NASA Looks to Procure More Soyuz Seats Amid Commercial Crew Uncertainty

Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft docking at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Amid uncertainty about the Commercial Crew schedule, NASA has issued a pre-solitication procurement notice to secure additional rides with the Russians for its astronauts.

“NASA is considering contracting with the State Space Corporation ‘Roscosmos’ for these services on a sole source basis for two (2) Soyuz seats and associated services to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2019 and one crew member in the Spring of 2020,” the agency said in the Feb. 13 notice.

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NASA Safety Panel: Commercial Crew Program Making Progress But Challenges Remain

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Even as SpaceX prepares to make its first Crew Dragon flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) next month, challenges remain for certifying the vehicle to carry NASA astronauts, according to a new safety report.

In its annual report released last week, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) identified two inter-related safety concerns with SpaceX’s system: the redesign of helium composite overwrap pressure vessels (COPVs) used in the Falcon 9 rocket, and the company’s desire to load astronauts aboard Crew Dragon before fueling the booster.

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NASA Safety Panel Pushes Back Against Commercial Crew “Paperwork” Complaints

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In its annual report issued last week, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) pushed back against complaints that the space agency has bogged down the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) with unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork.

“It should be recognized by all parties, both internal and external to NASA, that the certification process is not merely a ‘paperwork’ process; it involves considerable detailed technical activity by both NASA and the partners,” ASAP said.

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Boeing Partners with Aerion to Accelerate Supersonic Travel

The AS2 is designed to fly at speeds up to Mach 1.4 or approximately 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) per hour. (Credit: Aerion Corp.)

CHICAGO, Feb. 5, 2019 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced a partnership with Aerion, a Reno, Nev.-based company pioneering next-generation supersonic aircraft. As part of the agreement, Boeing made a significant investment in Aerion to accelerate technology development and aircraft design, and unlock supersonic air travel for new markets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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NASA, Buzz Aldrin Get Shout Out During State of the Union Speech

Buzz Aldrin salutes during the 2019 State of the Union address. (Credit: U.S. Senate Photo Studio/John Shinkle)

With Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin in attendance, President Donald Trump gave a shout out to NASA during the annual State of the Union address.

“In 2019, we also celebrate 50 years since brave young pilots flew a quarter of a million miles through space to plant the American flag on the face of the moon. Half a century later, we are joined by one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who planted that flag: Buzz Aldrin. This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets,” he said.

NASA’s commercial crew program is set to begin transporting astronauts to the International Space Station later this year. Today, NASA released the following schedule for flight tests of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.

Test Flight Planning Dates:

SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 Flight Set for March 2

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and its Commercial Crew Program providers Boeing and SpaceX have agreed to move the target launch dates for the upcoming inaugural test flights of their next generation American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight. Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April.

Test Flight Planning Dates:

SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

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NASA Makes Change in Boeing Starliner Test Flight Crew

Astronaut Eric Boe examines hardware during a tour of the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut E. Michael “Mike” Fincke has been added to the crew of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner’s Crew Flight Test, scheduled to launch later this year.

Fincke takes the place of astronaut Eric Boe, originally assigned to the mission in August 2018. Boe is unable to fly due to medical reasons; he will replace Fincke as the assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

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Boeing Invests in Isotropic Systems Ltd. to Expand Satellite Communications Capabilities

LONDON, Jan. 15, 2019 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced its investment in Isotropic Systems Ltd., a London-based startup pioneering next-generation solutions to better connect people and enterprises around the globe.

By taking advantage of optical beam steering, Isotropic’s innovative user terminals can simultaneously connect with several different satellites without increasing cost or complexity. This capability will help enable low-cost, mass-market broadband connectivity for consumers and help companies meet growing demand for satellite data, mobility and broadband services even in the most remote places.

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Bridenstine Sees First Crew Dragon Flight Slipping into Spring

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

USA Today reports that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine believes the SpaceX Crew Dragon flight test scheduled for Jan. 7 will likely slip into spring.

That would mean the mission, which will not have a crew aboard for its flight to the International Space Station, would launch no sooner  than the first day of spring on March 20.

Bridenstine’s acknowledgment that January is a “very low probability” window is the first time the agency has publicly cast doubt on the timing of the scheduled launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The test flight of the SpaceX rocket and capsule is a key step in NASA’s efforts to resume U.S. transport to Earth’s orbit nearly a decade after the space shuttle was mothballed.

The administrator attributed the delay to challenges with several components, including landing parachutes. Some of those systems could be tested without flying them on the initial flight.

It’s a matter of determining “what configuration are we willing to accept as an agency and are we willing to waive certain items (and) how do we test those items,” Bridenstine told reporters at NASA headquarters.

But he said the test flight “will certainly be in the first half of 2019,” a schedule that still would accommodate a crewed flight by the end of the year.

Parabolic Arc earlier reported that not all of Dragon’s systems would be ready in time for the first flight.

A flight test of Crew Dragon with astronauts aboard is currently scheduled for June 2019. NASA would then certify the vehicle to carry astronauts to the space station on a commercial basis.

Boeing is scheduled to test its Starliner spacecraft with an automated test in March and a flight with crew in August. NASA could extend the crewed flight from a brief stay at the space station to a long-duration mission.

Both SpaceX and Boeing are scheduled to conduct abort tests in between their automated and crewed flight tests. SpaceX will conduct an in-flight abort test; Boeing’s abort test will be conducted from a launch pad.

NASA needs to have at least one of the crew systems functional by January 2020. That is when the last agency astronaut to fly aboard a Russian Soyuz vehicle on a paid basis is set to return.

First Starliner to Launch Crew Ready for Environmental Testing

Boeing’s first crewed Starliner finished initial production at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. and is readied for its cross-country trip. (Credit: Boeing)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft destined to fly astronauts to the International Space Station for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT) as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is ready to undergo a series of flight-like simulations similar to the actual environments the spacecraft will experience during different stages of flight.

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Musk’s Behavior Triggers NASA Safety Review of SpaceX & Boeing

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

The Washington Post reports NASA safety reviews of its two commercial crew providers was triggered by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s use of drugs and alcohol.

The review, to begin next year, would look at both Boeing and SpaceX, the companies under contract to fly NASA’s astronauts, and examine “everything and anything that could impact safety” as the companies prepare to fly humans for the first time, William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration, said in an interview with The Washington Post.
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International Space Station Construction Began 20 Years Ago

Left: Launch of the Zarya Functional Cargo Block from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Right: Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center on the STS-88 mission to deliver the Unity Node 1 module. (Credit: NASA, Roscosmos)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The largest and most complex international construction project in space began on the steppes of Kazakhstan 20 years ago today. Atop its Proton rocket, on Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) thundered off its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome into cold wintry skies. Zarya was built by the Khrunichev in Moscow and served as a temporary control module for the nascent ISS.

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Reserve Citizen Airmen Prepare for Human Spaceflight

n response to a simulated emergency at Kennedy Space Center, Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing revalidate their response time In the event of a catastrophic, life-threatening occurrence within the capsule of a human spaceflight launch, Oct. 25, 2018. This exercise marked the first time that the Department of Defense, NASA and commercial providers have exercised this type of event utilizing twelve live patients, wearing life-like makeup to emphasize simulated injuries, and the full array of air assets. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

By Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan,
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — To prepare for the arrival of human spaceflight tests next year, the 920th Rescue Wing along with the DoD Human Space Flight Support (HSFS) Office, NASA and SpaceX personnel joined forces to plan and execute a realistic medical evacuation exercise at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 25.

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Boeing, ISS National Lab Partner to Award $500,000 for Microgravity Research through MassChallenge

BOSTON, October 18, 2018 (CASIS PR) – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and Boeing [NYSE: BA] have partnered for the fifth consecutive year to grant up to $500,000 collectively toward innovative startup research through the MassChallenge (Boston) startup accelerator.

With the latest awards, as part of the MassChallenge “Technology in Space” competition, three new flight projects will have the opportunity to leverage the microgravity environment aboard the ISS National Laboratory to enhance their products and business models on Earth.

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