Atlas V Rocket for First Astronaut Launch on Starliner Arrives at Launch Site

ULA Atlas V rocket
NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, left, Mike Fincke, right, and Nicole Mann will launch on Boeing’s Crew Flight Test to demonstrate the ability of the Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft to safely carry astronauts to and from the space station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket – set to help write a new chapter in human spaceflight by launching the first flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with astronauts to the International Space Station – has arrived at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

ULA Atlas V rocket
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket arrives at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V will launch NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann on Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT) to demonstrate the ability of the Atlas V and Starliner to safely carry astronauts to and from the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. CFT is targeted for later this year after successful completion of Starliner’s second uncrewed mission, Orbital Flight Test-2, which is targeted to launch on July 30 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The rocket-delivery ship, called R/S RocketShip, transported the Atlas V first stage and the Dual Engine Centaur upper stage from ULA’s manufacturing facility in Decatur, Alabama, to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. RocketShip set sail on June 14, arrived June 20, and the Atlas V was unloaded June 21.

Now at the Cape, the Atlas V will undergo receiving checks at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center and await the start of operations to prepare for the flight, which will send the three astronauts to the space station. The crewmates are working closely with Boeing to develop the new spacecraft systems, which will provide round-trip crew transportation services to the space station and low-Earth orbit.

Read the full story here.

NASA and Boeing Progress Toward July Launch of Second Starliner Flight Test

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to be flown on Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is seen in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 2. Part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, OFT-2 is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path to fly crew missions for NASA.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to be flown on Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is seen in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 2. Part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, OFT-2 is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path to fly crew missions for NASA. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing are continuing preparations ahead of Starliner’s second uncrewed flight to prove the system can safely carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Teams inside the Starliner production factory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently began fueling the Starliner crew module and service module in preparation for launch of Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) at 2:53 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 30. The fueling operations are expected to complete this week as teams load propellant inside the facility’s Hazardous Processing Area and perform final spacecraft checks.

In the weeks ahead, mission control teams in Florida and Texas will continue conducting simulated mission dress rehearsals for the uncrewed OFT-2 and follow-on crewed missions. Starliner’s landing and recovery teams also will perform an on-site checkout of one of the vehicle’s landing zones.

Read the full story here.

NASA, SpaceX Update Crew Launch and Return Dates

NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in April 23, 2021.
Crew-2 is more than a month into its mission aboard the International Space Station following an April 23 launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The four crew members will return after a handover with Crew-3 astronauts following their launch and arrival in late October. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and SpaceX have adjusted target launch and return dates for upcoming crew missions to and from the International Space Station based on visiting vehicle traffic.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission now is targeting launch no earlier than Sunday, Oct. 31, with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer. Crew-3 will launch on a new Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin a six-month science mission at the space station.

Crew-3 astronauts will arrive at the space station for a short handover period with the Crew-2 astronauts and other crew members on Expedition 66. Crew-2 NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Aki Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet are targeting early-to-mid November for a return to Earth inside Crew Dragon Endeavour off the coast of Florida.

Following Crew-3, the next crew rotation mission is targeted for no earlier than mid-April 2022 with the partner spacecraft and launch vehicle to be determined at a later date.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

NASA, Boeing Update Launch Target for Next Starliner Flight Test

Boeing Starliner
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft undergoes preparations for the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 28, 2021. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing are targeting 2:53 pm EDT Friday, July 30, for the launch of the company’s Starliner uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station. The updated launch target is supported by the station’s visiting vehicle schedule, Starliner readiness, and the availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

“NASA and Boeing have done an incredible amount of work to get to this point,” said Steve Stich, Commercial Crew Program manager. “Our teams are ready for this important mission due to the coordinated efforts of many, including United Launch Alliance, NASA’s Launch Services Program, and the U.S. Space Force, which enabled us to establish this launch opportunity. We are looking forward to a successful OFT-2 mission.”

Boeing recently completed end-to-end testing of Starliner’s fight software by flying a five-day simulated OFT-2 mission to the station. The company will continue supporting NASA’s post-test reviews. All actions recommended by the NASA-Boeing Joint Independent Review Team following Starliner’s uncrewed first flight test in December 2019 are complete and pending closure by NASA.

Boeing also will continue processing hardware for its first flight of astronauts – the Crew Flight Test – until mid-summer. OFT-2 launch activities, including loading cargo and fueling the spacecraft are scheduled to begin around this time.

A launch on July 30 would lead to rendezvous and docking with the space station on the evening of Saturday, July 31.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

Crew-1 Makes Nighttime Splashdown, Ends Mission

A night-vision camera pictures the SpaceX Crew Dragon parachuting to splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico as fast boats arrive to retrieve the crew. Credit: NASA TV
A night-vision camera captures the SpaceX Crew Dragon parachuting to splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico as fast boats arrive to retrieve the crew. Credit: NASA TV

Astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) splashed down safely in the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, at 2:56 a.m. EDT after 168 days in space. The return marks the end of the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station of the Crew Dragon spacecraft developed in partnership between NASA and SpaceX as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Teams on the Go Navigator recovery ship, including two fast boats, now are in the process of securing Crew Dragon and ensuring the spacecraft is safe for the recovery effort. As the fast boat teams complete their work, the recovery ship will move into position to hoist Crew Dragon onto the main deck of Go Navigator with the astronauts inside. Once on the main deck, the crew will be taken out of the spacecraft and receive medical checks before a helicopter ride to Pensacola to board a plane for Houston.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission launched Nov. 15, 2020, on a Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, in honor of their families, colleagues, and fellow citizens and highlighting the dedication displayed by the teams involved with the mission and demonstrating that there is no limit to what humans can achieve when they work together. Crew Dragon Resilience docked to the Harmony module’s forward port of the space station Nov. 16, nearly 27 hours after liftoff.

Hopkins has now spent a total of 335 days in space during two spaceflights; he conducted three spacewalks during this mission for a total of five in his career. It was Glover’s first spaceflight, during which he conducted four spacewalks during the 168 days. It was Walker’s second spaceflight, bringing her total time in space to 331 days. Noguchi conducted one spacewalk, for a total of four spacewalks during his three total spaceflights; he has spent a total of 345 days in space.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research  on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Dragon Fires Braking Engines, Begins Earth Descent

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four Crew-1 astronauts is pictured approaching the station on Nov. 15, 2020, for a docking.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four Crew-1 astronauts is pictured approaching the station on Nov. 15, 2020, for a docking.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on their return to Earth after a six-month science mission has completed its deorbit burn as expected ahead of splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research  on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew-1 Astronauts in Final Hour Before Splashdown

The SpaceX Crew-1 official crew portrait with (from left) NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
The SpaceX Crew-1 official crew portrait with (from left) NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Watch NASA’s live coverage as astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft are about one hour away from splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:57 a.m. EDT. Weather conditions remain within the splashdown weather criteria and are “Go” at the primary targeted site off the coast of Panama City, Florida.

Here are the upcoming milestones (all times Eastern):

All times approximate:

  • 1:57 a.m. – Crew Dragon performs claw separation. The claw is located on Crew Dragon’s trunk, connecting thermal control, power, and avionics system components located on the trunk to the capsule.
  • 1:58 a.m. – Trunk separation
  • 2:03 a.m. – Deorbit burn begins
  • 2:19 a.m. – Deorbit burn complete
  • 2:22 a.m. – Nosecone closed
  • 2:40 a.m. – Crew Dragon maneuvers to attitude for re-entry
  • 2:52 a.m. – Drogue parachutes deploy at about 18,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 350 miles per hour.
  • 2:53 p.m. – Main parachutes deploy at about 6,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 119 miles per hour.
  • 2:57 p.m. – Splashdown

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research  on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew-1 Undocks From Station and Heads for Splashdown

May 1, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 77 resupply ship.
May 1, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 77 resupply ship.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft with astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) inside undocked from the space-facing port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 8:35 p.m. EDT to complete a six-month science mission.

Two very small engine burns separated Crew Dragon from the station, and the spacecraft is slowly maneuvering away from the orbital laboratory into an orbital track that will return the astronaut crew and its cargo safely to Earth.

Once flying free, Crew Dragon Resilience will autonomously execute four departure burns to move the spaceship away from the space station and begin the flight home.

The return timeline with approximate times in EDT is:

May 1

  • 8:35 p.m.             Departure burn 0
  • 8:40 p.m.             Departure burn 1
  • 9:28 p.m.             Departure burn 2
  • 10:14 p.m.           Departure burn 3

May 2

  • 1:58 a.m.             Trunk jettison
  • 2:03 a.m.             Deorbit burn begins
  • 2:57 a.m.             Crew Dragon splashdown

NASA will continue to provide live coverage until Resilience splashes down off the coast of Florida and the Crew-1 astronauts are recovered from the Gulf of Mexico.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission launched Nov. 15, 2020, on a Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, in honor of their families, colleagues, and fellow citizens and highlighting the dedication displayed by the teams involved with the mission and demonstrating that there is no limit to what humans can achieve when they work together. Crew Dragon Resilience docked to the Harmony module’s forward port of the space station Nov. 16, nearly 27 hours after liftoff.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research  on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Watch NASA TV Now as Crew-1 Prepares for Departure and Splashdown

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience carrying four Crew-1 astronauts is pictured approaching the station on Nov. 15, 2020, for a docking.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience carrying four Crew-1 astronauts is pictured approaching the station on Nov. 15, 2020, for a docking.

Watch live coverage now on NASA TV and the agency’s website as undocking preparations continue for the return of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) from the International Space Station.

After the Crew-1 astronauts closed the Dragon hatch at 6:26 p.m. EDT, Expedition 65 astronauts closed the hatch of the orbital laboratory. With Crew-1 astronauts seated inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft, teams are conducting standard leak checks and depressurization of the space between the spacecraft, called the vestibule, in preparation for its undocking and return to Earth.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 8:35 p.m. for Crew Dragon to autonomously undock from the space station, with its four international crew members aboard the spacecraft, and return to Earth. After hooks holding Crew Dragon in place retract, two very small engine burns at 8:30 p.m. and 8:32 p.m. will fire to separate the spacecraft from the station.

Conditions remain “Go” at the primary targeted site, off the coast of Panama City, Florida, for splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico about 2:57 a.m. on Sunday, May 2.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Dragon Hatch Closed, Undocks Soon on NASA TV

Currently, five spaceships are attached to the space station including two SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicles, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia's 77 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. The Crew-1 Endeavour spaceship will undock today.
Currently, five spaceships are attached to the space station including two SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicles, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia’s 77 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. The Crew-1 Endeavour spaceship will undock today.

At 6:26p.m. EDT, the hatch closed between the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking and return to Earth of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

NASA Television will air live coverage beginning at 8:15 p.m. for undocking scheduled at 8:35 p.m. and continue coverage through their splashdown off the coast of Panama City, Florida, at about 2:57 a.m. EDT on Sunday, May 2 and their recovery from the spacecraft.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.