Significant Commercial Crew Challenges Ahead for Boeing, SpaceX & NASA


Key Excerpts from

NASA Commercial Crew Program:
Continued Delays Pose Risks for Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station

Government Accountability Office
[Full Testimony]

Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Space,
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology,
House of Representatives
Statement of Cristina T. Chaplain Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management
January 17, 2018

Space X Risks

Dragon 2 wledment and heat shield. (Credit: SpaceX)

Similar to our findings in February 2017, our ongoing work indicates that the Commercial Crew Program’s top programmatic and safety risks for SpaceX, are in part, related to ongoing launch vehicle design and development efforts.

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First Commercial Flights to ISS Slide Toward 2020


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Early in the classic police comedy, The Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is at the hospital with partner Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) visiting the critically wounded Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson), who had been shot and left for dead by a group of heroin smuggling thugs.

“Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living, though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that,” Ed tells Frank.

A similar scene played out Wednesday morning during the House Space Subcommittee’s hearing on the progress of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Only it wasn’t nearly as funny.

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Science & Technology Experiments Returned on Dragon

Dragon capsule after recovery. (Credit: SpaceX)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, Jan. 13, west of Baja California, with approximately 4,100 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach, California, where some cargo will be removed immediately for return to NASA. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for final processing.

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NASA Audit Says CASIS Under Performing on Key ISS Research Tasks

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The organization NASA hired to manage research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has seriously under performed on the majority of its tasks, a new  audit from space agency’s Inspector General finds.

“Of the nine performance categories we assessed, CASIS met expectations in only two: research pathways and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education,” the report states. “For example, the STEM education performance category required CASIS to increase interest in using the National Lab as a platform for STEM education. CASIS met expectations for this performance category by funding 14 STEM education programs in FY 2016 with more than 325,000 participants.”

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Commercial Crew Schedule Margins at Risk as Much Work Remains


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s uninterrupted access to the International Space Station (ISS) could be at risk due to continued schedule slips by commercial crew providers Boeing and SpaceX, the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) said last week.

“Based on the quantity, significance, and associated uncertainty of work remaining for both commercial providers, the Panel believes there is a very real possibility of future schedule slips that could easily consume all remaining margin,” ASAP said in its annual report. [Full Report]

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NanoRacks Begins Third ISS External Platform Mission

External platform on ISS (Credit: NanoRacks)

HOUSTON, January 10, 2018 (NanoRacks PR) — This morning, the NanoRacks External Platform (NREP) was reinstalled on the outside of the International Space Station, initiating the commercial platform’s third customer mission. The External Platform, self-funded by NanoRacks, is the leading commercial gateway to the extreme environment of space. Customers can experience the microgravity, atomic oxygen, radiation and other harsh elements native to the space environment. Additionally, customers can observe Earth, test sensors, materials, and electronics, all while having the opportunity to return the payload back to Earth.

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House Space Subcommittee Hearing On Commercial Crew Status Scheduled


House Subcommittee on Space Hearing

An Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development

Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 – 10:00am
Location: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building
Subcommittees: Subcommittee on Space (115th Congress)

Hearing Purpose

The purpose of the hearing is to examine the development of the NASA’s two  commercial crew systems, being built by Boeing and SpaceX, to service the International Space Station

Witnesses:

  • Mr. William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, NASA
  • Mr. John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Commercial Programs, Boeing Space Exploration
  • Dr. Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Ms. Cristina Chaplain, director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Dr. Patricia Sanders, chair, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel

NASA Commercial Crew Flights Slip Slide Toward 2019

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe evaluate Crew Dragon controls. (Credit: NASA)

Crucial flight tests for NASA’s two commercial crew vehicles are slipping ever closer to 2019. The space agency released the following updated schedules for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon 2 vehicles today:

Targeted Test Flight Dates

Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): August 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): November 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (uncrewed): August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): December 2018

Boeing’s schedule has not changed from the previous update. SpaceX’s demonstration flights have slipped from April and August to August and December, respectively. No reasons have been given for the slips.

A reliable source tells Parabolic Arc that SpaceX experienced a delay several months ago due to issues with Dragon 2’s environmental control and life support system (ECLSS). The problem was estimated to delay the first demonstration flight about six months. At about that same time, the schedule for that first uncrewed flight slipped from February to April.

A SpaceX spokeswoman would not comment for the record on this report.

It Ain’t Transparent Aluminum, But ESA’s Working on See Through Metals

Credit: Paramount Pictures

PARIS (ESA PR) — Astronauts on the International Space Station have begun running an experiment that could shine new light on how metal alloys are formed.

How humanity has mastered metallurgy is synonymous with progress, with historians labelling periods such as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Most metals used today are mixtures – alloys – of different metals, combining properties to make lighter and stronger materials.

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Canadian Space Agency Looks Ahead to Busy 2018

Credit: CSA

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (CSA PR) — After all of 2017’s amazing moments and space discoveries, we have another exciting year ahead of us! From mapping an asteroid to sending a Canadian to space, here are five key projects that will make 2018 a year to remember for the Canadian Space Agency.

January–December 2018 – Canadian health science experiments will be conducted aboard the International Space Station

Credit: CSA

As space agencies from around the world are preparing to send people farther into the solar system, keeping astronauts safe and healthy during long missions will be critical. Canadian science conducted aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will help us better understand and offset the harmful effects of space on the human body (e.g. radiation exposure, which is a risk factor for cataracts and cancer; bone loss; muscle shrinkage; arterial stiffness; and weaker immune system).

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Sierra Nevada Completes NASA Milestone With Dream Chaser Glide Flight

Dream Chaser lands (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev., January 05, 2018 – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser program passed a major NASA milestone for its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) contract with the completion of a successful Free-Flight test, which produced subsonic flight and landing performance data.

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A Preview of Commercial Crew Activities for 2018


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA and industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are targeting the return of human spaceflight from Florida’s Space Coast in 2018. Both companies are scheduled to begin flight tests to prove the space systems meet NASA’s requirements for certification in the coming year.

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ESA Looks Ahead to Busy Year in Space

Video Caption: After a fruitful 2017 with many exciting launches and the end of some historic missions, ESA is ready for the year to come.

2018 will see the 10th anniversary of the International Space Station’s Columbus module and an ESA astronaut taking the helm of the ISS as commander.

There will be more launches of new Earth observation and exploration satellites and ESA will venture to the innermost planet in our Solar System.

2018 will also mark the completion of the first part of the Copernicus constellation observing the Earth and of the full Galileo constellation, Europe’s own satellite navigation system.

ULA Completes Design Certification Review for Atlas V Starliner Flights

This artist concept shows Boeing’s Starliner at Space Launch Complex 41 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V poised for a night launch to the International Space Station. (Credit: Boeing)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Jan. 4, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed an Atlas V Launch Segment Design Certification Review (DCR) recently in preparation for the launch of astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil in The Boeing Company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. ULA’s Atlas V DCR supported the Boeing International Space Station (ISS) DCR that was held with NASA at Kennedy Space Center in early December.

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Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic Eye Human Spaceflights in 2018

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

While Boeing and SpaceX move toward flying astronauts to the International Space Station this year, there are two other companies working on restoring the ability to launch people into space from U.S. soil.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic aren’t attempting anything as ambitious as orbital flight. Their aim is to fly short suborbital hops that will give tourists and scientists several minutes of microgravity to float around and conduct experiments in.

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