Liberty Would Deliver Crew and Cargo to ISS in Same Flight

Liberty cargo module being berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: ATK)

ARLINGTON, Va., June 3, 2012 (ATK PR) -– ATK, the company leading development of the Liberty commercial spacecraft, is pleased to announce an expanded crew and cargo capability. The extended cargo configuration will allow the Liberty spacecraft to take full advantage of the launch vehicle lift capacity to transport a pressurized pod (the Liberty Logistics Module or LLM) along with the composite crew module.

Based on NASA’s 15-foot diameter Multi-Purpose Logistic Module design, the LLM will include a common berthing mechanism and will be capable of transporting up to 5,100 pounds of pressurized cargo. With that capability, the LLM could be used to transport four full-size science racks to the International Space Station – along with a team of scientists to perform the associated science.


Ex-SpaceX VP Bowersox on ATK’s Liberty Independent Assessment Team

U.S. astronaut Ken BowersoxFormer NASA Astronaut Ken Bowersox, who quit as SpaceX’s vice-president of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance late last year, is now advising ATK on how to human-rate its Liberty rocket.

SALT LAKE CITY, July 2, 2012 (ATK PR) — ATK and the Liberty program announced an independent assessment team and their first tasking to advise the company on development of its commercial human certification plan for the Liberty system, which includes the launch vehicle, upper stage, abort system, composite spacecraft, ground and mission operations, crew and passenger training and a test flight crew.

The FAA is authorized by Congress to regulate commercial human spaceflight. Over the next few years, the FAA will use a phased approach to regulating the crew and passenger safety of the emerging commercial human spaceflight industry. In the meantime, and in the absence of specific government human certification standards, the developers themselves must look to NASA and International Partner human spaceflight best practices and lessons learned to develop their own design and operations criteria. Developing the Liberty-specific commercial human certification plan early in the program ensures the system will be designed from the outset to ensure flight crew and passenger safety.


Thruster Tests Completed for Boeing’s CST-100 Vehicle

A Boeing CST-100 crew module docks at a Bigelow Aerospace space station. (Credit: Boeing)

CANOGA PARK, Calif. (NASA PR) — Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne has successfully completed a series of tests on a thruster destined for Boeing’s Commercial Space Transportation spacecraft, designated CST-100.

Boeing is one of several companies working to develop crew transportation capabilities under the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The goal of the program is to help spur innovation and development of safe, reliable and cost-effective spacecraft and launch vehicles capable of transporting astronauts to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

ATK Commercial Crew Video

NASA has released promotional videos for various commercial crew competitors. PA will be running them over the next few days.

Technical Interchange Meetings Advance Commercial Crew Efforts

Members of NASA's Commercial Crew Program tour Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Space Operations Simulation Center near Denver during a Technical Interchange Meeting, or TIM, with Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) on June 7. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (NASA PR) — NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is turning to a number of strategies to work through the complex challenges of engineering a new generation of rockets and spacecraft. Technical Interchange Meetings, for example, are providing program leaders an opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding for the vehicles that private industry are designing and developing on their own before the agency’s astronauts will climb aboard.

Called TIMs for short, the meetings bring together a rather small group of experts to do just what its namesake calls for, exchange technical information. Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, which is developing its Liberty launch vehicle under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) activities, most recently held a TIM on the software that controls all the avionics components, commanding them to work together to control the launch vehicle.


Commercial Crew Partners Milestone Progress Report

CCDev milestones status, June 2012. (Credit: NASA)

NASA PR — NASA’s commercial crew partners continue to achieve exciting milestones as the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) Space Act Agreements enter their home stretch. Since the agreements were awarded in April 2011, the partners have achieved 48 of the 62 planned test, demonstration, and technical review milestone events. With the maturation of spacecraft and launch vehicle designs being accomplished under CCDev2, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is well positioned to move into the integrated capability design and testing phase. Awards for new Space Act Agreements are expected in July/August 2012.


Wolf Relents on Single Commercial Crew Downselect Demand

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA)

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) released a statement today saying he had reached an agreement with NASA that will allow the space agency to select at least two commercial crew providers this summer for the next round of the program.

Key details include:

  • NASA will issue not more than 2.5 (two full and one partial) CCiCAP awards
  • Commercial crew fiscal year 2013 funding level will be at or near the Senate Appropriations Committee approved amount of $525 million (less than $830 million requested by Obama Administration)
  • future program funding after the CCiCAP phase will require FAR-based certification and service contracts
  • NASA will produce a new, “substantially complete” procurement strategy for FAR-based contracts prior to the awarding CCiCAP contracts
  • The space agency will vet commercial crew participants’ financial health and viability before providing CCiCAP funds
  • NASA will ensure “the government’s ‘first right of refusal’ to acquire property developed under or acquired as part of the commercial crew program at a price that reflects the taxpayers’ existing investment in its development.”

The agreement was reached through an exchange of letters between Wolf and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Wolf’s full statement with links to the letters is reproduced after the break.


Boeing Completes PDR on CST-100 Software

Boeing's CST-100 crew transport. (Credit: Boeing)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The Boeing Company has successfully completed a new milestone in the development of software that will operate its Crew Space Transportation (CST) spacecraft. The company is one of NASA’s partners developing commercial crew transportation capabilities to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

With the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of its software on May 18, the company now has completed more than 40 milestones under partnerships supporting NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

“When it comes to designing a spacecraft safe enough to transport humans, software is as important as the hardware,” said Ed Mango, CCP manager. “Boeing has made an excellent effort to take safety into consideration while developing critical software components of its spacecraft.”


NASA Marshall Completes Wind Tunnel Tests on SNC’s Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser cockpit simulator. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) – NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., successfully completed wind tunnel testing for Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems of Louisville, Colo. The test will provide aerodynamic data that will aid in the design of the new Dream Chaser® Space System.

During tests at Marshall’s wind tunnel facility, a scale model of SNC’s Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle was mounted on a scale model of the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V launch vehicle. Over 400 data runs were performed at subsonic, transonic and supersonic speeds to study the effects of how air moves past the model. Nine full-stack configurations were tested over a Mach range of .4, or 304 miles per hour at sea level, to Mach 5, or 3,800 miles per hour at sea level, at various launch vehicle roll angles.


Nelson Opposes Immediate Commercial Crew Down Select

Florida Senator Bill Nelson

Florida Today reports that Sen. Bill Nelson is opposing a House plan that would require NASA to immediately down select to a single commercial crew provider:

Nelson called the plan, which instructs NASA to immediately choose a company for the Commercial Crew Program, “silliness” and “anti-competitive.”

Currently, NASA is providing subsidies to four companies vying to develop a rocket to replace the space shuttle, a competition the agency and supporters like Nelson say is crucial to developing a viable and affordable system.

“Why should we not have competition for commercial crew and bring down the cost?” Nelson said.

He cited “several excellent proposals” from the four companies — SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Boeing and Blue Origin.

Read the full story.


Bolden: “Good Old-Fashioned American Competition” Key to Commercial Space Industry

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

“The key to achieving our goal of facilitating a strong commercial space industry is adequate funding and good old-fashioned American competition. We are working hard to maintain both. NASA’s 2013 request for commercial crew development is $830 million. Despite a bi-partisan agreement to ensure American astronauts are traveling into space on U.S. built spacecraft as soon as possible, some want to short-change this job-creating initiative and limit competition in the commercial space arena.

“I think we all agree: competition is a basic tenet of American democracy and the very cornerstone of America’s technological excellence. Competition promotes innovation. Competition enhances our ability to identify the absolute best commercial partners. Ending competition by down-selecting to a sole commercial space company could double the cost of developing a privately built human spaceflight system and it will leave us in the same position we find ourselves today – having only one option for getting our astronauts to the space station. We are hopeful we can work to resolve these issues and keep this important initiative on track.

We are on the brink of a milestone moment in NASA space history, all part of a long-term strategy that will create well paying, high quality jobs here in America. With your help, we are making progress, and we intend to stay on track.”

— Charles Bolden
Remarks to the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC)
May 10, 2012

You can read his full remarks after the break.