Update on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program


These slides were presented last month to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee by Lisa Colloredo, deputy manager of the Commercial Crew Program.


The slides included the following integrated schedule, to which I have added lists of abbreviations and milestones.


Boeing is working to fly its CST-100 Starliner by the end of 2018…

…although the schedule looks pretty tight.


SpaceX is further ahead with its Dragon 2 spacecraft…

…but the company is still working on a number of key milestones.

The presentation also included slides covering ongoing work with Blue Origin…

…and Sierra Nevada Corporation.


NASA has put together a Commercial Crew Program year in review segment here.

  • SamuelRoman13

    Looks good. If the parachutes fail Dragon could use thrusters to land I hope. Starliner has no backup. But SpaceX did not land the cargo Dragon when F9 blew. So it would not surprise me if they don’t have software for an emergency landing.

  • Michael Halpern

    Cargo dragon has less powerful engines

  • Michael Halpern

    Is it bad that i want spacex demo mission 2 to be specifically on August 9th because of my birthday?

  • Gionaa

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  • Kirk

    The Dragon cargo capsule on SpaceX/CRS-7 survived the breakup of its ride, continued transmitting telemetry until if crashed into the ocean, and would presumably have been saved if it had been programed to deploy its parachutes under such circumstances.

  • mlc449

    August 2018 seems very optimistic in outlook. Hopefully SpaceX can pull this off and avoid further delays.

  • opmyl

    According to spaceflight101 Demo 1 is already set for second half of 2018 and Demo 2 has moved to 2019

  • Kirk

    Interesting idea. Do you know if they plan to fire the SuperDracos as braking rockets during normal ocean landings. My guess would be no, that the ocean landing under full parachutes is soft enough, and firing the SuperDracos on landing could complicate recovery and refurbishing.

    But it would certainly be embarrassing to lose a crew due to parachute failure when you have serviceable landing rockets, even if they haven’t been certified for the purpose.

  • Kirk

    How far out is NASA set for rides on Soyuz?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Expect NASA to keep tossing new safety requirements in their way. Having SpaceX look bad is good for SLS in their mindset that it’s a limited sum game.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    “SpaceX built a test version of its Crew Dragon solely for evaluation of the life support system that will provide tight control of parameters that are important to human safety such as temperature, carbon dioxide levels, oxygen levels and cabin pressure. The environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) was extensively tested and evaluated at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne.”

    This plus the pressure suit integration work and reports on MMOD modeling being the biggest bottlenecks going forward suggests there is no ECLSS hold up at this point in the development.

  • Douglas Messier

    Mid-2019.

  • Douglas Messier

    Musk said they added mods to cargo Dragon so it could deploy parachutes if such a failure occurred again.

  • Douglas Messier

    To you have a link to that?

  • opmyl

    “Also set for 2018 is the debut of SpaceX’s crewed Dragon spacecraft, set for an uncrewed demonstration mission to the International Space Station in the second half of the year, to be followed by a two-week crewed mission (likely in early 2019 per current ISS planning schedules).”

    The don’t have any further sources

    http://spaceflight101.com/falcon-9-launches-fourth-set-of-iridium-satellites/

  • ThomasLMatula

    The sooner NASA is able to move beyond the Soyuz the better. It appears Russia’s space industry will end the year with another failure, this one being the $258 million Angolan Sat.

    https://www.rt.com/newsline/414349-angolan-satellite-contact-lost/

    Contact lost with 1st Angolan satellite after launch from Baikonur spaceport

    Published time: 27 Dec, 2017 13:05

  • Kirk

    Right. So will they apply that lesson to the crew Dragon and program it to attempt a propulsive splashdown in case of parachute failure when that is the only alternative to a splatdown? Would it make sense to include such an emergency backup routine without ever testing it via a drop?

  • Michael Halpern

    True, but I was talking about the idea of using cargo as a program test platform for propulsive emergency landing for crew in parachute failure, it just isn’t feasible, doesn’t mean they can’t program it, and they probably could use a lower precision version of booster landing, calibrated for dragon v2.

  • Douglas Messier

    Thank you.

  • Don’t be too hasty to switch off the Soyuz capsule. It’s been very reliable and very safe since before Mir. While the technical causes might vary, the #1 killer of astronauts and cosmonauts is rushing when the hardware isn’t ready.

    Buying those extra Soyuz seats was one of the greatest safety moves NASA has ever done. There is no proxy war to fight here (Apollo), just give the contractors the extra time they need to get it right.

  • That’s part of the reason why Soyuz has been so successful – they can man-rate most items on Progress. Why NASA didn’t mandate such an approach is beyond me.

  • Michael Halpern

    They can manrate most things on dragon 1, heck dragon 1 can and often does carry animals (rodents typically) to and from the ISS

  • Michael Halpern

    They use cargo dragon to help with MMOD modeling

  • Michael Halpern

    Propulsive splashdown is complicated, doable yes and they probably will do some drop tests for it, before they officially have it as a backup, you need to drop test because unlike parachutes this isn’t self righting

  • Emmet Ford

    There will be a red “propulsive landing” button on the control panel screen, but if you press it, you have to read and accept the EULA.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Dragon made its first orbital flight on December 8, 2010. That is far longer than the unmanned versions of either Mercury, Gemini or Apollo flew. And they didn’t have the software to analyze failure modes in those days they have now.

    What will probably happen is that CCP will keep getting delayed by safety requirement creep until the law of averages catches up with the Soyuz and it kills another crew. Then given the chocie of abandoning the ISS or letting the “unsafe” Dragon II carry a crew NASA will allow finally allow it to do so. And be NASA probably praise themselves for the risks they are taking with it.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Because when Dragon flies it will be game over for Orion.

  • Douglas Messier

    The pressure vessel is the only major element that is the same between cargo and crew Dragon. The original plan had been to simply upgrade the cargo Dragon vehicle, but somehow this project became a much bigger deal.

    I wouldn’t be too quick to blame the booster for the Angosat-1 comm loss. Could be the Russian built satellite. We’ll see what happens. Normally if it was something with the upper stage we would have heard that by now.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    I heard that, from ASAP I think. Not sure if it has happened or planning to happen.

  • ThomasLMatula

    When NASA gets involved it always becomes a bigger deal. Look at the original idea for a space station compared to what the ISS turned into.

    The reason NASA reached the Moon in the 1960’s was because the engineers then knew how to keep things simple. Less than 3 years from start of Project Mercury to the first flight with no previous experience using slide rules, drafting tables and desktop calculating machines.

    The current NASA would still be holding planning meetings and producing animations.

  • Michael Halpern

    I think they have been doing it quietly in the background

  • SamuelRoman13

    Head of ISS said it is looking like they may make their schedule at the last launch of Dragon. Looks like no Dragon on Mars free return. A tourist got a image of a fairing with FH on it. Still could be a free return test though. That is the Starliner schedule. Both at the same time?

  • ReSpaceAge

    Cargo Dragon is a much safer ride than Soyuz.

    I’d ride with the mice.

    Engine out booster

    Flight proven boosters

  • Robert G. Oler

    Thomas yes…but add to that is 1) there was some drive to actually fly and 2) the folks at NASA then all came from an “operational” back ground where the success of a project was not a political function but it was that the vehicle actually flew…because if it didnt it could get cancelled

    by any metric of the early 1960’s SLS and Orion are both toast

  • Robert G. Oler

    the bigger deal in my view was when they settled on a rocket powered landing…I wonder if now they regret that

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, that was just too radical for NASA.

  • windbourne

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_and_Falcon_Heavy_launches#2018

    SX is apparently retargeting to split years.
    Sux.

    Hopefully, if everything with FH and other launches go well, perhaps they can move it back up. 🙂
    Yeah. Right.

  • windbourne

    I doubt that buying extra seats was greatest safety move, but certainly was not a dumb idea.

  • windbourne

    and yet tom, it is amazing what money can do.
    Had the GOP not gutted CCP for 4 years, it is very likely that SX, and possibly Boeing, would be flying today.

  • windbourne

    I doubt that they regret it.

    A big part of that rocket landing was getting stage 1 to also land.
    In addition, they have been finding out what works and what does not.
    Look at FH with 3 primary stages. Originally, it was asparagus plumbing and that was considered too complex. Oddly, he now considers 3 stages with 27 engines difficult, but a single stage with 42, and now 31, engines is fine. Still, SX is figuring out what works, and what does not.
    And while I think V2 would have worked fine, dealing with issues, likely NASA/FAA, became too much.
    But, note that BFS is still being designed for rocket landings.

  • windbourne

    when I was a kid, I recall ppl claiming that the shuttle would be safer than Sat V.
    Yet, the record says otherwise.

  • redneck

    Not necessarily. The Saturn V was canceled before it had a chance for a fatal bite. There were enough close calls to make steely eyed missile men nervous.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Sadly the Obama Administration just didn’t care enough to lift a finger to help. So they share the blame as well.

  • windbourne

    O busted a gut to push CCP funding. He was always double what the house GOP had.

  • windbourne

    as I said, the shuttle was claimed to be safer. Just the record was otherwise.

    This is no different in commercial aircraft. The DC-10 was supposed to be safer (and cheaper to run) than the 747. Yet, that was not not case. The 10 cost about about the same to run as the 747, and the 747 has a much better record.

  • redneck

    If the Shuttle had been canceled at 24 flights, it would have had a statistical safety better than Saturn 5. If the Saturn 5 had been kept flying for 25 missions it would likely have suffered a LOM if not LOC before Challenger equivalent. There were not enough Saturn missions to make the claim certain. All of which is not a defense of Shuttle.

  • Tom Billings

    Obama was wiling to put down a nice looking number in the budget. What he was never willing to do was to substitute other budgetary monies for what Commercial Crew will shut down. In the horse trading that gets major budgets passed through Congress, Obama gave his NASA appointees a single broken down mule for bargaining with.

    That simple substitution alone doesn’t even begin to compensate for the extra political capital that 10-20 smaller tech development line items in the budget would have cost the Florida, Alabama, and Texas delegations. In the end, the fact that Obama would not do anything to help NASA Center pols compensate for becoming a smaller, less significant part of their local State economies, by boosting them elsewhere, was what did in the chances for full funding of COTS, COTS-D, and Commercial Crew.

    Yes, the fact that GOP pols were involved was part of this. The animus there was at least as much from the WH as from GOP pols. Democrat pols during the years they had complete control of Congress could not get compensation, either. Spaceflight is simply not that politically profitable at the national level for Obama to want to work with the Space State members to preserve their positions.

  • ThomasLMatula

    No he didn’t do anything to fight for it. Sorry, just putting a number on a paper, which was actually done by a staffer, is not pushing for it. What support there was for CCP was because of Lori Graver.

  • Vladislaw

    oh so the republicans would have been willing to grant Obama a success? A successful shuttle replacement for crews to LEO? … In what universe?

  • Vladislaw

    What happened when President Obama pushed for a 1 billion dollar jobs program for returning vets? Republicans just LOVED handing Obama sucesses.. I mean gosh .. they handed him success after success.. never blocked voted down or filibustered anything.. all Obama had to do is tell McConnell he REALLY wanted funding .. and McConnell and the conservatives were all over it to make it happen..