SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachutes for Commercial Crew

Cargo Dragon Returns from Orbit Credit : SpaceX

Cargo Dragon Returns from Orbit
Credit : SpaceX

 

NASA Press Release:

January 17, 2014
RELEASE 14-018

NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachute System

Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) gathered in Morro Bay, Calif., in late December to demonstrate how the company’s Dragon spacecraft’s parachute system would function in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent.

The test was part of an optional milestone under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative and approved by the agency in August. Through the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is one of NASA’s commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil. NASA intends to use such commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The 12,000-pound test craft was lifted 8,000 feet above sea level by an Erickson Sky Crane helicopter and flown over the Pacific Ocean. Following Dragon’s release, two drogue parachutes were released from the top of the spacecraft to slow its decent, before the three main parachutes deployed. The craft splashed down and was quickly recovered by the Sky Crane and carried back to shore.

“The parachute test is essential for the commercial crew effort because it helps us better understand how SpaceX’s system performs as it safely returns crew,” said Jon Cowart, NASA Partner Integration deputy manager working with SpaceX. “Like all of our partners, SpaceX continues to provide innovative solutions based on NASA’s lessons learned that could make spaceflight safer.”

During a normal spacecraft landing, the parachutes will be aided by the Dragon’s SuperDraco thrusters to provide a soft controlled landing. This redundancy on both the parachutes and thrusters is designed to ensure safe landings for crews.

“SpaceX is working diligently to make the Dragon spacecraft the safest vehicle ever flown,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. “The parachute system is an integral part of Dragon’s ability to provide a safe landing for nominal and abort conditions — with this successful test we are well-positioned to execute a full end-to-end test of the launch escape system later this year.”

The parachute test puts SpaceX a step closer to launch abort system tests. The company currently is manufacturing the spacecraft and rocket to be used for these flight tests.

SpaceX is on track to complete all 15 of its CCiCap milestones in 2014. All of NASA’s industry partners, including SpaceX, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

SpaceX Completes Commerical Crew Safety Review Milestone

Closing In Credit: NASA

Closing In
Credit: NASA

Note, the next launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1., and the first from Cape Canaveral, is provisionally set for Monday, November 25th.

NASA Press Release RELEASE 13-337 NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Achieves Milestone in Safety Review Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) met in late October to review the safety of the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket being developed to launch humans into low-Earth orbit later this decade.

The detailed overview of safety practices the company is implementing was a major milestone for SpaceX under a funded Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). SpaceX is one of NASA’s commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil.

NASA intends to use new commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station within the next four years. A team of NASA engineers went to SpaceX headquarters for two days of detailed presentations and question-and-answer sessions that reviewed the company’s safety practices.

“The milestone is not the end of the safety discussion, it’s really the beginning,” said Jon Cowart, deputy manager of the NASA Partnership Integration Team for CCP. “Because we’ve been doing this for so long, we all have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t and how safety processes can be strengthened to increase our confidence in the system.”

Teams from NASA and SpaceX are working closely together to make sure the innovative technologies employed meet the rigorous requirements that come with flying crews in space.

“We greatly appreciate NASA’s support and feedback throughout this process,” said Garrett Reisman, commercial crew project manager at SpaceX and a former astronaut. “Together we are taking all the necessary steps to make Dragon the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown.”

SpaceX already has flown several cargo missions to the space station using its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, but those spacecraft have not yet transported astronauts. Through NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, the company is deep into the design process of the integrated crew-capable Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX plans to test its launch abort system next year at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Two flight tests will demonstrate the ability of the Dragon spacecraft abort system to lift an uncrewed spacecraft clear of a simulated emergency.

The first test will simulate an abort from the pad prior to launch in the second quarter of 2014. The second test, targeted for the third quarter of 2014, calls for the spacecraft to separate from a Falcon 9 booster in flight and parachute safely into the Atlantic Ocean. The company is building the spacecraft for the flight tests, and manufacturing of the rocket is expected to begin shortly.

This safety review was the ninth milestone for SpaceX under CCiCap. The company is on track to complete all 15 of its CCiCap milestones by the third quarter of 2014.

All of NASA’s industry partners, including SpaceX, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

For more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its aerospace industry partners, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

SpaceX Completes 7th CCiCap Milestone

Halfway There Credit :  S Money

Halfway There
Credit : S Money

NASA Press Release RELEASE 13-255 NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Completes Orbit and Entry Review NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) recently reviewed the systems critical to sustaining crews in orbit and returning them safely to Earth aboard the company’s Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX is one of three commercial space companies working under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative to develop spaceflight capabilities that eventually could provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. During the preliminary design review at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., company engineers presented NASA representatives and aerospace industry experts detailed analyses of Dragon systems critical to keeping crews safe in orbit and during re-entry operations. From basic life support functions, including pressurizing Dragon with breathable air, to stocking the capsule with enough food and water for as many as seven crew members, the spacecraft must be designed to protect humans in the harsh conditions of space. Company designers and NASA engineers dissected the plans carefully to make sure no details were overlooked. “NASA has learned a lot about keeping our astronaut crews safe throughout a mission, and we don’t want those lessons to be forgotten,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s CCP manager. “So, we’re sharing a lot of what we already know, and the company is adding its own innovations to suit its needs and meet its challenges.” The review detailed equipment and software aboard Dragon that would help guide crews to the International Space Station for rendezvous and docking operations. This included discussion on SpaceX’s planning for software code which, in this modern era of spaceship design, just as critical as the hardware design. The company also described how the spacecraft will be operated both by its onboard crew and by ground controllers. While SpaceX works to further develop its crewed Dragon spacecraft, it also is preparing for the upcoming launch of the third of at least 12 cargo missions to the space station with a remotely controlled Dragon under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. “SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft was designed from the outset to accommodate the upgrades necessary to safely carry people, so we’re excited to have reached the halfway point in our agreement with NASA to design those features,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer. “As we leverage our experience successfully delivering cargo both to the International Space Station and back to Earth, SpaceX remains committed to providing the safest manned flights ever conducted.”

NASA Extends CCiCap Milestones

The Final round Approaches Credit : NASA

Optional Milestones Funded
Credit : NASA

The following press release from NASA would seem to suggest that the decision period for the final round of the Commercial  Crew program may be slipping a bit as the current round CCiCap, is extended to August 2014 with the decision to fund several optional milestones. Also noteworthy, SpaceX still appears to be well in advance of Boeing in terms of its schedule.  Finally, note the obligatory nod to SLS/Orion which accompanies every press release about Commercial Crew.

NASA Press Release:

NASA announced Thursday it is adding some additional milestones to agreements with three U.S. commercial companies that are developing spaceflight capabilities that could eventually provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

NASA is supporting the development of these capabilities through its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. As part of this initiative, NASA is exercising and funding specific additional milestones for these next generation space transportation systems. The agency has extended the Space Act Agreements (SAAs) for The Boeing Company of Houston, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo., to include one or two additional milestones each under CCiCap.

“Our commercial partners are on-track developing innovative, new space systems that can safely, reliably and affordably transport astronauts and end the gap in U.S. human spaceflight capabilities,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These additional milestones are specifically targeted by NASA and our partners to reduce risk and improve development efforts.”

In their respective CCiCap SAAs, which were awarded in August 2012, NASA’s partners listed optional milestones that could be exercised to continue the development and maturation of their space systems. After negotiation with the partners, NASA decided to fund revised portions of existing CCiCap optional milestones and extend the period of performance for the CCiCap SAAs from May 2014 to August 2014. The industry partners also will be contributing financially to the execution of these milestones. The revisions, in the form of amendments to the SAAs, are posted online at:

http://commercialcrew.nasa.gov/page.cfm?ID=38

The milestones are:
– Boeing Spacecraft Safety Review. NASA’s investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014.
– SpaceX Dragon Parachute Tests. NASA’s investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished over several months culminating in November 2013.
– SNC Incremental Critical Design Review #1. NASA’s investment is $5 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in October 2013.
– SNC Incremental Reaction Control System Testing #1. NASA’s investment is $10 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014.

These milestones each reduce risks, advance the partners’ development efforts or accelerate schedules consistent with the goals of CCiCap. NASA plans to use fiscal year 2014 funding for the total government investment of $55 million. Funding these optional milestones does not alter or affect NASA’s acquisition strategy for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

While NASA works with U.S. industry partners to develop and advance new commercial space capabilities, the agency also is developing the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration in the solar system, including to an asteroid and Mars.

NASA Releases Draft Proposal for Final Phase of Commercial Crew

The Final round Approaches Credit : NASA

The Final round Approaches
Credit : NASA

On Friday, July 19th, NASA released a draft Request for Proposal for the next phase of the Commercial Crew competition, and with it came some new acronyms.  Following Commercial Crew Integrated Capacity (CCiCap),  the fourth and final phase will be called Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) and is intended to  ” develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with a goal of no later than 2017.”  

 CCtCap will be  divided into two phases; Design, Development, Test and Evaluation (DDTE) to procure the crew systems and conduct test flights, followed by Post Certification Missions (PCM)  to conduct the operational flights.  The two segments are covered by four Contract Line Items (CLIN).  

CLIN 001 and 002 are for the testing and operational phases respectively.  CLIN 003 is labelled “Special Studies” and enables NASA to pursue risk reduction activities over and above those required for other the other three categories.  The fourth item, CLIN 004  “Cargo in Excess of Requirements”  is perhaps the most interesting in that it allows the Contractor to propose providing additional cargo beyond the limited amount specified for Commercial Crew missions and that already being contracted under the Commercial Resupply program.  Depending on the responses, which would include pricing,  this item could introduce another variable into NASA’s decision-making process, potentially benefitting the competitor with the most available margin. 

Perhaps the most intriguing revelation is that NASA is apparently open to the prospect of commercial passenger or cargo service being performed as part of crew transport flights.   Also from the  draft solicitation :  “Clause  H.23 of the dRFP enables the Contractor to propose to manifest Commercial Passengers, cargo or payloads on PCMs for contract price adjustment(s) or other contract consideration.”

That somewhat innocuous sentence says a great deal about just how much the thinking has changed within some elements of NASA  in the years since the agency did nearly everything it could to impede  Dennis Tito’s groundbreaking flight to the  same space (albeit smaller)   station in 2001.  Now,  in a very ironic twist, the longer term prospects for the facility could very much depend on the extent to which NASA continues to seek new commercial arrangements to share or reduce the facility’s operational costs.   With NASA committing itself to a system, SLS, which is so expensive it will only be able to fly once every couple of years, any interest the United States government has in steady,  ongoing space research of the type being performed at I.S.S. must necessarily hinge on either Russia,  or the success of the commercial crew program.

It is all the more perplexing then, that the U.S. House of Representatives remains committed to both badly underfunding the program, as evidenced by the House of Representatives Appropriations commitee FY 2014 proposal of $500 million, more than $300 million under the NASA request, (and $200 million under the House authorization committee figure) while at the same time going out if its way to mandate that it be carried out under “cost type” contracts.   

Whether wittingly or not, at the behest of Congress, the U.S. is pursuing a long term program which will only have NASA astronauts  in space for comparatively brief periods of time for what will necessarily be narrowly focused  missions,  each of which is separated  by intervals measured in years.  Compared to the ever widening, but singular gap between the last Shuttle flight and the first Commercial Crew test flight,  the program of record could runs the risk of turning into death by a dozen gaps. 

 

SpaceX Completes Two CCICap Milestones

Credit : NASA

Credit : NASA

NASA Press Release

RELEASE 13-201

 NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Completes Two Human-Critical Reviews

HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., recently completed two milestones for NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which is intended to make commercial human spaceflight services available for government and commercial customers.

These were the fifth and sixth milestones for SpaceX, a partner in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The company is on track to complete all 14 of its CCiCap milestones by mid-2014.

In a human certification plan review May 7, SpaceX outlined all the steps the company plans to take to certify its system for crewed missions, including testing, demonstrations, analyses, inspections, verifications and training events. This was a key milestone to ensure SpaceX’s integrated Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule will be safe to carry humans to and from low-Earth orbit beginning in the middle of this decade.

At its pad abort test review, SpaceX presented plans for a pad abort test, currently targeted for later this year or early next year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The review successfully demonstrated the adequacy of the test plan objectives and the pad abort scenario.

“The beauty of having the pad abort test review was it allowed both NASA and SpaceX to start coalescing toward an understanding of what will be tested and how we’ll measure success,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s CCP manager. “We’re really looking forward to seeing SpaceX’s pad abort system take off from along Florida’s Space Coast.”

During the upcoming pad abort test, SpaceX will perform a recovery operation following a simulated Falcon 9 anomaly. Plans call for the company to put one of its Dragon capsules on a launch pad test stand, countdown to T-0, ignite the system’s SuperDraco abort engines and initiate a separation command. At around 5,000 feet, the spacecraft’s parachutes will deploy resulting in a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

 SpaceX is one of three U.S. companies participating in NASA’s CCiCap initiative. Future development and certification initiatives eventually will lead to the availability of human spaceflight services for NASA to send its astronauts to the International Space Station.

 For more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its aerospace industry partners, visit:

 http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

 

 

 

Boeing Completes More Commercial Crew Milestones

713018main_CCP-New-Ride-226

NASA Press Release

RELEASE : 13-166

NASA Commercial Crew Partner Boeing Completes New Spacecraft, Rocket Milestones

HOUSTON — The Boeing Company of Houston, a NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner, recently performed wind tunnel testing of its CST-100 spacecraft and integrated launch vehicle, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The testing is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, intended to make commercial human spaceflight services available for government and commercial customers.

Boeing and ULA also worked together to test a newly developed component of the Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage. Boeing now has completed two of eight performance milestones under CCiCap and is on track to complete all 19 of its milestones around mid-2014.

“The Centaur has a long and storied past of launching the agency’s most successful spacecraft to other worlds,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s CCP manager at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “Because it has never been used for human spaceflight before, these tests are critical to ensuring a smooth and safe performance for the crew members who will be riding atop the human-rated Atlas V.”

The wind tunnel tests, which began in March and wrapped up in May at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., were the first interface tests of Boeing’s spacecraft, launch vehicle adaptor and launch vehicle. A scale model of the integrated spacecraft and rocket was placed in Ames’ 11-foot diameter transonic wind tunnel. The data gathered provides Boeing with critical information it needs to ensure its system is safe for launching crews to low-Earth orbit.

The Centaur liquid oxygen-feed duct line was tested in March in Murrieta, Calif., to characterize how liquid oxygen moves from the stage’s oxygen tank to its two engines where the propellant will be mixed with liquid hydrogen to create thrust. The Centaur, which takes over after the Atlas V first stage runs low on propellants, will push the spacecraft to its intended orbit. The Centaur has an extensive and successful history of delivering spacecraft to their destinations, including carrying NASA’s Curiosity science rover to Mars.

“The CST-100 and Atlas V, connected with the launch vehicle adaptor, performed exactly as expected and confirmed our expectations of how they will perform together in flight,” said John Mulholland, Boeing vice president and program manager for Commercial Programs.

Boeing is one of three U.S. companies NASA is working with during CCiCap to set the stage for a crewed orbital demonstration mission around the middle of the decade. Future development and certification initiatives eventually will lead to the availability of human spaceflight services for NASA to send astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States.

Dream Chaser Heads to Dryden for Start of Free Flight Tests

dream-chaser-flight-vehicle

Following a path taken in 1977 by the Space Shuttle Enterprise which saw the orbiter’s first ever free fly flight over NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Ca. Sierra Nevada Corporation is preparing to embark on a series of tests of its own Dream Chaser space plane as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.  

NASA Commercial  Crew Update

Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems currently is shipping its Dream Chaser engineering test article from the company’s facility in Louisville, Colo., to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., where it will begin its flight test program in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The five-state journey that began the morning of Saturday, May 11, will take approximately four days to complete.

The testing at Dryden will include tow, captive-carry and free-flight tests of the Dream Chaser. A truck will tow the vehicle down a runway to validate performance of the nose strut, brakes and tires. The captive-carry flights will further examine the loads the vehicle will encounter during flight and test the performance and flutter of the vehicle up to release from an Erickson Skycrane helicopter. The free-flight tests are designed to validate the Dream Chaser’s aerodynamics as well as test the flight control surfaces to verify flight characteristics for approach, flare and landing.

Update: SNC Completes Dream Chaser Safety Review

Credt :  SNC

Credt : SNC

NASA Commercial Crew Program Update:

Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems of Louisville, Colo., has completed its first major, comprehensive safety review of its Dream Chaser Space System. This is the company’s latest paid-for-performance milestone with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.

The Integrated Systems Safety Analysis Review provided NASA with hazard reports and safety and reliability plans for the major components of the company’s integrated crew transportation system, including the Dream Chaser spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and flight and ground systems.

Sierra Nevada Completes Two More CCiCap Milestones

Dream Chaser at ISS Image Credit  : SNC

Dream Chaser at ISS
Image Credit : SNC

Sierra Nevada Press Release:

Sierra Nevada Corporation Completes Dream Chaser® Milestones for Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities Program

SPARKS, Nev., – April 25, 2013 – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems has successfully completed two milestones as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) phase of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. SNC completed the Program Implementation Review, providing NASA with detailed plans for advancing the Dream Chaser® crew transportation system towards a critical design state. SNC also completed an Integrated System Baseline Review that communicated the post-Preliminary Design Review maturity of the baseline Dream Chaser® orbital crew vehicle, mission systems, ground systems, and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V launch vehicle.

“The successful completion of these milestones resulted in affirmation that the Dream Chaser® Space System design meets its mission requirements as we work towards rebuilding the United States’ capability to fly astronauts into low Earth orbit,” said Jim Voss, vice president of SNC’s Space Exploration Systems. “Both CCiCap milestones offered us the opportunity to communicate SNC’s detailed development plans, as well as to receive and incorporate NASA’s comments and feedback.”

SNC was awarded $212.5 million by NASA in August 2012 and to date has received over $330 million by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The funding represents the agency’s co-investment in furthering the development of the Dream Chaser® Space System design to carry crew and critical cargo to and from the International Space Station. The Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle is scheduled to complete its first free flight test in conjunction with NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in Calif., in 2013.