Tag: commercial crew

Blue Origin Commercial Crew Development Status Report

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At Blue Origin’s West Texas facility, the BE-3 engine demonstrated a full simulated suborbital mission profile, igniting, throttling, and restarting on command. (Credit: NASA)

At Blue Origin’s West Texas facility, the BE-3 engine demonstrated a full simulated suborbital mission profile, igniting, throttling, and restarting on command. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has announced an extension of its unfunded Space Act Agreement with Blue Origin that adds three unfunded milestones to the space agency’s collaboration with Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ space company. Those milestones include additional testing of a propellant tank, the BE-3 engine and the pusher escape system.

NASA also announced the completion in September of the Space Vehicle Subsystem Interim Design Review. The milestone included a review of space vehicle subsystem design progress with emphasis on power and actuation systems, in-space propulsion, multiplex avionics, flight mechanics and GN&C.

Blue Origin began its partnership with NASA in 2010. To date, it has received $25.38 million in funding from the space agency. All work since 2012 has been conducted with NASA expertise but without direct funding from the agency.

Blue Origin Space Act Agreements Milestones
Award Period: 2010 – 2015
Milestones: 23
Milestones Completed: 20
Milestones Remaining: 3
Total Amount Awarded: $25.38 million
Total Amount Remaining: $0

NO. DESCRIPTION ORIGINAL DATE
STATUS AMOUNT
COMMERCIAL CREW DEVELOPMENT 1
A1 Project Kickoff Meeting. A meeting to brief NASA personnel on the pusher escape system maturation plan. March 2010 Complete $835,000
A2 1-DOF TVC Plan. Conduct test firing of full-scale demonstration SRM integrated with TVC system on 1-degree of freedom trust measurement stand. July 2010 Complete $835,000
A3 6-DOF TVC Plan. Conduct test firing of full-scale demonstration SRM integrated with TVC system on 6-degree of freedom trust measurement stand. October 2010 Complete $835,000
A4 Rocket Sled Test. Conduct non-separating test of full CC OML and mass simulator on rocket sled track. March 2011 Complete $0
B1 Composite Pressure Vessel Maturation Kickoff Meeting. A meeting to brief NASA personnel on the implementation plan. March 2010 Complete $290,000
B2 Test Article Composite Parts Received. Receive all parts necessary to complete assembly of one composite pressure vessel, closing supplier risk. May 2010 Complete $290,000
B3 Test Article Assembly Complete. Completion of the test article. August 2010 Complete $290,000
CCDEV 1 TOTAL: $3,375,000
COMMERCIAL CREW DEVELOPMENT 2
1.1 Space Vehicle Kickoff Meeting. A meeting at Blue Origin headquarters in Kent, WA to brief NASA personnel on the project implementation plan. May 2011 Complete $905,000
1.2 Space Vehicle Mission Concept Review. A review of the Space Vehicle Mission Concept. September 2011 Complete $900,000
1.3 Space Vehicle Systems Requirements Review. A review of systems requirements for the Space Vehicle. May 2012 Complete $900,000
2.1 Pusher Escape Kickoff Meeting. A meeting to brief NASA personnel on the pusher escape implementation plan. May 2011 Complete $2,000,000
2.2 Pusher Escape Vehicle #1 Shipment. Assembly of the first Pusher Escape Flight Test Vehicle is complete, except for installation of the pusher escape subsystem and separation mechanisms. Shipment to test range. December 2011 Complete $2,000,000
2.3 Pusher Escape Ground Firing. Conduct an initial ground test of the pusher escape rocket motor and thrust vector control system to be used during the flight test campaign. January 2012 Complete $3,000,000
2.6 Escape Pad Escape Test. Conduct a test of one of the fight test vehicles simulating an escape from a booster on the launch pad. April 2012 Complete $1,900,000
3.1 Engine Kickoff Meeting. Meeting to brief NASA personnel on engine risk reduction implementation plan. May 2011 Complete $3,400,000
3.2 Engine TCA and Test Plan Review. Meeting to review test article interface data, Interface Control Diagram (ICD) and test plan. September 2011 Complete $4,000,000
3.4 Engine TCA Test. Conduct pressure-fed test of the full-scale thrust chamber assembly (TCA). May 2012 Complete $3,000,000
CCDEV 2 TOTAL: $22,005,000
UNFUNDED SPACE ACT AGREEMENT
3.6 BE-3 Engine Test. Conduct a test firing of the pump-fed engine simulating a sub-scale booster suborbital mission duty cycle (MDC). September 2013 Complete $0
3.7 Subscale Prop Tank Assembly Review. Conduct a review of the design, manufacture and assembly of a subscale booster propellant tank. December 2013 Complete $0
1.4 Space Vehicle Subsystem Interim Design Review. Review space vehicle subsystem design progress with emphasis on power and actuation systems, in-space propulsion, multiplex avionics, flight mechanics and GN&C. March 2014 Complete $0
Propellant Tank Testing. Additional testing of the propellant tank. Pending $0
BE-3 Engine Test. Additional testing of the pump-fed BE-3 engine. Pending $0
Pusher Escape System. Additional testing of the pusher escape system designed to save the crew from a malfunctioning booster. Pending $0
TOTAL, ALL AGREEMENTS: $25,380,000

NASA Commercial Crew Partners Continue System Advancements

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WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s industry partners continue to complete development milestones under agreements with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The work performed by Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX during partnership and contract initiatives are leading a new generation of safe, reliable and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit destinations.

Blue Origin conducted an interim design review of the subsystems in development for its Space Vehicle spacecraft designed to carry people into low-Earth orbit. The September review was performed under an unfunded Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA. In October, NASA and Blue Origin agreed to add three additional unfunded milestones to the agreement to continue the development work and partnership. Those milestones will include further testing of Blue Origin’s propellant tank, BE-3 engine and pusher escape system.

Continue reading ‘NASA Commercial Crew Partners Continue System Advancements’

Judge Knocks Down SNC’s Motion for Commercial Crew Work Stoppage

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

A Federal Court of Claims judge has rejected a motion by the Sierra Nevada Corporation to re-impose a stop-work order on NASA’s commercial crew program, according to press reports. It is not immediately clear why Judge Marian Blank Horn rejected the motion.

NASA has initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work on commercial crew contracts the agency awarded the two companies while the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed an appeal by Sierra Nevada, which did not receive an award.

However, NASA later lifted the order, saying any delay would imperil efforts to keep the commercial crew program on schedule and meet its commitments for operating the International Space Station. Sierra Nevada subsequently appealed that decision.

The GAO has until Jan. 5 to rule on Sierra Nevada’s appeal of the commercial crew awards.

Court Holds Initial Hearing on Sierra Nevada’s Effort to Reimpose Commercial Crew Stop Work Order

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Marian Blank Horn heard initial arguments on Friday on a motion by Sierra Nevada Corporation to stop Boeing and SpaceX from continuing work on recently awarded NASA commercial crew contracts pending an appeal of the awards.

The judge did not rule on the motion, but set an additional hearing on Tuesday to hear further arguments, according to press reports.

Sierra Nevada has appealed the awards NASA has made to Boeing and SpaceX citing alleged irregularities in the process. NASA’s decisions left Sierra Nevada without additional government funding to complete its Dream Chaser shuttle.

NASA initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work under the contracts, but the space agency later reversed its decision. Sierra Nevada is seeking to reinstate the stop work order.

The Government Accountability Office has until early January to rule on Sierra Nevada’s protest of NASA’s commercial crew awards.

Sierra Nevada Files Suit to Reinstate Hold on Commercial Crew Work

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Space News reports that Sierra Nevada Corporation has filed suit to stop Boeing and SpaceX from continuing commercial crew work while the company’s appeal of the awards to the two companies is pending.

In filings with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, Sierra Nevada filed requests for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to overturn a NASA decision Oct. 9 lifting an order stopping work on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

NASA had issued a stop-work order shortly after Sierra Nevada filed a protest regarding the CCtCap awards with the U.S. Government Accountability Office Sept. 26. On Oct. 9, NASA lifted the order, citing “statutory authority available to it” in order to keep the program on schedule.

NASA justified the decision by warning that any delay in carrying out the contracts “poses risks” to the international space station crew and could jeopardize operations of the station. “NASA has determined that it best serves the United States to continue performance of the CCtCap contracts,” the agency said in a statement posted on the commercial crew program website.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning.

Smith Praises Commercial Crew Winners, Then Tries to Stab One in Back

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Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith

Less than a month after praising Boeing and SpaceX for winning NASA Commercial Crew contracts, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is eager to stab one of them in the back.

“I congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on their achievements in the Commercial Crew Program. Both companies and the thousands of people they employ have a crucial task before them as they work to further U.S. space exploration,” Smith said in a Sept. 16 statement. “They also have a responsibility to the U.S. taxpayers who are making considerable contributions to the development of these commercial space capabilities.”

Three weeks later, Smith had apparently decided that two commercial crew providers was one too many.

“If Orion could provide a redundant capability as a fallback for the commercial crew partners, why is it necessary to carry two partners to ensure competition in the constrained budget environment?” Smith asked in an Oct. 7 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The letter was co-signed by House Science Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).

My guess is that Bolden has explained why this wouldn’t work well to Congress many, many times. I’m also guessing that if NASA had to choose between commercial crew providers, it would probably select SpaceX because the company is further along toward crewed flights and costs far less than Boeing.

I’m not sure why Smith would take the risk of eliminating Boeing, which has  headquartered its commercial crew program in Houston.  Unless he believes the committee could force NASA to eliminate SpaceX and select Boeing despite the cost disparity.

Read Smith’s original statement of praise here. Space News has more details about the letter from Smith and Palazzo.

NASA Orders Boeing, SpaceX to Resume Commercial Crew Work

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WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On Sept. 16, NASA announced U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017.

On Sept. 26, Sierra Nevada Corporation filed a protest of the commercial crew contracts with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Pursuant to the GAO protest, NASA instructed Boeing and SpaceX to suspend performance of the contracts.

On Oct. 9, under statutory authority available to it, NASA has decided to proceed with the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. notwithstanding the bid protest filed at the U.S. Government Accountability Office by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements. These considerations compelled NASA to use its statutory authority to avoid significant adverse consequences where contract performance remained suspended. NASA has determined that it best serves the United States to continue performance of the CCtCap contracts that will enable safe and reliable travel to and from the ISS from the United States on American spacecraft and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for such transportation.

Report: Boeing Ranked Ahead of SpaceX, Sierra Nevada on Commercial Crew

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Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal has obtained a copy of NASA’s Commercial Crew source selection statement, and he says the space agency ranked Boeing’s proposal for its CST-100 spacecraft higher in every major category than SpaceX’s Dragon vehicle.

Meanwhile, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s unsuccessful bid was marked technical and schedule uncertainties related to the complex hardware and software required for the company’s Dream Chaser space shuttle, according to the story.

Continue reading ‘Report: Boeing Ranked Ahead of SpaceX, Sierra Nevada on Commercial Crew’

NASA Commercial Crew: Better Flying Through Software

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

The new approach NASA is taking to get its crews to low-Earth orbit with commercial partnerships requires the space agency to closely examine the plans companies have for their own space transportation systems to ensure they are as safe and reliable as can be.

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Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Awards

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Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sierra Nevada has formally protested NASA’s decision to award commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX:

Details of the objection lodged with the Government Accountability Office will be released shortly, Krystal Scordo, a Sierra Nevada spokeswoman, said today by e-mail. The GAO has 100 days to make a decision in the case.

The move erects at least a temporary roadblock for Boeing and SpaceX, which were picked by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA’s funding for so-called space taxi flights marks the first time the U.S. has turned to commercial ventures for sending humans into orbit.

Read the full story.

UPDATE: Here’s the Sierra Nevada press release:

Sierra Nevada Corporation Challenges Award of NASA’s
Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract

SPARKS, Nev. (Sept. 26, 2014) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced today that it has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program.  The CCtCap program will restore U.S. transportation capability to the International Space Station.

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