Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Commercial Space Transportation - Crew Program

The three commercial space companies working with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) may have very different spacecraft and rocket designs, but they all agreed on the need for the United States to have its own domestic capability to launch astronauts. 

"Today, there are nine humans on orbit," said Ed Mango, CCP's program manager, at a National Space Club meeting in Cape Canaveral, Florida "All of those folks got there on a vehicle that did not have a U.S. flag on it. We, and the people in this room, and the people at this table, need to fix that."

Mango was joined by partner representatives from The Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX) to discuss the future of commercial space. "We pay one of our partners, the Russians, $71 million a seat to fly," Mango said. "What we want to do is give that to an American company to fly our crews into space."

Since the dawn of space exploration, Florida's Space Coast has been the iconic site of launching men and women aboard American rockets. During the meeting, all three partner representatives said they plan to bring the work associated with commercial space activities back to the area. "It was incredibly important for us, from a business-case standpoint, to not only locate our launch services here, but also our manufacturing, refurbishment and turnaround operations - essentially having the entire team co-located here in Florida," said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing's Commercial Programs.

Boeing's CST-100 is on track to take up residency this summer in one of Kennedy Space Center's former orbiter processing facilities. Space Florida, the state's aerospace economic development agency, is continuing to modernize the facility to accommodate commercial space operations. Current plans call for Boeing, along with SNC, to launch their spacecraft a few miles away from Kennedy, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

"This is the Space Coast. It is the transportation hub. There's land, sea, air and space and it all happens right here in Brevard County," said Dan Ciccateri, SNC's chief systems engineer. "It is key for that to continue into commercial crew space." During the meeting, Ciccateri also shared SNC's plans to use the center's Shuttle Landing Facility as the primary runway for the Dream Chaser spacecraft.

SpaceX already is launching its NASA-contracted cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station atop the Falcon 9 rocket and uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The company also is planning to launch satellite missions from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. "It's to be seen what future markets will come from the Commercial Crew Program," said Adam Harris, vice president of government sales for SpaceX. "My kids, who are two boys, seven and three, want to see the United States fly to space. And I think that is what inspires folks and I think that's the reason that this is a great program."

Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle:
This spacecraft will serve as the primary crew vehicle for missions beyond low Earth orbit. The Orion MPCV is capable of conducting regular in-space operations (rendezvous, docking, extravehicular activity) in conjunction with payloads delivered by the Space Launch System for missions beyond low Earth orbit. The spacecraft also has the capability to be a backup system for International Space Station cargo and crew delivery.

Designating Orion as NASA's Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle provides our nation with an affordable solution for multiple mission capability by continuing the technology innovations and spacecraft development the NASA-industry team has accomplished. By designing for challenging deep space missions, the MPCV/Orion team has already passed rigorous human rating reviews and other critical milestones required for safe, successful human space flight. With a proven launch abort system and its inherent design to provide the highest level of safety for the crew during long-duration missions, the MPCV is poised to take on increasingly challenging missions that will take human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit and out into the cosmos.

Image below: Workers moved the Orion ground test vehicle (GTA) from the Operations and Checkout Building to the Launch Equipment Test Facility on May 13. Lockheed Martin workers uncovered the GTA to prepare it for the second series of pyrotechnic bolt tests at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Space Launch System - SLS:
The Space Launch System (SLS) Program will develop a heavy-lift launch vehicle to expand human presence to celestial destinations beyond low Earth orbit. This launch vehicle will be capable of lifting the Orion MPCV to asteroids, the moon, Lagrange points, and ultimately for missions to Mars. It will also serve as a backup launch system for supplying and supporting the International Space Station cargo and crew requirements not met by other available launch vehicles.

The image below: An artist rendering of the various configurations of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The flexible configuration, sharing the same basic core-stage, allows for different crew and cargo flights as needed, promoting efficiency, time and cost savings. The SLS enables exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit and support travel to asteroids, Mars and other destinations within our solar system

The image below: An expanded view of an artist rendering of the 130-metric-ton configuration of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., shows the many different elements of the rocket design. Used primarily to launch heavy cargo, this two-stage vehicle will be the largest rocket ever built and will enable exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit, supporting travel to asteroids, Mars and other deep space destinations.

Artist Concept of SLS on Launchpad, the Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth's orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.

Ground Systems Development and Operations Program:
Building on five decades of launch and processing excellence, the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is transforming Kennedy Space Center into a multi-user spaceport capable of accommodating a wide array of government and commercial space activities. Existing infrastructure and facilities are being modernized to support processing and launch of multiple vehicles, from NASA's next-generation rockets and spacecraft to those developed by commercial and other companies.

Imagine a spaceport of the future, where a variety of space vehicles are preparing for launch or departing Earth on missions to expand humanity's reach into space. At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, formerly known as the 21st Century Ground Systems Program, is propelling this vision forward, leading the center's transformation from a historically government-only launch complex to a spaceport bustling with activity involving government and commercial vehicles alike.

The program's primary objective is to prepare the center to process and launch the next-generation vehicles and spacecraft designed to achieve NASA's goals for space exploration. To achieve this transformation, program personnel are developing the necessary ground systems while refurbishing and upgrading infrastructure and facilities to meet tomorrow's demands. This modernization effort keeps flexibility in mind, in order to accommodate a multitude of government, commercial and other customers.

The image below: At Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the view from a fish-eye lens reveals nearly all of the crawler track panels on the pad's surface have been removed. The concrete surface beneath the panels and the catacomb roof below will be inspected for water damage and repaired.

Image below: At Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, construction workers continue to remove the flame trench deflector that sits below and between the left and right crawler-way tracks. Launch Pad 39B is being refurbished to support NASA’s Space Launch System and other launch vehicles. The Ground Systems Development and Operations, or GSDO, Program office at Kennedy is leading the center’s transformation to safely handle a variety of rockets and spacecraft.

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

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