Boeing Progresses Toward First Flight Test of Starliner Crew Vehicle


On Tuesday, Program Manager Kathy Lueders gave an update on the status of the Commercial Crew Program to the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

Boeing and SpaceX have continued to make major progress. SpaceX flew an uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) in March.

The company’s plan to fly astronauts on a second Crew Dragon flight test this summer has been scrambled by the explosion of a capsule on the test stand in April. Lueders said Elon Musk’s company is aiming to fly the mission by the end of the year. That schedule is dependent upon finding the cause of the explosion.


Boeing continues to target August for an uncrewed flight test of its Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). A test flight with crew would follow at the end of the year. Between the two flights, the company will conduct a test of the emergency abort system.

Boeing is continuing with parachute tests, which are near completion. The company also announced this week that it had successfully conducted a service module hot fire test.

Boeing has made progress in assembling the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) spacecraft.

The company also completed environmental qualification tests on its second spacecraft.

Processing of the Crew Flight Test vehicle is progressing.

Work on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V booster and Centaur upper stage is also progressing.

Operations activities are also ongoing.

Lueders: SpaceX Aiming for Dragon Crewed Flight Test by End of Year

On Tuesday, Program Manager Kathy Lueders gave an update on the status of the Commercial Crew Program to the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

She said that SpaceX is working to launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts aboard to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of the year.

This would be the second flight test of the vehicle following a successful flight test to the station without a crew in March.

Lueders cautioned the schedule is dependent upon SpaceX and NASA closing out an investigation into the April 20 explosion of the Crew Dragon that visited the station.

That capsule exploded as it was being prepared for a test of the crew escape system.

In addition to understanding why the explosion took place, SpaceX must complete an in-flight abort flight and parachute tests. Both are crucial to the safety of the Crew Dragon vehicle.

SpaceX is making progress on its operations status in preparation for crewed flights to the station.

Flight Tests to Prove Commercial Systems Fit for Human Spaceflight

Crew Dragon and Starliner at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The first test flights for new spacecraft designed by commercial companies in collaboration with NASA to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station from the United States are known as Demo-1 for SpaceX and Orbital Flight Test for Boeing.

NASA’s goal in collaborating with Boeing and SpaceX is to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from station on the companies’ spacecraft. Both companies have matured their designs, are making significant progress through their extensive testing campaigns, and are headed toward flight tests to validate their systems.

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Kathy Lueders Talks Commercial Crew, Tech Transfer on Steroids

Kathryn Lueders

Commercial Crew Manager Kathy Lueders recently appeared on “Houston We Have a Podcast”, which is the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center. The program was published on the space agency’s on June 15.

You can listen to the full podcast and read a transcript of the interview here. Below are key excepts from the conversation.

Progress on Commercial Crew

Kathy Lueders: They have their — spacecraft is really, really cool right now. I can’t tell you– go out to SpaceX, you see spacecraft in the building, one– our DM1 vehicle’s getting ready to roll out to go to Plum Brook in a week and a half. [Editor’s note: DM-1 is now undergoing tests at Plum Brook.]

You go over into the C3PF down in Florida and the Boeing spacecraft, you get C3 spacecraft, the Spacecraft 1’s getting ready to get shipped out to go support pad abort test. Spacecraft 2’s getting ready to get shipped to California to go through environmental testing and that will eventually come back and become our first crewed flight test vehicle. And Spacecraft 3 is getting assembled and will be getting ready to fly later this year.

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First Commercial Flights to ISS Slide Toward 2020


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Early in the classic police comedy, The Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is at the hospital with partner Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) visiting the critically wounded Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson), who had been shot and left for dead by a group of heroin smuggling thugs.

“Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living, though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that,” Ed tells Frank.

A similar scene played out Wednesday morning during the House Space Subcommittee’s hearing on the progress of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Only it wasn’t nearly as funny.

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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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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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Commercial Crew Marks Year of Progress

The astronauts who will train for the first Commercial Crew Program flight tests are Doug Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken and Sunita "Suni" Williams. (Credit: NASA)
The astronauts who will train for the first Commercial Crew Program flight tests are Doug Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken and Sunita “Suni” Williams. (Credit: NASA)

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

A year after awarding landmark contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to build a new generation of human-rated space systems, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has made great strides to re-establish America’s capability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. Both companies are constructing the infrastructure needed to safely launch and operate crew space transportation systems. They also have offered detailed refinements to their designs and begun building the test vehicles that will be put through extreme analysis before their flight test regimens begin.

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NASA, Boeing, SpaceX Outline Objectives to Station Flights

NASA's Stephanie Schierholz introduces the panel of Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, seated, left, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders, Boeing's John Elbon, SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. (Credit: NASA TV)
NASA’s Stephanie Schierholz introduces the panel of Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, seated, left, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders, Boeing’s John Elbon, SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. (Credit: NASA TV)

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

American spacecraft systems testing followed by increasingly complex flight tests and ultimately astronauts flying orbital flights will pave the way to operational missions during the next few years to the International Space Station. Those were the plans laid out Monday by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program officials and partners as they focus on developing safe, reliable and cost-effective spacecraft and systems that will take astronauts to the station from American launch complexes.

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NASA, Commercial Crew Partners Lay Out Plans for Human Spaceflight

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NASA and its commercial crew partners, Boeing and SpaceX, held a press conference in Houston this afternoon to discuss their plans for launching U.S. astronauts from Cape Canaveral in 2017. Below are my notes on the event.

Participants

  • Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
  • Kathy Lueders, NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager
  • Mike Fincke, NASA Astronaut
  • Ellen Ochoa, Johnson Space Center Director
  • John Elbon, Vice President and General Manager of Boeing Space Exploration
  • Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President & COO

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Getting to Space is Never Easy, But It Will Be More Automated

A look inside the Crew Dragon in development by SpaceX. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
A look inside the Crew Dragon in development by SpaceX. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

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

The next American spacecraft astronauts fly aboard to the International Space Station will be more automated than any that have come before thanks to advances in technology and software. These advances also have potential to reduce stress on the crew.

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Commercial Crew Partners Completed 23 Milestones in 2014

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and the agency’s industry partners completed 23 agreement and contract milestones in 2014 and participated in thousands of hours of technical review sessions. The sessions focused on creating a new generation of safe, reliable and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit destinations.

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A Few Thoughts on Commercial Crew….

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
It’s been two days since NASA announced commercial crew awards to Boeing and SpaceX. Now that the blogosphere and Twitterati have had their say, let’s step back and take a closer look at the most misunderstood aspect of NASA’s decision.

Much has been made about the disparity in award amounts, with Boeing receiving $4.2 billion and SpaceX “only” $2.6 billion. The difference has been variously attributed to SpaceX’s lean operations, Boeing’s high costs and overhead, and Boeing’s political influence on Capitol Hill. Some people believe NASA shafted SpaceX, giving far less funding to a superior company.

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