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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Centaur Upper Stage for First Starliner Flight Arrives at Cape

The Centaur heads for ULA’s Cape Canaveral facilities. (Credit: NASA)

The Centaur heads for ULA’s Cape Canaveral facilities. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (ULA PR) — The dual-engine Centaur upper stage that will launch Boeing’s first Starliner spacecraft on its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station has arrived at Cape Canaveral for final processing by United Launch Alliance technicians.

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Launch Dates to be Updated More Regularly as Commercial Crew Flights Draw Nearer

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. (Credits: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — As NASA’s Commercial Crew partners Boeing and SpaceX crew transportation systems are within months of being ready for the first test flights of their spacecraft that will carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station from U.S. soil, the scheduling of launch dates enters a new phase.

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Commercial Crew Flights Slip into 2019

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. (Credits: NASA)

NASA announced on Thursday that no Commercial Crew Program flight tests to the International Space Station will be conducted this year. The new schedule is:

  • SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): January 2019
  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): March 2019
  • SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): June 2019
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): August 2019

On August 2, NASA released the following schedule:

  • SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 (uncrewed): November 2018
  • Boeing CST-100 Starliner Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): late 2018/early 2019
  • SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 (crewed): April 2019
  • Boeing CST-100 Starliner Crew Flight Test (crewed): mid-2019.

Basically, the flights have slipped two months in the last two months. Further delays are possible.

 

Video: NASA Administrator Bridenstine Interviews Commercial Crew Astronauts

Video Caption: During a recent visit to Johnson Space Center, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sat down with astronauts Chris Ferguson and Sunita “Suni” Williams for an informal Q&A session about the Commercial Crew Program.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has worked with several American aerospace industry companies to facilitate the development of U.S. human spaceflight systems since 2010. Both Ferguson and Williams were selected to fly on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner for the Commercial Crew Program – marking the first time that American astronauts will launch to the International Space Station from American soil on American-made spacecraft since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011.

To watch specific portions of the Q&A about the future of human space exploration, use these timestamp:

2:30 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson talks about what he has been doing since it was announced that he is a member of the Commercial Crew Program
3:30 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson explains why his flight suit says Boeing and not NASA
4:27 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about what a day in the life of an astronaut is like and what she has been up to since she was selected for the Commercial Crew program
6:30 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson talks about how the Starliner is different from the Space Shuttle
7:30 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about how is the Starliner is similar to and different from the Soyuz
8:32 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson talks about how many people the Starliner will be able to carry to the International Space Station
9:20 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks about the future of space exploration for NASA
10:58 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about her previous spaceflights and how her Commercial Crew flight will be different
12:20 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about their experience landing in space vehicles
15:20 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine and astronaut Chris Ferguson discuss thermal protection to keep astronauts safe
17:30 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks about the components of the Space Launch System and how it compares to technology for avionics
18:55 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson discusses how flying tests in the U.S. Navy prepared them for their upcoming missions
20:28 – Astronaut Chris Ferguson discusses what it’s like to dock the Starliner
21:30 – Astronaut Suni Williams talks about training, automation and providing input to Boeing about the Starliner
22:30 – Astronauts Chris Ferguson and Suni Williams talk about the team of individuals who make human spaceflight possible
24:45 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks about the preparations that go into space exploration missions
25:46 – Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks about NASA’s launch capabilities
26:52 – Astronauts Chris Ferguson and Suni Williams provide guidance to Administrator Jim Bridenstine as he docks the Boeing Starliner simulator

NASA, SpaceX Agree on Fueling Plans for Crew Dragon Launches

NASA astronaut Suni Williams in a Crew Dragon simulator.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX are finalizing plans for launch day operations as they prepare for the company’s first flight test with astronauts on board. The teams are working toward a crew test flight to the International Space Station, known as Demo-2, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in April 2019.

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Walkway Installed on Pad 39A for Crew Dragon Flights

Current Crew Dragon Flight Test Schedule
(to International Space Station)

Uncrewed Flight Test: November 2018
Crewed Flight Test: April 2019

Flight Tests to Prove Commercial Systems Fit for Human Spaceflight

Crew Dragon and Starliner at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The first test flights for new spacecraft designed by commercial companies in collaboration with NASA to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station from the United States are known as Demo-1 for SpaceX and Orbital Flight Test for Boeing.

NASA’s goal in collaborating with Boeing and SpaceX is to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from station on the companies’ spacecraft. Both companies have matured their designs, are making significant progress through their extensive testing campaigns, and are headed toward flight tests to validate their systems.

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Boeing Expects Automated Starliner Flight Test in 5 or 6 Months

Editor’s Note: Apparently Boeing had a teleconference with a select group of media today to announce the delay.

NASA, Commercial Partners Progress to Human Spaceflight Home Stretch

The upper and lower domes of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft 2 Crew Flight Test Vehicle were mated June 19, 2018, inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. On the right, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will be used for the company’s uncrewed flight test, known as Demonstration Mission 1, arrived to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 10, 2018. (Credits: Photo on the left, Boeing, on the right: NASA/SpaceX)

By Madison Tuttle
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA and commercial industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are making significant advances in preparing to launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. As part of the Commercial Crew Program’s public-private partnership, both companies are fine-tuning their designs, integrating hardware, and testing their crew spacecraft and rockets to prepare for test flights

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NASA to Announce Commercial Crew Assignments on Aug. 3

Crew Dragon and Starliner at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will announce on Friday, Aug. 3, the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, and begin a new era in American spaceflight. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will preside over the event, which will begin at 11 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA will announce the crew assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification mission for both Boeing and SpaceX. NASA partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to develop the Starliner spacecraft to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and the Crew Dragon launching atop the Falcon 9 rocket, respectively.

U.S. media are invited to attend the event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and, afterward, speak with the astronauts about their assignments.

Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana will join Bridenstine and representatives from Boeing and SpaceX to introduce the crews.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems designed to carry crews safely to and from low-Earth orbit. The Starliner and Crew Dragon will launch American astronauts on American-made spacecraft from American soil to the International Space Station for the first time since NASA retired its Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Commercial transportation to and from the space station will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory. The station is critical for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight, and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and missions deeper into the solar system, including Mars.

Following the announcement, the astronauts will participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything at 12:30 p.m. at:

https://www.reddit.com/r/AMA/

Images and video highlights from the announcement will be available at:

https://images.nasa.gov

Boeing Suffers Setback During CST-100 Starliner Abort Test

CST-100 Starliner with Atlas V booster. (Credit: Boeing)

Media are reporting that Boeing suffered a setback recently when testing CST-100 Starliner’s emergency abort system at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Here’s an account from The Washington Post:

The spacecraft Boeing plans to use to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station suffered a significant setback when, during a test of its emergency abort system in June, officials discovered a propellant leak, the company confirmed.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Boeing said it has “been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners. We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action.”

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Trump Nominates Senate Staffer for NASA Deputy Administrator

President Donald J. Trump today nominated a long-time Senate staffer who has neither a technical nor scientific background to be the space agency’s deputy administrator.

James Morhard, who is currently the U.S. Senate’s Deputy Sergeant at Arms, was nominated for the position. The decision represents a defeat for NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who had publicly advocated on behalf of Dr. Janet Kavandi, a former astronaut, engineer and analytical chemist who is director of the NASA Glenn Research Center.

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