Spacecraft Technology Expo Commercial Crew Panel

Spacecraft Technology Expo
Session 13 – Crew Launch Panel

Andrew Aldrin
Director, Development & Advanced Programs
United Launch Alliance

Keith Reiley
Deputy Program Manager – Commercial Crew Development
Boeing Space Exploration

Garrett Reisman
Senior Engineer, Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance

Michael Lopez-Alegria
Commercial Spaceflight Federation

Editor’s Note: Mark Sirangelo of Sierra Nevada Corporation was scheduled to appear to discuss the company’s Dream Chaser shuttle. However, his schedule did not allow him to appear. He appeared earlier during the expo.

United Launch Alliance's configurations for launch commercial crew vehicles on Delta IV and Atlas V vehicles. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

Andrew Aldrin

Status of Commercial Crew Efforts

  • Five years ago, nobody would have thought we would be in the midst of commercial crew procurement five years ago
  • Pleasantly surprised by progress
  • Although some people feel we should be making more progress by now, things are moving along well
  • Augustine Committee in 2009 didn’t specifically recommend commercial crew but was very supportive of it
  • He turned to Mark Sirangelo at Sierra Nevada Corporation and asked, “So what happens when the dog catches the car?
  • Sirangelo: “I don’t know. I guess we start chewing on it.”
  • Industry in really good shape to complete the program

ULA’s Commercial Crew efforts

  • History: 60 launches – 100 percent success rate with Atlas and Delta rockets
  • Launching at a rate of 1 launch per month
  • ULA is taking what we already do and flying it commercially
  • Flying it is the best way to get reliability
  • Significant progress toward human certification by using unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA
  • Key piece is not vehicle modification – key thing is working through the certification process….modifications are fairly minor
  • Certification process is different if you are already flying a vehicle – more of a validation that what you have already works
  • Only major addition to the entire launch vehicle system is an emergency detection system – box which sense performance of the vehicle using existing sensors and will send a command or signal for an abort
  • Box is a relatively small addition to an existing avionics package
  • Reintroducing dual engine Centaur – to get a bit more performance
  • Spacecraft structural accommodations
  • Develop crew ingress and emergency egress, pad modifications
  • Risk assessment path – hazards analysis, safety report, flight history
  • Also looking at all of NASA’s specific requirements
  • 134 different requirements – 81 met or exceeded with existing system
  • 27 different requirements are under review and awaiting assessment
  • Without modifications meet nearly all of the requirements in 1100 series of documents

Emergency Detection System

  • Common avionics suite for Atlas V and Delta IV
  • Additional box in the avionics suite
  • Did prototype EDS successfully tested during CCDev1 with several launch system abort simulations
  • Black zones during which crew could not safetly abort 
  • They do fly very high and come down very steep and have high g forces for satellite launches
  • Will use a more horizontal trajectory – slight performance hit there
  • Throttled back a little bit to lower max Q
  • One of cases where commercial crew forced us to look at something we hadn’t looked at before and nothing but good came out of it

Pad Improvements

  • Needed for crew ingress and emergency egress — current pad is not set up for human spaceflight
  • Looking at several different crew ingress egress options
  • Will down select shortly
  • One of the biggest expense areas but not technically difficult

Keith Reiley
Boeing Space Exploration

A Boeing CST-100 crew module docks at a Bigelow Aerospace space station. (Credit: Boeing)

CST-100 Crew Vehicle Work

  • If you make it too complex, takes a long time — keeps the vehicle very simple
  • Make sure the vehicle is compatible with multiple launch vehicles
  • Building capsule for different client requirments
  • NASA is looking on keeping CST-100 at ISS for six months
  • Bigelow is looking at 3-month rotations
  • Will be landing on land
  • Land touchdowns add more requirements on vehicle
  • Don’t like the idea of bobbing around on the water and hoping you don’t drown
  • Designing the vehicle for 10 re-flights…
  • Using a lot of existing, proven technologies from other programs Boeing has done over past 50 years — ISS, X-37, shuttle, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Orbital Express, military satellites
  • Orbital Express – demonstrated autonomous rendezvous and docking between two spacecraft
  • CST-100 capsule doesn’t not have any welds in it….spun – technique that Boeing invented
  • Was able spin manufacture i in 9 months – with welds and X-rays, would have take twice as long
  • Will manufacture CST-100 in shuttle processing facility no. 3 at Kennedy Space Center
    Control room across the parking lot
  • Application of Boeing production system and lean manufacturing, including those used on commercial aircraft side  (Dreamliner, 737’s, etc.)
  • Blended Boeing/JSC mission operations team
  • Very lean way of handling mission ops
  • Primary mission control team will be at JSC, backup center in Florida
  • Thrusters on the crew module are the same ones being used on Orion
  • A lot of existing technology from Orion and past programs
  • Will use docking system under development by NASA
  • Can fly seven crew or take seats out and fly small crew with cargo

Garrett Reisman

His introduction to SpaceX

  • STS-132 delayed – had a day free
  • Crew went over to see what was happening
  • Impressed by how efficient the operation was, how resourceful the team was and how enthusiastic they were about their work
  • SpaceX crew was almost giddy about their work
  • The day Dragon flew into orbit and returned, he was flying a jet to Edwards AFB
  • Ground team member at Edwards congratulated him on NASA’s success
  • Most enthusiasm he had seen about NASA in a while
  • Didn’t think it had anything to do with NASA, that was a SpaceX project
  • Realized that it was a partnership between NASA and SpaceX
  • Made a difficult decision to leave the astronaut program because it is a really good gig

Fixed Price Contracting vs. Federal Acquisition Regulation Contracting Methods

  • The easiest way to draw a distinction is in the contracting method
  • Traditional cost plus contracting – government bears all the risk, contractor gets a profit as a percentage of the cost
  • This has not always been a good deal for taxpayers or government customer
  • The CRS contract is a commercial contract – fixed price, private investment – contractor bears all the burden for dealing with cost increases
  • Falcon and Dragon were development for about $300 million apiece — $600 million total
  • “That’s chump change” in aerospace arena
  • “Were demonstrating that there is a new way of doing business that is beneficial for both parties.”
  • “We’re making money doing this.”
  • “NASA’s been using contractors for a long time.”
  • Interaction between the contractor and NASA. Under firm fixed price approach, the contractor dictates the pace of development and testing.
  • When testing the abort system – tested it, decided to make changes, milled the changes and conducted another test the next day – unheard of under traditional approach
  • At verification and certification, NASA is in complete control…the same as it is in the traditional approach – if NASA doesn’t like it, then doesn’t accept it
  • Mark Sirangelo comment on previous day: the purest form of commercial crew is what NASA is doing now – paying for tickets aboard Soyuz
  • NASA never did certification on Soyuz booster, spacecraft….just the same way you would buy a car without giving Ford a list of requirements…
  • Almost 1,800 employees at SpaceX now
  • “The motivation and morale is through the roof at SpaceX. That makes me exciting about going to work every day in the morning.”
  • Trying to get down to $1,000 per pound to orbit – if we can get to reusability, then that goes down quite a lot

Michael Lopez-Alegria
Commercial Spaceflight Federation

  • Read a letter to Neil Armstrong responding to a recent letter by him, Jim Lovell and Eugene Cernan supporting an immediate down select on commercial crew and rapid transition to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contracting
  • Praised Armstrong and said he had deepest respect for what he had done in Apollo 11 — had inspired him to become an astronaut
  • Deeply disappointed in position expressed by Armstrong and his colleagues on the downselect
  •  Refutes that Space Act Agreements are not good, safe ways to pursue crew
  • Cost plus can reward contractor for inefficiency
  • Armstrong, etc. says that Space Act Agreements provide little in the way of requirements or proof
  • This is not true – there are clear certification regulations and NASA has the final say
  • Invites Armstrong and others to visit the commercial companies and talk to NASA
  • “Step outside the box where steely eyed aviators exist” and look to other benefits
  • Armstrong concerned that money paid to companies that are not chosen will be money wasted…
  • Federal money paid to companies flying mail in the 1920’s helped lead to the commercial aviation industry
  • Lopez-Alegria has not sent the letter yet — hasn’t developed specific plan for how to move forward
  • Not ready to release a copy of the letter right now in present form
  • Letter: “It’s definitely from the heart”

Questions and Answers

Question 1:   NASA proposed spending $830 million on commercial crew for FY 2013. The Senate came back with $525 million while the House only wants to spend $500 million. President Barack Obama has threated to veto the House spending plan, in part because of the deep cut in commercial crew.

So, why did the Commercial Spaceflight Federation say that Congress’s budgets represented a strong statement of support for crew when it cuts the program so deeply?

Lopez-Alegria: CSF represents a lot of different companies and in this case had to take a more moderate position. Felt it was progress over what Congress did last year whe n it provided $406 million instead of the requested $860 million.

CSF’s position as a “tactical retreat” for a stronger attack later. The debate is not over yet.

Question 2:  Has there been any significant weight growth in the CST-100 spacecraft. Are you looking to add solid strap-on boosters to the Atlas V to handle the weight?

Reiley: There has been some weight growth. Already have one solid strap-on for the variant of the Atlas V that wil be used.

Question 3: SpaceX just announced a partnership with Bigelow Aerospace to fly Falcon 9 vehicles to Bigelow’s private space stations. How does that affect the ongoing work with Bigelow and Boeing’s plan to fly CST-100 vehicles there?

Reiley:  Boeing’s relationship with Bigelow has been an open one in which Bigelow is free to contract with other providers. It won’t affect Boeing’s relationship or the CST-100 program much. Robert Bigelow is hedging his bets in terms of access to the space station. Not worried about it.

Question 4: If the Dragon flight to ISS set for later this month is fully successful, what is the schedule for commercial cargo delivery to the ISS.

Reisman: Plan two commercial cargo flights before the end of the year. First one would be three or four months after the COTS test flight. The second one toward the end of the year.