Tag: commercial crew

Historic Pad 39A Being Transformed for Falcon Launches

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Pad 39A (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Pad 39A Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Removing hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel and adding robust, new fixtures, SpaceX is steadily transforming Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for use as a launch pad for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The launchers will lift numerous payloads into orbit, including the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts aboard bound for the International Space Station.

Pad 39A is being modified for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Pad 39A is being modified for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

A horizontal integration facility was built at the base of the pad and rails installed running up the incline to the flame trench. Instead of arriving to the pad on the back of the crawler-transporters, SpaceX rockets will roll on a custom-built transporter-erector that will carry them up the hill and then stand the rocket up for liftoff. The fixed service structure at the pad deck will remain, although more than 500,000 pounds of steel has already been removed from it. SpaceX has already started removing the rotating service structure, which is attached to the fixed structure. Built for the need to load a shuttle’s cargo bay at the pad, it does not serve a purpose for Falcon launchers whose payloads are mounted on the top of the rocket.

Pad 39A  (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Pad 39A (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

SpaceX leased the historic launch pad from NASA in April 2014 and has been steadily remaking it from a space shuttle launch facility into one suited for the needs of the Falcon rockets and their payloads. It is the same launch pad where Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off on July 16, 1969, to begin their Apollo 11 flight that would make history as the first to land people on the moon. Almost all signs of Apollo-era hardware were removed from the launch pad when it was rebuilt for the shuttle.

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Commercial Crew Manufacturing Gains Momentum Coast to Coast

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Technicians lower the upper dome of a Boeing Starliner spacecraft onto a work stand inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The upper dome is part of Spacecraft 1, a Starliner that will perform a pad abort flight test as part of the development process of the spacecraft in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.  (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Technicians lower the upper dome of a Boeing Starliner spacecraft onto a work stand inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The upper dome is part of Spacecraft 1, a Starliner that will perform a pad abort flight test as part of the development process of the spacecraft in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Manufacturing facilities are in operation on the east and west coasts to build the next generation of spacecraft to return human launch capability to American soil. Over the past six months, Boeing and SpaceX – the companies partnered with NASA to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station – each have begun producing the first in a series of spacecraft.

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Boeing, SpaceX Continue to Make Progress on Crew Vehicles

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Administrator Charles Bolden stands next to Boeing's CST-100 capsule at Langely Research Center. (Credit: NASA)

Administrator Charles Bolden stands next to Boeing’s CST-100 capsule at Langely Research Center. (Credit: NASA)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Hundreds of engineers and technicians with NASA, Boeing, and SpaceX have ramped up to complete the final designs, manufacturing, and testing as they continue the vital, but meticulous work to prepare to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

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Second Starliner Begins Assembly in Florida

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http://www.nasa.gov/feature/second-starliner-begins-assembly-in-florida-factory

Technicians lower the upper dome of a Boeing Starliner spacecraft onto a work stand inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The upper dome is part of Spacecraft 1, a Starliner that will perform a pad abort flight test as part of the development process of the spacecraft in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.  (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Technicians lower the upper dome of a Boeing Starliner spacecraft onto a work stand inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The upper dome is part of Spacecraft 1, a Starliner that will perform a pad abort flight test as part of the development process of the spacecraft in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Another major hardware component for Boeing’s second Starliner spacecraft recently arrived at the company’s assembly facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The upper dome – basically one half of the Starliner pressure vessel – arrived at the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, closely following the arrival of the lower dome and docking hatch in early May.

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I Will Launch America: Derek Otermat

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Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Years of intense design work on the complex communication systems destined for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are about to be put to the test. And the engineer who developed the specialized communication system test equipment that will put those systems through more stress than any real-life situation could present will be right there to see his work in action.

“The challenge will be making sure we covered everything,” said Derek Otermat, an engineer on the integration and test team who was recognized as the company’s Florida “Engineer of the Year” recently. “We have to understand the ins and outs of how our systems work. Testing provides us the opportunity to identify issues early on, which helps mitigate in-flight issues and ensures safe and successful missions.”

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SpaceX Running More Than One Year Behind Schedule on Commercial Crew

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Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s commercial crew program is running more than a year behind schedule on the Commercial Crew program it is performing for NASA.

Garrett Reisman, SpaceX’s Director of Crew Operations, said on Tuesday that an automated flight test of the Crew Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) has slipped into the second quarter of 2017.  (Spaceflight Now has the mission listed for May 2017.) It was scheduled to occur in March 2016 under the contract NASA awarded to SpaceX in September 2014.

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House Appropriations Committee Sets NASA Spending at $19.5 Billion

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 NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

The House Appropriations Committee is marking up a FY 2017 spending bill today that would boost NASA’s spending by $215 million to $19.5 billion dollars. The amount is roughly $500 million more than the $19 billion requested by the Obama Administration.

Appropriators have zeroed out money for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), instead instructing the space agency to focus on lumar missions applicable to sending astronauts to Mars.

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I Will Launch America: Launch Site Integrator Misty Snopkowski

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i_will_launch_misty_snopkowskiBy Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Misty Snopkowski has worked on human spaceflight initiatives since 2003, building up expertise with the Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs and now standing on the precipice of the new era in human spaceflight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“I got to work up until the very last shuttle launch in 2011, which was a pretty amazing period in time,” Snopkowski said. “Then I joined commercial crew. You flip the script and go into a brand new program. I was this young person who got to start at the very beginning of a new program and most people don’t ever get that opportunity.”

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Astronaut Visits CST-100 Starliner Suppliers

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Astronaut Megan McArthur examines CST-100 Starliner components. (Credit: NASA)

Astronaut Megan McArthur examines CST-100 Starliner components. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Veteran astronaut Megan McArthur toured two of the companies building components for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft recently and met with some of the employees who are designing and making sensors and circuit boards the spacecraft and its crews will rely on to steer precisely to the International Space Station. She was joined by Chris Ferguson, a former space shuttle commander who is now Boeing’s director of Crew and Mission Operations for Commercial Crew. Boeing is one of two companies under contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to develop spacecraft systems to take astronauts to the space station. The missions will enhance research by increasing the number of crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory.

McArthur, who flew as a mission specialist on STS-125 and captured the Hubble Space Telescope with the shuttle’s robotic arm, visited Advanced Scientific Concepts in Santa Barbara, California, on April 7 where she surveyed the 3D Flash Light Detection and Ranging sensors the company is making. The LIDAR gear will let Starliner crews see the station in all conditions in space during a mission. The next day, McArthur visited Qual-Pro Corp in Gardena, California, where engineers are making the circuit boards that will allow Starliner systems to communicate with each other.

“It’s never about the individual or just the crew members who are in space,” McArthur said. “It’s always about the team of folks who are getting us ready to fly, who are getting the hardware ready to fly and keeping us safe while we’re up there. It’s not something we can ever succeed at by ourselves.”

Boeing Starliner Schedule Slips as First Test Article Comes Together

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A Boeing engineer works on joining the upper and lower half of a Starliner structural test article. (Credit: Boeing)

A Boeing engineer works on joining the upper and lower half of a Starliner structural test article. (Credit: Boeing)

Alan Boyle reports that the first crewed Starliner flight to the International Space Station has slipped its schedule.

“We’re working toward our first unmanned flight in 2017, followed by a manned astronaut flight in 2018,” Leanne Caret, who is Boeing’s executive vice president as well as president and chief executive officer of Boeing’s defense, space and security division, said at a briefing for investors.
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A Profile of Boeing Starliner Flight Crew Operations Lead

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Credit: NASA

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts heading into orbit aboard a new generation of commercially developed spacecraft will read instruments on a tablet and count on only a few physical buttons and joysticks to fly to and rendezvous with the International Space Station.

These high-tech systems will not have rigid panels that stretch over several positions and house row-upon-row of switches, dials and readouts like those on the Apollo spacecraft and space shuttle.

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Simulators Give Astronauts Glimpse of Future Flights

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Astronauts Suni WIlliams and Eric Boe evaluate part-task trainers for Boeing's CST-100 Starliner at the company's St. Louis facility. (Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis)

Astronauts Suni WIlliams and Eric Boe evaluate part-task trainers for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner at the company’s St. Louis facility. (Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis)

By Stephanie Martin and Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA’s commercial crew astronauts Suni Williams and Eric Boe tried out a new generation of training simulators at the Boeing facility in St. Louis Tuesday that will prepare them for launch, flight and returns aboard the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The training also brought recollections of earlier eras when NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft were built in St. Louis and astronauts routinely travelled to the city for simulator time.

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Profile of NASA Launch Vehicle Deputy Manager Dayna Ise

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Dayna Ise (Credit: NASA)

Dayna Ise (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — American-built rockets will soon once again launch astronauts from American soil, and Dayna Ise, an engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is excited to be part of the program making this possible.

Ise, deputy manager of the Launch Vehicle Office in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said working at the dawn of a new generation of human spaceflight brings intensity in a number of areas.

“Of all the projects I have been part of with NASA in my 15 years, this is easily the work I am most proud of,” said Ise, who started her career working on space shuttle main engines. “I joined the team early on, almost five years ago, and it’s been fun to see it grow. It’s exciting to be part of program that will launch astronauts to the space station from American soil and allow NASA more resources for exploration deeper into our solar system.”

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Senate Appropriations Committee Provides $19.3 Billion for NASA

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Capitol Building
WASHINGTON (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) — National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $19.3 billion for NASA, $21 million over the FY2016 enacted level and $1 billion above the FY2017 NASA budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research. This includes:

  • $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System (SLS), which is $150 million above the FY2016 enacted level and $920 million above the request. The SLS is the nation’s launch vehicle that will enable humans to explore space beyond current capabilities. The funding maintains the current schedule for the first launch of SLS, and provides $300 million in critical funding for upper stage engine work for future crewed missions in 2021 and beyond.
  • $1.3 billion for the Orion crewed spacecraft, $30 million above the FY2016 enacted level and $247 million above the request, to enable a crewed launch in 2021. Orion is the NASA-crewed vehicle being designed to take astronauts to destinations farther than ever before, including Mars.
  • $5.4 billion for Science, $194 million below the FY2016 enacted level and $92.5 million above the request. This funding encompasses missions from the Earth to the Moon, throughout the solar system, and the far reaches of the universe.
  • $1.18 billion, the same as the request, to further develop a domestic crew launch capability. Once developed and fully tested, these vehicles will help end the United States’ reliance on Russia for transporting American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
  • $687 million for Space Technology, the same as the FY2016 enacted level and $4.1 million below the request. Funding is included to advance projects that are early in development that will eventually demonstrate capabilities needed for future space exploration.

Profile of NASA Launch Vehicle Chief Engineer Dan Dorney

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Dan Dorney (Credit: NASA)

Dan Dorney (Credit: NASA)

By Bill Hubscher,
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA’s Dan Dorney has never been afraid to think big.

As a 7-year-old boy growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1969, Dorney watched the Apollo 11 moon landing from his living room and decided he needed to build his own rocket. He sent a letter to NASA asking how to do that. Much to his parents’ surprise, he got a response – NASA sent him plans to build a simple model rocket. Which he immediately rejected.

“I wanted the real wiring schematics and engine plans,” Dorney says. “I wanted to build my own life-size rocket to go to the moon. I was ready to be an aerospace engineer.”

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