With the recent news that commercial crew flights to the International Space Station will likely slip to the end of 2018, I thought it would be a good time to review what NASA has spend on the program since it began in 2010. And, since NASA has separated cargo and crew, we will also look at the space agency’s commercial cargo programs.
The table below shows that NASA has given out nearly $8.4 billion in contracts to Commercial Crew Program partners over the past six years. These figures do not include NASA’s overhead.
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), has completed delivery of the first set of hardware for Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner service module propulsion system. The Starliner is designed to ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The first delivered hardware includes the low-pressure port and starboard manifold assemblies, which will distribute helium necessary to push propellants out to the service module’s engines and thrusters.
NASA and various commercial companies gave updates on their programs during the International Symposium on Commercial and Personal Spaceflight this week in Las Cruces, NM.
What follows are summaries that include:
suborbital programs (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin)
commercial cargo (SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation)
commercial crew (NASA, Boeing, ULA).
The summaries are based on Twitter posts from attendees. A big thanks to Thanks to Tanya Harrison (@tanyaofmars), Frank Slazer (@FSlazer), Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust), Michael Simpson (@SpaceSharer), and Melissa Sampson (@DrSampson) for the coverage.
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2016) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) and The Boeing Company today unveiled an updated aerodynamic configuration of the Atlas V that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule for NASA after encountering unique challenges with aerodynamic stability and loads.
On Sept. 1, the space agency watchdog released an audit of the Commercial Crew Program that found it was unlikely either Boeing or SpaceX would begin flying crews to the International Space Station on an operational basis until the end of 2018.
Boeing has become the first company to validate that finding. The company has delayed its first operational flight of its CST-100 Starliner by an additional six months to December 2018, Aviation Weekreports.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Suddenly, you’re barreling down toward Earth at speeds 10 times faster than a bullet, headed straight for Earth—but all the nerves are gone. You’ve landed this flight 100 times before.
Nearly 250 miles below, hallways within NASA Johnson Space Center’s Jake Garn Mission Simulator and Training Facility are lined with history. Since 1965, the facility, known to JSC team members simply as Building 5, has trained the world’s greatest explorers for Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttle and International Space Station Program missions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. (more…)
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.
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.
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.
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.