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.
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.
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.
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.
Starliner's landing system passed its final qualification test ahead of flying @NASA_Astronauts. This time we intentionally introduced two parachute failures, and #Starliner performed as expected. With crew safety as our top priority, keep watching the skies this week. pic.twitter.com/gOBIEDNvfL
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).
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.
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.
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.
WHITE SANDS, NM (NASA PR) — Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner propulsion system was put to the test on Thursday at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico in support of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Teams ran multiple tests on Starliner’s in-space maneuvering system and the spacecraft’s launch abort system, which are key elements on the path to restore America’s capability to fly astronauts to the International Space Station on American rockets and spacecraft from U.S. soil.
The test used a flight-like Starliner service module with a full propulsion system comprising of fuel and helium tanks, reaction control system and orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters, launch abort engines and all necessary fuel lines and avionics.
19 thrusters fired to simulate in-space maneuvers.
12 thrusters fired to simulate a high-altitude abort.
22 propulsion elements, including the launch abort engines, fired to simulate a low-altitude abort.
Boeing’s Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company will complete a Starliner pad abort test and uncrewed flight test, called Orbital Flight Test, to the station ahead of the first flight test with a crew onboard. As commercial crew 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.
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.