Tag: commercial crew

SpaceX Pressure Tests Crew Dragon Spacecraft

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

Editor’s Note: This update is from June 24; apparently missed I it while traveling.  For those who are wondering where this test is on the CCtCap milestone schedule, it isn’t. This is actually the second half of Milestone 12: Dragon Primary Structure Qualifications from the earlier CCiCap contract. The planned completion date was January 2014. However, they split the $30 million milestone into two parts. The other outstanding CCiCap milestone is the in-flight abort test.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Pressure vessels built by SpaceX to test its Crew Dragon designs are going through structural testing so engineers can analyze the spacecraft’s ability to withstand the harsh conditions of launch and spaceflight. A pressure vessel is the area of the spacecraft where astronauts will sit during their ride into orbit. It makes up the majority of the Crew Dragon’s structure but does not include the outer shell, heat shield, thrusters or other systems.

Even without those systems in place, however, the company and NASA can learn enormous amounts about the design’s strength by placing the pressure vessel in special fixtures that stress the structure. SpaceX completed two pressure vessels that will be used for ground tests and two more are in manufacturing right now to fly in space during demonstration missions for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

After the ground testing, the pressure vessels will be outfitted with all the systems they would need to be fully functional spacecraft.

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Getting to Upmass: A Dragon’s Tale

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A Station that Needs Everything
A Scrappy Startup Contracted to Ship 35.4 Metric Tons of It
Ought to be Easy Enough, Right?

SpaceX Dragon freighter at ISS. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX Dragon freighter at ISS. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The International Space Station (ISS) is not exactly a self-sufficient outpost. The station’s occupants can’t jump into a Soyuz and pop over to an orbiting Wal-Mart when they run out of food, water or toothpaste. Everything the six astronauts need to survive — save for the random plastic wrench or replacement part they can now 3-D print — must be shipped up from the majestic blue planet 400 km below them.

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RiskIt: NASA’s High Risk Commercial Cargo Strategy

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A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

Commercial Cargo’s Lower Costs Brought Higher Risks

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In October 2014, NASA engineers were deeply worried about Orbital Sciences Corporation’s upcoming Orb-3 commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

An Antares booster was set to send a Cygnus cargo ship loaded with 2,215 kg (4,883 lb) of supplies to astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory. It would be the third of eight Cygnus flights to the station under a Commercial Resupply Services-1 (CRS-1) contract worth $1.9 billion.

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Boeing Evaluates Starliner Flight Deck Designs

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Ergonomic evaluations inside the CST-100 Starliner with Boeing's Chris Ferguson. (Credit: Boeing)

Ergonomic evaluations inside the CST-100 Starliner with Boeing’s Chris Ferguson. (Credit: Boeing)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Boeing is evaluating the flight deck designs for its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as development work continues toward the final layout of the seating and control panels.

Former astronaut Chris Ferguson, now deputy program manager and director of Crew and Mission Operations for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, is performing the tests that look into a number of factors of comfort and usability for the systems.

The Starliner is being developed by Boeing in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to take astronauts to the International Space Station. The spacecraft will launch into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, just a few miles from the Starliner’s assembly factory at Kennedy Space Center.

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Summary of NASA IG Report into Agency Response to SpaceX Falcon 9 Failure

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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

SUMMARY

NASA’s Response to SpaceX’s June 2015 Launch Failure: Impacts on Commercial Resupply of the International Space Station
[Full Report]

NASA Office of the Inspector General
June 28, 2016

Why We Performed This Audit

On June 28, 2015, just 2 minutes after liftoff, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) seventh cargo resupply mission (SPX-7) to the International Space Station (ISS or Station) failed, destroying $118 million of NASA cargo,
including an International Docking Adapter (Adapter) the Agency planned to use when it begins flying astronauts to the Station on commercial vehicles. In the aftermath of the failure, SpaceX suspended resupply missions pending completion of an investigation into its cause, relicensing of its launch vehicle by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and acceptance by NASA of the company’s corrective actions.

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Boeing Opens Starliner Training Center

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Boeing showing commercial crew training simulations and hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Space Training, Analysis and Review (STAR) Facility. (Credit: Lauren Harnett)

Boeing showing commercial crew training simulations and hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Space Training, Analysis and Review (STAR) Facility. (Credit: Lauren Harnett)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Astronauts, engineers and trainers are expected to learn how to fly and operate Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft prior to launch inside a new training facility dedicated to the spacecraft now in development in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Called the Space Training, Analysis and Review facility, or STAR, the building opened June 21 a few miles from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, training home of NASA’s astronaut corps as well as mission control.

The STAR facility will be used in concert with other simulators that Boeing will base at Johnson. The simulators built to incorporate various aspects of launch, mission and landing will be used to train teams of astronauts and spaceflight specialists for flight tests and eventually operational missions to the International Space Station. The simulators also will be connected to training consoles at Mission Control to allow fully integrated simulations for the crew and flight controllers. Such simulations are valuable because expose crews and designers to a wide variety of experiences.

“As a pilot, nothing beats being in a simulator and getting hands-on training to fly a vehicle,” said former space shuttle commander Chris Ferguson, now deputy program manager and director of Crew and Mission Operations for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program.

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.”