SpaceX In-Flight Abort: Launch Readiness Review Complete, Weather 90% ‘Go’ for Test

SpaceX Demo-1 Preflight
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen at Launch Complex 39A during preparations for the Demo-1 mission on March 1, 2019 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX will launch an in-flight abort test with Crew Dragon on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

Teams from NASA and SpaceX are “go” for launch following today’s launch readiness review ahead the company’s in-flight abort test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Launch is scheduled for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight test is planned to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch.

Watch the pre-test news conference at 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17, on NASA TV and the agency’s website. The participants include:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Benji Reed, director, Crew Mission Management, SpaceX
  • Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90% chance of favorable weather, with the primary concerns for launch day being the flight through precipitation rule during the four-hour launch window.

More details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found in the press kit online at https://www.nasa.gov/specials/ccp-press-kit/main.html and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Early Weather Reports Positive for SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test preview
In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: SpaceX

With the launch of SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration three days away, early weather reports are promising. According to Mike McAleenan, a launch weather officer with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, there is a 90 percent chance of favorable weather at liftoff. The primary concern is flight through precipitation, as some shallow coastal rain showers are predicted.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Saturday, Jan. 18, for the In-Flight Abort Test from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The four-hour test window starts at 8 a.m. EST. The test will demonstrate the escape capabilities of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft — showing that the crew system can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch.

In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. For this test, SpaceX will configure Crew Dragon to intentionally trigger a launch escape prior to 1 minute, 30 seconds into flight to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the unlikely event of an in-flight emergency.

Live coverage will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website Friday, Jan. 17, with a pretest briefing. Watch live coverage at www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner Back Home in Florida After Inaugural Flight

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is back home at the company's Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, undergoing inspection after its first flight as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, known as the Orbital Flight Test. The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is back home at the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, undergoing inspection after its first flight as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, known as the Orbital Flight Test.

Starliner launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. The mission successfully landed two days later on Sunday, Dec. 22, completing an abbreviated test that performed several mission objectives before returning to Earth as the first orbital land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Successful Static Tests Set Stage for Key In-Flight Abort Demonstration

SpaceX In-flight abort test
The uncrewed in-flight abort demonstration is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. There is a four-hour test window. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The test, known as in-flight abort, will demonstrate the spacecraft’s escape capabilities — showing that the crew system can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch. The uncrewed flight test is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, at the start of a four-hour test window, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

SpaceX performed a full-duration static test Saturday, Jan. 11, of the Falcon 9 and completed a static fire of the Crew Dragon on Nov. 13, setting the stage for the critical flight test.

Prior to launch, SpaceX and NASA teams will practice launch day end-to-end operations with NASA astronauts, including final spacecraft inspections and side hatch closeout. Additionally, SpaceX and NASA flight controllers along with support teams will be staged as they will for future Crew Dragon missions, helping the integrated launch team gain additional experience beyond existing simulations and training events.

After liftoff, Falcon 9’s ascent will follow a trajectory that will mimic a Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station matching the physical environments the rocket and spacecraft will encounter during a normal ascent.

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NASA Update on Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test

Boeing, NASA, and U.S. Army personnel work around the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft shortly after it landed in White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA and Boeing are in the process of establishing a joint, independent investigation team to examine the primary issues associated with the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test.

The independent team will inform NASA and Boeing on the root cause of the mission elapsed timer anomaly and any other software issues and provide corrective actions needed before flying crew to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The team will review the primary anomalies experienced during the Dec. 2019 flight test, any potential contributing factors and provide recommendations to ensure a robust design for future missions. Once underway, the investigation is targeted to last about two months before the team delivers its final assessment.

In parallel, NASA is evaluating the data received during the mission to determine if another uncrewed demonstration is required. This decision is not expected for several weeks as teams take the necessary time for this review. NASA’s approach will be to determine if NASA and Boeing received enough data to validate the system’s overall performance, including launch, on-orbit operations, guidance, navigation and control, docking/undocking to the space station, reentry and landing. Although data from the uncrewed test is important for certification, it may not be the only way that Boeing is able to demonstrate its system’s full capabilities.

The uncrewed flight test was proposed by Boeing as a way to meet NASA’s mission and safety requirements for certification and as a way to validate that the system can protect astronauts in space before flying crew. The uncrewed mission, including docking to the space station, became a part of the company’s contract with NASA. Although docking was planned, it may not have to be accomplished prior to the crew demonstration. Boeing would need NASA’s approval to proceed with a flight test with astronauts onboard.

Starliner currently is being transported from the landing location near the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range to the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility in Florida. Since landing, teams have safed the spacecraft for transport, downloaded data from the spacecraft’s onboard systems for analysis and completed initial inspections of the interior and exterior of Starliner. A more detailed analysis will be conducted after the spacecraft arrives at its processing facility.

Boeing’s Orbital Flight test launched on Friday, Dec. 20, on United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission successfully landed two days later on Sunday, Dec. 22, completing an abbreviated test that performed several mission objectives before returning to Earth as the first orbital land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history.

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test Launch Date Update

SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft inside of a SpaceX processing facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Saturday, Jan. 18, for an In-Flight Abort Test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, pending U.S. Air Force Eastern Range approval. The new date allows additional time for spacecraft processing.

The demonstration of Crew Dragon’s in-flight launch escape system is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and is one of the final major tests for the company before NASA astronauts will fly aboard the spacecraft.

NASA, Boeing Complete Successful Landing of Starliner Flight Test

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands in White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed the first land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history Sunday at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, wrapping up the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Starliner settled gently onto its airbags at 7:58 a.m. EST (5:58 a.m. MST) in a pre-dawn landing that helps set the stage for future crewed landings at the same site. The landing followed a deorbit burn at 7:23 a.m., separation of the spacecraft’s service module, and successful deployment of its three main parachutes and six airbags.

More details: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-boeing-complete-successful-landing-of-starliner-flight-test

Tune in for Starliner Postlanding News Conference

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is seen after it landed in White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner landed safely this morning, concluding the company’s Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA Astronaut Suni Williams, who will command the next mission of the Starliner that landed this morning, named this Orbital Flight Test capsule “Calypso.” The name is an ode to the ship of Jacques Cousteau and invokes the vastness of the sea and space. 

Tune into NASA TV for a postlanding news conference at 10:00 a.m. EST with:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch Division
  • Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Boeing CST-100 Starliner Lands Safely

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner moments after landing in White Sands, New Mexico

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner touched down safely at White Sands Space Harbor, New Mexico at 7:58 a.m. EST, concluding its Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Recovery teams are beginning work to retrieve Starliner this morning.

Infrared image of CST-100 Starliner touching down in White Sands, New Mexico

NASA and Boeing will host a postlanding news conference at 10 a.m. EST with:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch Division
  • Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

To participate in the postlanding news conference via phone bridge, media must contact the newsroom at NASA’s Johnson Space Center at 281-483-5111 no later than 9:45 a.m. The news conference will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.