NASA Advisory Council Receives Updates on NASA Programs

NASA LOGOThe NASA Advisory Council has been meeting in Cleveland this week, receiving program updates from top agency officials. Below is a summary of the first two days based on Tweets by Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) and Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline). There are updates below on:

  • Commercial crew
  • Commercial cargo
  • International Space Station
  • SLS/Orion
  • NextSTEP
  • Deep-space human mission planning
  • SpaceX’s Red Dragon
  • Mars 2020
  • Blue Origin

Enjoy!

Commercial Crew

SpaceX_Boeing_CC_Schedule_July2016a
Phil McAlister

Director of Commercial Spaceflight

Schedule

  • May 2017: SpaceX Dragon flight test without crew
  • July 2017: in-flight Dragon abort test
  • August 2017: Dragon flight test with crew
  • October 2017: Dragon certification review for commercial flights
  • December 2017: Boeing CST-100 Starliner flight test without crew
  • February 2018: Starliner flight test with crew
  • May 2018: Starliner certification review for commercial flights

Program Status

  • Schedules are “optimistic but achievable”
  • SpaceX Delta Critical Design Review #2 in August will allow company to lock down spacecraft design
  • SpaceX has done a good job at designing their own spacesuits in house
  • NASA is more comfortable now with SpaceX using densified propellants in the Falcon 9 booster, but some concerns remain
  • Boeing testing extended skirt for Starliner capsule to deal with high acoustic loads
  • Crewed flight tests will stay docked at ISS for a number of weeks
  • Commercial Crew Program plans to award an additional post-certification crew mission very soon
  • Commercial Crew Program’s management of commercial flights will be modeled after NASA’s Launch Services Program

Commercial Cargo

Cygnus approaches ISS (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus approaches ISS (Credit: NASA)

William Gerstenmaier
Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations

  • Antares/Cygnus resupply mision is scheduled for Aug. 22 if challenges can be overcome
  • Space Act Agreement has been extended with Sierra Nevada Corporation through mid-2017 to support Dream Chaser landing tests at Edwards Air Force Base
  • Dream Chaser tests are set to take place around December

International Space Station

The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-133 crew member on space shuttle Discovery. (Credit: NASA)
The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-133 crew member on space shuttle Discovery. (Credit: NASA)

William Gerstenmaier
Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations

Sam Scimemi
Director, International Space Station

  • Gerstenmaier: request for information (RFI) for commercial use of one of the space station’s docking ports is “one of the most important” RFI’s NASA has issued in a long time
  • Gerstenmaier: The deadline for RFI responses is July 29, but it might be extended slightly
  • Scimemi: ISS is nominally due to be decommissioned in 2024, but it could last longer
  • Scimemi: space station astronauts are averaging about 44 hours per week of research time
  • Scimemi: water in a spacesuit during a spacewalk was likely due to heat load and the configuration of the suit

SLS/Orion Development & Schedule

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)
Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

William Gerstenmaier
Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations

William Hill
Deputy Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Development

  • Gerstenmaier: NASA could send humans to orbit or fly by Mars around 2033
  • Gerstenmaier: Additional technology would be required to land on Mars in the late 2030s
  • Gerstenmaier: First SLS/Orion mission without a crew scheduled for September to November 2018
  • Hill: Although there are challenges to meeting that schedule, officials believe they can make it
  • Hill: Second SLS/Orion mission with a crew is scheduled for August 2021
  • Hill: Completed critical design review (CRD) on European-supplied service module
  • Hill: Service module passed CDR with 800 actions required, including 19 critical actions
  • Hill: Actions are scheduled to be completed in October
  • Hill: SLS Exploration Upper Stage design review set for December 2016
  • Gerstenmaier: Schedule for NASA receiving the service module from Europe has slipped from January 2017 to April and possibly later
  • Hill: SLS Design Certification review will likely slip from January 2018 to early summer
  • Hill: Unlikely that Congress will pass a budget by the start of Fiscal Year 2017 on Oct. 1
  • Hill: Expects Congress will pay continuing resolution that will last for three to six months
  • Hill: A continuing resolution could affect funding levels; main concern is funds for ground systems
  • Hill: Hold-down bolts will not be used on SLS; instead the system’s weight will keep it in place
  • Hill: early shutdown an RS-25 engine on the test stand were not caused by problems with engine controllers
  • Gerstenmaier: Congress’ practice of placing conditions on how to spend funds and undertake programs makes things difficult
  • Gerstenmaier: NASA receives conflicting directions from the Obama Administration and House and Senate appropriations and authorization committees

NextSTEP Program
(Deep Space Habitat Development)

Cislunar station (Credit: Orbital ATK)
Cislunar station (Credit: Orbital ATK)

William Gerstenmaier
Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations

Jason Crusan
Director, Advanced Exploration Systems

  • Crusan: Four companies working on NextSTEP phase 1 deep-space habitation studies should have them completed by the end of September
  • Crusan: NextSTEP phase 2 contracts to be awarded in August
  • Crusan: NASA expects to have $65 million to fund the program over the next year
  • Gerstenmaier: Phase 2 contracts would pay for development of ground test articles
  • Gerstenmaier: Development of cislunar habitation module hardware would occur in 2021-22
  • Gerstenmaier: Habitation hardware could fly on SLS/Orion

ISS/Orion Deep Space Missions

NASA's Orion with the European Service Module (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros)
NASA’s Orion with the European Service Module (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros)

William Gerstenmaier
Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations

Robyn Gatens
Deputy Director, ISS Division

  • Gerstenmaier: NASA has been reluctant until now to lay out detailed plans for deep-space ISS/Orion missions for the 2020’s
  • Gerstenmaier: Because of the pending presidential transition, it’s now time to define these missions
  • Gerstenmaier: NASA is holding discussions with potential commercial and international partners on missions to conduct in the 2020s
  • Gatens: ISS environmental control and life support systems (ECLSS) and fire protection technology are insufficient for a 3-year Mars mission
  • Gatens: Removing carbon dioxide is the key challenge for a human Mars mission
  • Gatens: ISS will serve as a testbed for new ECLSS and fire protection systems
  • Gatens: Plan is to select technologies in 2019 and fly them for two years on ISS no later than 2022

SpaceX Red Dragon

Red Dragon landing on Mars (Credit: SpaceX)
Red Dragon landing on Mars (Credit: SpaceX)

Jim Reuter
Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs
Space Technology Mission Directorate

  • SpaceX has an “extremely aggressive” schedule to launch a Dragon (aka, Red Dragon) spacecraft to land on Mars
  • Red Dragon is a lower priority than commercial crew work and satellite launches
  • SpaceX is spending about one-tenth the amount that NASA would spend on a similar mission
  • A comparable NASA mission would probably not fly for 10 years or more after SpaceX’s flight
  • NASA will spend about $32 million supporting the mission as part of partnership with SpaceX

Mars 2020

Jim Green
Planetary Science Division Director

  • Mars 2020 rover mission cost increased from $1.5 billion to $2.1 billion was due to additional capabilities
  • Mission will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V

Blue Origin

William Gerstenmaier
Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations

  • NASA and Blue Origin have signed a new unfunded Space Act Agreement relating to the company’s plans for crewed orbital flights

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