Water System Tested on Crew Access Arm

Photos of the Emergency Evacuation Water Test at the CCP Crew Access Arm in Oak Hill, for Boeing/ULA.Photos of the Emergency Evacuation Water Test at the CCP Crew Access Arm in Oak Hill, for Boeing/ULA. Engineers and technicians gathered at dusk recently at a construction site near Kennedy Space Center in Florida to test systems that will support Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The Crew Access Arm and White Room saw some of the most dynamic testing thus far, when hundreds of gallons of water were sprayed along the arm and beneath it for an evaluation of its water deluge system. The system is a key safety feature for future launches on the Starliner, one of two commercial spacecraft in development to carry astronauts to the station.

In the unlikely event of an emergency, astronauts ready to launch on future missions aboard the Starliner would need a clear, safe path to exit. The arm and attached white room will provide a bridge between the Crew Access Tower and the spacecraft, as it prepares to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Two rounds of testing in different lighting conditions checked whether the water system could cover the arm adequately and the LED lights were up to the task of helping guide astronauts to safety.

The test mimicked what the system would need to do at the launch pad in case of an emergency. The tower’s main structure is already standing at Space Launch Complex 41, the launch site for the Starliner. After more testing on other systems, the arm will be moved to the launch pad later this summer before being lifted into place on the tower.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight capabilities to the U.S. on commercial spacecraft. Boeing and SpaceX are developing separate spacecraft and launch systems along with a network of mission and ground support capabilities. Commercial crew flights will add an additional crew member to the station, effectively doubling the amount of time dedicated to research aboard the orbiting laboratory.

I Will Launch America: Ian Kappes

I_Will_Launch_Ian_final-lrgBefore anything is visible to even the most discerning eye surveying the launch vehicle, computers and multitudes of sensors on the rocket can pick up minuscule problems and correct for them. Making sure they do so correctly is part of the work of Ian Kappes, lead of the launch vehicle avionics systems team for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“The avionics systems and its software are the brain and central nervous system of the entire launch vehicle,” Kappes said. “It is really just like our body’s nervous system – avionics tells you all sorts of information about the vehicle. It’s making the decisions necessary to fly. The avionics is telling you when equipment is within its parameters or when something will fail. It is also cross-communicating between the booster stages and the spacecraft, because the spacecraft and its crew need to know what’s going on with the vehicle.”

Kappes’ team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida works in tandem with engineers at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Armstrong Flight Research Center in Mojave, California, to certify the systems Boeing and SpaceX plan to use for commercial crew flights to the station. That means many hours poring over avionics architecture designs, working directly with both partners to identify and control hazards, followed by avionics component and software integrated testing. Read the full story at http://go.nasa.gov/1pyBsQ2

 

Upgrades Establish Kennedy’s Future

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More than five years of careful thought, in-depth planning and detailed refurbishments have set up Kennedy Space Center for diverse exploration missions that will push astronauts and robotic spacecraft into new areas of accomplishment, said, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center director, Bob Cabana at the National Space Club Florida Committee meeting today in Cape Canaveral.

“We’re not just making a difference for Kennedy or even the nation, we’ve got a meaningful mission and we are making a difference for all of humankind,” Cabana, a former astronaut, told the group of about 375 in attendance.

By focusing on piloted missions to the International Space Station using Commercial Crew Program spacecraft, followed by Space Launch System and Orion flight tests, Kennedy has established a ground support network of launch pads and associated infrastructure needed to support missions to Mars by astronauts in the future. All of this while maintaining the center’s unique ability to launch historic robotic exploration missions such as Osiris-Rex that will bring back a sample from an asteroid. Other flights in the future will continue to decipher the mysteries of Mars as well as taking close looks at other planetary networks in the solar system.

The center has seen complete upgrades in many areas including the Launch Control Center, Launch Complex 39B and modifications to the Mobile Launcher tailored to the needs of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. Other facilities have been upgraded for commercial partners. The center’s new headquarters campus is under construction to deliver an environmentally friendly, energy efficient structure.

“Our future is absolutely outstanding,” Cabana said. “I believe the years we have ahead of us will be our best ever.”

View Mr. Cabana’s complete presentation here.

SpaceX Tests Transporter Erector

SpaceX-transerectorA critical piece of large equipment is being tested at Launch Complex 39A this week as SpaceX raises and lowers the transporter erector that will be used to move the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad for missions. Standing 212 feet high – more than 20 stories – the TE, as SpaceX calls the machine, will move launch-ready rockets and spacecraft from the processing hangar at the base of the pad up to the pad surface and into a vertical position over the flame trench.

The lift and lowering of the transporter erector are part of routine tests conducted on the pad to ensure all ground systems are prepared to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. The TE is a much larger and stronger version of the erector the company uses at Space Launch Complex 40, as it will also be used for processing and launching future Falcon Heavy rockets. Photo credit: SpaceX

Eve of Launch: 2016 Goals Vital to Commercial Crew Success

Commercial Crew AstronautsNASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its aerospace industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are on the eve of America’s return to human spaceflight launches. By the time the year closes, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will be poised for the flight tests that allow our astronauts to travel to the International Space Station lifting off from Florida’s Space Coast.

It won’t be easy. Successful missions will require a comprehensive testing regimen of numerous systems on the ground and in space. That is why the outline of tasks for 2016 is so important. The result of each evaluation will be vital in the design of the systems. From parachute tests, to launch pad certifications, to the completion of spacecraft that will fly into orbit, this year offers both companies opportunities to build on the momentum of 2015 and carry it through to landmark space achievements in 2017. Read the details of what NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its partners will be working on in 2016 to set us up for 2017 at http://go.nasa.gov/1UbVMjk

Bolden: Commercial Market in Low-Earth Orbit Serves Nation’s Journey to Mars

NASA Administrator Charles BoldenToday, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden blogged about the agency’s plan, vision and timetable for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. By building a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit, the agency is able to focus on simultaneously getting our astronauts to deep space. Kennedy, the agency’s premier multi-user spaceport, is home to two programs that are vital to this plan. The Commercial Crew Program will return our astronauts to the International Space Station on American systems launching from the United States. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is upgrading our facilities to support the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for our Journey to Mars.

Competition, innovation and technology – it’s the American way,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “It’s helping us to Launch America.”

Read more of Bolden’s blog at http://go.nasa.gov/1Q8VLNX

Astronauts Celebrate With Builders Topping of Crew Access Tower

Four astronauts training for test flights with NASA’s Commercial Crew program joined the festivities at Space Launch Complex 41 Thursday morning as one of the highest steel beams was placed on the Crew Access Tower during a “topping off” ceremony with United Launch Alliance, Boeing and Hensel Phelps at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site in Florida.

“It’s really an honor to get down here. We’re humbled to be a part of launching rockets for the United States again,” said Doug Hurley, a veteran of space shuttle missions and one of the four chosen to work closely with partners of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program during development, testing and training. Bob Behnken, Eric Boe and Suni Williams were also selected and took part in the employee-focused event.

“It’s amazing how many people it takes to get us into space,” Boe said.

A large crowd of employees from numerous companies gathered mid-morning to sign the 650-pound beam and watch a crane lift it into place atop the 200-foot-tall Crew Access Tower constructed over the past year. It was built in segments complete with stairs, cable trays and other fittings a few miles from the launch pad, then those segments were stacked on top of each other to form the tower. The Crew Access Arm and White Room the astronauts looked over today will be attached to the tower after several months’ of testing and fit checks.

“We’ve poured 1,000 cubic yards of concrete and mounted nearly 1 million pounds of steel, and we’ve done it in spectacular fashion,” said Howard Biegler, launch operations lead for ULA’s Human Launch Services.

Employees were asked to sign the beam before it was lifted into place and welded to the top of the tower.

“Today you are part of history,” said Kathy Lueders, program manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Stop and enjoy this moment. I hope everyone has been able to write their name on the beam because you are part of the critical safety network that is making this all possible.”

Prior to the ceremony at SLC-41, the astronauts toured the White Room and Crew Access Arm undergoing testing at a construction yard near Kennedy Space Center. The White Room will be the stepping off point to space for astronauts as they board a Boeing CST-100 Starliner for liftoff on a ULA Atlas V rocket. Designed as a clean area to keep contaminants out of the spacecraft and off the astronauts’ suits, white rooms are the place where technicians make last-minute additions to the spacesuit and make sure everything is ready to flight as the flight crew climbs inside for launch. White rooms have always been a part of NASA’s human spaceflight efforts, from Mercury to Gemini and Apollo to the space shuttle.

“This is the last thing that whoever flies the Starliner is going to see before they go into space,” Hurley told the workers who built the structures.

Boeing and SpaceX are developing a new generation of spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station beginning in 2017. Both companies are also deep into construction and modification of launch facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to safely host astronaut crews as they launch from American soil for the first time since 2011. Designs for launch facilities have been confirmed through NASA panels and in-depth examinations.

For Boeing, launching from SLC-41 meant building the Crew Access Tower, the first crew-focused structure at Cape Canaveral since Apollo 7. SpaceX is modifying historic Launch Pad 39A for its commercial crew missions on the Crew Dragon spacecraft launching on its Falcon 9 rockets. It also will have a White Room tailored to its designs that will offer astronauts and ground crew safety as they board and a way to leave the spacecraft in a hurry before launch in the unlikely event of an emergency. Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Astronauts to Mark Station’s 15-Year Anniversary

22588197126_8b6731d892_oHumans have lived aboard the International Space Station continuously for 15 years, a record accomplishment that astronauts and cosmonauts will discuss from orbit this morning at 10:05 eastern on NASA TV. Although placed in orbit in 1998, the station did not welcome its first three residents until Nov. 2, 2000. That was the day NASA astronaut Bill Shepard and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev docked with the fledgling orbital outpost.

It would take dozens more astronauts and cosmonauts along with space shuttle missions and more than 180 spacewalks to turn the station into the functioning, cutting-edge laboratory it is today. Expedition 45 crew members will talk to the world’s news media about the space exploration milestone and what it means for research for those on the Earth and how it will help our goals for deep-space exploration in the future. The anniversary also comes as NASA stands at the cusp of launching a new generation of human-rated spacecraft to the station with partners Boeing and SpaceX.

Well-suited for years more research from its unique place in space, the International Space Station will host twice as much research time when the new spacecraft – called the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon – begin making operational flights to orbit carrying four station crew members at a time.

Crew Access Tower Stacking Passes Midway Point

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The steel lattice column that will become the Crew Access Tower for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft continues its methodical rise at Space Launch Complex-41 where four of seven sections of the tower have been stacked.

Built four miles south, each section or tier, is being trucked to United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V launch pad where a crane lifts it into position. The tower will reach about 200 feet high when it’s finished.

Even after stacking is complete, the team will have plenty to do to outfit it for launch, including installing the elevator, white room, crew access arm and infrastructure lines. Since SLC-41 remains an operational facility while the tower is built, work on the tower is taking place between Atlas V launch operations.

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Boeing Wraps Up C3PF Mural Work

C3PF_partial_wrapThe new face of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) is complete. Workers placed the finishing touches of the building-sized mural on the rounded edges of the former Orbiter Processing Facility-3 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this week.

The image of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner orbiting above Florida highlights the C3PF’s role as the assembly and processing home for the company’s next-generation human-rated spacecraft. The Starliner is being built in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to re-establish America’s ability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from Florida’s Space Coast.

Spacecraft built in the C3PF will be launched into space from nearby Space Launch Complex-41 aboard United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets. NASA also is working with SpaceX on the Crew Dragon to take astronauts to the station.