Boeing’s Starliner Makes Progress Ahead of Flight Test with Astronauts

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, left, Mike Fincke, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, right
NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, left, Mike Fincke, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, right, pose for a photograph on Sept. 11, 2019, as they, along with teams from NASA, Boeing and the White Sands Missile Range, rehearse landing and crew extraction from Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing continue to make progress toward the company’s second uncrewed flight test of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft prior to flying astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The Commercial Crew Program currently is targeting no earlier than December 2020 for launch of the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) pending hardware readiness, flight software qualification, and launch vehicle and space station manifest priorities.

Over the summer, Boeing’s Starliner team focused on readying the next spacecraft for its upcoming flight tests as well as making improvements identified during various review processes throughout the beginning of the year. NASA also announced an additional crew assignment for its first operational mission, NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1, with astronauts to the space station.

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Cassidy and Behnken Wrap up Battery Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken is pictured tethered to the space station during a spacewalk to swap batteries on the orbiting lab's truss structure.
NASA astronaut Bob Behnken is pictured tethered to the space station’s truss structure during a spacewalk to swap batteries and route cables.

NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Robert Behnken concluded their spacewalk at 12:14 p.m. EDT. During the six hour and one-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts completed half the work to upgrade the batteries that provide power for one channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. The new batteries provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for operations.

They successfully moved and connected one new, powerful lithium-ion battery and its adapter place to complete the circuit to the new battery and relocated one aging nickel-hydrogen battery to an external platform for future disposal.

They also loosened the bolts on nickel-hydrogen batteries that will be replaced to complete the power capability upgrade on the far starboard truss and complete the station’s battery replacement work that began in January 2017 with the first series of power upgrade spacewalks. Behnken and Cassidy will complete the work during the final two spacewalks later this month.

Cassidy and Behnken also will route power and ethernet cables in preparation for the installation of a new external wireless communications system with an enhanced HD camera and to increase helmet camera coverage for future spacewalks. To support future power system upgrades, they also will remove a device called an “H-Fixture” that was installed before the solar arrays were launched to the space station.

This was the eighth spacewalk for both each astronaut. Cassidy now has spent a total of 43 hours and 22 minutes spacewalking. Behnken has now spent a total of 49 hours and 41 minutes spacewalking.

Behnken and NASA astronaut Doug Hurley arrived at the space station in May aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program’s Demo-2 mission. The end-to-end test flight is designed to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations, paving the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station.

Space station crew members have conducted 229 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 60 days and 34 minutes working outside the station.

At 4 p.m. today, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will discuss her upcoming second mission to the International Space Station, along with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, during a news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston that will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

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

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2: NASA Television Coverage, Weather Update

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon stand at Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020, during the first launch attempt for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. Image credit: NASA TV

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 30, for the launch of the first commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. The first launch attempt, on May 27, was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and Launch Complex 39A systems are all in good shape overnight from yesterday’s launch attempt.

NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 crew members wave to their families, friends and support team members as they prepare to depart for Launch Complex 39A. Image credit: NASA TV
NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew members wave to their families, friends and support team members as they prepare to depart for Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

Launch coverage on Saturday, May 30, will begin at 11 a.m. on NASA Television, on the web at http://www.nasa.gov/live and here on the blog.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and is scheduled to dock to the space station at 10:29 a.m. Sunday, May 31.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. The primary weather concerns for launch are flight through precipitation, anvil and cumulus clouds.

FORECAST DETAILS

Clouds                      Coverage           Bases (feet)             Tops (feet)
Cumulus                    Scattered            3,000                         12,000
Cirrostratus               Broken              25,000                       28,000

Weather/Visibility:  Rain showers/7 miles
Temperature:  84 degrees

Live NASA coverage is as follows. All times are EDT:

Friday, May 29

  • 10 a.m. – Administrator Countdown Clock Briefing (weather permitting)
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana
    • NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren
    • NASA astronaut Nicole Mann

Saturday, May 30

  • 11 a.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins (continues through docking)
    • 3:22 p.m. – Liftoff
    • 4:09 p.m. – Crew Dragon phase burn
    • 4:55 p.m. – Far-field manual flight test
    • TBD p.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
  • 6:30 p.m. – Postlaunch news conference at Kennedy
    • Administrator Bridenstine
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester

Mission operational coverage will continue on NASA TV’s Media Channel.

Sunday, May 31

  • TBD a.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
  • 10:29 a.m. – Docking
  • 12:45 p.m. – Hatch Open
  • 1:05 p.m. – Welcome ceremony
  • 3:15 p.m. – Post-arrival news conference at Johnson
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer
    • NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester

Mission operational coverage will continue on NASA TV’s Media Channel.

Monday, June 1

  • 11:15 a.m. – Space Station crew news conference, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley
  • 12:55 p.m. – SpaceX employee event and Class of 2020 Mosaic presentation, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley

This will be SpaceX’s final test flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, and landing operations.

The test flight also will provide valuable data toward certification of SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX currently is readying the hardware for the first space station crew rotational mission, which would happen after data from this test flight is reviewed for certification.

Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Rescheduled for Saturday, May 30

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft at Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

NASA and SpaceX scrubbed Wednesday’s launch attempt of the Demo-2 flight test to the International Space Station due to unfavorable weather conditions around Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Launch has been rescheduled to Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 p.m. EDT.

“I know there’s a lot of disappointment today. The weather got us,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “But it was a great day for NASA. It was a great day for SpaceX. Our teams worked together in a really impressive way, making good decisions all along.”

NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 crew members wave to their families, friends and support team members as they prepare to depart for Launch Complex 39A. Image credit: NASA TV
NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew members wave to their families, friends and support team members as they prepare to depart for Launch Complex 39A. Image credit: NASA TV

The countdown proceeded smoothly throughout the day Wednesday, with no technical issues raised regarding the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket or the Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley suited up, walked out of Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building and rode out to the launch complex in a Tesla Model X before climbing on board the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft a few minutes ahead of schedule.

However, later in the countdown, with operations underway to load the rocket’s propellants and the instantaneous launch window of 4:33 p.m. EDT drawing near, launch weather officials briefed SpaceX Launch Director Mike Taylor that there just wasn’t enough time to wait for weather to improve. Rain, cumulus clouds, attached anvil clouds, lightning and field mill data – which measure the amount of electricity in the atmosphere – all violated Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon launch criteria at times throughout the day.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew members Douglas Hurley, foreground, and Robert Behnken, inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft at Launch Complex 39A. Image credit: NASA TV

“There was a concern that if we did launch, it could actually trigger lightning,” Bridenstine said. “We made the right decision.”

SpaceX’s decision to reschedule launch was made with only 17 minutes remaining until the anticipated liftoff time.

“We can see raindrops on the windows,” Hurley said as he and Behnken received the news that weather had prevented a liftoff Wednesday. “We understand everybody’s probably a little bummed out, but that’s part of the deal,” he added.

SpaceX removed propellant from the Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon’s launch escape system was disarmed and the crew access arm and White Room were returned to position beside the spacecraft’s side hatch. Hurley and Behnken exited the Crew Dragon at approximately 5:50 p.m. and departed to return to the Astronaut Crew Quarters inside the Operations and Checkout Building.

“Everybody did great today,” Hurley said before the crew climbed out of the spacecraft. “It was a good practice, and we’ll do it again on Saturday.”

Today’s launch countdown was a valuable experience, Bridenstine pointed out.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

“We did a wet dress rehearsal. We haven’t done a wet dress rehearsal with our astronauts, full gear, before,” he said. “We learn a lot every time we do these things, and today was no different.”

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission will be an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, paving the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It will be the first launch of American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil in nearly a decade, since the retirement of the space shuttle following its final flight, STS-135, in 2011.

Launch coverage on Saturday, May 30, will begin at 11 a.m. on NASA Television, on the web at http://www.nasa.gov/live and here on the blog.

SpaceX Demo-2: Astronauts Exit Crew Dragon after Scrub, NASA Administrator Remarks on NASA TV

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

SpaceX completed propellant offload of the Falcon 9 rocket after weather scrubbed today’s launch attempt for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Station. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have exited the Crew Dragon spacecraft and are departing the Launch Complex 39A area at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew now will head back to Astronaut Crew Quarters.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will make remarks shortly from Kennedy to close out today’s launch coverage.

Our next launch attempt will be at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Launch coverage will begin at 11 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website, as well as numerous other platforms. A launch Saturday would lead to docking Sunday about 10:20 a.m.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Launch Rescheduled to Saturday Due to Weather

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

NASA and SpaceX have scrubbed today’s launch attempt of the Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Station with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley due to unfavorable weather conditions around Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX will begin removing propellant from the Falcon 9 rocket and then the astronauts will exit the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Launch coverage will continue until the crew has left the pad for Astronaut Crew Quarters.

Our next launch attempt will be at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

RP-1, First-Stage Liquid Oxygen Loading Begin

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

At Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, valves are open and propellants are beginning to flow into the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Atop the rocket is the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, with two NASA astronauts – Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley – safely strapped inside. Liftoff on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station remains planned for an instantaneous launch window at 4:33 p.m. EDT.

Crew Dragon’s Launch Escape System is Armed

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

The Crew Dragon’s launch escape system (LES), consisting of a set of eight SuperDraco engines integrated into the spacecraft’s body, has been armed in preparation for launch. The LES is designed to separate the spacecraft from the Falcon 9 rocket and carry the crew away to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency.

The system was tested during January’s uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test to show the Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket. For that test, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about a minute and a half after liftoff. All major functions were performed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

Team ‘Go’ to Load Propellants into the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV
The crew access arm, at right, moves away from the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The crew access arm, at right, moves away from the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Image credit: NASA TV

SpaceX Launch Director Mike Taylor just verified the launch team is “go” to begin loading the Falcon 9 rocket’s propellants – liquid oxygen and a refined, rocket-grade kerosene called RP-1 – into the rocket’s first and second stages. That should begin in about 10 minutes.

The crew access arm that provided a walkway for the SpaceX Demo-2 crew earlier today is being retracted away from the rocket.

The rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are in good shape; the team continues to monitor weather.

Where Will the Station Be at Launch Time?

International Space Station in low-Earth orbit
In this image from October 2018, the fully completed station continues its mission to conduct microgravity research and experiments — ranging from human physiology to astronomy aboard humanity’s only orbital laboratory. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission is targeted to lift off at 4:33 p.m. EDT. At that time, the International Space Station will be flying at an altitude of 256 miles over Iraq, west of Baghdad.