe, reliable and cost-effective spaceflight,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It is extremely impressive to hear and see the interchange between the company and NASA engineering teams as they delve into the very details of the systems that help assure the safety of passengers.”
NASA’s aerospace industry partners are taking their designs and operational plans for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) through a series of comprehensive tests, evaluations and review boards this summer as they move through important milestones – all with an eye on launching people into orbit from American soil by 2017.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its aerospace industry partners completed the first phase of certification agreements today. Under the contracts, The Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems (SNC) and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed reviews detailing how each plans to meet NASA’s certification requirements to transport space station crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. NASA awarded the contracts totaling $30 million in December 2012. Read details at http://go.nasa.gov/1kRkIgE
The Dragon spacecraft, designed to carry people into Earth’s orbit, received a few upgrades as SpaceX refines its vehicle in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Today, SpaceX revealed these changes as it unveiled the Dragon V2 at the company’s Hawthorne, California, headquarters.
Vehicle upgrades include solar arrays that will be affixed to the side of the spacecraft’s trunk instead of on fold-out wings and a new launch escape system that will allow crew members to escape an anomaly at any point during flight. The vehicle is intended to ferry seven astronauts, along with critical cargo and supplies.
Other upgrades include larger windows, a larger hatch, and a redesigned outer mold line, which could make the trip more comfortable for passengers destined for orbit.
SpaceX is one of NASA’s commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from Earth’s orbit from American soil. Ultimately, NASA intends to use such commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Bloomberg Television took an up-close look at the work NASA’s industry partners are performing to produce the next American spacecraft capable of carrying humans to low-Earth orbit destinations. Bloomberg examined NASA’s partnerships with The Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX and what the effort means to America’s goals in space exploration. You can watch the full 23-minute report here.
The requirements NASA developed for its Commercial Crew Program partners includes details that will allow space station astronauts to turn to the spacecraft in an emergency, whether to provide temporary shelter or a quick ride home. Read what went into the requirements and why engineers came up with the list they did here.
Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, is one of four NASA partners working with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program to develop new capabilities to transport people to low-Earth orbit. Ultimately, NASA intends to certify and use commercial systems to fly astronauts from the United States to the International Space Station and back. Click here for a printable version of this poster.
Light the candles because NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is three years old! The past three years have seen CCP and its industry partners make huge strides toward crewed spaceflight. The by-no-means-complete highlights include, from left, Blue Origin’s testing of its BE-3 engine, Boeing’s software evaluations using its new CST-100 simulator, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s glide tests of the Dream Chaser and parachute drop tests conducted by SpaceX. There is plenty of work to be done before any of them make their first flights with people on board, but the time to that milestone gets shorter every day.
The flight deck is where the magic happens for a crew of space explorers. It’s the command center, the cockpit and the living area for astronauts during their missions. A great deal of research went into creating the flight deck for every spacecraft, from days when switches would only turn on an indicator light to the modern age of touchscreens. The Commercial Crew Program’s partners are designing their spacecraft to maximize the room the crew has in space and to optimize the information and actions they need to take during a flight. See if you can pick out which of these flight decks belong to which spacecraft. Your choices are: Apollo command module, Boeing’s CST-100, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser, SpaceX’s Dragon and the space shuttle. Good luck!
Images are courtesy of their respective companies except the space shuttle, which is a NASA photo, and the Apollo cockpit which is courtesy of the National Air & Space Museum.