Bolden: Competition Made It Tough Choice, but the Right Choice – Boeing and SpaceX to Build New Spacecraft

ccpannouncebolden-720-3NASA Administrator Charles Bolden reveals today’s big news: Boeing and SpaceX will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in the next couple of years aboard their CST-100 and Dragon version 2, respectively.

 

New Spacecraft Will Add to NASA Legacy

Bob Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is beginning today’s ceremony: “This is a big day for us and I’m glad you all could come out here to see the work we are undertaking to transform America’s premier launch site into a spaceport like no other. We’ve made a lot of history from here and with today’s announcement, I think everyone will see that we are on course to accomplish much, much more.”

Find Out Today What Spacecraft Will Be America’s Next Crew Transportation System

launchamericasplashpage940px-91Excitement is building as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other senior officials are gathering at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to announce who will transport astronauts to the International Space Station. You can watch the ceremony live on NASA TV at www.nasa.gov/ntv and don’t forget to check back for more details. We’ll post information of all sorts, too, so you can find out why this is so important for our spacefaring nation.

Crew Transportation Announcement Today

NASA will make a major announcement today at 4 p.m. EDT regarding the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States. Whoever is chosen will have the goal to achieve certification of the system – including a test flight to the International Space Station with a NASA astronaut — in 2017, returning a critical capability to America and greatly expanding the scientific research potential of the orbiting laboratory. Watch the announcement live on NASA TV at www.nasa.gov/ntv and find out details throughout the day on the Commercial Crew Program blog.

 

 

ISS: Earth Observer

iss-rapidscatThe International Space Station will get a new Earth observation experiment this month when the ISS RapidScat sensor is sent into orbit on the next SpaceX commercial cargo flight. The station, which is the destination for crewed CCP missions, offers a unique platform for science focused on Earth. Researchers will speak in-depth about the potential for the orbiting laboratory and what RapidScat and a series of other Earth science experiments will offer Earth scientists. The briefing will air on NASA TV beginning at 1 p.m. You can watch it on stream here.

“10 Things to Know” in Spaceport Magazine

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Are you ready for the Commercial Crew Transportation announcement? Don’t miss the “10 things to know” piece in the latest edition of Spaceport Magazine. And don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.

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For a bit more depth on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program efforts including space act agreements and contract details, check out our CCP resource page: http://go.nasa.gov/1nwYv60

10 Things to Know about Commercial Crew Transportation

  1. CCPgraphic-isssilhouetteThe Goal: CCtCap stands for Commercial Crew Transportation Capability. It is a contract for one or more American aerospace companies to complete development of a human space transportation system capable of carrying people into orbit, specifically to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth. To be certified to carry NASA astronauts, the systems must meet NASA safety standards. It’s the last step in a cycle of five separate spacecraft transportation development Space Act Agreements and certification contracts NASA began in 2010.
  2. How it’s Done: NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will implement CCtCap in a similar manner used during each previous stage of the development process – as a public-private partnership. The industry partner is responsible for the development of its own spaceflight system, which it will own and operate. NASA’s expert team of engineers and spaceflight specialists are  working with the companies and certifying the  systems to ensure any new crew transportation system is safe and reliable for NASA astronauts. For previous human spaceflight systems including the space shuttle, NASA designed, owned, and operated the systems, and the agency was responsible for the overall development.
  3. Buying a Service: Once development is complete, NASA plans to buy a service – simply put, like getting a taxi ride to low-Earth orbit. Because the companies will own and operate the systems, they will be able to sell human space transportation services to other customers in addition to NASA, thereby reducing the costs.
  4. Innovation: This new process lets industry partners apply innovations and corporate expertise into their designs. NASA provides a top-level set of requirements the companies must meet, but how they meet those requirements is up to them. Each company thoroughly tests its materials and mechanisms to prove its design is sound, and NASA certifies that the systems meet the agency’s requirements.
  5. Commercial Investment: Industry partners are investing their own resources into the development, too. In this way, NASA and industry share the cost of development and both are invested in and committed to a successful outcome.
  6. Contract Terms: NASA’s contract, whether with one company or more, will include at least one crewed flight test per company to verify the integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all its systems perform as expected. Once the test program has been successfully completed and the systems achieve NASA certification, the contractor/s also conduct at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station, effectively ending the nation’s reliance on foreign providers.
  7. Award: NASA has not specified a set number of awards under CCtCap. In late August or September, the agency will select the company or companies that will build an operational space transportation system. While the procurement process is ongoing, the agency cannot answer specific questions about the proposals received or the award decision-making process.
  8. Open Competition: CCtCap is an open competition using FAR-based procedures that will result in a firm fixed-price contract.  Any U.S. company could have submitted a proposal for a CCtCap contract. It is not limited to companies that earned previous contracts. However, all companies that submitted proposals should have demonstrated a level of maturity equivalent to the first phase of NASA certification efforts during the agency’s Certification Products Contract (CPC)
  9. Safe Haven: The spacecraft must be able to serve as a lifeboat, able to safely and quickly evacuate the space station’s crew in an emergency. It also must demonstrate it can serve as a 24-hour safe haven during an emergency in space and be able to stay docked to the station for at least 210 days.
  10.  Journey to Mars: By encouraging private companies to provide human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit – a region NASA’s been visiting since 1962 – the nation’s space agency can focus on getting the most research and experience out of America’s investment in the International Space Station. NASA also can focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions, including flights to Mars in the 2030s.

NASA and Commercial Partners Review Summer of Advancements

CCPlogoNASA’s spaceflight experts in the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) met throughout July with aerospace partners to review increasingly advanced designs, elements and systems of the spacecraft and launch vehicles under development as part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiatives.

“These discussions capitalize on all the aspects of working as partners instead of working solely as a customer and supplier,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “The partners are innovative in a number of developmental areas. We have a set of detailed criteria drawn up so we can adequately evaluate what they are doing and they can tell us where adjustments fit in with their system’s overall success. It’s exactly what we had in mind when we kicked off this effort four years ago.”

Read details of today’s news here.

Robotic Arm Tech Aids Surgical Robot KidsArm

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The gift of space-inspired robotics now goes beyond toys. They are lending a helping arm to pediatric doctors for children who require intensive surgical care.

The same companies which developed the robotic arms that helped astronauts build the International Space Station have now created a new research platform. Called KidsArm, this robot allows surgeons to quickly navigate to surgical sites in the body. It has an advanced imaging and control system that makes it extremely precise, and it is designed to explore the potential for automating certain demanding tasks in minimally invasive pediatric surgery — a challenge before without the tool’s assistance.