NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Named Federal Engineer of the Year

Steve Stich is the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
Steve Stich, now manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, monitors the countdown during a dress rehearsal in preparation for the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in firing room four of the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has named Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), as the agency’s Federal Engineer of the Year. Sponsored by Professional Engineers in Government, the award honors engineers of federal agencies that employ at least 50 engineers worldwide.

Stich was recognized during a virtual award ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 24, alongside recipients from the National Park Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and others.

“This is such an honor and one granted based on the tremendous team with which I am privileged to work,” Stich said. “I’m so proud of everything that we’ve accomplished together, and I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead this year for CCP and NASA as a whole.”

Stich oversees the development of commercial spacecraft and the certification required to safely send astronauts to the International Space Station. As the CCP manager, Stich played a role in returning human spaceflight capability to the United States following the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

He led the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission that carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the space station and returned them safely to Earth, validating SpaceX’s transportation system for recurring, operational missions to the orbiting laboratory. Leading up to the mission, Stich provided final approval on vehicle design changes and system and vehicle component certifications. He also oversaw additional testing as required to reduce technical risk.

In the citation released from NASA Johnson Space Center’s Award Office, Stich is recognized for his “exceptional leadership, vehicle design expertise, and risk-mitigation, paving the way for NASA to enable commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) space transportation and for expanding access to space for users across the government, commercial customers, and academia.”

He first started his career at NASA in 1987 and, since then, has led teams within multiple organizations and programs, including Johnson’s Engineering, NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, the shuttle program, and Johnson’s Advanced Exploration Systems. His more than 33 years of expertise at NASA has allowed the agency to continue conducting technology and research investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory and also helped lay the framework for future deep space exploration missions under the Artemis program.

For a full list of award recipients, as well as the top 10 finalists for the NSPE 2021 Federal Engineer of the Year, visit https://www.nspe.org/resources/interest-groups/government/federal-engineer-the-year.

Artemis I Boosters Take Shape

The Space Launch System solid rocket boosters are being stacked on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The twin solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) are being stacked on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The boosters will power SLS on the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Booster stacking continues! The second to last set of segments for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters were placed on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs transported the segments from the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility, where they have been since June. Once fully stacked, each booster will stand nearly 17 stories tall. The twin boosters will power the first flight of the agency’s new deep space rocket during the Artemis I mission. This uncrewed flight later this year will test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights.

NASA’s Space Launch System Receives Another Major Boost

SLS solid rocket boosters
The solid rocket boosters will power the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The third of five sets of solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket were placed on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The middle segments, painted with the iconic “worm” logo, were lifted onto the launcher by Jacobs and Exploration Ground Systems engineers using the VAB’s 325-ton crane.

The twin boosters will power the first flight of the agency’s new deep space rocket on its first Artemis Program mission. Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight to test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights.

NASA, SpaceX to Launch Second Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station

Members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station participated in training in Hawthorne, California on Jan. 11, 20201. Pictured from left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Photo Credit: SpaceX
Members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station participated in training in Hawthorne, California, on Jan. 11, 2021. Pictured from left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Photo Credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Tuesday, April 20, for launch of the second crew rotation mission with astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from the United States to the International Space Station.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission will launch four astronauts aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the space station. It will be the first mission to fly two international partner crew members as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join as mission specialists.

The mission will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long-duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.

Crew-2 also is expected to arrive at the space station to overlap with the astronauts that flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

Return of Crew-1 with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, is currently scheduled for late April or early May. Crew-2 astronauts are set to return in fall 2021.

NASA and SpaceX also continue preparations for the launch of the agency’s Crew-3 mission, which currently is targeted for fall of this year.

Kennedy Space Center Honors Fallen Heroes of Human Spaceflight

Kennedy Space Center’s Day of Remembrance ceremony will take place Jan. 28, 2021, at the Kennedy Visitor Complex’s Space Mirror Memorial. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

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The crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other fallen astronauts who lost their lives in the name of space exploration and discovery, will be honored by NASA Kennedy Space Center employees and guests with a ceremony at the Kennedy Visitor Complex’s Space Mirror Memorial.

The Day of Remembrance ceremony is set for Thursday, Jan. 28, at 11 a.m. Honoree family member Sheryl Chaffee (daughter of former  NASA astronaut Roger Chaffee) will be in attendance. Speakers include Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro, retired Space Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach, and Astronauts Memorial Foundation President and CEO Thad Altman.

“From Apollo 1 to the crews of Challenger and Columbia, we are humbled as we recall the sacrifices of the brave men and woman who gave their lives for the broader cause of exploring and understanding our universe,” Cabana said. “Each year, on this day, we commit to not only remembering their legacies but dedicate ourselves to ensuring the safety of those who come in the future.”

The date marks the 35th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy. NASA centers throughout the country participate in the agency’s annual memorial event.

All CDC and local health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus — including physical distancing and face coverings — will be followed at the event, which is limited to 100 guests. Click here to view the ceremony live on Kennedy’s Facebook page.

Following the commemoration, a wreath laying ceremony will take place at the Space Mirror Memorial. Attendees will be given flowers to pay respects to our fallen heroes.

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization that built and maintains the Space Mirror Memorial. The mirror was dedicated in 1991 to honor all astronauts who lost their lives on missions or during training. It has been designated a National Memorial by Congress.

Click here for more information about Kennedy Space Center.

NASA and Boeing Target New Launch Date for Next Starliner Flight Test

Boeing’s Starliner crew module, with back shells installed, is inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center on December 8, 2020, in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). During the OFT-2 mission, the uncrewed Starliner spacecraft will fly to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Boeing’s Starliner crew module, with back shells installed, is inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center on December 8, 2020, in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). During the OFT-2 mission, the uncrewed Starliner spacecraft will fly to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Credit: Boeing/John Proferes

NASA and Boeing now are targeting March 29 for the launch of Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path toward flying crew missions for NASA.

For the OFT-2 mission, the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, dock to the International Space Station and return to land in the western United States about a week later as part of an end-to-end test to prove the system is ready to fly crew.

The OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft is nearing final assembly inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vehicle’s reusable crew module has been powered up and final checkouts of the avionics, power and propulsion systems are nearing completion. The spacecraft’s parachutes, landing airbags, base heat shield, and its back shells are installed signifying the completion of the vehicle build phase. In the coming weeks, teams will load the crew module with cargo, including Rosie the Rocketeer, and weigh the vehicle before mating it to its service module, which is already complete.

In parallel, Boeing technicians continue to refurbish the crew module flown on Starliner’s first Orbital Flight Test while also building a brand-new service module for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), which is now targeting launch in summer 2021, following a successful OFT-2 mission.

NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” WilmoreMike Fincke, and Nicole Mann continue to train for CFT, the inaugural crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft. After the completion of both test flights, NASA astronauts Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada and Jeanette Epps will launch on the Starliner-1 mission, the first of six crew rotation missions NASA and Boeing will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Read the full story here.

NASA, Boeing Complete Series of Starliner Parachute Tests Ahead of Future Flights with Astronauts

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner's three main parachutes slow the test article to a safe and soft landing during the final balloon drop parachute test Sept. 19, 2020, at White Sands, New Mexico.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner’s three main parachutes slow the test article to a safe and soft landing during the final balloon drop parachute test Sept. 19, 2020, at White Sands, New Mexico.
Credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing have completed Starliner’s last parachute balloon drop test ending a reliability campaign that will help strengthen the spacecraft’s landing system ahead of crewed flights to and from the International Space Station.

The campaign, developed by both Boeing and NASA, used six balloon drop tests of a Starliner test article to gather supplemental performance data on the spacecraft’s parachutes and landing system. Each drop test focused on a different set of adverse conditions and used pre-flown parachutes to evaluate reusability margins for future missions.

Starliner is the first American-made orbital crew capsule to land on land. The spacecraft uses a series of parachutes and airbags that deploy at specific altitudes allowing Starliner to touch down gently in the desert of the western United States. NASA also will use the data gathered from the parachute testing to model Starliner parachute performance in different mission scenarios.

For the final test, a high-altitude balloon provided by Near Space Corporation lifted the Starliner test article 35,000 feet above the New Mexico desert. Equipped with reused parachutes, Starliner’s landing system successfully executed an unlikely re-entry scenario simulating two separate faults.

Read the full story here.

NASA to ‘Rock and Roll’ on Crawlerway Ahead of Artemis I Mission

Crawlerway at Kennedy Space Center
Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are working to ensure the crawlerway is strong enough to withstand the weight and provide stability for the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Before the most powerful rocket in existence can lift off for lunar missions, it must first make the 4.2-mile trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For the Artemis I mission, the path from the VAB to Launch Complex 39B must be able to support the behemoth Crawler Transporter-2 — as well as the massive weight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the Orion capsule, and the mobile launcher. Teams at Kennedy are working to ensure the crawlerway is strong enough to withstand the weight and provide stability for the Artemis I mission and then some.

“Conditioning the crawlerway is important to prevent a phenomenon we call liquefaction, in which the crawler transporter, the mobile launcher, and the load on it causes the crawlerway to vibrate and shake the soil,” said Robert Schroeder, design manager of the crawlerway conditioning project and engineer at Kennedy. “Essentially, the soil itself will behave like a liquid instead of a solid, which could cause the crawler to tip to one side or the other.”

The crawlerway is currently required to support 25.5 million pounds for the Artemis I mission. However, as essential payloads will be added on future missions, the teams at Kennedy decided to test additional weight so they would be “ahead of the ballgame,” Schroeder said.

Work to prepare the crawlerway began Nov. 23. Over the next few months, technicians will lift several concrete blocks, each weighing over 40,000 pounds, onto the mobile launcher platform used for the space shuttle and Crawler Transporter-2. They will then drive the loaded transporter up and down the path between the VAB and launch pad, with each pass increasingly compacting the soil. By the time the project ends, the crawlerway will have supported more than 26 million pounds.

Artemis I will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.

NASA, SpaceX Officials Thrilled With Crew-1 Launch Success

Crew-1 liftoff
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, blasts off from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

It was a picture perfect launch during a beautiful evening on Florida’s Space Coast, as NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) blasted off from Kennedy Space Center on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

“This is a great day for the United States of America and a great day for Japan,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We look forward to many more years of a great partnership — not just in low-Earth orbit but all the way to the Moon.”

After lifting off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A at 7:27 p.m., aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, crew members are now a few hours into their 27.5-hour trip to the International Space Station for a six-month science mission.

“Everybody is so fired up; they’re so excited about this mission. But we’re not done yet; we need to keep going,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA Headquarters. “That spacecraft is out there with those four precious crew members on it. And we’re going to get them safely to the International Space Station tomorrow.”

Crew-1 postlaunch news conference
From left, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA Headquarters; Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate; Steve Dickson, administrator, Federal Aviation Administration; and Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer, SpaceX participate in the postlaunch news conference at Kennedy.

Crew-1 is the first crew rotation flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the space station following the spacecraft system’s official human rating certification. Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will join the Expedition 64 crew of Commander Sergey Ryzhikov, and Flight Engineers Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins. The arrival of Crew-1 will increase the regular crew size of the space station’s expedition missions from six to seven astronauts, adding to the amount of crew time available for research.

Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website for continuous comprehensive coverage of the Crew-1 mission, including docking at the space station on Monday, Nov. 16, at approximately 11 p.m. EST.

A welcome ceremony with Lueders and JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa will take place Tuesday, Nov. 17, at approximately 1:40 a.m. EST. That will be followed by a post-docking news conference at approximately 2 a.m., with:

  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA Headquarters
  • Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • Ven Feng, deputy manager, Commercial Crew Program, Johnson
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station, Johnson

Follow along with mission activities and get more information at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1: Weather Remains 50% Favorable for Today’s Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen just before sunrise on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Crew-1 mission, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission is the first crew rotation mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are scheduled to launch at 7:27 p.m. EST on Sunday, Nov. 15 from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch an international crew of astronauts to the International Space Station today. Lift off of the first NASA-certified, commercial human spacecraft system, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is set for 7:27 p.m. EST.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will begin their launch day preparations for the Crew-1 mission shortly before noon. NASA TV coverage begins at 3:15 p.m. Sunday for their prelaunch preparations, including their spacesuit fits and walkout shortly after 4 p.m. so they can travel to the launch pad.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron continues to predict a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions at the launch pad for lift off of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission based on Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch weather criteria. Teams also are monitoring weather conditions downrange across the Atlantic on the spacecraft’s ascent path to orbit; conditions downrange currently are “go.” The primary weather concerns for launch will be cumulus clouds and associated precipitation, along with electric fields from any more robust showers.

FORECAST DETAILS

Clouds                      Coverage           Bases (feet)             Tops (feet)

Cumulus                    Broken                   3,000                         14,000

Weather/Visibility: Scattered showers/7 miles

Temperature:  77 degrees

Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-1. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew, @space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew Facebook, ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.