NASA Enables Commercial Crew, Private Astronaut Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured after undocking from the forward port on the Harmony module beginning its short trip to the space-facing port. (Credit: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — When SpaceX launches its Inspiration4 mission with four crew members to space, it will be the company’s first fully private launch with astronauts to orbit. Although not a NASA mission, the flight embodies the agency’s vision and work to foster a strong space economy, with private companies providing commercial transportation to space for people and cargo as well as creating future commercial destinations in space.

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NASA, SpaceX Continue Planning for Next Crew Rotation Missions to International Space Station

The SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured after undocking from the forward port on the Harmony module beginning its short trip to the space-facing port. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX are continuing plans to launch Crew-3 astronauts to the International Space Station as early as Sunday Oct. 31, and targeting the return home of Crew-2 astronauts in the early-to-mid November timeframe.

Crew-3 will be the third crew rotation mission with astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from the United States to the space station, and the fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight in 2020, Crew-1 mission in 2020-21, and the ongoing Crew-2 flight as part of the Expedition 65 crew.

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Starliner Returning to Factory to Resolve Valve Issue

Boeing engineers continue work at the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility on the Starliner propulsion system valves. (Credit: Boeing)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (Boeing PR) — Today, Boeing informed NASA that the company will destack its CST-100 Starliner from the Atlas V rocket and return the spacecraft to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) for deeper-level troubleshooting of four propulsion system valves that remain closed after last Tuesday’s scrubbed launch.

Starliner has sat atop the Atlas V rocket in ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility since August 4, where Boeing teams have worked to restore functionality to the affected valves.

The relocation of the spacecraft to the C3PF will require Boeing, NASA and United Launch Alliance to agree on a new launch date once the valve issue is resolved.

“Mission success in human spaceflight depends on thousands of factors coming together at the right time,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “We’ll continue to work the issue from the Starliner factory and have decided to stand down for this launch window to make way for other national priority missions.”

Boeing will continue to provide information and updates at www.StarlinerUpdates.com as it becomes available.

Starliner Work in Vertical Integration Facility to Continue Through Weekend

Platforms and scaffolding are up around the Orbital Flight Test-2 Starliner, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, inside the Vertical Integration Facility. (Credit: Boeing)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (Boeing PR) — This weekend, Boeing engineers will continue testing and evaluating the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Space Launch Complex-41.

Yesterday, teams powered up the spacecraft to receive data and send commands to the propulsion system valves that unexpectedly indicated “closed” positions early in the launch countdown on Tuesday. The transmitted commands successfully opened some of the valves, giving the team new data to assess while also beginning physical inspections.

“Cautiously optimistic is a good way to describe how the team is feeling,” said John Vollmer, Starliner vice president and program manager. “They’re coming forward with innovative ideas and prioritizing the safety of the spacecraft and their teammates.”

Boeing aims to perform all activities at the VIF before returning to the launch pad for flight. If necessary, the spacecraft could return to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center for further troubleshooting and inspections and possibly return to the pad for launch this month.

Boeing is assessing multiple launch opportunities for Starliner in August and will work with NASA and United Launch Alliance to confirm those dates when the team is ready to proceed with the Orbital Flight Test-2 mission.

Updates will be provided by NASA and Boeing as information is available.

Please follow @NASA, @Commercial_Crew and @BoeingSpace on Twitter, or visit www.nasa.gov or  www.StarlinerUpdates.com, for more information.

Next Boeing Starliner Launch Could be Weeks to Months Away

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day. (Credits: Boeing/John Grant)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It could take between several weeks and two months for Boeing to work through the valve problems that resulted in the launch scrub of the Starliner spacecraft on Tuesday, a source tells Parabolic Arc. The vehicle will be launched from Florida on an uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch was scrubbed after engineers received what Boeing said “unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system” of the spacecraft. The signals came from more than half of the 24 propulsion valves in Starliner’s service module, according to the source, who insisted upon anonymity due to not being authorized to speak to media.

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NASA, Boeing Standing Down on Aug. 4 Starliner Launch Attempt

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day. (Credits: Boeing/John Grant)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing are standing down from the Wednesday, Aug. 4, launch attempt of the agency’s Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station as mission teams continue to examine the cause of the unexpected valve position indications on the CST-100 Starliner propulsion system.

Early in the launch countdown for the Aug. 3 attempt, mission teams detected indications that not all valves were in the proper configuration needed for launch. Mission teams decided to halt the countdown to further analyze the issue.

NASA and Boeing worked through several steps to troubleshoot the incorrect valve indications, including cycling the service module propulsion system valves, within the current configuration of the Starliner and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Mission teams have decided to roll the Atlas V and Starliner back to the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) for further inspection and testing where access to the spacecraft is available. Boeing will power down the Starliner spacecraft this evening. The move to the VIF is expected to take place as early as tomorrow.

Engineering teams have ruled out a number of potential causes, including software, but additional time is needed to complete the assessment.

NASA and Boeing will take whatever time is necessary to ensure Starliner is ready for its important uncrewed flight test to the space station and will look for the next available opportunity after resolution of the issue.

Boeing Starliner Launch Scrubbed Due to Valve Issue

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day. (Credits: Boeing/John Grant)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (Boeing PR) — During pre-launch preparations for the uncrewed test flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, Boeing engineers monitoring the health and status of the vehicle detected unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system. The issue was initially detected during check outs following yesterday’s electrical storms in the region of Kennedy Space Center.

Consequently, the launch of the Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will be postponed. The launch was scheduled for 1:20 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Aug. 3. Boeing and NASA teams are assessing the situation. The team will provide updates regarding a launch attempt on Wednesday, Aug. 4.

“We’re disappointed with today’s outcome and the need to reschedule our Starliner launch,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “Human spaceflight is a complex, precise and unforgiving endeavor, and Boeing and NASA teams will take the time they need to ensure the safety and integrity of the spacecraft and the achievement of our mission objectives.”

Updates will be provided by NASA and Boeing as information is analyzed and confirmed.

Please follow @NASA, @Commercial_Crew and @BoeingSpace on Twitter, or visit www.nasa.gov or www.StarlinerUpdates.com, for more information.

Editor’s note: NASA said the next available launch opportunity would be 12:57 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Aug. 4 if all issues are resolved in time.

NASA, Boeing Postpone Starliner Launch Scheduled for Friday

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day. (Credits: Boeing/John Grant)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing have decided to stand down from Friday’s launch attempt of the agency’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission. Currently, launch teams are assessing the next available opportunity. The move allows the International Space Station team time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos’ Nauka module and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and  @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

More details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

What You Need to Know About NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day. (Credits: Boeing/John Grant)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing are taking another major step on the path to regular human spaceflight launches to the International Space Station on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil with the second uncrewed flight test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.  

NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is targeting launch of the Starliner spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner is expected to arrive at the space station for docking about 24 hours later with more than 400 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies.

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Rosie the Rocketeer to Fly to Space Again Aboard Starliner on Friday

Wearing her Boeing blue spacesuit and red polka-dot head scarf, teams strapped the anthropometric test device securely into the commander seat. (Credit: Boeing)

“Rosie the Rocketeer,” Boeing’s anthropometric test device, will be strapped into the Starliner for its second Orbital Flight Test — this time to help the spacecraft maintain its center of gravity throughout the various phases of the flight.

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (Boeing PR) — The countdown is on for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner second Orbital Flight Test, or OFT-2. Targeted for July 30, the uncrewed flight is scheduled to lift off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 2:53 p.m. Eastern time — but the capsule won’t be empty. “Rosie the Rocketeer,” Boeing’s anthropometric test device, will be reclaiming the commander’s seat for the test flight to and from the International Space Station.

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Boeing Starliner Cleared for Launch on July 30

Technicians prepare Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner for the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 2, 2021. Part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, OFT-2 is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path to fly crew missions for NASA. (Credits: Boeing)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing are proceeding with plans for the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station following a full day of briefings and discussion during a Flight Readiness Review that took place at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

OFT-2 will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station.

More details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Starliner, Atlas V Assembled at Launch Site for Next Commercial Crew Flight Test

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on July 17, 2021. (Credit: Boeing/Damon Tucci)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is fully assembled on its ride to space, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, in preparation for the 2:53 p.m. Friday, July 30, launch of its second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

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Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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NASA, SpaceX Update Crew Launch and Return Dates

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX have adjusted target launch and return dates for upcoming crew missions to and from the International Space Station based on visiting vehicle traffic.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission now is targeting launch no earlier than Sunday, Oct. 31, with NASA astronauts Raja ChariTom Marshburn and  Kayla Barron and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer. Crew-3 will launch on a new Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin a six-month science mission at the space station.

Crew-3 astronauts will arrive at the space station for a short handover period with the Crew-2 astronauts and other crew members on Expedition 66. Crew-2 NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Aki Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet are targeting early-to-mid November for a return to Earth inside Crew Dragon Endeavour off the coast of Florida.

Following Crew-3, the next crew rotation mission is targeted for no earlier than mid-April 2022 with the partner spacecraft and launch vehicle to be determined at a later date.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.