Launch Dates to be Updated More Regularly as Commercial Crew Flights Draw Nearer

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. (Credits: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — As NASA’s Commercial Crew partners Boeing and SpaceX crew transportation systems are within months of being ready for the first test flights of their spacecraft that will carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station from U.S. soil, the scheduling of launch dates enters a new phase.

This near-term scheduling balances the commercial partners’ readiness with NASA and the International Space Station’s schedule and the availability of the Eastern Range to establish a target launch date. NASA plans to provide up-to-date launch planning dates on the Commercial Crew blog, which will be updated approximately monthly, with near-term launches also appearing on NASA’s launches and landing schedule.

“As we get closer to launching human spacecraft from the U.S., we can be more precise in our schedules,” said Phil McAlister, director of Commercial Spaceflight Development at NASA Headquarters. “This allows our technical teams to work efficiently toward the most up-to-date schedules, while allowing us to provide regular updates publicly on the progress of our commercial crew partners.”

SpaceX and the Commercial Crew Program are working together to have the hardware and associated activities ready for its first test flight – Demo-1 – in December 2018, but the launch will occur in January to accommodate docking opportunities at the orbiting laboratory. Boeing’s targeted readiness for its Orbital Flight Test is March 2019. Both test flights will be uncrewed missions.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are training to fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission, with a planning date of June 2019. NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson are slated for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test targeted for August 2019.

As with all human spaceflight development, learning from each test and adjusting as necessary to reduce risk to the crew may override targeted launch dates.

“This new process for reporting our schedule is better; nevertheless, launch dates will still have some uncertainty, and we anticipate they may change as we get closer to launch,” McAlister said. “These are new spacecraft, and the engineering teams have a lot of work to do before the systems will be ready to fly.”

Following the test flights, NASA will review the performance data and resolve issues as necessary to certify the systems for operational missions. The readiness date for the first long-duration Expedition crew mission is targeted for August 2019 and a second mission is targeted in December 2019, with the specific spacecraft yet to be determined.

Boeing and SpaceX have made significant strides in the development and operation of a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This public-private partnership marks the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight to design, develop, and test their systems to ensure safe, reliable and cost-effective commercial transportation for astronauts to low-Earth orbit. The success of these human spaceflight systems will be an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry and will enable NASA to focus on deep space exploration with NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System, as we return humans to the Moon and on to Mars.

  • Robert G. Oler

    go go go

    we need to start looking at a Hubble revitalization mission

  • Obediah Headstrong

    More slips to come!

  • Michael Halpern

    The important thing is that the slips are smaller, SpaceX’s hardware is probably ready. So for them it’s just paperwork.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    Do any of our manned spacecraft have the robotic arms needed to connect to Hubble and to move large/massive items?

  • envy

    Hubble has a docking adapter, so either Starliner or Dragon could dock with it. However, neither of those supports EVAs without an airlock module. Starliner has no way to carry an airlock module, but Dragon could stow one in the trunk and dock to it before docking to Hubble.

    A wholly robotic system might be cheaper though.

  • Vladislaw

    Obediah Headstrong wrote; “More slips to come!”

    And just think .. those slips are not costing the taxpayer anything because they were fixed priced contracts rather than the traditional cost plus, fixed fee FAR contracting.

  • Vladislaw

    Or launch a new on with a 8 meter mirror ..

  • Vladislaw
  • envy

    Smaller ones, though.

  • Robert G. Oler

    another device “thing” I have been playing with is an Apollo/Soyuz like docking module with an airlock and a latching “end” to “dock”…and have all the parts on the outside of the docking module…but an uncrewed effort would be cheaper…

  • Kirk

    Last week Jeff Foust quoted Hans Koenigsmann (at IAC 2018) saying that while the hardware may be ready by the end of the year, the paperwork might delay the mission into 2019. (This was before NASA released their January 2019 target.) If all the hardware was ready, he would have phrased that differently.

    The trunk was incomplete when it and the capsule went through testing in Plum Brook, and it was sent back to Hawthorne for installation of solar panels. It was still there in late August, and that’s the last we know. It doesn’t seem likely that trunk would be the gating item, but not many details of their progress are publicly released, and when Koenigsmann says “hardware”, he is probably including the “hardware’s software” as well, and for many projects that takes much longer than expected.

  • Michael Halpern

    SpaceX generally is pretty good at software, I mean Falcon 9 would have had a lot more failed landing attempts if they weren’t there is the docking software of course, they may need to put that through a lot of simulations. Most of everything else software related they have done in Dragon 1,

  • Michael Halpern

    I would try using the existing antenna on Hubble and simply dock a module with a bunch of fresh gyros, you would have to re-calibrate for new center of mass and do some software magic, but it would require fewer steps

  • Michael Halpern

    I wouldn’t mind a bigger one, provided we give a decent mass budget to any stowage mechanisms used, it would be much easier if you aren’t mass constrained,

  • Douglas Messier

    Other the ever increasing cost of Soyuz seats. Oh the productivity lost from not having a seventh crew member who could focus full time on research.

  • duheagle

    I’m not so sure about that. The crew capsules are being built anyway, so a Hubble fix-it mission would be just another incremental use of these craft. As noted by others in previous comments, there would need to be some more specialized hardware engineered and built, but even this might prove to be multi-purpose – I have in mind particularly the airlock/docking module you have suggested and which envy has pointed out could be transported in Dragon 2’s trunk. Absent human brains and hands, a lot more mechanicals and specialized software would need to be developed. The price tags could well come out a wash or even favor the human-crewed mission.

  • windbourne

    I continue to believe that a ba330/ba sundancer combined with a tug, would be ideal for moving around in leo. We will need that if we have multiple space stations.

  • Robert G. Oler

    the thing I like about the “fixer satellite” is that its quick…and if done correctly can cure a few other problems like reboost. A long term fix might be to take a OSC service module and modify it for “berthing”, with more power etc and then have a crewed platform go up with some EVA capability and “interact” the two in some ways (like power etc) and then just start treating the hubble as a science platform with the aiming, orbit most power etc done by the service module…that would also take care of reboost

  • Michael Halpern

    True, but that’s the cost of Congress underfunding CCDEV

  • Michael Halpern

    Alternatively you could modify one, or take their docking software and use it for a plug in fix module, you would use Hubble’s antenna to communicate between the module and the telescope.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Does Hubble have a VHF or UHF command link? surely it does…that would be the key to interface…all these sat rescue people have a plan to link their vehicle with the parent…I suspect that this has already been solved.

  • Lee

    Not worth it. Webb has a 6.5m mirror. 8m isn’t enough larger to be worth it. You want any new telescope to gather 4x the amount of light, which means at least 2x the diameter. You don’t discover new things with only a small increment in light gathering power.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Not the same. The Hubble observes in the shorter optical and UV wavelengths, while the JWST works in the long infared wavelengths to observe objects with large red shifts. So a new 8 meter optical telescope would be an appropriate replacement for the Hubble.

    The big question is how much cheaper would it be to build one IF it was designed to be deployed and service by the BFS. A lot of the expense of the JWST is because it must be deployed and work for years without support or servicing. This requires a very high level of automation and reliability that drives the cost up. A Hubble replacement launched for $10 million on a BFS which would be able to both deploy and service it should be a order of magnitude cheaper to build.

    Yes, the BFS isn’t flying yet, but when it does fly, and if it meets it price target, it will be a huge game changer for space astronomy as well.

  • Michael Halpern

    You still need to build the hardware and the docking port of the spacecraft will have to be somewhat custom, as I don’t think Hubble is using an IDA port but a precursor, might mean it will require an arm anyways, a better fit might be something like Cyngus and MEV, but the question is if it’s worth it. Between WFIRST being designed to get Hubble type data from closer objects and should it fly, JWST being specialized for even farther than Hubble, and 7 & 8m internal fairing heavy lifters…

  • Robert G. Oler

    in my view it is…one it stabiliizes the uncrewed recovery process, gets it a high value client and two Hubble is a massive investment…all those other things might fly maybe someday

  • Michael Halpern

    Fair but just because it was a huge investment doesn’t mean it makes sense to keep pouring into it, when there are other things to invest in. It can go either way but there’s quite a bit of cost/benefit to consider

  • Lee

    “Not the same. The Hubble observes in the shorter optical and UV wavelengths”

    Irrelevant. Anything far enough away as to be undiscovered is going to have a huge redshift. That’s why JWST is optimized for the infrared. You aren’t going to need to use a scope that size (and certainly not an 8m) to look at solar system objects.

  • Robert G. Oler

    you are way way into BFS like it was actually real

    you guys listen to something Musk says and before long you have yourselves convinced “wow its gonna happen” then before long “its been happening for awhile”

    zounds

  • Robert G. Oler

    there is nothing else to invest in, nothing else is even remotely close Webb is stalled and the odds of a failure are enormous

  • Michael Halpern

    There’s always other things to invest in, but at this point Webb is unlikely to be cancelled and WFIRST is only getting backlash from Webb

  • Robert G. Oler

    and Webb is also unlikely to fly anytime soon and has a massive chance of failure

  • Terry Rawnsley

    You design it to be deployed by anything that can economically launch it and by any spacecraft that can service it.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Hubble was last serviced a long time ago. Are you sure that its docking adapter is compatible with Dragon or Starliner? ISS had to have new adapters compatible with both Dragon and Starliner installed while no one would have anticipated Hubble still being active when Dragon, Starliner or even Orion entered service. Did you mean the JWST?

  • Michael Halpern

    You’d be surprised at the recovery options they are certainly preparing

  • Vladislaw

    Webb is not an optimized for being an optical telescope.

    “The JWST’s primary mirror is composed of 18 hexagonal mirror segments made of gold-coated beryllium. These combine to create a 6.5-meter (21 ft 4 in) diameter mirror that is much larger than the Hubble’s 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) mirror. Unlike the Hubble—which observes in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared (0.1 to 1 μm) spectra—the JWST will observe in a lower long-wavelength visible light through mid-infrared (0.6 to 27 μm) range. This will allow the JWST to observe high redshift objects that are too old and too distant for the Hubble and other earlier instruments to observe”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Webb_Space_Telescope

  • Vladislaw

    LOL …. I would contend a lot of that delay was planned by the space state representatives in congress…

  • redneck

    If the concept was either save the Hubble or replace it with equivalent capability, isn’t it likely that the modern mirror and auxiliary equipment would considerably smaller and much cheaper than the Hubble? F9 launch or even FH wouldn’t require waiting on BFR or New Glenn. Design for servicing by vehicles soon available and it should drop the costs some more.

    In short, I am not convinced it is automatically cheaper to fix the Hubble than to replace the actual capability.

  • Lee

    You might be able to use a slightly thinner mirror, but the current mirror is light-weighted for space applications anyway. You can’t replace Hubble’s capability with a smaller diameter mirror. The physics of light doesn’t work that way.

  • ThomasLMatula

    In a logical world that might be true, but remember, you are talking about NASA. They will probably take a decade and spend millions simply on the trade studies and designs for a replacement. But fixing the current one will probably only take 2-3 years of study 🙂

  • ThomasLMatula

    Its as far along as the SLS is, and folks act like the SLS is real 🙂

  • ThomasLMatula

    And that is fine if you are looking for the most distant objects. But a lot of the work the Hubble does is on closer objects, including objects in the Solar System. You are ignoring those users of Hubble in your focus on just looking for very distant objects. And yes, a larger telescope would create new opportunities for looking at objects in the Solar System as well.

  • redneck

    Touche, I was thinking in terms of decisive people that think about economics including the time value of money

  • redneck

    I will concede that I don’t know mirrors, but it seems that some modern fixes should make a huge difference on the rest of the spacecraft. Both in cost and serviceability.

    I suspect but won’t argue that even mirrors should be susceptible to better technique 3 decades later. Question. Does segmenting make it possible to build the same capability for less money? Second question.Does three decades of improvements in the electronics make it possible to interpret images better to a degree that a smaller mirror can get the same job done as a larger but older mirror system?

  • Lee

    1) No, segmenting is only economical in larger mirrors, much larger than Hubble (2.4m). On the ground, mirrors tend to be monolithic up to about 8m. In space, JWST is segmented (6.5m) because that was the only way to get a larger mirror in space with the then-current launchers when its design was fixed. Due to the electronics and complexity involved, segmented is almost always more expensive than monolithic below ~8m.

    2) Nope, your resolution is limited by diffraction, a fundamental property of light. Diffraction in turn depends on the diameter of the mirror. Period. You can lower diffraction by two methods. a) making a larger mirror or b) making an interferometer which combines light from several mirrors to make the the mirror appear much larger. This has been done for years in radio astronomy to get telescope “apertures” up to the diameter of the earth. Really. However, it’s not cheap, and the tolerances to which the mirrors have to be held is non-trivial on the ground where things are generally fixed in place. In space it would be very, very difficult at optical wavelengths. And even if you get interferometry to work for several smaller mirrors in space, and thus drive the diffraction down (and the resolution up), you still only get the light gathering power of the sum of the individual mirrors. So if you have four 1m mirrors at the corners of a square 500m in diameter, your resolution is amazing (not quite the resolution of a 500m mirror, but still amazing), but you still only get the light gathering power of the sum of four 1m mirrors, not the light gathering power of a 500m diameter mirror.

    There is no free lunch.

  • envy

    It has the Soft Capture Mechanism part of the Low Impact Docking System, which is compatible with the standard NASA docking adapter but doesn’t allow pressurization. It was intended to potentially allow a manned Orion service mission (Orion has been in development for a LONG time), although a unmanned deorbit module was much more likely.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I dont…about either

  • Robert G. Oler

    I doubt it…ie me being surprised. I know of at least one team that is working on it