Tag: commercial crew

ASAP Criticizes NASA Commercial Crew Program on Transparency

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In its 2014 Annual Report, the NASA Aerospace Advisory Panel (ASAP) slammed the space agency for “less-than-candid and -transparent communication” over the multi-billion dollar Commercial Crew Program.

“There are certain areas where this exemplary behavior of candid, timely, and transparent communication of risk has been insufficient,” ASAP said in its report. “The Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has been notably less forthcoming. This lack of transparency has been a concern for a number of years and, despite numerous discussions with the Director of Commercial Spaceflight Development (DCSD) and with senior leadership at NASA Headquarters, this less-than-candid and -transparent communication with the ASAP regarding the CCP has persisted.

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SpaceX Prepares Dragon for Abort Test

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SpaceX Dragon vehicle undergoes preparation for abort test. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX Dragon vehicle undergoes preparation for abort test. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Commercial Crew Program Update

SpaceX is preparing a test version of its Crew Dragon for an upcoming flight that will simulate an emergency abort from the launch pad. The Crew Dragon is designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, and the ability to abort from a launch or pad emergency and safely carry crew members out of harm’s way is a critical element for NASA’s next generation of crewed spacecraft. The pad abort test will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, but some data gathered during the development flight will be critical for the company as it continues on the path to certification.

NASA, Boeing, SpaceX Outline Objectives to Station Flights

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NASA's Stephanie Schierholz introduces the panel of Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, seated, left, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders, Boeing's John Elbon, SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. (Credit: NASA TV)

NASA’s Stephanie Schierholz introduces the panel of Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, seated, left, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders, Boeing’s John Elbon, SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. (Credit: NASA TV)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

American spacecraft systems testing followed by increasingly complex flight tests and ultimately astronauts flying orbital flights will pave the way to operational missions during the next few years to the International Space Station. Those were the plans laid out Monday by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program officials and partners as they focus on developing safe, reliable and cost-effective spacecraft and systems that will take astronauts to the station from American launch complexes.

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NASA, Commercial Crew Partners Lay Out Plans for Human Spaceflight

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NASA and its commercial crew partners, Boeing and SpaceX, held a press conference in Houston this afternoon to discuss their plans for launching U.S. astronauts from Cape Canaveral in 2017. Below are my notes on the event.

Participants

  • Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
  • Kathy Lueders, NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager
  • Mike Fincke, NASA Astronaut
  • Ellen Ochoa, Johnson Space Center Director
  • John Elbon, Vice President and General Manager of Boeing Space Exploration
  • Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President & COO

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NASA, Boeing & SpaceX Discuss Plan for Launching American Astronauts

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HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA, Boeing and SpaceX will hold a news briefing on NASA Television at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston at noon EST (11 a.m. CST) Monday, Jan. 26, to highlight key development activities, test plans and objectives for achieving certification of two American crew transportation systems.

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GAO Releases Document Explaining Rejection of Sierra Nevada Protest

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a redacted version of its decision rejecting Sierra Nevada’s protest of NASA’s award of commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.

“In sum, our review of Sierra Nevada’s challenges and the underlying evaluation record in this case provides no basis on which our Office would sustain the protest,” the document concludes. “In our view, the SEB [source evaluation board] reports and SSD [source selection decision] demonstrate an evaluation of schedule and the agency’s 2017 goal consistent with the plain terms of the RFP [request for proposal].

“The agency’s evaluation of the realism of SpaceX’s low price, and its available financial resources, was similarly consistent with the terms of the RFP. Finally, our review of the record shows that the agency’s evaluation under the mission suitability and past performance evaluation factors was reasonable, and did not reflect unequal treatment of the proposals,” the document reads.

The decision also includes the following synopsis of the specific protests that were denied:

  1. Protest that the agency improperly elevated the importance of a solicitation goal to a de facto requirement is denied where the evaluation was consistent with the stated criteria.
  2. Protest challenging the agency’s determination that the awardee’s fixed price was realistic is denied where the agency reasonably considered various factors supporting the awardee’s low price.
  3. Protest of the agency’s technical evaluation is denied where the evaluation was reasonable, consistent with the stated criteria, and not unequal.
  4. Protest of the agency’s past performance evaluation is denied where the agency conducted a reasonable evaluation of the offeror’s past performance references, and gave effect to all elements of the evaluation set forth in the RFP.

You can read the full report here.

NASA Releases Commercial Crew Source Selection Statement

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NASA has released the selection statement explaining its decision to award Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.

The 29-page document, dated Sept. 15, 2014, details how NASA ranked proposals by Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation. It was signed by William Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.

Release of the statement was delayed by Sierra Nevada’s protest of the awards. The Government Accountability Office rejected the protest earlier this month.

You can download the statement here.

SpaceX Plans for Pad Abort Test at Cape

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SpaceX Dragon abort test article. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX Dragon abort test article. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is gearing up for two critical commercial crew tests involving its Dragon capsule in the coming months: a pad abort test in Florida, and an in-flight abort at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The pad abort test will occur sometime between Feb. 10 and May 10 according to an application for special temporary authority (STA) that SpaceX has filed with the Federal Commission Commission. The STA is required for use of radio frequency during the test.

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The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part II)

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Second of 2 Stories

It was a busy year for a number of commercial space companies. While most of them made considerable progress, the news wasn’t all good.

A Dream Deferred

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had a pretty rough year, losing out on two major contracts and laying off more than 100 employees.

On a Friday in May, just as everyone was preparing for the long Memorial Day weekend, Virgin Galactic announced it was dumping the hybrid rubber motor SNC developed for SpaceShipTwo in favor of a hybrid nylon one produced by Scaled Composites.

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Triumph & Tragedy: The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part I)

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Part of SpaceShipTwo's fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

The year 2014 was one of steady progress and major setbacks in commercial space. Here is a rundown of some of the major developments and trends of the year. A later will look more closely at some of the companies in the industry.

A Crash in the Desert. The tragic loss of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and death of Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury on Oct. 31 sent shock waves through the space community. The ship was ripped apart over the Mojave Desert about 13 seconds into a powered flight test when its twin tail booms suddenly deployed. Pilot Pete Siebold was thrown free of the wreckage and landed under parachute, battered and bruised but alive.

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