Boeing Starliner Commercial Crew Delay: ~3 Years

Boeing’s first crewed Starliner finished initial production at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. and is readied for its cross-country trip. (Credit: Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On March 26, Vice President Mike Pence went to Huntsville, Ala., to declare that the Trump Administration would use “any means necessary” to accelerate the return of American astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024 — four years earlier than planned.

Pence was putting Huntsville-based Marshall Space Flight Center and prime contractor Boeing on notice to get the delayed, over budget Space Launch System (SLS) being built to accomplish that goal back on track. If they didn’t, the administration would find other rockets to do the job.

In his effort to accelerate the Artemis lunar program, however, Pence unintentionally contributed to delays in NASA’s behind schedule effort to launch astronauts to a much closer location: low Earth orbit.

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Virtual Field Trips Take Students Inside NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

By Danielle Sempsrott
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

As NASA begins a new era of space exploration – returning to the Moon and eventually on to Mars – education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects is increasingly important to the future of our nation’s space program. 

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) plays an integral role in the agency’s deep space exploration goals as it works with commercial partners to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on American-built rockets and spacecraft.

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SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Program Delay: 3+ Years

An instrumented mannequin sits in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

Updated Oct. 9, 2019 at 9:08 am PDT with paragraph summarizing some of the reasons for the schedule delays.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There’s been a lot of discussion over the last week or so about NASA’s delay plagued Commercial Crew Program, which is designed to restore the nation’s ability to launch astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011.

Prior to SpaceX CEO’s Elon Musk’s Sept. 28 webcast update on the Starship program, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed frustration that the company wasn’t more focused on the Crew Dragon program that hasn’t flown astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) yet.

Asked about the delay by a CNN journalist after giving an update on Starship’s progress on Sept. 28, Musk questioned whether Bridenstine was asking about delays at with commercial crew or with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). He laughed and mugged for the camera.

Musk’s rabid fans cheered it to be a sick burn against against a slow-moving space agency. The administrator diplomatically called it not helpful. He also revealed the cause of his pique.

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NASA Administrator to Visit SpaceX HQ on Thursday

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will tour SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Thursday, Oct. 10, to see the progress the company is making to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station from American soil as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Following the tour, SpaceX will host a media availability with Bridenstine, SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley – the crew for the Demo-2 flight test to the space station.

The media availability will be streamed live on Bridenstine’s Twitter account:

http://www.twitter/com/jimbridenstine.

SpaceX will carry NASA astronauts to the space station on the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, and help return the ability to fly American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. This is an important step toward sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024, as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

In March, SpaceX completed Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission, Demo-1, sending the uncrewed spacecraft to and from the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX currently are preparing for an upcoming in-flight abort test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system and the company’s second demonstration mission, Demo-2, which will send NASA astronauts to and from the station aboard Crew Dragon.

SpaceX may not be able to accommodate all who request accreditation, as space is very limited, and outlets may be asked to cap the number of representatives they request to send.

SpaceX will provide additional logistical details for credentialed media closer to the visit.

China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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Elon Musk to Provide Starship Update on Saturday as NASA Administrator Gives a Bronx Cheer

UPDATE: The presentation will be at around 8 p.m. EDT tonight. It will be webcast at www.spacex.com/webcast.

If you had plans for Saturday night, you might want to change them.

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk will provide an update on the progress of the Starship Mk1 vehicle live from the company’s test site at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

Musk tweeted the presentation will start at 6 or 7 p.m. CDT (7 or 8 p.m. EDT).. There are reportedly plans to webcast the event, most likely via the SpaceX website (www.spacex.com). However, those details have not been confirmed.

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Commercial Crew Astronauts, Ground Teams Put Emergency Escape Procedures to Test

An emergency medical technician cares for an astronaut with simulated injuries during a joint emergency escape and triage exercise led by NASA, along with Boeing and United Launch Alliance, at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 24, 2019. The simulation is part of a series in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA led a joint emergency escape and triage simulation with Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) on July 24 at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the International Space Station. The exercise ranged from astronauts and support teams quickly escaping the launch pad to emergency personnel practicing rescue and life support procedures focused on the safety of the launch site teams.

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Ferguson: Starliner Flight Test in September “Looking Good”

Boeing’s Starliner prepares for acoustic testing at Boeing’s spacecraft test facilities in El Segundo, California. This vehicle, known as Spacecraft 2, will fly Starliner’s Crew Flight Test after it returns to Florida from environmental testing. (Credits: Boeing)

News 6 interviewed Boeing’s Chris Ferguson on Saturday about the status of the company’s effort to launch its Starliner commercial crew vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) this year:

“We have an uncrewed test flight here in September. It’s looking very good. We were working late into the night last night doing test work, 24/7 operations,” Ferguson said. “We are in the final push and I’m optimistic that you’re going to see humans return to space from the Space Coast within the next several months. It’s been a long time.”

[….]

After the uncrewed test flight, Boeing will also need to complete a launch abort test with the spacecraft before it can launch astronauts. During the abort test, ULA will launch the capsule and trigger an abort, which will send the capsule away from the rocket testing the system designed to carry the astronauts to safety.

Ferguson will pilot Starliner, with NASA astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann and Mike Fincke, to the space station on its first crewed test flight.

“I’ve learned to not count my chickens early but I’m optimistic this year is going to be a very good year for the Boeing team,” Ferguson said.

SpaceX Says Nitrogen Tetroxide Leak Resulted in Destruction of Crew Dragon Vehicle

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 18:13 UTC, SpaceX conducted a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort test vehicle on a test stand at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Boeing, SpaceX Continue to Work Through Technical Challenges on Commercial Crew

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing and SpaceX are continuing to work through a number of technical challenges on their commercial crew spacecraft as NASA struggles to process data needed to certify the vehicles, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

There is sufficient schedule uncertainty, in fact, that GAO recommended the space agency continue planning for additional delays in providing crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS).

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Video: Atlas V Starliner Emergency Detection System

Video Caption: Go Atlas! Go Starliner! Watch the latest episode when we learn about the Emergency Detection System – unique technology developed for the Atlas V Starliner designed to protect the crew and monitor the health of the rocket.











NASA Opens Up International Space Station to Private Astronauts

Space tourist Guy Laliberte (front, far right) aboard the International Space Station.
Guy Laliberte (first row, far right) aboard the International Space Station.

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — As part of NASA’s mission to stimulate a low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy, NASA is enabling up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year to the International Space Station beginning as early as 2020.

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Boeing Progresses Toward First Flight Test of Starliner Crew Vehicle


On Tuesday, Program Manager Kathy Lueders gave an update on the status of the Commercial Crew Program to the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

Boeing and SpaceX have continued to make major progress. SpaceX flew an uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) in March.

The company’s plan to fly astronauts on a second Crew Dragon flight test this summer has been scrambled by the explosion of a capsule on the test stand in April. Lueders said Elon Musk’s company is aiming to fly the mission by the end of the year. That schedule is dependent upon finding the cause of the explosion.


Boeing continues to target August for an uncrewed flight test of its Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). A test flight with crew would follow at the end of the year. Between the two flights, the company will conduct a test of the emergency abort system.

Boeing is continuing with parachute tests, which are near completion. The company also announced this week that it had successfully conducted a service module hot fire test.

Boeing has made progress in assembling the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) spacecraft.

The company also completed environmental qualification tests on its second spacecraft.

Processing of the Crew Flight Test vehicle is progressing.

Work on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V booster and Centaur upper stage is also progressing.

Operations activities are also ongoing.











Lueders: SpaceX Aiming for Dragon Crewed Flight Test by End of Year

On Tuesday, Program Manager Kathy Lueders gave an update on the status of the Commercial Crew Program to the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

She said that SpaceX is working to launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts aboard to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of the year.

This would be the second flight test of the vehicle following a successful flight test to the station without a crew in March.

Lueders cautioned the schedule is dependent upon SpaceX and NASA closing out an investigation into the April 20 explosion of the Crew Dragon that visited the station.

That capsule exploded as it was being prepared for a test of the crew escape system.

In addition to understanding why the explosion took place, SpaceX must complete an in-flight abort flight and parachute tests. Both are crucial to the safety of the Crew Dragon vehicle.

SpaceX is making progress on its operations status in preparation for crewed flights to the station.