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

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.

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.

Read the full story

Kennedy Space Center Welcomes ‘Shooting Star’ Cargo Module

A testing mockup of Sierra Nevada Corporation's Shooting Star cargo module
A look at a testing mockup of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Shooting Star cargo module in the Space Station Processing Facility high bay at Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 19, 2019. Shooting Star will attach to the back of the company’s Dream Chaser spacecraft. The cargo module will deliver more than 12,000 pounds of supplies and other cargo to the International Space Station for NASA as part of the Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

A “Shooting Star” was unveiled Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Kennedy Space Center.

During a media event held in the Florida spaceport’s Space Station Processing Facility high bay, former NASA astronaut and current Senior Vice President of Strategy for Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems Steve Lindsey revealed the name of the cargo module that will attach to the back of the company’s Dream Chaser spacecraft: Shooting Star.

“It’s an exciting day for us,” said Lindsey, a veteran of five NASA shuttle missions.

Sierra Nevada's media da;y for the Shooting Star cargo module in the Space Station Processing Faciility
Steve Lindsey, senior vice president of strategy for Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems and a former NASA astronaut, talks about Shooting Star’s capabilities. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Shooting Star is a 15-foot-long cargo module that will attach to the back of the 30-foot-long Dream Chaser. It will be used to deliver more than 12,000 pounds of supplies and other cargo for NASA to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract. Its first flight is scheduled to launch from Kennedy in fall 2021.

“Sierra Nevada Corporation is excited to be expanding our footprint here at Kennedy Space Center,” said Kimberly Schwandt, senior communications manager for SNC Space Systems.

Dream Chaser will fly back to Earth and land on the runway at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility, formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility. Shooting Star will have a different fate. It will carry unwanted cargo from the space station, disposing of it while burning up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The process of “burning up” is where the Shooting Star name came from, Lindsey explained.

Steve Lindsey in front of Sierra Nevada Corporation's Shooting Star cargo module
Steve Lindsey poses in front of the Shooting Star cargo module inside Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

“The cargo module is really interesting because it’s kind of the unsung hero of the whole Dream Chaser cargo system design,” Lindsey said, while standing in front of a Shooting Star testing mockup. “It has a very unique shape — notice how it angles in as you go higher. It’s shaped to handle external and internal payloads.”

Payload capability includes pressurized and unpressurized cargo. Though it was designed specifically for cargo resupply services to the space station, Shooting Star can have many other applications, Lindsey said, including carrying crew, operating as a free-flying satellite and going from low-Earth to lunar orbit.

“It’s a pretty versatile system,” Lindsey said, “and the more we worked on it, the more we realized there are multiple applications for it.”

The Shooting Star mockup was recently delivered to Kennedy from SNC’s facility in Colorado. It will remain at the Florida spaceport, Lindsey said, for testing, processing and training of flight controllers.

NASA selected Dream Chaser for the CRS-2 contract, which involves launching six cargo missions to the space station by 2024.

OFT Mission Taking Shape at Space Launch Complex 41

A Centaur upper stage is lifted at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 8, 2019.
A Centaur upper stage is lifted at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 8, 2019, for mating to the United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage in preparation for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT). The uncrewed OFT mission will rendezvous and dock Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Starliner will launch atop the Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket set to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is ready for the mating of Starliner to the top of the launch vehicle.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted to the vertical position on Nov. 4, 2019, in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted to the vertical position on Nov. 4, 2019, in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

On Monday, Nov. 4, the Atlas V’s first stage was lifted to the vertical position inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, followed by the mating of two solid rocket boosters to the booster. ULA teams then attached the Centaur upper stage and launch vehicle adapter atop the Atlas V first stage.

Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission will rendezvous and dock the Starliner spacecraft with the space station. OFT will help set the stage for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT), which will carry NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson to the space station and return them safely home.

As aerospace industry providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

Oklahoma College Students Blossom During Tour of Florida Spaceport

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Courtney Miller, a student at Langston University in Oklahoma, participates in a hands-on experience inside a Space Station Processing Facility lab at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 18, 2019. Miller was part of a tour of the Florida spaceport organized by NASA’s Office of Education and Langston professor Byron Quinn, Ph.D. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

A small group of undergraduate students from Langston University in Oklahoma soaked up an extraordinary experience during a tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Traveling with Byron Quinn, Ph.D., Langston’s director of the Science Research Institute, the students were making their first trip to Kennedy — and to the Sunshine State — on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The tour included stops at SwampWorks, Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) labs, the microgravity simulator in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Visitor Complex. The students also met with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) leads at the Center for Space Education to explore internship possibilities.

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA Veggie project lead, addresses Langston University students, from left, Sherman Cravens, Kashia Cha, Courtney Miller and Makyah Farris, along with Langston professor Byron Quinn, Ph.D., at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

“It was definitely eye-opening,” said Sherman Cravens, who attended with fellow Langston students Kashia Cha, Makyah Farris and Courtney Miller. “It’s very exciting to see the work they are doing here firsthand. And they’re reaching out to students and saying ‘you can do this work, too.’”

Kennedy’s Dr. Gioia Massa, the NASA Veggie project lead, along with Lashelle Spencer, research and development scientist, guided the students through SSPF areas featuring International Space Station environmental simulator chambers; Veggie; Greenwerks, which studies plant growth in space; and food production innovation.

Cha, whose family owns a wholesale produce business, was particularly interested in hydroponics, a method with which she has some experience.

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center Veggie Project Manager Trent Smith talks with students from Langston University during their Sept. 18 trip to the Florida spaceport. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

“It’s exciting to see NASA using the same thing; it’s also very intriguing to see the differences in it as well,” Cha said. “I’m here to learn and to see. I loved it all — especially the hydroponics.”

Langston, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), is a NASA Office of STEM Engagement grantee under the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO). Wednesday’s trip addressed a main focus of research being done at the university by Quinn and his students: to develop natural countermeasures — through extracts from plants — that will benefit astronauts’ immune systems.

“For the students to be able to learn from the scientists here … it’s so beneficial for their growth,” Quinn said. “NASA really pushes the bounds of science. It’s just amazing to have this opportunity.”

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.

Dragon Cargo Spacecraft Berthed to Station

Two days after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Monday, May 6, at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

The 17th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-17) delivered more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with about 4,200 pounds of cargo and research.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Dragon Spacecraft Captured at 7:01 a.m. EDT

While the International Space Station was traveling over the north Atlantic Ocean, astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA grappled Dragon at 7:01 a.m. EDT using the space station’s robotic arm Canadarm2.

Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.

The Dragon lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Saturday, May 4 with more than 5,500 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Here’s some of the research arriving at station:

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) examines the complex dynamics of Earth’s atmospheric carbon cycle by collecting measurements to track variations in a specific type of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Understanding carbon sources can aid in forecasting increased atmospheric heat retention and reduce its long-term risks.

The Photobioreactor investigation aims to demonstrate how microalgae can be used together with existing life support systems on the space station to improve recycling of resources. The cultivation of microalgae for food, and as part of a life support system to generate oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, could be helpful in future long-duration exploration missions, as it could reduce the amount of consumables required from Earth.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.