NASA: Commercial Crew firms ready to fly next year
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA provided an update to the media regarding NASA and SpaceX’s progress toward sending crews to the International Space Station during a brief meeting across from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41. Misty Snopkowsky, Launch Site Integration, NASA Commercial Crew Program, noted that efforts to send crews to the ISS via private spacecraft are poised to come to fruition.
“We’re currently operating under the Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) phase of the contract and are looking forward to conducting the first flights under Commercial Crew next year,” Snopkowsky said.
At present both Boeing and SpaceX are planning to launch their CST-100 Starliner and Dragon (respectively) spacecraft as early as 2017.
Snopkowsky detailed the work currently being done at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, which SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA to operate at.
The Hawthorne, California-based aerospace firm has been renovating the historic site so as to be able to launch both their Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets from.
Meanwhile, work continues at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 to send astronauts to the orbiting laboratory via the combined Starliner / ULA Atlas V stack. The crew access arm is a new prominent feature rising up into the Cape’s skyline.
In fact, later in the day, NASA had arranged for a tour of the crew access arm and white room which is affixed to the end of it. The access arm, composed primarily of steel, along with the primarily aluminum white room, will extend some 50 feet from the service tower, allowing astronauts to enter Starliner.
Boeing was awarded some $4.2 billion in 2014 under CCtCap to construct and carry out flights with Starliner. The first of these missions will be an uncrewed test flight of the design.
NASA has been working for several years to cede operations in low-Earth orbit, in terms of ferrying cargo and crew to the International Space Station, to private firms such as Boeing, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX. The space agency has already seen its cargo efforts successfully deliver crew supplies, experiments, and other items to orbit.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.