Advisory Committee Wants NASA Contingency Plans for Possible Commercial Crew Delays

Space News
reports that a key NASA advisory committee wants the space agency to come up with contingency plans to operate the International Space Station on a reduced U.S. crew should further delays occur in the commercial crew program.

At a May 14 meeting of the ISS Advisory Committee, its chairman, Thomas Stafford, said that NASA should consider training Russian cosmonauts on key systems in what’s known as the U.S. Operating Segment (USOS) portion of the ISS, which includes elements from the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada, in the event extended commercial crew development delays reduce the size of the station’s crew.

“For years, we have observed delays after delays in the development, flight test and qualification milestones in commercial crew, and therefore we believe the current schedule is optimistic,” Stafford said of schedules that call for flight tests of commercial crew vehicles in the latter half of 2018.

His committee recommended that NASA and the other ISS partners should plan for ways to operate the station with a reduced crew if commercial crew vehicles aren’t ready to enter service by the fall of 2019.

“Given these schedule risks, we recommend the partnership pursue plans to protect for a minimum crew capability to ensure ISS viability during the flight development phase,” he said. “NASA’s biggest priority is maintaining the U.S. presence on the ISS in case the commercial crew launch dates slip.”

Borman & Lovell Celebrate 90th Birthdays

Apollo 8 crew members William Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell on the carrier after their mission. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Parabolic Arc would like to extend belated birthday wishes to Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, who both celebrated their 90th birthdays this month. Lovell’s birthday was Sunday, and Borman celebrated his latest trip around the sun on March 14.

The two nonagenarians, who were crew mates on Gemini 7 and Apollo 8, are the oldest of the surviving Apollo astronauts. The rest of their compatriots are all in the 80’s.


Tom Stafford Wins NSS Space Pioneer Award

Tom Stafford (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Lieutenant General Thomas P. Stafford, USAF, Ret, is the winner of the National Space Society’s 2017 Space Pioneer Award in the Historic Space Achievement category. This award covers his service in the Gemini, Apollo and Apollo-Soyuz programs. In particular, the flight of Gemini 9A on June 3, 1966, was 51 years ago.

The National Space Society invites the public to join them in presenting the Pioneer Award to General Stafford on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at the 36th NSS International Space Development Conference® ( The conference will be held in St Louis, Missouri, at the Union Station Hotel, running from May 25-29, 2017.


Musk Predicts Falcon 9 Return to Flight in Mid-December


SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told CNBC on Friday that investigators have found the root cause of the fire and explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 booster on Sept. 1. The company expects to resume launches by the middle of December.

Musk, confirming earlier discussion about the investigation, said the failure involved liquid helium being loaded into bottles made of carbon composite materials within the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s upper stage. This created solid oxygen, which Musk previously said could have ignited with the carbon composite materials. However, he did not go into that level of detail in his CNBC comments.

Tom Stafford’s Letter to NASA About SpaceX Falcon 9 Safety Concerns


NASA has released a copy of a December 2015 letter from Tom Stafford, chairman of the NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee, to Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier expressing concerns about the safety of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Stafford wrote that the committee unanimously believes SpaceX’s plan to load astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon before fueling the Falcon 9 booster is counter to safe practices that have been in place for more than 50 years.


NASA Advisory Committee Concerned About SpaceX Fueling Plans


SpaceX says it has ” a reliable fueling and launch process”

The Wall Street Journal reports that NASA’s International Space Station Advisory Committee has deep concerns about SpaceX’s plans to load astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon prior to fueling the Falcon 9 booster.

On Monday, the committee met and issued further strong warnings about the potential safety hazards of the way entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. plans to fuel rockets before they are slated to transport U.S. crews into orbit….

The concerns were expressed in a December 2015 letter to NASA headquarters by former astronaut and retired Air Force Lt. General Thomas Stafford, the panel’s chairman. Gen. Stafford wrote that such practices—which envision pumping in fuel with astronauts already strapped into a capsule on top of the rocket—go against decades of international space-launch policy. The committee was unanimous last year in opposing SpaceX’s fueling plans….

A NASA official assigned to Monday’s meeting said the committee could expect a briefing in December.

After the meeting, a SpaceX spokesman said the company “has designed a reliable fueling and launch process that minimizes the duration and number of personnel exposed to the hazards of launching a rocket.”