GAO Letter Outlines NASA’s Open Priority Recommendations

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has not implemented nearly one third of the recommendations for improvements that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) made to it four years earlier, the government watchdog agency said.

“In November 2018, we reported that on a government-wide basis, 77 percent of our recommendations made 4 years ago were implemented,” GAO said in an April 12 letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“NASA’s recommendation implementation rate was 70 percent. As of February 2019, NASA had 51 open recommendations. Fully implementing these open recommendations could significantly improve NASA’s operations.” GAO added.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Suffers Problem During Test Firing

SpaceX issued the following statement:

“Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand. Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners.”

Editor’s Note: My guess is they were running tests of the SuperDraco engines that will be used on the escape system. There is an in-flight abort test scheduled using the Crew Dragon capsule that just visited the space station. That is set to take place prior to the Crew Dragon flight with astronauts aboard scheduled for sometime in July.

It’s not clear what vehicle they were using today for the test.

Boeing Delays Starliner Flight Tests

Boeing technicians meticulously lower the Starliner upper dome to the lower dome before bolting and sealing the pressure vessel. (Credits: Boeing)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing have agreed to extend the duration of the company’s first crewed flight test to the International Space Station after completing an in-depth technical assessment of the CST-100 Starliner systems. NASA found the long-duration flight to be technically feasible and in the best interest of the agency’s needs to ensure continued access and better utilization of the orbiting laboratory.

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NASA to Update Schedule for Crew Dragon Test Soon

Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast. (Credits: NASA Television)

A Crew Dragon with two astronauts aboard will then conduct a flight test to the space station. The planning date for that flight is July.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is working with SpaceX to return human spaceflight launches to American soil. The company completed an uncrewed flight test, known as Demo-1, to the space station in March.

SpaceX now is processing the same Crew Dragon spacececraft for an in-flight abort test. The company then will fly a test flight with a crew, known as Demo-2, to the station.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX are expected to reevaluate its target test dates in the next couple weeks.

Editor’s Note: Current target test dates are June for the in-flight abort test and July for the crew test to the space station.

Video: Jim Bridenstine Talks With SpaceX Founder Elon Musk

Video Caption: On the latest Watch this Space, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine chats with SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk during a tour of Launch Complex 39A just before the Demo-1 launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The historic Demo-1 mission launched at 2:49 a.m. EDT on Saturday, March 2 and was the first launch of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and space system designed for humans as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Learn more about the Commercial Crew program: https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/.

What Lies Ahead for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast. (Credits: NASA Television)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The splashdown of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft this morning after a successful automated flight to the International Space Station (ISS) kicks off a busy period for NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

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Crew Dragon Docks at International Space Station

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — For the first time in history, a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket, which launched from American soil, is on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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NASA, SpaceX Launch First Flight Test of Space System Designed for Crew

Crowd gathers to watch as NASA and SpaceX make history by launching the first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — For the first time in history, a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket, which launched from American soil, is on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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SpaceX Launches Crew Dragon to the International Space Station

Falcon 9 first stage makes its entry burn as the second stage Merlin 1D engine carries Crew Dragon to orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

SpaceX successfully launched an automated Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday. It was the first flight test under NASA’s Commercial Crew program to return astronaut launches to U.S. soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

The company’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 2:49 am EST from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft, which is carrying an instrument mannequin named Ripley, safely separated from the second stage and began a 27-hour voyage to the space station.

The Falcon 9 first stage successfully touched down on an off-shore drone ship.

After docking on Sunday morning, the Crew Dragon will remain at the station for five days. It is scheduled to return to Earth on Friday, March 8. SpaceX plans to reuse the capsule for an in-flight abort test scheduled for June.

This is the first of two flight tests for the Crew Dragon variant. A second flight with two NASA astronauts is scheduled for July. Crew Dragons will be certified to carry astronauts on a commercial basis.

Boeing is also planning to conduct flight tests of its Starliner crew vehicle later this year. The current planning dates for Commercial Crew flight tests are:

  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
  • Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
  • SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
  • SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

The schedule for the Crew Dragon mission is below. NASA TV will be providing live coverage of all events. SpaceX also plans to cover the docking on its website.

Saturday, March 2, 4 a.m.SpaceX Demo-1 post-launch news conference from Kennedy Space Center, with representatives from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, International Space Station Program and Astronaut Office, and from SpaceX.

Sunday, March 3, 3:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon rendezvous and docking at the International Space Station.

Sunday, March 3, 8:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon hatch opening at the International Space Station. Hatch opening is scheduled at 8:45 a.m.

Sunday, March 3, 10:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon welcoming ceremony at the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 12:15 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon hatch closing in preparation for departure from the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 2 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon undocking from the International Space Station.

Friday, March 8, 7:30 a.m.: SpaceX Crew Dragon deorbit and landing.

Weather Looks Good for SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch on Saturday

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — SpaceX is set to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket, the first launch of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership, on a flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:49 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 2.

For a launch Saturday, meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather. Weak high pressure in advance of a front moving southeast into the area is expected during the launch window with a low probability for rain and weak surface winds and only slight concerns of any cumulus cloud or thick cloud rule violations during the instantaneous launch window.

More details about NASA’s coverage of the mission are available at: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-spacex-demo-1-briefings-events-and-broadcasts

Flight Readiness Review for First Crew Dragon Flight Being Conducted Today

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon for Demo 1 mission rolls out of the hangar. (Credit: SpaceX)

The flight readiness review for the first Crew Dragon flight on March 2 is being conducted today. A news conferences discussing the results will be webcast on NASA TV later today.

Friday, Feb. 22

  • (no earlier than) 6 p.m. – Post-flight readiness review briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA Human Exploration and Operations
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
    • Astronaut Office representative

SpaceX, International Space Station (ISS) Program, and Commercial Crew Program managers reviewed the work their teams have done to be ready for the Demo-1 launch. The team is midway through the flight readiness review agenda. They went through snapshots of various items reviewed and closed to meet requirements for the flight test. The board had a good discussion with the SpaceX, commercial crew and station engineering communities regarding the flight plan and redundancies built into the spacecraft systems and procedures. They additionally discussed how the data from this flight test that will be important for the next flight of Crew Dragon with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard.

This afternoon the board will get more detailed briefings focused on special topics for consideration and discuss human health and performance. The space station international partners also will have the opportunity to speak with the teams. Finally, Kathy Lueders, manager for the Commercial Crew Program, and Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program, will lead a concluding discussion amongst the participants prior to a launch readiness poll William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, will lead.

NASA to Provide Coverage of SpaceX Commercial Crew Flight Test

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

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NASA Safety Panel Pushes Back Against Commercial Crew “Paperwork” Complaints

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In its annual report issued last week, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) pushed back against complaints that the space agency has bogged down the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) with unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork.

“It should be recognized by all parties, both internal and external to NASA, that the certification process is not merely a ‘paperwork’ process; it involves considerable detailed technical activity by both NASA and the partners,” ASAP said.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 Flight Set for March 2

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and its Commercial Crew Program providers Boeing and SpaceX have agreed to move the target launch dates for the upcoming inaugural test flights of their next generation American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight. Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April.

Test Flight Planning Dates:

SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

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