NASA, Boeing Move into Next Phases of Flight Test Prep

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner crew ship is pictured docked to the Harmony module's forward port on the International Space Station as the orbitng complex flew 261 miles above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexican state of Nayarit. Photo credit: NASA
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew ship is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s forward port on the International Space Station as the orbitng complex flew 261 miles above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexican state of Nayarit. Photo credit: NASA

NASA and Boeing teams are preparing for a flight test no earlier than mid-April in which the Starliner spacecraft will carry two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

Teams have made significant progress in resolving technical issues identified during the agency’s flight certification process. Following a successful drop test earlier this month in which recent modifications to Starliner’s parachute system were validated, NASA and Boeing are working to perform final analysis of the test data and complete overall system certification ahead of Starliner’s first crewed flight. This standard NASA process is designed to independently verify Starliner’s parachute system meets crew safety requirements and is expected to continue over the next six to eight weeks.

Meanwhile, Boeing completed removal of P213 tape that may have posed a flammability risk in certain environmental conditions. Boeing removed more than 17 pounds, or roughly 4,300 feet, of the material from the Starliner crew module. For areas in which removal of the tape carried an increased risk to Starliner hardware, Boeing applied tested remediation techniques such as overwrapping the P213 tape with another non-flammable, chafe-resistant tape, and installing fire breaks on wire harnesses. The agency worked to clarify the properties and safe usage guidance relative to P213 tape in the NASA Materials Usage Agreements database to prevent a similar misapplication from occurring across industry in the future.

Additionally, major integrated flight operations exercises are underway. Mission support teams recently completed a two-day undock to landing mission dress rehearsal with recovery personnel on the ground at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Teams simulated Crew Flight Test procedures and spacecraft sequences starting with pre-undock powerup and continuing through undock, entry, landing, and crew recovery. The exercise provided an additional training opportunity for NASA and Boeing to practice Starliner’s return to Earth in a high-fidelity environment before the flight.

Teams from ULA (United Launch Alliance) are preparing the Atlas V rocket hardware for processing and spacecraft integration. Boeing is targeting completion of Starliner assembly at the end of January. The upgraded parachutes were delivered and installed on the spacecraft, along with Starliner’s forward heat shield and ascent cover. Prior to fueling operations, following final installation of thermal protection system blankets and internal closeout work, Boeing will begin flowing a nitrogen purge into the Starliner’s service module to ensure ambient moisture does not permeate into the propulsion isolation or active thermal control system valves. In the weeks ahead, NASA and Boeing will work to identify any remaining work before loading Starliner propellant.

The next couple of months teams will:

  • work to complete overall Crew Flight Test certification;
  • put the finishing touches on the Starliner spacecraft, which is already joined to its service module;
  • run simulations of operational conditions to rehearse every phase of the mission with the crew, flight controllers, and ground operations teams;
  • fuel the spacecraft with propellants for its onboard thrusters for in-space maneuvering;
  • stack the ULA Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft before rolling them to the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida;
  • and work through detailed systems reviews, culminating with a flight readiness review in the days before launch to verify the system and teams are ready.

Starliner’s Crew Flight Test will launch NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the orbiting laboratory for a stay of one to two weeks before returning them to a landing in the southwest United States. The mission will mirror the tasks of regular crew rotation flights for Boeing’s Starliner under contracts with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Follow the commercial crew blog or Crew Flight Test mission blog for the latest information on Starliner’s progress toward launch. Details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, X, and Facebook.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 Visits Dragon, Tests Equipment Ahead of Launch

From left to right, Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenki; NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, who will fly on NASA's SpaceX Crew-8, participate in the Crew Equipment Interface Test at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
From left to right, Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin; NASA astronauts Michael Barratt, pilot; Matthew Dominick, commander; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, who will fly aboard NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8, participate in the Crew Equipment Interface Test at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: SpaceX

Crew members set to fly aboard NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission recently visited the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to rehearse launch day activities and get a close look at the spacecraft that will take them to the International Space Station.

From left to right, Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin; NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, who will fly on NASA's SpaceX Crew-8, participate in the Crew Equipment Interface Test at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
From left to right, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, NASA astronauts Michael Barratt, Matthew Dominick, and Jeanette Epps participate in the Crew Equipment Interface Test ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission. Photo credit: SpaceX

As part of the Crew Equipment Interface Test, NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, as well as Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin, gathered at SpaceX’s refurbishment facility at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, put on their flight suits, entered the spacecraft, performed leak checks, and completed communications checkouts.

The crew familiarized themselves with the interior of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft and listened to the Dragon’s fans and pumps while inside in preparation for sounds they can expect to hear during the flight. Crew-8 will fly to the space station aboard Dragon, named Endeavour, which previously supported NASA’s Demo-2, Crew-2, and Crew-6 missions, as well as Axiom Space’s Axiom Mission 1 to and from the orbiting laboratory.

The Crew-8 astronauts also took a familiarization tour of Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, completed emergency training, and rode the elevator to the top of the launch pad’s tower to enjoy the panoramic view of the Florida spaceport. Crew-8 is targeted to launch from the pad on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than mid-February 2024.

As part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Crew-8 marks the ninth human spaceflight mission supported by a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and the eighth crew rotation mission to the space station since 2020 for NASA.

Follow the commercial crew blog for the latest information on Crew-8 progress and flight readiness as reviews and milestones continue. Details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the Crew-8 blog, the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on X, and commercial crew on Facebook.

Starliner Parachute System Upgrade Tested Before Crewed Flight

A NASA C-130 cargo aircraft releases a dart-shaped test vehicle above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground on Jan. 9 to begin the testing sequence for a Boeing Starliner parachute system.
A NASA C-130 cargo aircraft releases a dart-shaped test vehicle above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground on Jan. 9 to begin the testing sequence for a Boeing Starliner parachute system. Credit: U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground

A modified parachute system for Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program was tested over the Arizona desert on Jan. 9. Parachute deployment and a soft landing of the test article were visually confirmed. Preliminary data analysis of this two-parachute test suggest the primary test objectives were met. Engineering teams will continue to review the results, inspect the test parachutes, and work to complete system certification in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, NASA and Boeing are proceeding with preparations for Starliner to carry astronauts for the first time to the International Space Station during the Crew Flight Test, currently slated to launch no earlier than mid-April on a mission lasting about 10 days.

A pair of parachutes lower the dart-shaped test vehicle to the ground to conclude the drop test for a modified parachute for the Starliner spacecraft.
A pair of parachutes lower the dart-shaped test vehicle to the ground to conclude the drop test for a modified parachute for the Starliner spacecraft. Credit: U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground

The drop test, which used a Starliner parachute system attached to a dart-shaped sled the same weight as a Starliner, was performed to confirm the functioning of a redesigned and strengthened soft link joint that is part of the network of lines connecting the parachutes to the spacecraft. The test also validated a change to strengthen one textile joint in the parachute, increasing overall parachute robustness. As with other capsules, Starliner relies on parachutes to land safely when it returns to Earth.

A C-130 cargo aircraft from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virgina, carried the test article and parachutes high above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona before releasing them. Engineering teams, CFT astronauts Butch Wilmore, Suni Williams and Starliner-1 astronaut Mike Fincke watched from the drop zone below. The Starliner main parachutes were lifted from the test article using flight-like pilot parachutes before inflating fully to slow the test dart to the same soft-landing velocity experienced by the Starliner spacecraft in flight.

Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests including Orbital Flight Test-2, which docked to the space station on May 21, 2022.

Follow NASA’s commercial crew blog or CFT mission blog for the latest information on progress. Details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on X, and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA Announces Winners of 2024 Commercial Crew Program Artwork Contest

Cover of CCP's Children's Artwork Calendar 2024

NASA received more than 3,000 entries from around the world for this year’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) Children’s Artwork Calendar contest. Of those, the agency has selected 36 first-, second-, and third-place winners to display in the calendar for 2024.

The contest invited children to submit original artwork related to four overarching themes: rockets and spacecraft, astronauts, living and working in space, and exploring the solar system. Within each theme, submissions were divided into three age groups – 4-6, 7-9, 10-12 – with each age group receiving a first-, second-, and third-place winner.

The colorful 2024 calendar features the first-place artworks for each age group and theme in large format at the start of each month. Each month also includes smaller thumbnails of the second- and third-place winners. The back cover of the calendar includes a collage of all first-place winners. To see a list of all winners, and to download a digital copy of the calendar, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/commercial-crew-artwork-contest/.

Thank you to all the young artists who submitted artwork for this year’s contest and to the winners who helped CCP create an out-of-this-world calendar!

To learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, visit www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew. For fun online resources for the young and young at heart, visit www.nasa.gov/learning-resources/for-kids-and-students.

Mission Specialist Assigned to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 Mission

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Joshua Kutryk
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Joshua Kutryk joins NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Scott Tingle as part of NASA’s Boeing Starlier-1 mission crew. Photo credit: NASA

CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Joshua Kutryk has been selected as a mission specialist for NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission – the first crew rotation flight for the spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Kutryk joins Scott Tingle and Mike Fincke of NASA, who will serve as the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission. Both astronauts have previously flown as crew members aboard the space station. This will be Kutryk’s first spaceflight. The final crew assignment for Starliner-1 will be announced following review and approval by the agency and its international partners.

Starliner-1 will launch following the successful completion of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), with NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams,  which aims to demonstrate Starliner’s ability to achieve NASA certification and safely fly regular crewed missions to space station. Kutryk is the capsule communicator for ascent and re-entry of the CFT mission, relaying communication from Mission Control at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to the astronauts aboard the spacecraft.

NASA and Boeing are targeting the Starliner-1 launch no earlier than the beginning of 2025 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The four astronauts will join an expedition crew aboard the space station.

For more insight on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program missions to the orbiting laboratory, follow the commercial crew blog. More details can be found @commercial_crew on X and commercial crew on Facebook.

Progress Continues Toward NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test to Station

The crew module and new service module for NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test at Kennedy Space Center.
Inside Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 19, 2023, the Starliner team works to finalize the mate of the crew module and new service module for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test that will take NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to and from the International Space Station. Photo credit: Boeing/John Grant

NASA and Boeing are working to complete the agency’s verification and validation activities ahead of Starliner’s first flight with astronauts to the International Space Station. While Boeing is targeting March to have the spacecraft ready for flight, teams decided during a launch manifest evaluation that a launch in April will better accommodate upcoming crew rotations and cargo resupply missions this spring.

Once the spacecraft meets the agency’s safety requirements, NASA’s Boeing Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT) will see astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams perform the first crewed mission of the spacecraft designed to take astronauts to and from the orbital laboratory.

Ahead of CFT, Boeing has completed P213 tape removal in the upper dome of the Starliner crew compartment and work is underway to remove or remediate the tape in the lower dome of the spacecraft. These hardware remediation efforts inside the Starliner production facility at NASA Kennedy are expected to be completed during the next several weeks. After the P213 tape remediation efforts conclude, engineers will conduct final assessments to ensure acceptable risk of any remaining tape.

A set of parachutes is on track to be delivered and installed on the CFT spacecraft by the end of this year to support the current target launch date. Separately, the team also is planning a drop test of Starliner’s updated drogue and main parachutes. The parachutes will incorporate a planned strengthening of main canopy suspension lines and the recent design of the drogue and main parachute soft-link joints, which will increase the safety factor for the system. The drop test is planned for early 2024 based on the current parachute delivery schedule.

Boeing and NASA also are planning modifications to the active thermal control system valves to improve long-term functionality following a radiator bypass valve issue discovered during ground operations earlier this year. As discussed during a Starliner media teleconference in June, teams have modified the spacecraft hardware and identified forward work to prevent a similar issue in the future. Options include a system purge to prevent stiction, component upgrades and operational mitigations.

Additionally, about 98% of the certification products required for the flight test are complete, and NASA and Boeing anticipate closure on remaining CFT certification products early next year. Meanwhile, NASA and Boeing have made significant progress on requirement closures related to manual crew control of the spacecraft and abort system analysis.

The latest version of Starliner’s CFT flight software completed qualification testing and is undergoing standard hardware and software integration testing inside Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab. Starliner’s crew and service modules remain mated and await continuation of standard preflight processing.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket also is in Florida at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station awaiting integration with the spacecraft.

The NASA astronauts who will fly aboard CFT continue to train for their roughly eight-day mission to the orbiting laboratory, which includes working with operations and mission support teams to participate in various simulations across all phases of flight.

Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests, including Orbital Flight Test-2, which docked to the space station on May 21, 2022, following a launch two days prior from Kennedy. The spacecraft remained docked to space station for four days before successfully landing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Follow NASA’s commercial crew blog or CFT mission blog for the latest information on progress. Details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on X, and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA Updates Commercial Crew Planning Manifest

The International Space Station’s U.S. segment and portions of the Russian segment are pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly around of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Nov. 8, 2021. Prominent at the top in this view, are the Columbus laboratory module, the Harmony module and its space-facing docking port, and the Kibo laboratory module with its external pallet. Credit: NASA

NASA and its industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are planning for the next set of missions to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew-8

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission to the orbiting laboratory is targeted to launch no earlier than mid-February. The mission will carry NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, as well as Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin to the space station to conduct a wide range of operational and research activities. Routine maintenance and processing of the Crew-8 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft is in work. This will be the first spaceflight for Dominick, Epps, and Grebenkin, and the third for Barratt. Crew-8 is expected to return to Earth in late August 2024, following a short handover with the agency’s Crew-9 mission.

Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT)

The first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft, named NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), is planned for no earlier than mid-April. CFT will send NASA astronauts and test pilots Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a demonstration flight to prove the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system. Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, spend approximately eight days docked to the space station, and return to Earth with a parachute and airbag-assisted ground landing in the desert of the western United States.

NASA will provide an updated status of CFT readiness as more information becomes available.

Crew-9

Looking further ahead in 2024, NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than mid-August for the launch of the agency’s Crew-9, SpaceX’s ninth crew rotation mission to the space station for NASA. A crew of four will be announced at a later date.

10th Crew Rotation Mission

The 10th commercial crew rotation opportunity to the space station is targeted for early 2025. NASA is planning for either SpaceX’s Crew-10 or Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission in this slot. The Starliner-1 date was adjusted to allow for the post-flight review of the Crew Flight Test and incorporation of anticipated learning, approvals of final certification products, and completion of readiness and certification reviews ahead of that mission.

For more insight on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program missions to the orbiting laboratory follow the commercial crew blog. More details can be found @commercial_crew on X and commercial crew on Facebook.

Crew-6 Returns Safely to Earth after Splashdown

The SpaceX Dragon Endeavour is seen as it splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, at 12:17 a.m. EDT, returning Crew-6 to Earth. Credits: NASA TV.

NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev splashed down safely in the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, at 12:17 a.m. EDT after 186 days in space.

Teams on the SpaceX recovery ship, including two fast boats, now are in the process of securing 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 Dragon onto the main deck 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 board a plane for Houston.

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

Get weekly video highlights at: https://roundupreads.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

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Deorbit Burn Complete

NASA's SpaceX Crew-6 crew members are seen inside the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft during their return to Earth on Sept. 3, 2023.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 crew members are seen inside the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft during their return to Earth on Sept. 3, 2023. Photo credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev on their return to Earth after a nearly six-month science mission has completed its deorbit burn as expected ahead of splashdown at about 12:17 a.m. EDT in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.

Four minutes before splashdown, the drogue parachutes will deploy at about 18,000 feet in altitude while Dragon is moving approximately 350 miles per hour, and less than a minute later, the main parachutes deploy at about 6,000 feet in altitude while the spacecraft is moving approximately 119 miles per hour.

NASA TV coverage available online and via the NASA app will continue until the crew is recovered from the spacecraft.

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

Get weekly video highlights at: https://roundupreads.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Get the latest from NASA delivered every week. Subscribe here: www.nasa.gov/subscribe

Crew-6 Coming Up on Deorbit Burn for Splashdown

SpaceX's Dragon Endeavour spacecraft approaches the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour with four Crew-6 members aboard approaches the International Space Station for an automated docking to the Harmony module’s space-facing port on March 3, 2023. Aboard Endeavour, were Commander Stephen Bowen and Pilot Woody Hoburg, both from NASA, and Mission Specialists Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Andrey Fedyaev from Roscosmos, who joined the Expedition 68 crew shortly after docking to the orbital lab. Photo credit: NASA

Watch the agency’s live coverage as NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev inside the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft work toward a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, at about 12:17 a.m. EDT. Recovery forces are taking positions in the recovery zone.

The deorbit burn is scheduled to begin at 11:24 p.m. EDT.