NASA, Boeing, SpaceX to announce Commercial Crew Program launches for 2017
In a press release issued on Thursday, Jan. 22, NASA teased that an upcoming media event held with SpaceX and Boeing will unveil some exciting announcements. The agency and its two partners appear set to lay out a more detailed timeline for sending American astronauts to low-Earth orbit—under the Launch America Commercial Crew Program—by 2017.
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX ) and The Boeing Company were down-selected on September 16, 2014 as finalists in NASA’s quest to renew American access to space. A third competitor, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, was not awarded a contract. Under the scheme, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft will provide commercial transportation for astronauts destined for the International Space Station (ISS). Currently, and as of the end of the Space Shuttle program, American astronauts hitch rides on the Russia Soyuz out of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Heightened tensions between the United States and Russia in 2014 underscored the political (as well as technical) risk of a single avenue for access to the Station.
The multiphase Commercial Crew Development (CCDev ) program has been underway since its launch in 2010. Since then, Boeing and SpaceX have marked a number of milestones. Most recently, Boeing completed its final requirements under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) phase in mid-October 2014. SpaceX completed its first major Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) certification in late December 2014.
According to NASA, “Under Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts for NASA’s Launch America initiative, Boeing and SpaceX will develop safe and reliable crew transportation to and from the International Space Station on American spacecraft launched from the United States. This initiative returns the American industry to the forefront of human exploration technology and operations and ends the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for crew transportation to the space station.”
Until now, NASA and its partners had set 2017 as a timeline for initiating test flights for the two systems. The subject line of last week’s press release—“NASA, Boeing, SpaceX Discuss Plan for Launching American Astronauts from the U.S. in 2017”—suggests things are on schedule, or better. NASA noted that the media event will “highlight key development activities, test plans and objectives for achieving certification of two American crew transportation systems.”
Panelists at the Johnson Space Center event will include:
• NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
• Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa
• Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders
• Vice President and General Manager of Boeing Space Exploration John Elbon
• President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX Gwynne Shotwell
• NASA astronaut Mike Fincke
The announcement will take place in the form of a panel briefing on NASA Television tomorrow (Monday, January 26) at 12 p.m. EST.
Since 2011 Joshua Tallis has served as the manager for research and analysis at an intelligence and security services provider in Washington, DC. Josh has co-authored several articles in the Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International with colleagues from the defense community. Previous work experience includes internships at the U.S. Congress and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Josh is also a PhD student in International Relations at the University of St Andrews' Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. He is a Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Special Honors graduate of The George Washington University where he received a BA in Middle East Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs.