NASA’s 60-Day Progress Report on CCDev Milestones

CST-100 airbag drop test. (Credit: Boeing)

NASA Return on Investment 60 Day Report
Commercial Crew Development Industry Partners Continue Progress

NASA PR — Over the last two months, NASA’s industry partners demonstrated substantial progress toward achieving crewed spaceflight in the middle of the decade by completing six more Space Act Agreement milestones. In just six short months since the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 partners were selected, they have completed 21 of the 57 planned milestones.

The Sierra Nevada Corporation completed their functional Vehicle Avionics Integration Laboratory (VAIL), which will be used to test Dream Chaser computers and electronics in simulated space mission scenarios. Initially, the VAIL will be utilized for developmental testing, and then later as a key tool for Dream Chaser certification.

Blue Origin LLC successfully completed two technical reviews. Their space vehicle Mission Concept Review(MCR) identified proposed mission objectives as well as the design concepts to meet them. Also, in preparation for their Reusable Booster System (RBS) engine component testing next year, Blue Origin presented their test plan and test article interface data to NASA experts.

CCDev milestone progress as of Oct. 21, 2011. (Credit: NASA)

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully completed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of their Launch Abort System propulsion components. This review demonstrated that SpaceX is ready to proceed with detailed design, fabrication, assembly, integration, and testing of the component test articles.

United Launch Alliance completed a Design Equivalency Review (DER), which presented their Atlas V requirements and certification process development to NASA technical experts for feedback.

Together with their Bigelow Aerospace teammates, Boeing successfully completed a series of drop tests in the Mojave Desert to measure the performance of prototype landing airbags for their CST-100 commercial crew spacecraft. When returning from space, the CST-100 will descend on three parachutes. To further cushion the land-based landings, the capsule’s heat shield will drop away at about 5,000 feet and six airbags will inflate.

CST-100 airbag drop test. (Credit: Boeing)

To test these bags under real conditions, the team used a unique, one-of-a-kind mobile rig built from a semi-truck with a trailer-mounted crane to simulate landings with both a horizontal and vertical component to landing velocity. At over 11 feet high, the crane provided a vertical drop speed of 18 mph, which is equivalent to the planned rate of descent under the CST-100’s parachutes. The truck provided horizontal speeds up to 20 mph.

The primary purpose of the drop tests, which were performed as part of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement, was to collect engineering data on the impact loads and bag performance to help refine design tools. “These tests allowed us to do early computer simulation models and begin validating those models,” said John McKinney, the Landing and Recovery System lead for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Development program.

These computer models are now being used to refine the CST-100 airbag designs. More drop testing using the truck-mounted crane will continue in Nevada, leading up to a test of the latest bag designs as part of a fully integrated parachute drop test early next year.

A summary schedule showing all completed and planned CCDev2 milestones can be found at