NASA Awards Additional Crew Missions to Boeing, SpaceX

74 Comments
Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA took another big step to ensure reliable crew transportation to the International Space Station into the next decade. The agency’s Commercial Crew Program has awarded an additional four crew rotation missions each to commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The four additional missions will fly following NASA certification. They fall under the current Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts, and bring the total number of missions awarded to each provider to six.

The additional flights will allow the commercial partners to plan for all aspects of these missions while fulfilling space station transportation needs. The awards do not include payments at this time.

“Awarding these missions now will provide greater stability for the future space station crew rotation schedule, as well as reduce schedule and financial uncertainty for our providers,” said Phil McAlister, director, NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development Division. “The ability to turn on missions as needed to meet the needs of the space station program is an important aspect of the Commercial Crew Program.”

The two commercial spacecraft also will provide a lifeboat capability to allow the astronauts aboard the station to return safely to Earth in an emergency, if necessary.

Returning human launch capabilities to U.S. soil underscores NASA’s commitment to the station and the research that the orbiting laboratory makes possible including the advancement of scientific knowledge off the Earth, for the benefit of those on the Earth and to prepare for future deep space exploration.

The Commercial Crew Program will help NASA get full operational use from the national laboratory for scientific research by increasing the number of astronauts on the space station, and allowing the crew members to dedicate more time to research.

The commercial crew vehicles will transport up to four astronauts for NASA missions, along with about 220 pounds of critical cargo to the space station.

More time dedicated for research allows NASA to better understand the challenges of long-duration human spaceflight without leaving low-Earth orbit. As NASA develops the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket for deep space missions, including the journey to Mars, NASA is turning over low-Earth orbit crew and cargo transportation to commercial companies. This two-pronged approach is critical to achieve the agency’s exploration goals.

Boeing’s uncrewed flight test, known as an Orbital Flight Test, is currently scheduled for June 2018 and its crewed flight test currently is planned for August 2018. SpaceX’s uncrewed flight test, or Demonstration Mission 1, is currently scheduled for November 2017, followed by its first crew flight test in May 2018.  Once the flight tests are complete and NASA certifies the providers for flight, the post-certification missions to the space station can begin.

Boeing and SpaceX are developing two unique human space transportation systems. They also are upgrading necessary infrastructure, including launch pads, processing facilities, control centers and firing rooms.

Boeing is developing the CST-100 Starliner that will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon to launch on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. Both are located on Florida’s Space Coast.

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  • Arthur Hamilton

    Well it’s a good thing that the ISS is modular. Replace each as it breaks with a commercial station module.

  • windbourne

    yup. So, move things around.

  • windbourne

    oh, I am sure that ALL parts are replaceable, just like the shuttle. Technically, we can still re-start it.
    Of course, the price for that would be HORRIBLE that only a CONgress would consider wasting money on.

  • windbourne

    right.
    BUT, how do you get a properly rated private space station that serves as habitat FIRST?
    Ideally, you would connect these 2 private companies to the ISS, and then allow them to be equipped with habitat equipment, over a year and then test them for another year before certifying them fully.
    Once certified, then those companies can set up more stations with the same habit section, along with other sections related to mission.

  • windbourne

    I would also like to see the pad test occur 1 more time to make sure. BUT, SpaceX will probably argue that it is not worth it.

  • Hug Doug

    I don’t think they can move Zarya xD

  • windbourne

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/ISS_Configuration_as_of_August_2016.svg

    Zarya connects to Unitity which is to the side of BEAM.
    Likewise, BEAM is between the radiators.
    removing BEAM and putting in a BA-330 should not be a big issue.

  • Hug Doug

    The solar arrays on Zarya are the primary clearance issue. A BA330 will not fit where BEAM is now.

    http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/BEAM-viewed-from-Russian-section-ISS_full.jpg

  • windbourne

    Really?
    So you are opposed to NASA helping new private space get off the ground and lowering our costs to space?
    How come?

    Do you not see that access to Space, The moon, mars, asteroids, etc is NOT an engineering issues, but an economic one.
    We have seen that CONgress will throw our money away by forcing NASA to be a jobs program.
    BUT, if NASA gets multiple private companies launching, and others running on space stations, and more handling lunar/martian landings/launches, etc all cheaply, why would you oppose that?

  • windbourne

    Perhaps, move the airlock there?

  • redneck

    If we agree on the meaning of commercial providers take off, then we disagree strongly on the results. Your triple would be 66 people per year. To me, it would be more like 12+ launches per year per provider. Triple digit space faring people in the very early years with the decimal moving every few years for a long while.

    Of course if you meant commercial take off in the ISS centric world, then triple might be optimistic.

  • Hug Doug

    That would be problematic for several reasons. The biggest one is that the gas storage containers for the spacesuits are stored on the Quest Joint Airlock, and all the plumbing and feed lines for them would need to be re-routed, in fact it probably would need all new feed lines and etc. sent up from Earth because the length would be different since they would have to be fed through the Tranquility module. The second biggest issue is that the QJA also has External Stowage Platform 2 mounted on it. That ESP module is powered and similarly, those power lines would need to be either re-routed or replaced.

    And I’m not 100% sure, because I don’t see it specifically listed anywhere, but the QJA may actually be permanently affixed to Unity starboard. The bolts used to secure it into location may not be reversible. I don’t think it was ever intended to be moved from the location it is at.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    Yes. I agree with NASA’s NextSTEP project. I hope it continues to completion.

    At the end of NextSTEP United States companies will have about two certified designs for spacestation habitats that they can sell to the world. NASA will be able to procure TRL 9 habitats that it can customise into future government controlled spacestations and spacecraft.

  • Hug Doug

    I found another good image of the BEAM (looking from the other direction) to show how the Zarya solar arrays are an issue, and below BEAM you can see a white panel, that’s one of the radiators on the ISS. This picture was taken during a recent EVA.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/46fcf5223e7385cc815b72c320076e785f369c119d0e3d6faaa2d5554509cc43.png

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    The legal requirement for cars to have safety belts and indicator lights came from some where.

    A more appropriate example is railway trains. In the UK each crash triggers a major investigation.

  • windbourne

    Oh snap. Beam was obviously purpose built for that spot.
    No wonder why NASA appears to want to limit it 1 group.

  • windbourne

    Yeah, after that other photo it is obvious that the berth is almost a wasted spot. Really kind of a shame since berthing ports are such a valuable resource.

  • Vladislaw

    12 launches x 7 passengers is 84 for a single provider, both would be 168 that is way more optimistic than my 66.

  • Hug Doug

    Basically, yeah. There’s not many spaces available on the ISS anymore, which is why the “Available: Common Berthing Mechanism ports, if the user provides equivalent capability to maintain ISS functionality” bit is in the Advancing Economic Development in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) via Commercial Use of Limited Availability, Unique International Space Station Capabilities RFI. Both Axiom and Bigelow want to use the PMA-2 docking port, which is why they’d have to build in a docking port on the other end of their module, they would need to keep the “equivalent capability” for ISS functionality.

  • windbourne

    Well, going between a docking port and berth would not be bad. In fact, that is ideal for making sure that modules can withstand the repeat docking.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    I am not opposed to NASA helping private space get a start. I am opposed to any company that completely relies on NASA calling themselves commercial space. Let’s see. NASA gave Bigelow the SpaceHab technology for free. It paid Paragon to develop ECLSS technology, although I’m not sure they have a unit large enough to support a BA-330 sized facility. It paid for the launch and test of BEAM. When should the NASA support of a private company finally stop ? I can’t even call this a NASA jobs program because Bigelow employs so few people. At least when NASA wastes funds on SpaceX, it results in increased employment.
    I agree that we need to fix the economic issues regarding Space access. That means letting the so-called commercial companies run their own business, and fail when their business plans don’t work. Let NASA find new contractors for the technology that enables deep space exploration. I’m not so sure Bigelow should be one of those contractors.

  • windbourne

    I do not believe that NASA gave SpaceHab tech for free. I thought that Bigelow paid for it.
    Paragon won an open contest to develop ECLSS tech. Did NASA pay 100% for it? I doubt it, but it is possible.
    NASA bought BEAM and paid for launch. That is a fact.

    Now, I notice that you object to Bigelow, Paragon, and SPaceX.
    Why nothing about ULA, Boeing, L-Mart, OATK, AJ,etc, etc.
    You NEVER grip about the established companies getting this money. The fact that ULA gets 1B / year subsidies never bothers you.
    The fact that NASA paid 100+% for CST-100, but only a fraction of dragon v2, never bothers you.
    Why?
    Why do you gripe about 1 set of gov subsides, but never the others?

    Personally, I have noticed that America has historically been smart enough to spend money to establish industries. Now, so many on the far right want to fight these unless it is the established companies. Then they are good with it.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    My point is that it’s time for Bigelow to put on their big boy pants and start acting like a commercial space company rather than a company that just talks big and builds pretty power point charts and toy models. Why does Bigelow need the ISS to build out it’s own private station ? Is there some restriction I don’t know of that stops them from launching a module into a free orbital slot ? Is there some restriction that stops them from ordering logistics flights from any of the current providers ? Boeing and SpaceX should have their capsules ready in 2018, but Bigelow isn’t ready to receive them.
    Everyone thinks this inflatable technology is neat, but does Bigelow have more than 50 employees in that empty factory in the desert ? They are luck the FAA isn’t insisting on a plan to de-orbit Genesis I/II before they are allowed to launch anything new. I’m fairly sure they have no control over those old modules.
    I have no issues with Paragon at all. I would like to see their technology in space, but this commercial crew process is taking forever.

  • windbourne

    Commercial crew is taking forever because of politics.