NASA, Boeing Teams Achieve Milestone Ahead of Crewed Flight

NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test AMR rehearsal
From left, Starliner Flight Crew Integration Manager Tony Ceccacci, and NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams participate in a mission rehearsal at Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab in Houston. Photo credit: Boeing/Steven Siceloff

NASA and Boeing recently completed a full start to finish integrated mission dress rehearsal for the company’s CST-100 Starliner flight with astronauts to the International Space Station, which is scheduled to launch in April 2023.

The Crew Flight Test, or CFT, will launch NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams on Starliner – atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket – from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

During several days at Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab (ASIL) in Houston, the ASIL Mission Rehearsal (AMR) combined tests of software and crew systems, along with operations teams. The completion of the end-to-end mission rehearsal clears a path for the next CFT milestones, including working with the crew and flight controllers on various integrated failure scenarios and a series of flight-day parameter updates that will become available as the team nears launch day.

“Testing is a key component to the success of a human space program,” said NASA Commercial Crew Program Software Certification Manager Chad Schaeffer. “The AMR and the integrated failure scenarios are excellent examples of the rigorous testing teams are performing on Starliner. The rehearsal went well and reflects the continued improvement in executing this test and helps pave the way to the much anticipated first crewed flight.”

During the rehearsal, Wilmore and Williams, along with fellow NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, worked through mission milestones in coordination with mission operations teams located inside flight control rooms at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Starliner engineering teammates also supported from Boeing’s Mission Control Center located in Florida.

The crew members worked in a flight deck simulator networked to control rooms and avionics, operating the same software that will be used during CFT. They effectively demonstrated the software is ready to operate Starliner during prelaunch, launch, docking to the space station, undocking, and the return to Earth through landing.

The AMR provided end-to-end testing of hardware configuration, software, communications, preparation configuring hardware and software, routing communications channels, and mapping simulated sensor data. Similar testing was performed ahead of NASA and Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) uncrewed mission in early 2022.

“We began conducting AMRs with the creation of OFT-2, and the integrated team has continued to get more efficient with each rehearsal,” said Aaron Kraftcheck, Starliner avionics software integration and test manager. “With the participation of our astronauts in this CFT AMR, we have enhanced the team dynamics, and continued to learn and adjust, which is what AMR is all about.”

Briefings, Interviews Set for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 Mission

NASA's SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts
The four crew members who comprise NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission are seated inside the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft during a training session at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left are Mission Specialist Andrey Fedyaev, Pilot Woody Hoburg, Commander Stephen Bowen, and Mission Specialist Sultan Al Neyadi. Photo credit: SpaceX

A pair of news conferences on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will highlight the agency’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station in February. The mission is NASA’s sixth crew rotation flight involving a U.S. commercial spacecraft carrying crew for a science expedition aboard the microgravity laboratory.

First up, a mission overview news conference at noon EST, followed by a crew news conference at 2 p.m. Both will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

The Crew-6 mission will carry NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, as well as UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. Crew members also will be available for individual interviews after 3:30 p.m.

The Falcon 9 rocket, with Dragon Endeavour spacecraft atop, scheduled to launch no earlier than Feb. 26 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Click here to read the full release.

NASA Invites Media to Next SpaceX Commercial Crew Space Station Launch

NASA's SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts
The four crew members who comprise the SpaceX Crew-6 mission pose for a photo in their spacesuits during a training session at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left are, Mission Specialist Andrey Fedyaev, Pilot Warren “Woody” Hoburg, Commander Stephen Bowen, and Mission Specialist Sultan Al Neyadi. Photo credit: SpaceX

Media accreditation is now open for the launch of the sixth SpaceX commercial crew mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

The earliest targeted launch date for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission is mid-February 2023, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, mated atop a Falcon 9 rocket will carry two NASA astronauts, Mission Commander Stephen Bowen, and Pilot Woody Hoburg, along with UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, who will join as mission specialists.

Click here to read the complete release.

Weather Provides Perfect Backdrop for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Liftoff

Crew-5 liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance, lift off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 5, 2022, for the Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

It was a picture-perfect launch during a sun-splashed afternoon on Florida’s Space Coast, as NASA astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann, and Josh Cassada, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina blasted off from Kennedy Space Center on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission.

“The weather couldn’t have been better here at the Kennedy Space Center,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at Johnson Space Center in Houston, during a postlaunch news conference at Kennedy about 90 minutes after launch. “We didn’t have to look at any weather on a monitor, we could just look out the window and see a beautiful blue sky.”

NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 crew members wave at Kennedy Space Center
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 crew members wave outside of Kennedy Space Center’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on Oct. 5, 2022. From left are: Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the company’s Dragon spacecraft – named Endurance – atop, lifted off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A at noon EDT. Crew members are now a few hours into their 29-hour trip to the International Space Station for a science expedition mission.

“It was an outstanding launch,” said Joel Montalbano, manager of the International Space Station Program at Johnson. “Just a fantastic day to be in human spaceflight.”

Crew-5 marks the first spaceflight for Mann, Cassada, and Kikina, and the fifth for Wakata. This is the sixth SpaceX flight with NASA astronauts – including the Demo-2 test flight in 2020 to the space station – as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Mann has become the first Native American woman in space.

After docking, Crew-5 crewmates will be welcomed inside the station by the seven-member crew of Expedition 68. The astronauts of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission will undock from the space station and splash down off the coast of Florida later this month.

•Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, participates in the postlaunch news conference at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

“These are real human endeavors, and there’s a team here that had to recover from the hurricane (Ian) last week,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “The fact that we’re here today is a testimony to all the work that team did.”

Crew-5 is scheduled for a long-duration stay of up to six months aboard the space station before returning to Earth in the spring of 2023. The crew will conduct new scientific studies to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth.

Planned experiments include studies on printing human organs in space, understanding fuel systems operating on the Moon, and advancing research in heart disease. These are just some of the more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations that will take place during the Crew-5 mission.

Safely in orbit, Endurance remains on schedule for a rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory for tomorrow’s main activities.

“Dragon has completed its initial on-orbit checkouts and soon it will start performing a series of burns that will help it catch up with the International Space Station for docking tomorrow,” said Sarah Walker, director of Dragon Mission Management at SpaceX.

NASA TV and the agency’s website are providing comprehensive coverage of upcoming Crew-5 events. On Thursday, Oct. 6, live mission coverage begins at 3:15 a.m. EDT – continuing through Dragon spacecraft docking at 4:57 p.m. EDT, hatch opening at 6:42 p.m., and the welcome ceremony at the space station at 8:15 p.m.

More details about the mission can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on Twitter, or commercial crew on Facebook.

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

Dragon Spacecraft Reaches Orbit, News Conference at 1:30 p.m. EDT

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann, commander; Josh Cassada, pilot; and mission specialists JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina has safely reached orbit, and the nosecone has been opened.

At 1:30 p.m., NASA will host a postlaunch news conference from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be broadcast live on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Participants in the briefing will be:

      • Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
      • Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
      • Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station Program, NASA Johnson
      • Sarah Walker, director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX
      • Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate
      • Sergei Krikalev, executive director, Human Space Flight Programs, Roscosmos

Crew-5 will dock at the space station on Thursday, Oct. 6, at approximately 4:57 p.m. EDT. Live mission coverage begins at 3:15 a.m. EDT and continues through Dragon spacecraft docking and the welcome ceremony at the space station.

Follow along with mission activities and get more information at the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on Twitter, or commercial crew on Facebook.

Separation Confirmed! Crew Dragon Endurance Leaves Behind Second Stage

The Dragon Endurance spacecraft has separated from the second stage. The spacecraft is traveling at approximately 17,500 miles per hour.

Stage 1 Successfully Lands on SpaceX Drone Ship

Crew-5 stage 1 landing on SpaceX drone ship
Stage 1 of the Falcon 9 rocket lands on the company’s drone ship on Oct. 5, 2022. Credit: NASA

Stage 1 of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket completed its descent and successfully landed on the company’s drone ship, Just Read the Instructions, off the coast of Florida.

Shutdown of the Second Stage Engine

Shutdown of the second stage engine occurred right on time. All is proceeding as planned.

Second Stage Engine Continues to Burn

The second stage engine continues to burn. About 8 minutes into flight, all is well.

Crew-5 Reports Trajectory Nominal

The positive call came in from Crew-5 Commander Nicole Mann that trajectory is nominal. The first stage has started its descent.