Engineers recently timed an MRAP armored vehicle for potential launch pad evacuation routes as preparations for Commercial Crew flights move ahead. The 45,000-pound MRAP is a great improvement over the M113 used during the space shuttle era in many regards. Larger and more powerful, the MRAP offers a mobile bunker to astronauts and ground crews in the unlikely event they have to get away from the launch pad quickly in an emergency. Read more of the details about the testing and what it means for the next generation of human-rated spacecraft launching astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station: http://go.nasa.gov/1fkcCOw
Space doesn’t carry sound, but you can see all sorts of colors up there! From the whites of the distant stars to the red glow from Mars, the universe is alive with a palette all its own. And that doesn’t include all the human-made spacecraft up there! What colors would you use on your spacecraft? Think about it a bit then take your artistic talents to this picture and show us what you came up with! Just print out the picture – your parents can help you – and apply some crayons, markers or colored pencils to provide your own hue of success. Then scan it or take a picture and send it to us by Twitter or Facebook post or in email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Different destinations call for different vehicles and approaches on Earth – just ask anyone who has taken an RV on a family vacation! NASA is applying that philosophy to space exploration with Commercial Crew and the Orion/Space Launch System.
The two spacecraft under development by Commercial Crew providers Boeing and SpaceX are destined for the International Space Station, orbiting more than 250 miles above Earth. Astronauts will fly inside the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to reach the station where they will conduct research off the Earth, for the Earth. Both the CST-100 and Crew Dragon will fly into space aboard rockets certified to safely carry astronauts to low-Earth orbit.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft is built to be launched aboard the massive Space Launch System, the first rocket since the Saturn V designed to send astronauts beyond the bounds of Earth orbit and into deep space. Astronauts inside Orion will conduct exploration missions to near-Earth asteroids and in the proving ground around the moon before making the journey to Mars in the 2030s. It’s a strategy involving all of the space agency’s human spaceflight knowledge and hard-won experience.
NASA’s approach for returning human spaceflight capabilities to the International Space Station frees up low-Earth orbit for entrepreneurial opportunities and enables the agency to meet the challenges of deep space exploration. The two systems under final development and certification by our Commercial Crew partners in the American aerospace industry will ensure safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station. Learn how the pieces fit together for America’s future with this fact sheet.
SpaceX released a new photo showing the progress the company is making on an assembly hangar at Kennedy’s historic Launch Complex 39A. The company says the building will be big enough to house five Falcon rockets at once. The launch pad is being outfitted for missions by the Falcon Heavy and for Commercial Crew flights using the Falcon 9 rocket launching Crew Dragons to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts onboard.
Moving the Permanent Multipurpose Module from the Unity node on the International Space Station to a connection on the Tranquility module took hours to complete, but in this 4k-resolution video it only takes a minute. Flight controllers in Houston remotely commanded the station’s robotic arm to remove the PMM, which is used as a storage area for the orbiting laboratory, and swing it into place on Tranquility. The relocation was made to free the Earth-facing port on Unity for use as a backup docking location for Commercial Crew spacecraft due to start bringing astronauts to the station in the near future.
Other changes will be made to the station during the next several months to completely outfit the unique spacecraft for spaceships under development by Boeing and SpaceX.
“Sometimes when you are an engineer, you have to get it wrong, before you can get it right,” said Rebecca Regan, an employee at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Yesterday, Regan taught 17 elementary school students at Kennedy’s Child Development Center about the Commercial Crew Program and the need to have American-made spacecraft and rocket systems to carry people to and from space. After the lesson, each student built their own spacecraft out of cardboard boxes and art supplies.
Take a look at the designs these budding engineers created.
Want to build your own spacecraft this summer? We used the following supplies:
- Cardboard box
- Disposable plates (for portholes)
- Pictures (to place on the portholes)
- Plastic cups (to make rocket engines)
- Foil (to cover the cups)
- Tissue Paper – red, orange and yellow (to make fire for the engines)
- Construction Paper (for decorating)
- Stencils (for decorating)
- Pencil (for a steering wheel)
- NASA and Commercial Crew Program logos
NASA has approved a $30 million milestone agency’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with the company following a recent and successful pad abort test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Data gathered during the test is critical to understanding the safety and performance of the Crew Dragon spacecraft as the company continues on the path to certification for crew missions to the International Space Station, and helping return the ability to launch astronauts from the United States.
Learn more: http://go.nasa.gov/1dYmg96
By Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Three months of seven-day work weeks including a month of 17-hour days punctuated the end of 2014 for Steven Horn. As assistant chief counsel at Kennedy, Horn worked to defend
the decisions by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to award contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability phase. The effort was intense and draining, but equal parts rewarding for the lawyer who has since been named the agency’s Attorney of the Year.
“This procurement was very complex, given the parallel space act agreements and phased acquisition and all,” Horn said. “We have to bring the level of expertise that the engineers have down to a more readable level when making findings when they are going to be reviewed by someone who doesn’t necessarily have that technical background. That can be difficult at times.”
Horn’s legal career began following his graduation from the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. After a couple years in private practice, Horn joined the Air Force where he worked in the Judge Advocate General department before going to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where contracts and labor-related issues became his specialty. Having traveled the world in the Air Force, Horn opted to settle down in Florida, and came to work for NASA at Kennedy Space Center in 1998.
“Every day here is a challenge, whether it’s contracts, space act agreements or how we’re commercializing property that NASA has no present use for,” Horn said. “The most rewarding thing for me, bar none, is the people I get to work with. There are some amazing engineers out here, I’m not just saying that. They blow me away every day. I like working with people smarter than me and there are a heck of a lot of people out here smarter than me and it motivates me to bring my game up. That’s what I get a kick out of. It’s that interaction with people and helping create solutions.”
Horn is now the primary legal voice for Commercial Crew, beginning that role two years ago when he became a part of the source board to acquire services for the first American-made, human-rated spacecraft since the space shuttle. Then he helped judge how proposals by aerospace companies stacked up against NASA’s requirements for Commercial Crew. Ultimately, the source board made the evaluations before NASA’s hierarchy made the final selection of Boeing and SpaceX.
“The Source Evaluation Board chairwoman, Maria Collura, in my almost 30 years of work, is easily the best that I’ve ever come across,” Horn said. “She was the glue that held the entire team together.”
A couple weeks later, a protest lodged against the decision sent the board and Horn into justification mode. By the time it was complete, more than 160,000 pages had been gathered and reviewed. Ultimately, the Government Accountability Office agreed with NASA’s rationale and approved the contract awards.
“I think the day the announcement was made to select two companies, it showed that all the work we had done for the past year and half as a team was correct,” Horn said. “The day that we got the successful decision was a good day — a very good day for myself and for NASA.”
NASA took another step toward returning America’s ability to launch crew missions to the International Space Station from the United States in 2017. Commercial Crew ordered its first crew rotation mission from The Boeing Company. SpaceX is expected to receive its first order later this year. Determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time.
“Final development and certification are top priority for NASA and our commercial providers, but having an eye on the future is equally important to the Commercial Crew and station programs,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of Commercial Crew. “Our strategy will result in safe, reliable and cost-effective crew missions.”
Missions flown to the station on Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of scientific research that can be conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory. A standard mission to the station will carry four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days and serve as an emergency lifeboat during that time.
“Commercial Crew launches are critical to the International Space Station Program because it ensures multiple ways of getting crews to orbit,” said Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist. “It also will give us crew return capability so we can increase the crew to seven, letting us complete a backlog of hands-on critical research that has been building up due to heavy demand for the National Laboratory.”