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.

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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.

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.”

Emergency Location Markers Aid Kennedy Visitors

Innovation Without Boundaries Award leads to Emergency Location Markers at Kennedy Space Center.
Emergency Location Markers (ELMs) were installed on Kennedy Space Center property as a result of an Innovation Without Boundaries award. Photo credit: NASA

Emergency Location Markers (ELMs) have been installed on Kennedy Space Center federal property at Playalinda Beach, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and at both KARS Parks to provide the emergency phone number and geolocation information to Kennedy visitors or employees.

Innovation Without Boundaries Award leads to Emergency Location Markers at Kennedy Space Center.
ELMs provide the emergency phone number and geolocation information to Kennedy visitors or employees. Photo credit: NASA

The ELMs are national standardized signs that display U.S. National Grid (USNG) coordinates and were installed as a result of an Innovation without Boundaries award by the Chief Technology Office in 2018. Fifty-nine ELMs and 25 information signs that explain the system were installed in areas where members of the public may have difficulty describing their location in an emergency.

Additionally, free web applications FindMeSAR.com and USNGAPP.org allow any user to determine their location anywhere via USNG, known as the “language of location.” These apps may be used routinely to geolocate infrastructure, such as hydrants or culverts, as another example.

Kennedy’s emergency personnel have been trained on USNG map-reading, geolocation, navigation and position reporting. Additionally, mutual-aid responder agencies surrounding the spaceport were advised of the Kennedy ELM program and were provided mapping tools to plot USNG coordinates easily.

Pence to Visit Kennedy on 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Vice President Mike Pence speaking at Kennedy Space Center in December 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence addresses members of the U.S. Air Force at Kennedy Space Center’s Operations and Support Building II on Dec. 18, 2018. Pence is returning to the Florida spaceport Saturday, July 20, in celebration of the Apollo 11 50th anniversary. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Vice President Mike Pence will make multiple stops at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, July 20 — 50 years from the day NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed the first two humans on the Moon.

The vice president and second lady Karen Pence will arrive in Air Force Two at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility. The next stop is Launch Complex 39A, the site of the historic Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969.

Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, will address invited guests, elected officials and NASA, Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders at Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building (O&C). The vice president will recognize NASA’s history in honoring the Apollo 11 heroes, while examining NASA’s future plans, including the Artemis missions that are part of the agency’s Moon to Mars human space exploration efforts.

Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website at 1:05 p.m. to view Pence’s speech live from the O&C.

Apollo 11 Anniversary Celebrations Continue at Kennedy

NASA's Apollo 11 mission launched July 16, 1969.
NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, landing the first two humans on the Moon, launched July 16, 1969, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Kennedy Space Center continues its celebration of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary with “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future” – a show honoring the heroes of Apollo and highlighting the agency’s future space exploration plans. Watch live on NASA TV or the agency’s website Friday, July 19, from 1 to 3 p.m.

The three astronauts for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Left to right are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.
The three astronauts for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Left to right are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Photo credit: NASA

Hosted from Kennedy’s Apollo/Saturn V Center in Florida, the show will include segments at Washington D.C.; Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas; the U.S. Space and Rocket Center near the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; Neil Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio; and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

Immediately following “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” stay tuned for “STEM Forward to the Moon,” also streaming on NASA TV and the agency’s website. The show, airing from 3 to 3:30 p.m., will feature kids participating in Moon landing simulations and segments of activity demonstrations at the following museums across the nation:

Kennedy Kicks Off 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center's Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown on July 16, 1969.
The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center’s Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown. Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, ride the special transport van over to Launch Complex 39A where their spacecraft awaited them. Liftoff was at 9:32 a.m. EDT July 16, 1969. Photo credit: NASA

Today, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida kicks off the celebration of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary with a visit from former astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Collins will start the day with a visit to the Astronaut Crew Quarters in Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.

Following this, he will speak with Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana at Pad 39A, the location for the Apollo 11 launch on this day fifty years ago that landed the first two men on the Moon. Beginning at 9:15 a.m., tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website to watch the conversation live.

Follow along the blog for updates on Apollo 11 coverage. Here’s a look at what’s to come:

  • Friday, July 19: Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website for live coverage of a special Apollo 11 show, “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” from 1 to 3 p.m. The show will salute the heroes of Apollo and highlight the agency’s future space exploration plans.
  • Friday, July 19: Immediately following “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” stay tuned for “STEM Forward to the Moon,” which will feature kids participating in Moon landing simulations and activity demonstrations at museums across the nation from 3 to 3:30 p.m.