NASA Commercial Crew Flights Slip Slide Toward 2019

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe evaluate Crew Dragon controls. (Credit: NASA)

Crucial flight tests for NASA’s two commercial crew vehicles are slipping ever closer to 2019. The space agency released the following updated schedules for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon 2 vehicles today:

Targeted Test Flight Dates

Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): August 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): November 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (uncrewed): August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): December 2018

Boeing’s schedule has not changed from the previous update. SpaceX’s demonstration flights have slipped from April and August to August and December, respectively. No reasons have been given for the slips.

A reliable source tells Parabolic Arc that SpaceX experienced a delay several months ago due to issues with Dragon 2’s environmental control and life support system (ECLSS). The problem was estimated to delay the first demonstration flight about six months. At about that same time, the schedule for that first uncrewed flight slipped from February to April.

A SpaceX spokeswoman would not comment for the record on this report.

First Look at Launch Complex 39A Crew Access Arm

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe walk down the Crew Access Arm being built by SpaceX for Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe walk down the Crew Access Arm being built by SpaceX for Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The access arm will be installed on the launch pad, providing a bridge between the crew access tower and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon – or Dragon 2 – spacecraft for astronauts flying to the International Space Station on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The access arm is being readied for installation in early 2018. It will be installed 70 feet higher than the former space shuttle access arm on the launch pad’s Fixed Service Structure. SpaceX continues to modify the historic launch site from its former space shuttle days, removing more than 500,000 pounds of steel from the pad structure, including the Rotating Service Structure that was once used for accessing the payload bay of the shuttle. SpaceX also is using the modernized site to launch commercial payloads, as well as cargo resupply missions to and from the International Space Station for NASA. The first SpaceX launch from the historic Apollo and space shuttle site was this past February.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with private companies, Boeing and SpaceX, with a goal of once again flying people to and from the International Space Station, launching from the United States. Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner to launch on an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41. For information on Boeing and ULA’s work on Space Launch Complex 41, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/crew-access-arm-installed-for-starliner-missions.

Astronauts Work with Crew Dragon Qualification Vehicle

Astronaut Bob Behnken emerges from the top hatch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft in manufacturing at SpaceX’s headquarters and factory in Hawthorne, California, as astronaut Eric Boe looks on. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Bob Behnken and Eric Boe, two of NASA’s four veteran astronauts who supported SpaceX as it refines its crew transportation system designs, checked out the Crew Dragon being used for qualification testing. NASA astronauts routinely travel to industry facilities during spacecraft and mission development to train and offer insights to engineers.

As seen here, Behken is evaluating the Crew Dragon’s hatches. The top hatch, at the nose of the spacecraft, will be the connecting port at the International Space Station. The side hatch will be the entryway for crews getting into the spacecraft when on Earth.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft and related test vehicles are being manufactured at SpaceX’s headquarters and factory in Hawthorne, California. The Crew Dragon is being built to routinely fly four astronauts to the International Space Station although it can carry up to seven people. Flight tests, first without a crew then with astronauts aboard, will take place before operational crew rotation missions.

NASA also partnered with Boeing to build and operate a separate, independent space system called the CST-100 Starliner to carry astronauts to the station. Both vehicles are being developed in close coordination with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Astronaut Evaluate Crew Dragon Controls

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe evaluate Crew Dragon controls. (Credit: NASA)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Eric Boe evaluated the controls, seating and other aspects of the crew compartment of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during a recent visit to the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Sitting in a mock-up of the Crew Dragon cockpit, the two studied many aspects of the layout including spacing of displays and ease of movement.

The testing is taking place as SpaceX develops the Crew Dragon with an eye toward launching the spacecraft into orbit in the near future on a flight test to and from the International Space Station. Later, the Crew Dragons, launching atop Falcon 9 rockets, will perform operational missions to rotate crews aboard the orbiting laboratory. Companies build high fidelity models of their spacecraft and systems to help determine everything from practicality and operation to fit and comfort.

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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Simulators Give Astronauts Glimpse of Future Flights

Astronauts Suni WIlliams and Eric Boe evaluate part-task trainers for Boeing's CST-100 Starliner at the company's St. Louis facility. (Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis)
Astronauts Suni WIlliams and Eric Boe evaluate part-task trainers for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner at the company’s St. Louis facility. (Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis)

By Stephanie Martin and Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA’s commercial crew astronauts Suni Williams and Eric Boe tried out a new generation of training simulators at the Boeing facility in St. Louis Tuesday that will prepare them for launch, flight and returns aboard the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The training also brought recollections of earlier eras when NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft were built in St. Louis and astronauts routinely travelled to the city for simulator time.

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Astronauts Celebrate With Builders Topping of Crew Access Tower

Astronauts Bob Behnken, Suni Williams, Eric Boe and Doug Hurley in the white room.
Astronauts Bob Behnken, Suni Williams, Eric Boe and Doug Hurley in the white room. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — Four astronauts training for test flights with NASA’s Commercial Crew program joined the festivities at Space Launch Complex 41 Thursday morning as one of the highest steel beams was placed on the Crew Access Tower during a “topping off” ceremony with United Launch Alliance, Boeing and Hensel Phelps at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site in Florida.
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NASA Selects 4 Astronauts to Train for First Commercial Spaceflights

NASA has selected experienced astronauts Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams to work closely with The Boeing Company and SpaceX to develop their crew transportation systems and provide crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
NASA has selected experienced astronauts Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams to work closely with The Boeing Company and SpaceX to develop their crew transportation systems and provide crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected four astronauts to train and prepare for commercial spaceflights that will return American launches to U.S. soil and further open up low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector. The selections are the latest major milestone in the Obama Administration’s plan to partner with U.S. industry to transport astronauts to space, create good-paying American jobs and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for space travel.

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