. 24/7 Space News .
Concept's success buoys Commercial Crew's path to flight
by Steven Siceloff for KSC News
Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX) Apr 14, 2016

Image courtesy NASA. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Five years in, NASA's Commercial Crew Program is at the doorstep of launch for a new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles that will take astronauts to the International Space Station, enhance microgravity research and open the windows to the dawn of a new era in human space transportation. Returning the capability to launch astronauts from American soil brings tremendous satisfaction for the team working toward it.

"This is a new way of doing business, a new era in spaceflight, and when it's all said and done, the Commercial Crew Program's legacy will be bringing human spaceflight launches back to the U.S.," said Kelvin Manning, who was involved in the early planning days of the commercial crew effort, and is now associate director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "That's a big deal and our teams are making it happen."

Two aerospace companies are working toward the goal of flying in 2017, astronauts are training with state-of-the-art flight deck control systems and the space station is being prepped for the next human-rated spacecraft to arrive.

Launch pads on Florida's Space Coast are deep into modifications to meet the needs of astronauts and ground support staff. Manufacturing facilities for Boeing and SpaceX are working on prototypes of the spacecraft each company will use for NASA missions, then opening up the schedule for flights carrying private citizens.

As Boeing and SpaceX progress toward flight tests and operational missions for the Starliner and Crew Dragon, respectively, the space station team is already anticipating the added research a larger crew will enable on the orbiting laboratory.

"The new spacecraft will enable space station to operate at its full capacity for research," said Josie Burnett, who served as the deputy of the office that became the Commercial Crew Program and is now director of Exploration Research and Technology programs at Kennedy. "The limiting factor for station research is crew time, it's not cargo space or anything else."

The station's full complement would increase by one - from six residents to seven -allowing another 40 hours a week for science on the station, meaning the crew's current research time allotment would double. That means double the amount of science that benefits people on Earth, as well as research to address the challenges of long-duration, deep-space missions on the journey to Mars.

The program's effect also is helping Kennedy evolve as a spaceport tailored to industry needs for a variety of rockets and spacecraft rather than a single mission. The benefit was not required, but a reflection of the unique possibilities at Kennedy, Manning said.

"Our assets and the availability of an experienced workforce made a strong business case to come here," Manning said. "As a result, with Boeing transforming Orbiter Processing Facility-3 into the manufacturing facility for the Starliner and SpaceX modifying Launch Complex 39A for Falcon rockets and Crew Dragons, they are key components in the creation of Kennedy's multi-user spaceport concept."

Business Unusual
This was the first time NASA asked industry to take the lead in designing, building and operating a space system that would carry astronauts. NASA offered its expertise in human spaceflight and wrote out the top-level requirements for safety and other considerations to prepare for flight tests. NASA will certify the vehicles for flight tests and finally operational missions. The companies apply their own knowledge and skills in designing, manufacturing and running the systems. Ultimately, NASA will buy the flights as a service from the companies.

"It's what we hoped the program to be and honestly a lot more," said Wayne Ordway, who began as the manager of the Commercial Crew Program's Spacecraft Office and rose to the position of associate program manager.

This progress was hoped for, but took tremendous work and flexibility, according to members of the early efforts to transform the fledgling vision of a close partnership between NASA and private industry into a functioning organization capable of establishing requirements for a new generation of human-rated spacecraft and then seeing to it that those requirements were met.

"What's incredible about commercial crew is how dramatically we changed the strategy for human spaceflight access to low-Earth orbit," Ordway said. "We saw that industry was in a place where they could be a reliable service provider and integrator and we could allow market forces to bring us a more attractive solutions to our needs. It has come to fruition and is enabling us to put together one of the most cost-effective programs of its kind."

Those with the program knew they were being asked to conduct business in a non-traditional way.

"I think from a technical perspective, it really didn't appear to be that daunting of a problem, but from a cultural perspective, it appeared to be huge," said Donald Totton, deputy manager of the Spacecraft Office for commercial crew.

"I had a lot of optimism in what the program was doing," said Jon Cowart, a shuttle veteran whose first task in the Commercial Crew Program was drafting requirements for the new spacecraft and launch vehicles. "I knew the private sector had the ability to do a lot of this very rapidly. They were already being very innovative."

Collaboration with Industry
Based at NASA's Kennedy Space Center with significant operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the commercial crew model tied together experts across the agency's field centers to establish requirements and approval methods through four progressively more complex development contracts.

"I am most impressed by the cross-agency team making it happen because what they are doing is very hard," said Manning. "Human spaceflight has never been easy, and consequently, developing a new space transportation system continues to be a complex process."

With a staff of about 300 - small for a human spaceflight development program - commercial crew relies heavily on specialized engineers across the nation to certify systems.

"We had to bridge across centers in a way that was really unique and the motivation was to be able to bring in the best talent in the agency wherever they were," Ordway said.

The Commercial Crew Program staff took several cues from success on commercial cargo. In 2008, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Orbital ATK to resupply the space station with cargo launched from the United States. The companies developed the rockets and spacecraft through public-private partnerships under the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, an initiative that aimed to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective commercial transportation to and from the space station and low-Earth orbit.

Eight companies played different parts in the Commercial Crew Program as Space Act Agreements began with broad concepts and subsystems that evolved into completed systems, spacecraft and launch vehicles that could meet the stringent demands of NASA's human-rating process.

For example, spacecraft had to have built-in launch escape systems, and rockets built to fire satellites into orbit had to have room for myriad sensors that could report health factors in split-second intervals, all for costs much lower than previous development efforts for such spacecraft.

"We wrote the requirements in such a way that our needs were met and that safety was a priority, but we didn't want to constrain the companies," Cowart said. "We really were looking to unleash the power of industry and innovation."

A precursor effort, known as Commercial Crew Development or CCDev, was started in 2010 with five industry partners. But, the Commercial Crew Program was formally established on April 5, 2011, marking five years this month.

It took a total of five development and later certification phases to get to the point in September 2014 when NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to build systems capable of carrying up to four astronauts plus time-critical cargo to the station. Starliner and Crew Dragon were chosen to begin manufacturing for flight tests and prepare for crew rotation missions.

"One of the biggest paradigm shifts for NASA in commercial crew is developing new human space transportation systems under a fixed-price model," Manning said. "This has never been done before for a program of this magnitude, moreover with two partners in parallel."

Each phase helped companies refine their systems as development advanced. Major systems such as avionics, parachutes and launch escape systems came first, then designs for complete rockets and spacecraft, then to the mission control systems the companies would use to oversee missions from the ground. Each phase also expanded the review scope and expertise needed for Commercial Crew Program staff that would certify that the requirements were met.

"The interesting thing that I think was really done well was that our technical requirements were known and remained at a high level," Totton said. "Our technical management process requirements were also at a high level and allowed significant flexibility to our providers to develop and operate these systems. We gave industry a lot of freedom while maintaining safety."

Totton says few requirements have changed as the systems and processes have matured, and he predicts the program will become a model for government giving industry the flexibility to develop a service.

"Eventually spaceflight will, I hope, be looked at as similar to the commercial airlines we fly on every day," he said.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Commercial Crew at NASA
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Bigelow and ULA team up for commercialization of low earth orbit
Colorado Springs CO (SPX) Apr 13, 2016
Bigelow Aerospace (BA) and United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced they are partnering to develop and deploy habitable volumes in Low Earth orbit (LEO). The volumes will be based on the Bigelow Aerospace B330 expandable module with the initial launch to orbit in 2020 on ULA's Atlas V 552 configuration launch vehicle. The B330 will have 330 cubic meters (12,000 cu ft) of internal space. The ... read more

Lunar lava tubes could help pave way for human colony

The Moon thought to play a major role in maintaining Earth's magnetic field

Moon Mission: A Blueprint for the Red Planet

The Lunar Race That Isn't

First joint EU-Russian ExoMars mission to reach Mars orbit Oct 16

Help keep heat on Mars Express through data mining

Ancient Mars bombardment likely enhanced life-supporting habitat

Opportunity's Devilish View from on High

NASA begins testing of revolutionary e-sail technology

Bigelow and ULA team up for commercialization of low earth orbit

NASA invests in 2D spacecraft, reprogrammable microorganisms

US-based cruise liner eyes China market with dedicated liner

Lessons learned from Tiangong 1

China launches SJ-10 retrievable space science probe

Has Tiangong 1 gone rogue

China's 1st space lab Tiangong-1 ends data service

NASA to test first expandable habitat on ISS

Dragon and Cygnus To Meet For First Time In Space

Russian cargo ship docks successfully with space station

Russia launches cargo ship to space station

SpaceX lands rocket on ocean platform for first time

SpaceX cargo arrives at crowded space station

Orbital ATK awarded major sounding rocket contract by NASA

Orbital ATK receives NASA order for rockets

Cooked planets shrink due to radiation

More accurately measuring distances between planetary nebulae and Earth

New tool refines exoplanet search

Stars strip away atmospheres of nearby super-Earths

Radical solution could avoid depletion of natural resources

Breaking metamaterial symmetry with reflected light

Changing the color of single photons in a diamond quantum memory

'Self-healing' plastic could mean better bandages, tougher phone cases

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.