NASA, Boeing, and ULA (United Launch Alliance) are readying the rocket that will launch the first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
The ULA Atlas V rocket was moved into the company’s Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, which starts the preparations for its stacking operations ahead of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test.
The rocket’s main stage was transferred from the nearby Advanced Spaceflight Operations Center to the integration facility Wednesday, Feb. 21, where it will await integration with the rocket’s upper Centaur stage and Starliner. The spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the orbiting laboratory for a short stay of about one to two weeks before returning to a landing site in the southwest United States.
The mission will test the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system, including launch, docking, and a return to Earth. After successful completion of the mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying Starliner and its systems for crewed rotation missions to the space station.
NASA and Boeing are targeting no earlier than late April for launch. Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests, including Orbital Flight Test-2, which docked to the space station on May 21, 2022, and provided valuable data leading up to its first crewed flight.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than 12:49 a.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 28, for the launch of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission to the International Space Station. The launch of Crew-8 was adjusted to deconflict operations with Intuitive Machines’ IM-1, the company’s first lunar lander mission to the Moon as part NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, currently targeted for Wednesday, Feb. 14. NASA and SpaceX will continue to assess Crew-8 readiness and may adjust the Crew-8 launch date following a successful IM-1 launch.
“The Commercial Crew Program has been following along with the IM-1 mission preparations, and we are wishing the Intuitive Machines and SpaceX teams all the best ahead of this extremely complex mission to the lunar surface,” said Steve Stich, program manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt, and Jeanette Epps, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin will lift off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to perform research, technology demonstrations, and maintenance activities aboard the space station. Crew-8 is the eighth crew rotation mission with SpaceX to station, and the ninth human spaceflight as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Thursday, Feb. 22, for the launch of the agency’s Crew-8 mission to the International Space Station. Crew-8 hardware and ground systems processing continues for the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket as operations teams recently completed critical crew trainings in preparation for launch.
NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, as well as Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin will travel to the orbiting laboratory aboard Crew-8 to begin a stay of about six months that will include research and operational tasks.
Crew-8 will fly to the space station aboard the Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, currently undergoing refurbishment for its fifth flight. The Dragon spacecraft previously supported NASA’s Demo-2, Crew-2, and Crew-6, as well as Axiom Space’s Axiom Mission 1 flights to and from the orbiting laboratory. As part of the refurbishment process, teams have installed new components such as the heatshield, parachutes, pod panels, Draco engines, and nosecone.
SpaceX recently completed Dragon’s propulsion system checkouts at the company’s processing facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Teams soon will stack Dragon on its trunk ahead of transporting the spacecraft to SpaceX’s hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the rocket.
Meanwhile, teams also are preparing the Falcon 9 booster that will be making its first flight on Crew-8. The booster recently completed stage testing and will undergo final assembly in the SpaceX hangar at Launch Complex 39A ahead of the Dragon and Falcon 9 mate. Once all rocket and spacecraft system checkouts are complete, the integrated stack will be rolled to the pad and raised to vertical for a static fire test prior to launch.
As part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Crew-8 is the ninth human spaceflight mission supported by a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and the eighth crew rotation mission to the space station since 2020 for NASA.
Follow the commercial crew blog for the latest information on Crew-8 progress and flight readiness as reviews and milestones continue. Details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the Crew-8 blog, the commercial crew blog, X, and Facebook.
NASA and Boeing are working to complete the agency’s verification and validation activities ahead of Starliner’s first flight with astronauts to the International Space Station. While Boeing is targeting March to have the spacecraft ready for flight, teams decided during a launch manifest evaluation that a launch in April will better accommodate upcoming crew rotations and cargo resupply missions this spring.
Once the spacecraft meets the agency’s safety requirements, NASA’s Boeing Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT) will see astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams perform the first crewed mission of the spacecraft designed to take astronauts to and from the orbital laboratory.
Ahead of CFT, Boeing has completed P213 tape removal in the upper dome of the Starliner crew compartment and work is underway to remove or remediate the tape in the lower dome of the spacecraft. These hardware remediation efforts inside the Starliner production facility at NASA Kennedy are expected to be completed during the next several weeks. After the P213 tape remediation efforts conclude, engineers will conduct final assessments to ensure acceptable risk of any remaining tape.
A set of parachutes is on track to be delivered and installed on the CFT spacecraft by the end of this year to support the current target launch date. Separately, the team also is planning a drop test of Starliner’s updated drogue and main parachutes. The parachutes will incorporate a planned strengthening of main canopy suspension lines and the recent design of the drogue and main parachute soft-link joints, which will increase the safety factor for the system. The drop test is planned for early 2024 based on the current parachute delivery schedule.
Boeing and NASA also are planning modifications to the active thermal control system valves to improve long-term functionality following a radiator bypass valve issue discovered during ground operations earlier this year. As discussed during a Starliner media teleconference in June, teams have modified the spacecraft hardware and identified forward work to prevent a similar issue in the future. Options include a system purge to prevent stiction, component upgrades and operational mitigations.
Additionally, about 98% of the certification products required for the flight test are complete, and NASA and Boeing anticipate closure on remaining CFT certification products early next year. Meanwhile, NASA and Boeing have made significant progress on requirement closures related to manual crew control of the spacecraft and abort system analysis.
The latest version of Starliner’s CFT flight software completed qualification testing and is undergoing standard hardware and software integration testing inside Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab. Starliner’s crew and service modules remain mated and await continuation of standard preflight processing.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket also is in Florida at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station awaiting integration with the spacecraft.
The NASA astronauts who will fly aboard CFT continue to train for their roughly eight-day mission to the orbiting laboratory, which includes working with operations and mission support teams to participate in various simulations across all phases of flight.
Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests, including Orbital Flight Test-2, which docked to the space station on May 21, 2022, following a launch two days prior from Kennedy. The spacecraft remained docked to space station for four days before successfully landing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission to the orbiting laboratory is targeted to launch no earlier than mid-February. The mission will carry NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, as well as Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin to the space station to conduct a wide range of operational and research activities. Routine maintenance and processing of the Crew-8 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft is in work. This will be the first spaceflight for Dominick, Epps, and Grebenkin, and the third for Barratt. Crew-8 is expected to return to Earth in late August 2024, following a short handover with the agency’s Crew-9 mission.
Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT)
The first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft, named NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), is planned for no earlier than mid-April. CFT will send NASA astronauts and test pilots Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a demonstration flight to prove the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system. Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, spend approximately eight days docked to the space station, and return to Earth with a parachute and airbag-assisted ground landing in the desert of the western United States.
NASA will provide an updated status of CFT readiness as more information becomes available.
Looking further ahead in 2024, NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than mid-August for the launch of the agency’s Crew-9, SpaceX’s ninth crew rotation mission to the space station for NASA. A crew of four will be announced at a later date.
10th Crew Rotation Mission
The 10th commercial crew rotation opportunity to the space station is targeted for early 2025. NASA is planning for either SpaceX’s Crew-10 or Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission in this slot. The Starliner-1 date was adjusted to allow for the post-flight review of the Crew Flight Test and incorporation of anticipated learning, approvals of final certification products, and completion of readiness and certification reviews ahead of that mission.
NASA and SpaceX are standing down from the Friday, Aug. 25, launch opportunity for the agency’s Crew-7 mission to the International Space Station. Launch now is targeted at 3:27 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, for SpaceX’s seventh crew rotation mission to the microgravity laboratory for NASA. More to come.
The crew that will soon launch to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 mission arrived Sunday at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to start final preparations for liftoff.
Crew members NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, commander; ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, pilot; and mission specialists JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov, landed via Gulfstream jet aircraft at the Launch and Landing Facility at Kennedy after departing from Ellington Field near the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The flight crew will be greeted at arrival by leaders from NASA, JAXA, and ESA.
A media event is scheduled about 12:15 p.m. EDT with the following participants:
Bill Nelson, administrator, NASA
Bob Cabana, associate administrator, NASA
Janet Petro, director, NASA Kennedy
Dana Hutcherson, deputy manager, Commercial Crew Program
Eric van der Wal, lead, International Space Station Program Houston Office, ESA
Junichi Sakai, program manager, International Space Station, JAXA
NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, spacecraft commander
Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov, mission specialist
The event is scheduled to broadcast live, if weather permits, on NASA Television and the agency’s website. No teleconference option is available for this event.
Crew members are scheduled to lift off at 3:49 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 25, aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carried by a Falcon 9 rocket for a full duration mission to the space station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).
This is the seventh crew rotation flight and the eighth human spaceflight mission on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station for CCP. Details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the Crew-7 blog, the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on X, and commercial crew on Facebook.
The target launch date for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 mission to the International Space Station now is 3:49 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 25. Additional time was required for teams to complete pad readiness after SpaceX’s recent Falcon Heavy mission lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The adjustment also takes advantage of consecutive launch opportunities and deconflicts the station’s cargo spacecraft traffic schedule.
NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket aboard the company’s Dragon spacecraft.
Crew-7 is scheduled to dock to the orbiting laboratory about 2:45 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module. If needed, Crew-7 has additional launch opportunities on Saturday, Aug. 26 and Sunday, Aug. 27.
Young artists, ages 4-12 years old, from all over the world came together to make NASA’s 2023 Commercial Crew Program Children’s Artwork Calendar contest the biggest one yet!
Children from the United States, India, South Korea, and all points in between submitted 2,260 works of art for this year’s contest, which ran from Sept. 2 through Oct. 27. These pint-sized Picassos submitted unique and original artwork featuring NASA themes such as rockets and spacecraft, astronauts, living and working in space, and exploring the solar system.
Entries were judged on originality and theme, with 36 masterpieces selected first, second, and third place winners in their respective age groups and space-themed categories. One first place entrant per theme per age group will be showcased in large format in the calendar, while second place winners per theme per age group will be printed in small form on each month, and third place winners per theme per age group will have their artwork printed on the back of the calendar as a collage. Each winning artist will receive a printed copy of the calendar, and digital copies of the calendar can be downloaded here.
The CCP art contest began in 2015 to celebrate the creativity and vision of the next generation of space explorers. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program works with American companies to build new rockets and spacecraft for launching astronauts into space, to the International Space Station. The spaceships launch from Florida and take astronauts about 250 miles above the surface of Earth to space station to perform experiments that make our lives better and prepare future astronauts for longer missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program thanks all the young artists and families who reached for the stars and made this year’s calendar truly stellar!
NASA and SpaceX are standing down from the Oct. 13 departure opportunity for the agency’s Crew-4 mission from the International Space Station due to increased winds forecast in the splashdown area.
Mission teams will meet later in the day to determine the next target for Crew-4’s undocking to begin their return trip to Earth completing a nearly six-month science mission in orbit. The next available undocking opportunity is no earlier than 11:35 a.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 14.
NASA and SpaceX will continue to monitor a cold front passing over Florida bringing high winds and rainy weather near the splashdown zones off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Crew-4’s Dragon undocking depends on a variety of factors, including spacecraft readiness, recovery team readiness, weather, sea states, and other factors. Dragon Freedom remains healthy while currently docked to the space station.