From Wind Tunnel Tests to Software Reviews, NASA’s Commercial Crew Partners Continue to Advance

CCP-StopWorking in wind tunnels, software laboratories and work stations across America, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners continue to make strides in advancing the designs of the American spacecraft and rockets that will carry humans safely and reliably into low-Earth orbit from U.S. soil by 2017.

Blue Origin, The Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are accomplishing milestones established through Space Act Agreements as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 and Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiatives.

CCP’s engineering team is working closely with its partners as they develop the next generation of crewed spacecraft and work toward challenging evaluations and tests this year. Ultimately, NASA intends to certify and use American-made commercial systems to fly astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station, and back, ending our sole reliance on Russia to get to space.

“What we have seen from our industry partners is a determination to make their components and systems work reliably, and in turn they’ve been able to demonstrate the complex machinery that makes spaceflight possible will also work as planned,” said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager. “These next few months will continue to raise the bar for achievement by our partners.”

Read details here.

What Name Would You Choose?

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Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra watches as the name “Sigma 7” is painted on his capsule. Photo credit: NASA

Alan Shepard was the first astronaut to name his spacecraft. He chose “Freedom 7,” a reference to the space race that was just starting between the United States and the Soviet Union when Shepard went into space on May 5, 1961. Since then, astronauts named each of their spacecraft including the iconic “Eagle” that landed men on the moon for the first time in 1969. NASA dubbed its five space shuttles Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. The next generation of crewed spacecraft built by NASA’s industry partners chose Space Vehicle (Blue Origin), CST-100 (Boeing), Dream Chaser (Sierra Nevada Corporation) and Dragon (SpaceX). If you had a spacecraft, what would you name it?

Bloomberg TV’s “The Next Space Race”

thenextspacerace-croppedBloomberg 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.

Looking Live at Earth from the International Space Station

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One of the new experiments aboard the International Space Station can now be watched live by anyone on Earth with an Internet connection. The research is part of a project called High Definition Earth Viewing, or HDEV. Four commercially available cameras carried to the station on the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission have been installed on the outside of the station and viewers can watch the feeds as they automatically scan through various angles to show different views of Earth from the orbiting laboratory.

Although they are enclosed in special cases, the cameras are exposed to the vacuum and radiation of space so researchers on Earth can note whether the pictures degrade over time and how badly. You can watch the live stream online at here. You can read more about HDEV here.

HDEV was one of several new research projects recently carried to the one-of-a-kind science center orbiting about 260 miles over Earth. Numerous experiment aboard the station are conducted daily by astronauts while others are run automatically. You can read more details about station research here.

 

Miss Kathy Lueders’ Interview? Watch it now

Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, talked to Kyle Herring at Mission Control in Houston for this segment of Space Station Live. She details the plans and expectations for CCP and how they fit in with NASA’s overall stepping-stone approach for astronauts to explore deeper into space.

Spaceport Magazine Includes SNC Wind Tunnel Testing

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SPM_5_1_CoverOpen the newest issue of Kennedy Space Center’s Spaceport Magazine to read about the detailed work that goes into testing spacecraft models, in this case the Dream Chaser under development by Sierra Nevada Corporation in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This is the second edition of the redesigned publication, and it also includes stories about the launch of the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, Firing Room 4’s metamorphosis and NASA’s plans to develop the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025. It’s available in the digital newsstand and at Spaceport Magazine.

Watch Kathy Lueders on Space Station Live at 11 Today

CCP-StopTune in to Space Station Live on NASA TV at 11 a.m. EDT to see Kathy Lueders’ interview about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and how it is progressing. Lueders was recently named manager of CCP. You can watch NASA TV on your provider or catch it online at nasa.gov/ntv.

Live streaming video by Ustream

Commercial Crew: Part of NASA’s Stepping Stone Approach to Human Exploration

 

luederslargeBy Kathy Lueders,
Commercial Crew Program Manager

This is an exciting time to become a program manager in NASA’s human spaceflight program. We have already introduced a new way to develop spacecraft for low-Earth orbit with the cargo program.  This is our stone in the overall agency’s stepping stone approach to unprecedented exploration. First, regular trips to the International Space Station aboard privately owned, American-made spacecraft so we can get the most out of the orbiting laboratory and its one-of-a-kind research capabilities, then human excavation of an asteroid in space followed by the boldest mission yet: sending humans to Mars.  The Commercial Crew Program is committed to meeting our part of this critical strategy.

The Commercial Crew Program was created three years ago with two purposes. The first is to invest in a national capability for flying crews to low-Earth orbit.  During the past three years, using the investment NASA has provided, the partners have risen to the challenge and have made tremendous progress toward developing safe, reliable and cost-effective space transportation systems for low-Earth orbit. Later this year, our partners will conduct some of the most dynamic and challenging systems testing yet.

The second purpose, to actually certify and fly missions to the ISS, will be executed with the award of one or more Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities contracts in August. These contracts will culminate in missions that will fly NASA crew to the ISS.

I am honored and proud of my extremely capable team on both the NASA and industry side. The next three years will go by quickly as our partners test their systems, perform flight demonstrations, finalize certification and conduct flights in 2017. It may feel like 2017 is a long time away, but for the challenge in front of us – developing a privately owned spaceflight system – it is not. In addition, through our partnerships with industry, we are working to provide unique capabilities NASA has not had in 30 years. It will be the first time that a U.S. capability would provide not only transportation to and from, but also the “lifeboat” capability that ensures the crew always has a safe way home.

We are one step in the agency’s strategy. We look forward to placing that stepping stone out there for future generations to travel on.

More information on the lifeboat capability
More on the Commercial Crew Program

New Craft will be Able to Serve as a Lifeboat

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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.