I Will Launch America: Mike Ravenscroft

Mike Ravenscroft (Credit: NASA)
Mike Ravenscroft (Credit: NASA)

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

Every astronaut who flies into space should go with the confidence that every detail of their spacecraft, rocket and mission has been thought-through and evaluated carefully, engineer Michael Ravenscroft said. That’s one of the reasons that the Commercial Crew Program engineer takes so little for granted as the program steers itself and partners toward a new dawn of human spaceflight from American soil.

“It’s one of those things you always think about – you don’t want to put anybody at unnecessary risk,” Ravenscroft said.

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Elon Musk Ponders Renaming Mars Colonial Transporter as Crew Dragon Slips

Elon Musk has began to tease a talk he is set to give on Sept. 27 in which he is to reveal his plans for sending people to Mars. Musk will deliver his talk, titled “Making Humans a Multi-planetary Species,” during the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. According to the program

Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

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NASA Suffering Significant Delays in Evaluating Commercial Crew Hazard Reports

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Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Improvements Needed to Ensure Timely Reviews of Contractor Development Efforts

NASA is responsible for managing the certification process for the Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew transportation systems to ensure they meet Agency human rating requirements. Timely insight into the contractors’ activities is vital to ensure this process proceeds on schedule and within the agreed-upon budget. As part of the certification process and to provide insight into contractor efforts, Boeing and SpaceX conduct safety reviews and develop reports on potential hazards and the controls they have put in place to mitigate them (hazard reports) for NASA’s review.

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Boeing’s Starliner Challenges: Weight, Vibrations, Software & Landings

Boeing CST-100 Starliner high bay (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
Boeing CST-100 Starliner high bay (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Boeing’s CCtCap contract initially included 23 milestones ranging from the establishment of an original requirements baseline to the final vehicle certification. Within the first 2 years of the contract, Boeing and NASA modified the contract to separate three of the milestones into multiple segments, replace one milestone, and add seven milestones related to NASA-imposed software upgrades, landing qualification tests, and hardware modifications.18 These modifications increased the number of milestones to 34 and the total contract value by approximately $46 million.

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Boeing Commercial Crew Milestone Status

Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)
Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

In 2016, Boeing amended its schedule to reflect receipt of certification in January 2018 and the first certified flight in the spring of 2018. Notwithstanding the contractors’ optimism, based on the information we gathered during our audit, we believe it unlikely that either Boeing or SpaceX will achieve certified, crewed flight to the ISS until late 2018.
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NASA OIG Report: Further Delays in Commercial Crew, More Payments to Russians

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
An audit by the NASA Inspector General released today indicates that the commercial crew program will likely delayed further due to technical and administrative challenges at significant cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Synopsis

  • First commercial crew flights likely to slip to late 2018 — 3 years beyond original schedule
  • Boeing and SpaceX facing significant design challenges, including CST-100 weight and excess seawater seeping into the Dragon capsule
  • “Significant” delays in NASA evaluation of partner safety and hazard reviews and reports
  • NASA to pay additional $490 million ($82 million per seat) for astronaut transport on Russian Soyuz through 2018

Below is a summary from the report. Read the full audit here.

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ASAP Update on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) held a meeting on July 21, 2016 at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Below is a summary of the status of the  Commercial Crew program and the Boeing and SpaceX vehicles, including top programmatic risks.

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RL-10 Engine Tested for Boeing CST-100 Starliner Flight

Steam billows from the engine test stand as the RL10 engine fires. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Steam billows from the engine test stand as the RL10 engine fires.
(Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

By Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

A trio of NASA astronauts watched last Friday as engineers and technicians from Aerojet Rocketdyne fired one of the RL10 engines that will help power the first crewed flight test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner as it flies into orbit on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

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Starliner Crew Access Arm Installed

The Crew Access Arm for Commerical Crew Program (CCP) being installed to the tower at Pad 41. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
The Crew Access Arm for Commerical Crew Program (CCP) being installed to the tower at Pad 41. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — A 50-foot-long, 90,000-pound bridge to space known as the Crew Access Arm was installed today at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station adjacent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Workers have been modifying the launch pad so astronauts can climb aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft ahead of NASA Commercial Crew Program missions to the International Space Station.

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NASA Q&A on Commercial Crew Program

Bob Cabana, Kennedy Space Center director, from left, Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager, astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams discuss talk about the development of a new generation of human-rated spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
Bob Cabana, Kennedy Space Center director, from left, Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager, astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams discuss talk about the development of a new generation of human-rated spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

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

There are few days that are the same for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program astronauts as they train for flight tests aboard the next generation of human-rated spacecraft, astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams told an audience at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

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More Delays Coming for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program?

I asked Eric what he meant by this Tweet. He said he was referring to a crewed test flight of either SpaceX’s Dragon or Boeing’s CST-100 sometime by the end of 2018. That would push back the first commercial mission into 2019.

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Inside KSC: CST-100 Starliner, VAB Work

Video Caption: NASA and Boeing entered in an agreement with Bastion Technologies for the company to build training mock-ups and ground support equipment for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. In Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building, half of the 10 work platforms now have been installed to surround the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, providing access during preflight processing.

I Will Launch America: Steve Payne

i_will_launch_steve_payneBy Joshua Finch,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Steve Payne always knew he wanted to work for NASA.

“As a kid, I watched the moon landings on TV,” Payne said. “I grew up with pictures of rockets on my wall. Like every kid in that era, space was everywhere and I wanted to do that.”

Over the years, Payne has not lost his passion for all things space and sometimes he gets a little carried away. Like earlier this year, when he was asked to build a model rocket for his child’s school fundraiser and ended up with a 15-foot-tall, high-fidelity model of a Saturn 1B rocket from the early days of the space program. The model rocket still sits in his living room.

“I did it for the kids’ school, but also because I’m a nerd,” said Payne. “I like launching model rockets anyway. I build my own rockets from scratch. I can make almost anything fly with a rocket engine in it.”

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NASA Advisory Council Receives Updates on NASA Programs

NASA LOGOThe NASA Advisory Council has been meeting in Cleveland this week, receiving program updates from top agency officials. Below is a summary of the first two days based on Tweets by Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) and Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline). There are updates below on:

  • Commercial crew
  • Commercial cargo
  • International Space Station
  • SLS/Orion
  • NextSTEP
  • Deep-space human mission planning
  • SpaceX’s Red Dragon
  • Mars 2020
  • Blue Origin

Enjoy!
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