Boeing Completes First CCtCap Milestone

Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)
Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has approved the completion of Boeing’s first milestone in the company’s path toward launching crews to the International Space Station from the United States under a groundbreaking Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract.

The Certification Baseline Review is the first of many more milestones, including flight tests from Florida’s Space Coast that will establish the basis for certifying Boeing’s human space transportation system to carry NASA astronauts to the space station. The review established a baseline design of the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and associated ground and mission operations systems.

“The work done now is crucial to each of the future steps in the path to certification, including a flight test to the International Space Station,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “This first milestone establishes an expected operating rhythm for NASA and Boeing to meet our certification goal.”

On Sept. 16, the agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively. These contracts will provide U.S. missions to the station, ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia and allowing the station’s current crew of six to grow, enabling more research aboard the unique microgravity laboratory.

The CCtCap contracts are designed for the companies to complete NASA certification of their human space transportation systems, including a crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut aboard to verify the fully integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch from the United States, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all its systems perform as expected. Once the test program has been completed successfully and the systems achieve NASA certification, the contractors will conduct at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station. The spacecraft also will serve as a lifeboat for astronauts aboard the station.

During the review, Boeing provided NASA with a roadmap toward certification, including its baseline design, concept of operations and management and insight plans. The Boeing team also detailed how the CST-100 would connect with the station and how it plans to train NASA astronauts to fly the CST-100 in orbit.

“It’s important for us to set a robust plan for achieving certification upfront,” said Boeing Commercial Crew Program Manager John Mulholland. “It’s crucial for us to achieve our 2017 goal, and the plan we’ve put in place will get us there.”

By expanding the crew size and enabling private companies to handle launches to low-Earth orbit — a region NASA has been visiting since 1962 — the nation’s space agency can focus on getting the most research and experience out of America’s investment in the International Space Station. NASA also can expand its focus to develop the Space Launch System and Orion capsule for missions in the proving ground of deep space beyond the moon to advance the skills and techniques that will enable humans to explore Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

  • Kirk

    Has a list of CCtCap milestones and associated awards been released yet? What is the award amount for this milestone (Boeing’s Certification Baseline Review)? Is the release of CCtCap specifics being held up be the SNC protest?

  • Dennis

    While this is certainly ‘impressive’ only two months into the program… It is again yet ‘only’ another PowerPoint milestone. When are we going to see some actual Boeing hardware?

  • Douglas Messier

    No. Unknown. Yes.

  • Kirk

    I found Jeff Foust’s Space News article, href=”http://spacenews.com/article/civil-space/41924nasa-commercial-crew-awards-leave-unanswered-questions”>NASA Commercial Crew Awards Leave Unanswered Questions, from two months ago to be very interesting. He compares the $2.6B SpaceX + $4.2B Boeing = $6.8B CCtCap award for development and six flights per company with the $3.4B commercial crew program’s projected 2015 – 2019 budget + $3.4B for 12 flights at $383M per flight based on four seat flights at $70.7M per seat, the current Soyuz per-seat cost which the NASA Office of Inspector General report stated that the ISS program was expecting to pay for commercial crew.

    The numbers do add up, but it is strange that they should since the budget proposal was published way back in March. It also seems strange that both companies would be charge the same per-flight rate, since they bid separately, and last fall’s solicitation even offered fields for the competitors to bid different per-flight rates for different mission years and different flight rates (missions per year).

    If they did both really did ask for $383M per flight, then six flights comes in at $1.7B, meaning that SpaceX received only $900M for the final development vs. Boeing’s $2.5B.

    My favorite question from the CCtCap award press conference follow up teleconference with Kathy Lueders was asked by Keith Cowing of NASA Watch, “I’m still a little bit baffled as to why Boeing gets so much more. Is Boeing much more expensive to do the same work or is it that SpaceX is cheaper?” Ha!

    Note that the $2.6B and $4.2B are “up to” numbers, assuming that the respective company is awarded six flights.

  • Douglas Messier

    It’s funny now. But if SpaceX keeps slipping on its schedule, the race to be first will likely tighten up.

    Remember that pad abort test they had planned for November. Well, it’s now December. According to the original schedule, they were supposed to complete it in December 2013. I’m not sure they will complete this year.

  • windbourne

    Yeah, it is slipping a bit, but SpaceX is growing at a phenomenal pace. As such, I think a bit of slippage is expected. Will the pad abort occur in Dec or Jan? Meh.
    Assume it slips to Jan. So what? I think where SpaceX has real issues is the 2 reports that were left. Those take time. I would guess that the tests are just final things prior to a real launch.

    Personally, I think that SpaceX has a LOT of pokers in the fire and it causing them to keep chasing the next priority.
    SpaceX has been focused on 2 main things:
    1) launch rates. They had to get their rates up to at least 1 / month, and are now headed into 2 / month.
    2) recovery of the first stage. If they can accomplish this before they head into a fast pace of launches, then they will be able to drop their prices below others as well as increase profits ( and IDEALLY, they will take over providing insurance. If they have a 25 launches without issues, then it might make sense for them to switch to insuring the launch themselves and gain another 5-20 million / launch ).

    Now, add FH, building out Brown Beach, and even Raptor, and I suspect BFR has a small team devoted to it, along with Musk looking at a Golden Opportunity with the sats, well, he and SpaceX are pretty thinned out.

    So, not surprising to see some slippage in this.

    Funny thing is, I have to wonder if he does not mind this slippage since it gives more time for BEAM to be fully tested? Once BEAM has NASA approval, then Bigelow can go forward with NASA being their first, and perhaps largest, customer.
    Keep in mind that 2-6 launches of humans is NOT a lot of money for them. But, combined with BA’s space station, well, that is a different matter.

  • windbourne

    Exactly right about the flight rates.

    At best, I think that SpaceX will get 4 from NASA (most likely 3, though Boeing spends billions on lobbyists ), which might be why SpaceX is allowing slippage.

    Basically, with them being a start-up (and they really are in start-up mode), and not having access to unlimited amounts of money like Boeing does, then they have to think carefully where money flows towards.

    I suspect that SpaceX is trying to make human launches go with ISS, along with Bigelow Aerospace. It will take NASA at least a year of testing BEAM before they vet it. At that point, I think that NASA will cut a deal with BA to put say 2-5 ppl on their station for several years. That will be HUGE for BA and allow SpaceX to really make a human launch every 3 months or so. In fact, it might speed up once BA gets other nations on-board for training.

  • Dennis

    I am not going to defend SpaceX here, because the rate at which their schedule slips time and again is quite rediculous imho. Like you said, their tests were supposed to be complete a year ago, and now the first of two still hasn’t happened yet.

    But, this is not about SpaceX, this is about Boeing. And Boeing yet again has held a few days of presentations and meetings for another ‘milestone’, but meanwhile the only CST they have is still that cut-in-half mockup built by Bigelow 🙁

  • Douglas Messier

    That’s exactly the problem. What does first stage recovery have to do with what NASA or comsat operators are paying SpaceX to do? You can ask the same thing about the Texas spaceport. And to a lesser extent Falcon Heavy.

    NASA is paying SpaceX to develop a crewed Dragon. Commsat operators want their satellites launched on time. Instead they get constant delays while musk is building barges and a new spaceport and modifying the rockets for recovery and suing the air force to add more flights to an ever delayed manifest.

    There’s no monthly launch cadence yet. Falcon Heavy is running 2.5 years behind schedule. Spacex will finally get around to launching GoreSat next month, a launch the govt awarded it years ago for a satellite that’s been in storage for 14 years.

  • strata8

    It’s arguable that there’s no monthly launch cadence. Remember that they recently launched 4 payloads in 3 months. AFAIK the current delays are due to payload readiness rather than launch availability but correct me if I’m wrong on that.

  • Aerospike

    Well it’s almost guaranteed that Boeing will be first to get people into orbit from US soil again.

    By climbing the ginormous mount of paperwork they have done for CCtCap! 😀

  • DavidR2014

    Hurry up Boeing. The US doesn’t want to depend on the Russians forever.

  • windbourne

    That is such an ironic statement.
    Basically, with boeing, it moves us from Soyuz dependency to atlas’s first stage which is even more costly, dependancy. Boeing’s version will increase costs for NASA, increase profits for Russia, and have some stupid politician screaming that they lowered costs and took away Russian dependency.

  • Douglas Messier

    Source?

  • Solartear

    For a while.

    ULA is supposedly switching to a domestic engine provided at the end of CCtCap, removing the dependency for post-development Commercial Crew. Who knows if it will get completed, but at least the super-expensive Delta IV line will end.

  • Jim R

    Nobody does once per month consistently except the Russians.

  • Jim R

    Texas spaceport is for commercial customers and higher launch rate, clearly important to their customers; same goes for FH, it already has booked flights. Stage recovery is R&D, you’re not seriously suggesting a company shouldn’t do R&D?

    SpaceX’s manifest is pretty close to the original schedule, for example when DSCOVR was won in 2012, it is said the launch date is late 2014, it got changed to early 2015 in 2013, so seems to be right on track.

  • Douglas Messier

    ULA does. Two more launches set for this month (4 and 11), that will make 14 for the year I believe. Would have had a 15th this year but Delta II launch was delayed to January due to additional testing of payload,

  • Douglas Messier

    I take your point on DSCOVR. So, their entire manifest is close to original schedule? How can you tell? Manifests are published according to when hardware arrives at launch site.

  • Jim R

    Only for this year, Atlas V and Delta IV doesn’t even have 12 flights per year in previous years, and it doesn’t look good in the future either (EELV has 50 cores for 5 years)

  • Jim R

    The manifest is useless anyway since you don’t know if a change is caused by customer side or SpaceX side. To get a feel on how the manifest is going, you can check the original planned launch date of recent launches. For example Asiasat 6/8 are supposed to launch in March/May, they got launched in August/September, so 4 to 5 months of delay. JASON-3 was originally planned for December 2014, it now looks like March next year, so 3 months of delay.

  • Douglas Messier

    You’re right. They only did 11 last year.

    SpaceX’s own goal is 12 per year. They’re not meeting their own objective.

  • Michael J. Listner

    “…though Boeing spends billions on lobbyists)

    And Space X as it continues lobbying will eventually get there too. It’s neither hind nor hare since they ALL spend money on lobbyists.

  • Douglas Messier

    I believe some of these delays resulted from SpaceX’s decision to bring the helium tank production in house. For whatever reason, they decided they didn’t need an outside vendor for it and switched from what was working to their own design. Then they had problems doing it themselves.

    The practice of bringing as much as possible in house and constantly changing things is certainly different from freezing the design and making very careful changes as other companies do. It’s not always conducive to launching on time.

  • windbourne

    SpaceX can not afford to spend anything CLOSE to what ULA, Boeing, and L-Mart do. Not even 1/100th.

  • windbourne

    Well, SpaceX only did 7 this year.
    3 the year before.
    and 2 the year before that.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_launches#Launch_history_and_manifest

    Sounds like SpaceX is constantly doubling each year.
    And they are scheduled for 17 next year,
    I would expect that they will do at least 12, if not 15 of them,
    which would be in-line with how they are scaling up.

  • Douglas Messier

    Uh huh. By that reasoning, ULA should be at 17 next year.

  • windbourne

    first stage recovery and re-launch may allow SpaceX to launch every day, and at a fraction of the price. The fact is, getting these built AND TESTED, takes a long time.
    I suspect that they will be able to do 4-5 re-launches with the same first stage by end of next year. And if only takes them 7 days to recondition and put it back on the pad, well, that is quite the turn around.

    So, I see great value for SpaceX if they can simply re-launch their first stage. As such, it makes total sense to me why SpaceX is focused on this.

    But, the rest is taking a toll on them from what it appears. However, SpaceX is constantly growing and hiring top ppl.
    I think that they will deal with the schedule issue shortly.
    Hopefully, it does not turn them into VG or OSC.

  • windbourne

    Texas is limited to 1 month with only 2 FH / year.
    As such, it will be the much lower launch rate that Kennedy can do.
    I am guessing that once SpaceX’s flight rate is growing at a steady rate, they will likely push for Canaveral to be re-done so that they can do launches daily.

  • windbourne

    First off, it took a lot of work for atlas to be man rated.
    I suspect that the new one will not be man-rated for sometime. As such, Atlas will remain until 2020.

    Secondly, I do not think that Delta IV is that expensive. At least compared to Atlas.

  • Jim R

    Personally I think it would be much easier (and cheaper) to lobby Texas to permit more launches than to upgrade the airforce range equipments.

  • windbourne

    Does ULA have the sales? I think that they are fighting for that right now.

  • windbourne

    Cheaper? Maybe. Easier? Not sure about that.

    SpaceX has shown that they will invest money if it has a return for them. And upgrading USAF’s range equipment may be on their schedule. After all, that same equipment will be in Texas.

  • Jim R

    It could be, I don’t know, I suspect switching to a brand new launch vehicle (v 1.1) could also explain some of the delays, after all most of the recent launches are signed before v1.1 was on the launch pad.

  • Kirk

    According to this Space News article published last spring, in 2013 SpaceX out lobbied ULA itself by $1.1 million vs. $670,000. Boeing and Lockheed Martin spent an additional $30 million, and there is some discussion as to how much that benefits ULA directly.

  • Michael J. Listner

    You’re trying the moral equivalency argument and there is none when it comes to lobbying. It’s a necessary evil and whether you spend $1 or a million you’re trying to influence a vote.

  • windbourne

    “Spending on lobbying in the defense aerospace field, as defined by OpenSecrets.org, has remained relatively flat for the last four years, shrinking from $63 million to $57.8 million. However, the amount spent by ULA and SpaceX has increased. While the two companies made up just 1 percent of defense aerospace lobbying dollars in 2010, they made up 3.1 percent in 2013.”

    https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=D01++

    What you see is that the top 3, and most of the top 10, are all part of SLS, Orion, parts for Delta and Atlas, etc.

    There is little doubt that Boeing and L-Mart are spending many millions on this.
    Heck, just check the other sectors in the defense arena.