Flight Readiness Concludes for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test

Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, speaks during the flight readiness review for Boeing’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test in Operations Support Building 2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dec. 12, 2019.
Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, speaks during the flight readiness review for Boeing’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test in Operations Support Building 2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dec. 12, 2019. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The uncrewed Orbital Flight Test will be the Starliner’s first flight to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, speaks during the flight readiness review for Boeing’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test in Operations Support Building 2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dec. 12, 2019.
Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, speaks during the flight readiness review for Boeing’s upcoming Orbital Flight Test in Operations Support Building 2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dec. 12, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Boeing are proceeding with plans for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test following a full day of briefings and discussion called a Flight Readiness Review that took place at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The uncrewed flight test will be Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA is working with its commercial partners to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. Safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation to and from the space station will allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration.

NASA will hold a post-flight readiness review teleconference at 3 p.m. EST for media from Kennedy with the following representatives:

  • Jim Morhard, NASA Deputy Administrator
  • Phil McAlister, director, NASA Commercial Spaceflight Development
  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
  • John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • Steve Koerner, director, Flight Operations

Flight Readiness Review Begins for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing's Orbital Flight Test.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

NASA and Boeing are holding a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) today at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The review provides NASA and Boeing the opportunity to assess the mission status and work that needs to be completed prior to the critical flight test.

Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, is leading the meeting. The senior Boeing official at the review is Jim Chilton, senior vice president, Boeing Space and Launch.

Teams have gathered from across the agency and Boeing to hear presentations from key mission managers. The FRR is an in-depth assessment on the readiness of flight for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and systems, mission operations, support functions and readiness of the space station program to support Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station. The meeting will conclude with a poll of all members of the review board.

Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to rendezvous and dock with the orbiting laboratory. Launch is targeted for Friday, Dec. 20.

The flight test will provide valuable data NASA will review as part of the process to certify Boeing’s crew transportation system is as safe as possible for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner in Place at Space Launch Complex 41

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft rolls out from the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft rolls out from the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft arrives at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 21, 2019.
A transporter carrying the spacecraft arrives at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that will launch to the International Space Station on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has taken a significant step toward launch. Starliner rolled out of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, making the trek on a transport vehicle to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

At the pad, Starliner was hoisted up at the Vertical Integration Facility and secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for the flight test to the space station.

The Atlas V rocket that will carry Starliner comprises a booster stage and dual-engine Centaur upper stage, as well as a pair of solid rocket boosters.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019.
The spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The uncrewed flight test, targeted to launch Dec. 17, will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket, Starliner spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

The data will be used as part of NASA’s process of certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

NASA is working in partnership with Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011. Safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation to and from the space station will allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration.

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Liftoff: SpaceX Dragon en Route to Space Station

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the company's 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 25, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

At 6:01 p.m. EDT on July 25, 2019, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission.

Due to arrive at the International Space Station on July 27, the Dragon spacecraft contains multiple supplies, equipment and material critical for supporting science and research investigations at the space station.

CRS-18 Launch Scrubbed Due to Weather

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station – scheduled for this evening – has scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Launch is now scheduled for Thursday, July 25, at 6:01 p.m. EDT. Launch coverage will begin at 5:45 p.m. on NASA TV and the agency’s website. A launch on Thursday would result in the Dragon spacecraft arriving to the space station Saturday, July 27.

SpaceX CRS-18: Launch Countdown Milestones for July 24 Liftoff

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA is scheduled for 6:24 p.m. EDT with an instantaneous launch window. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been moved to the vertical launch position. Launch coverage will begin at 6 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s launch blog.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict a 30% chance of favorable weather for liftoff. The primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule, lightning rule and attached anvil rule.

Packed with more than 5,000 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, the Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Mission Timeline (all times approximate)
COUNTDOWN
– 00:38:00     SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
– 00:35:00     RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
– 00:35:00     1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
– 00:16:00     2nd stage LOX loading begins
– 00:07:58     Dragon transitions to internal power
– 00:07:00     Falcon 9 begins pre-launch engine chill
– 00:01:00     Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00     Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
– 00:00:45     SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:03     Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00     Falcon 9 liftoff

SpaceX CRS-18 Launch Now Targeted for Wednesday, July 24

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 6:24 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 24, for the company’s 18th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrive at the space station on Friday, July 26, filled with about 5,500 pounds of science, cargo and crew supplies for the microgravity laboratory.

SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon to Deliver New Space Station Docking Adapter for Commercial Crew Spacecraft

The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized "trunk" section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19.
The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized “trunk” section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

A new International Docking Adapter, called IDA-3, is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station this July aboard SpaceX’s 18th cargo resupply mission to the microgravity laboratory. When installed on the space station, the one-of-a-kind outpost will have two common ports enabling expanded opportunities for visiting vehicles, including new spacecraft designed to carry humans for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The docking adapters are the physical connections spacecraft like Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and future, yet-to-be designed international spacecraft will use to autonomously attach to station. The adapters are important because the plans are readily available for spacecraft builders and standardize a host of docking requirements.

The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized "trunk" section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19.
The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized “trunk” section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Currently stowed in the trunk of SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft, the IDA-3 was assembled at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and comprises of a number of sensors that spacecraft will communicate with and connect to through use of onboard computers and navigation systems.  Docking requires no crew assistance and can be completed much more quickly than the berthing process often used for cargo spacecraft today, which may involve astronauts aboard the station manually capturing spacecraft using a robotic arm then maneuvering the craft to attach to a common hatch mechanism.

IDA-3 is one of the primary payloads on the SpaceX resupply mission and is identical to the International Docking Adapter-2, IDA-2, installed in the summer of 2016. IDA-2 was used by SpaceX during the company’s first uncrewed flight test, called Demo-1, for commercial crew. Both docking adapters were built by Boeing.

Once at the space station, flight controllers will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove the IDA-3 from Dragon’s trunk and place it over a Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-3) on the station’s Harmony module, or Node 2. Later this summer, two Expedition 60 crew members will perform a spacewalk to permanently install the IDA-3 to PMA-3.

The SpaceX CRS-18 mission is scheduled to launch at 7:35 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 21, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After its arrival, the Dragon cargo spacecraft will remain at the space station for about a month.

Students Show off Plant Research at Symposium in Miami

Trent Smith, left, and Gioia Massa give a talk on Veggie at the Student Research Symposium in Miami on April 27, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis
Trent Smith, left, and Gioia Massa give a talk on Veggie at the Student Research Symposium in Miami on April 27, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis

By Rachel Cox
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Students from around the country convened with NASA scientists in Miami for the Student Research Symposium on April 27 as part of the Growing Beyond Earth program, a partnership between NASA and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Growing Beyond Earth is an educational outreach and citizen science program that reaches over 170 middle and high schools from Florida, Colorado and Puerto Rico. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center plant production scientists Gioia Massa and Trent Smith train teachers, who then receive plant growth chambers that mimic Veggie, the space garden residing on the International Space Station.

Students and teachers listen to Ray Wheeler discuss the history of plant research for space. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis
Students and teachers listen to Ray Wheeler discuss the history of plant research for space. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis

In the fall, students set up their plant growth chambers and conduct experiments designed by Fairchild in conjunction with Kennedy.

“Every year, it’s something different,” Massa explained. “Last year, they were looking at photoperiod, how plants respond to different durations of light. This year, they’re looking at the neighbor effect, how different plants influence each other by growing next to each other.”

Since the beginning of the program, students have tested approximately 130 plant varieties under different conditions. Some schools are in high humidity areas, like Puerto Rico, while others have low humidity, like Colorado. Sometimes students overwater their plants; other times they forget. Sometimes the power goes out over the weekend. Plants that do well across these different environments make good candidates for space.

Both middle and high schools participate in new crop testing. But after getting a good grasp on the system in the fall, high school students can take it a step further and design independent experiments in the spring. These projects were the focus of the Miami symposium; 34 high schools presented their independent research, plus 17 middle schools presented their work on new crop testing.

“We had the students testing some really creative things,” Massa said. One project looked at using nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the substrate. Another 3D printed different containers.

The students created scientific posters, just like a NASA scientist would for a conference, with sections for the abstract, introduction, materials, results, conclusion and references. Fairchild printed out the posters, and the students presented them. Then Massa and her colleagues judged them on their poster, the quality of their project and presentation, the significance to NASA and how well they understood it.

Twelve Kennedy employees supported the event, including Bryan Onate, chief of the Life Sciences and Utilization Division, and Josie Burnett, director of Exploration Research and Technology Programs, along with plant production scientists and interns. Massa, Smith and Ray Wheeler gave talks to the students about Veggie and plant space research.

SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon Launch on Resupply Mission to International Space Station

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft on the company's 17th mission to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station
Image credit: NASA TV

Dragon successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:48 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying more than 5,500 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the International Space Station.

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