By Madison Tuttle NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
NASA and commercial industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are making significant advances in preparing to launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. As part of the Commercial Crew Program’s public-private partnership, both companies are fine-tuning their designs, integrating hardware, and testing their crew spacecraft and rockets to prepare for test flights
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will announce on Friday, Aug. 3, the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, and begin a new era in American spaceflight. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will preside over the event, which will begin at 11 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
NASA will announce the crew assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification mission for both Boeing and SpaceX. NASA partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to develop the Starliner spacecraft to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and the Crew Dragon launching atop the Falcon 9 rocket, respectively.
U.S. media are invited to attend the event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and, afterward, speak with the astronauts about their assignments.
Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana will join Bridenstine and representatives from Boeing and SpaceX to introduce the crews.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems designed to carry crews safely to and from low-Earth orbit. The Starliner and Crew Dragon will launch American astronauts on American-made spacecraft from American soil to the International Space Station for the first time since NASA retired its Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
Commercial transportation to and from the space station will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory. The station is critical for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight, and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and missions deeper into the solar system, including Mars.
Following the announcement, the astronauts will participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything at 12:30 p.m. at:
Media are reporting that Boeing suffered a setback recently when testing CST-100 Starliner’s emergency abort system at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Here’s an account from The Washington Post:
The spacecraft Boeing plans to use to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station suffered a significant setback when, during a test of its emergency abort system in June, officials discovered a propellant leak, the company confirmed.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Boeing said it has “been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners. We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action.”
Commercial Crew Manager Kathy Lueders recently appeared on “Houston We Have a Podcast”, which is the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center. The program was published on the space agency’s on June 15.
You can listen to the full podcast and read a transcript of the interview here. Below are key excepts from the conversation.
Progress on Commercial Crew
Kathy Lueders: They have their — spacecraft is really, really cool right now. I can’t tell you– go out to SpaceX, you see spacecraft in the building, one– our DM1 vehicle’s getting ready to roll out to go to Plum Brook in a week and a half. [Editor’s note: DM-1 is now undergoing tests at Plum Brook.]
You go over into the C3PF down in Florida and the Boeing spacecraft, you get C3 spacecraft, the Spacecraft 1’s getting ready to get shipped out to go support pad abort test. Spacecraft 2’s getting ready to get shipped to California to go through environmental testing and that will eventually come back and become our first crewed flight test vehicle. And Spacecraft 3 is getting assembled and will be getting ready to fly later this year.
Bruno is talking about the U.S. military’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite, which is set for launch on Oct. 5. That would mean that Atlas V launch carrying an uncrewed Boeing CST-100 Starliner would be postponed from its current late August date until sometime after the AEHF mission.
The Starliner mission is one of two flight tests needed to qualify the spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station under the agency’s commercial crew program. The second mission will carry a crew.
NASA Correction, June 14, 2018: This post has been updated to clarify the timing of the first uncrewed test missions, which are planned for later this year.
Editor’s Note: The original post indicated that Boeing and SpaceX would conduct automated flight tests of Starliner and Dragon 2 to the space station at the end of the year. They’re both officially scheduled for August, although the schedule is likely to slip.
Arnold and Feustel will begin Thursday’s spacewalk at 8:10 a.m. to install new high definition cameras to support upcoming commercial crew missions from SpaceX and Boeing to the orbital laboratory. The first uncrewed test missions are planned to begin later this year. The cameras will provide improved views of the commercial crew vehicles as they approach and dock to the station. NASA TV will provide complete live coverage of the 211th space station spacewalk starting at 6:30 a.m.
Auñón-Chancellor and Gerst, who just arrived at the station on Friday, will assist the spacewalkers on Thursday. Gerst will help the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits. Auñón-Chancellor will operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The duo practiced today on a computer the robotics procedures necessary to maneuver a spacewalker to and from the worksite on the starboard side of the station’s truss structure.
Arnold and Feustel had some extra time today to work on science and maintenance activities. Arnold worked with the Microgravity Science Glovebox to troubleshoot a semiconductor crystal growth experiment. Feustel performed some plumbing work in the Tranquility module before relocating a pair of incubator units to support new experiments being delivered on the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission. Finally, the duo readied the Quest airlock and their spacesuits for Thursday morning’s spacewalk.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A joint commercial provider and NASA team will help ensure astronauts will be able to safely travel to and from the International Space Station aboard Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft.
The Joint Test Team for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program pulls expertise from across the key human spaceflight areas to design, test, assess, and plan missions aboard the Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Video Caption: One, two, three Boeing CST-100 Starliners are coming together inside this historic spacecraft factory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The goal of the commercially developed and operating spacecraft is to return crew launch capabilities to NASA and the United States.
The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10) provided for an ISS Transition Report under section 303:
The Administrator, in coordination with the ISS management entity (as defined in section 2 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017), ISS partners, the scientific user community, and the commercial space sector, shall develop a plan to transition in a step-wise approach from the current regime that relies heavily on NASA sponsorship to a regime where NASA could be one of many customers of a low-Earth orbit non-governmental human space flight enterprise.
By Bob Granath NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
On Aug. 14, 2017, a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was a commercial resupply mission delivering supplies to the International Space Station. Four days later, the agency’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M lifted off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
This kind of diverse activity is typical at a multi-user spaceport.
Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew vehicles certified to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station might not be available until the end of next year, according to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“The Commercial Crew Program is tracking risks that both contractors could experience additional schedule delays and its schedule risk analysis indicates that certification is likely to slip until late 2019 for SpaceX and early 2020 for Boeing,” the report states.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — As a child watching Apollo 11 land on the Moon, Ted Mosteller dreamed of working for the space program. As leader of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Landing and Recovery Team, he directs a multi-agency operation to rescue astronauts in emergency landing scenarios.
“It’s like insurance,” he said. “You have insurance on your car or house, but you hope you never have to use it.”
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has updated its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with Boeing, which provides flexibility in its commercial flight tests. Boeing, one of the agency’s two commercial crew partners, approached NASA last year and proposed adding a third crew member on its Crew Flight Test (CFT) to the International Space Station.
By Marie Lewis NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center
Crew safety is paramount in the return of human spaceflight launches from Florida’s Space Coast, and the latest round of parachute testing is providing valuable data to help industry partners Boeing and SpaceX meet NASA’s requirements for certification.
On March 4, SpaceX performed its 14th overall parachute test supporting Crew Dragon development. This exercise was the first of several planned parachute system qualification tests ahead of the spacecraft’s first crewed flight and resulted in the successful touchdown of Crew Dragon’s parachute system.