NASA, Boeing Update Launch Date for Starliner’s First Astronaut Flight

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on May 4, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Frank MichauxFollowing a review of the International Space Station operations, NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test now is targeting no earlier than Monday, May 6, for Starliner’s first launch with astronauts to the orbital complex. The date adjustment optimizes space station schedule of activities planned toward the end of April, including a cargo spacecraft undocking and a crew spacecraft port relocation required for Starliner docking. NASA and Boeing also are performing prelaunch closeout work and completing final certification for flight.

Starliner will carry NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the space station for a docking to the forward port of the Harmony module. Ahead of Starliner’s launch, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 crewmates will board the Dragon spacecraft, currently docked to the forward port, for a relocation to the zenith port of Harmony to allow for Starliner docking. The date shift also allows additional time for the crew aboard the microgravity laboratory to complete science and cargo logistics ahead of the departure of the Dragon cargo spacecraft.

As part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Williams and Wilmore will spend about a week docked to the space station ahead of a return to Earth in the western United States. The flight test will help NASA verify whether the Starliner system is ready to fly regular crew rotation missions to space station for the agency.

Progress Continues Toward NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test to Station

The crew module and new service module for NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test at Kennedy Space Center.
Inside Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 19, 2023, the Starliner team works to finalize the mate of the crew module and new service module for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test that will take NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to and from the International Space Station. Photo credit: Boeing/John Grant

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.

Follow NASA’s commercial crew blog or CFT mission blog for the latest information on progress. Details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on X, and commercial crew on Facebook.

Mission Specialist Assigned to Crew-7 Space Station Mission

Crew-7 is pictured at SpaceX wearing their SpaceX flight suits.
The four crew members who comprise the SpaceX Crew-7 mission pose for a photo in their spacesuits during a training session at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left are, Mission Specialist Konstantin Borisov, Pilot Andreas Mogensen, Commander Jasmin Moghbeli,, and Mission Specialist Satoshi Furukawa. Photo credit: SpaceX

The final crew member for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 mission, currently targeted to launch to the International Space Station in mid-August, has been announced.

Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov will fly as a mission specialist on SpaceX’s seventh rotational mission to the orbiting laboratory for NASA.

Borisov joins previously named crew members NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, and astronaut Satoshi Furukawa from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

This will be the first spaceflight for Borisov, who entered the Roscosmos Cosmonaut Corps as a test cosmonaut candidate in 2018.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch Crew-7 aboard a Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft previously flew NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 and Crew-5 missions.

NASA and Roscosmos fly integrated crews on U.S. crew spacecraft and on the Soyuz spacecraft to ensure continued safe operations of the International Space Station and the safety of its crew. Integrated crews have been the norm throughout the International Space Station Program, as five space agencies (the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, NASA, and Roscosmos) operate the station, with each space agency responsible for managing and controlling the hardware it provides. The station was designed to be interdependent and relies on contributions from each space agency to function. No one agency has the capability to function independent of the others. For continued safe operations of the space station, the integrated crew agreement helps ensure that each crewed spacecraft docked to the station includes an integrated crew with trained crew members in both the Russian and U.S. Operating Segment systems.

For more insight on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program missions to the space station follow the commercial crew blog. More details can be found @commercial_crew on Twitter and commercial crew on Facebook.

SpaceX Crew-4 Returns with Splashdown on Florida’s Atlantic Coast

The SpaceX Dragon Freedom crew ship carrying four astronauts splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The SpaceX Dragon Freedom crew ship carrying four astronauts splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts aboard the Dragon spacecraft safely splashed down Friday off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, completing the agency’s fourth commercial crew mission to the International Space Station. The international crew of four spent 170 days in orbit.

NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Jessica Watkins and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 4:55 p.m. EDT. Teams aboard SpaceX recovery vessels retrieved the spacecraft and astronauts. After returning to shore, all astronauts will fly to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Cristoforetti then will board a plane to Europe.

“Welcome home Crew-4! This international crew has spent nearly six months on the International Space Station conducting science for the benefit of all. Their work aboard the orbiting laboratory will help prepare future explorers for future space missions,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Working and living on the space station is the opportunity of a lifetime, but it also requires these explorers to make sacrifices, especially time away from loved ones. Kjell, Bob, Jessica and Samantha, thank you for your contributions over the past six months to science, innovation, and discovery!”

The Crew-4 mission launched at 3:52 a.m. EDT April 27 on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Less than 16 hours later, Dragon docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing port. The astronauts undocked from the same port at 12:05 p.m. Friday, to begin the trip home.

Hines, Lindgren, Watkins, and Cristoforetti traveled 72,168,935 miles during their mission, spent 170 days aboard the space station, and completed 2,720 orbits around Earth. Lindgren has logged 311 days in space over his two flights, and with the completion of their flight today, Cristoforetti has logged 369 days in space on her two flights, making her second on the all-time list for most days in space by a woman. The Crew-4 mission was the first spaceflight for Hines and Watkins.

Throughout their mission, the Crew-4 astronauts contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities and technology demonstrations. Cristoforetti completed two spacewalks with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev to perform station maintenance and upgrades.

Crew-4 continued work on investigations documenting how improvements to the space diet affect immune function and the gut microbiome, determining the effect of fuel temperature on the flammability of a material, exploring possible adverse effects on astronaut hearing from equipment noise and microgravity, and studying whether additives increase or decrease the stability of emulsions. The astronauts also investigated microgravity-induced changes in the human immune system similar to aging, tested a novel water-reclamation membrane, and examined a concrete alternative made with a material found in lunar and Martian dust.

The spacecraft, named Freedom by Crew-4, will return to Florida for inspection and processing at SpaceX’s Dragon Lair, where teams will examine the spacecraft’s data and performance throughout the flight.

The Crew-4 flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its return to Earth follows on the heels of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 launch, which docked to the station Oct. 6, beginning another science expedition.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This already has provided additional research time and has increased the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s microgravity testbed for exploration, including helping NASA prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew


More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

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

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Get the latest from NASA delivered every week. Subscribe here: www.nasa.gov/subscribe

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Space Station Departure Delayed for Weather

The SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts are seated inside the Dragon Freedom crew ship. The commercial crew quartet (from left) are Mission Specialist Jessica Watkins, Pilot Robert Hines, Commander Kjell Lindgren, and Mission Specialist Samantha Cristorforetti. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting no earlier than 10:05 a.m. EDT Thursday, Oct. 13, for the agency’s Crew-4 undocking from the International Space Station to begin the return trip to Earth completing a nearly six-month science mission in orbit. Splashdown is targeted several hours later at 5:43 p.m. Thursday off the coast of Florida.

Mission teams continue to monitor a cold front passing over Florida with the potential to bring high winds and rainy weather near the splashdown zones off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Mission teams will continue to monitor splashdown and recovery conditions with another weather review around six hours prior to undocking.

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. Back-up undocking opportunities also are available Friday, Oct. 14.

NASA will provide live coverage of the upcoming return activities for the Crew-4 mission with NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Jessica Watkins, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

Dragon’s hatch closing, undocking, and splashdown coverage will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. NASA also will host an audio only post-splashdown news teleconference. Follow all live events at:

https://www.nasa.gov/live

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 return coverage is as follows (all times Eastern):

Thursday, Oct. 13

8 a.m. – Hatch closure coverage begins for 8:20 a.m. hatch closing
9:45 a.m. – Undocking coverage begins for 10:05 a.m. undocking with a Thursday splashdown
5:43 p.m. – Splashdown off the coast of Florida
7 p.m. – Return to Earth media teleconference call from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston with:

  • Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
  • Joel Montalbano, manger, International Space Station, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • SpaceX Representative

NASA to Purchase Additional Commercial Crew Missions

NASA insignia.

NASA intends to issue a sole source modification to SpaceX to acquire five additional crewed flights to the International Space Station as part of its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract. The additional crew flights will allow NASA to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station with two unique commercial crew industry partners.

In December 2021, NASA announced the extension of the International Space Station to 2030. With this extension, there is a need for additional crew rotation missions to sustain a safe and sustainable flight cadence throughout the remainder of the space station’s planned operations.

“Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 went very well and we hope to be able to certify the Starliner system in the near future. However, we will need additional missions from SpaceX to implement our strategy of having each commercial provider flying alternating missions once per year,” said Phil McAllister, director, commercial space at NASA. “Our goal has always been to have multiple providers for crewed transportation to the space station. SpaceX has been reliably flying two NASA crewed missions per year, and now we must backfill those flights to help safely meet the agency’s long-term needs.”

NASA anticipates a potential need to use any additional SpaceX flights as early as 2026 to ensure dissimilar redundancy, maintain safe space station operations, and allow each company to work through any unforeseen issues that could arise as private industry builds operational experience with these new systems.

“The recent success of Boeing’s uncrewed flight test is helping to solidify NASA’s long-term goals,” said Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It’s critical we complete Starliner’s development without undue schedule pressure while working to position both Boeing and SpaceX for sustainable operations in the years ahead.”

SpaceX is currently NASA’s only certified commercial crew transportation provider. The company will fly its sixth rotational mission for NASA in the spring of 2023.

In October 2021, NASA issued a request for information from American industry capable of providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective human space transportation services to and from the International Space Station to ensure a continuous human presence aboard the microgravity laboratory. In February 2022, NASA awarded a firm fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract modification for the Crew-7, Crew-8, and Crew-9 missions to SpaceX.

After a thorough review of the long-term capabilities and responses from American industry, NASA’s assessment is that the SpaceX crew transportation system is the only one currently certified to maintain crewed flight to the space station while helping to ensure redundant and backup capabilities through 2030.

The current sole source modification does not preclude NASA from seeking additional contract modifications in the future for additional transportation services as needed.

In 2014, NASA awarded the CCtCap contracts to Boeing and SpaceX through a public-private partnership as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Under CCtCap, NASA certifies that a provider’s space transportation system meets the agency’s requirements prior to flying missions with astronauts. After years of development, commercial crew systems have achieved or are nearing operational readiness for regular crewed missions, including providing a lifeboat capability, to the space station.

 

NASA, SpaceX Provide Update on Crewed Space Station Mission

Crew-3 Launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer onboard, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission is the third 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. Chari, Marshburn, Barron, Maurer launched at 9:03 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center to begin a six month mission onboard the orbital outpost. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA and SpaceX provided an update Feb. 4 on the status of preparations on the agency’s Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station. As part of the news conference, NASA and SpaceX answered media questions on Crew Dragon’s parachutes and work ahead of its next crew launch with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, as well as with ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

Listen to a full replay of the news conference, and read the agency’s statement below:

Crew safety remains a top priority for NASA. The agency and SpaceX carefully and methodically monitor the operational parachute performance on all crew and cargo flights to increase safety and reliability.

During the return of the SpaceX CRS-24 mission, teams observed a single main parachute that lagged during inflation like the return of the Crew-2 mission. The vertical descent rate of both flights was within the system design margins at splashdown, and all four main parachutes fully opened prior to splashdown on both missions.

With the commonality between Dragon spacecraft, the mission teams prioritize parachute imagery during return and recovery of the parachutes following splashdown. As partners, NASA and SpaceX jointly review the imagery data and perform physical inspection of the drogue and main parachutes after flight. The inflation model also continues to be updated to better characterize and understand margins and splashdown conditions. This review of flight data and parachute performance models will be completed prior to the launch of the Crew-4 mission and the return of Crew-3 astronauts from the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX are completing the parachute analysis as part of the standard postflight reviews conducted at the end of each mission. The results of the data reviews are discussed as part of joint engineering and program control boards and findings presented at the agency’s flight readiness review in advance of the next crew mission. NASA and SpaceX still are targeting launch of the Crew-4 mission Friday, April 15, to the International Space Station.

Boeing and NASA Approach Milestone Orbital Flight Test

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stand on Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 4, 2019.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stand on Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 4, 2019. The vehicle was in place on the launch pad for Boeing’s wet dress rehearsal ahead of the upcoming Orbital Flight Test, an uncrewed mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: Boeing

When Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) launches on Dec. 20, 2019, it will be a major step toward returning human spaceflight capability to the U.S.

The uncrewed mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will rendezvous and dock Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with the International Space Station and return to Earth on Dec. 28. Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“This test flight will give us valuable data about Starliner’s performance in the actual environment through each phase of flight and demonstrate its capability to transport crew to the space station and bring them home safely,” said Trip Healey, NASA’s mission manager for OFT. “Being on the cusp of this huge moment in history is really exciting.”

Data from the mission will validate spacecraft system performance and will move Starliner farther down the path toward its first flight with astronauts aboard — Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT).

NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson will be onboard Starliner for CFT. All three were on hand when the spacecraft for this flight test rolled out of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, making the roughly six mile trek on a transport vehicle to SLC-41 to be mated atop the Atlas V rocket.

Read the full story at https://www.nasa.gov/feature/boeing-and-nasa-approach-milestone-orbital-flight-test.

Teams Working Through Boeing Orbital Flight Test Review

NASA and Boeing managers take part in 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.
NASA and Boeing managers take part in 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

Boeing, International Space Station Program and Commercial Crew Program (CCP) managers are reviewing the work their teams have done to be ready for launch of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT). The team is midway through the Flight Readiness Review, assessing various items discussed and closed to meet mission requirements.

The board had a productive discussion with the Boeing, CCP and station engineering communities regarding the flight plan and redundancies built into the spacecraft systems and procedures. They also discussed how the data from this flight test will help the teams prepare for the first crewed flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson.

This afternoon, the board will hear more detailed briefings focused on special topics for consideration and discuss human health and performance. The space station program also will have the opportunity to speak with the teams. Toward the end of the review, Kathy Lueders, manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program, will lead a concluding discussion amongst the participants. A readiness poll will be led by Ken Bowersox, deputy associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Launch is targeted for Friday, Dec. 20.

Commercial Crew Astronauts Named

NASA has selected four astronauts who will train to fly Commercial Crew flight tests in 2017 aboard the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon. Greg Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken, and Suni Williams have been selected to be the first astronauts to board those spacecraft.

Commercial Crew Astronauts

“What comes with our assignment is a fair amount of responsibility because there will be a legacy of astronauts for years and years to come who will have to live with the decisions that we in the agency are making with Boeing and SpaceX now,” said Bob Behnken of he and his fellow Commercial Crew astronauts.

Follow the Commercial Crew Program progress, at https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew