And we’ve shown you the cool animation to see exactly ‘How it Works!’ from launch to landing.
Now we’ve compiled a stunning collection of imagery revealing what it’s like to actually stand within the gleaming walls of the futuristic Dragon spaceship from an astronauts perspective.
Check out the gallery of Dragon V2 imagery above and below.
Experience this exciting new chapter of American ‘Commercial Human Spaceflight’ coming to fruition.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) is a public private partnership between NASA and a trio of amazing American aerospace companies – SpaceX, Boeing amd Sierra Nevada – to create inexpensive but reliable new astronaut spaceships to the High Frontier.
And NASA’s unprecedented commercial crew program is so far ahead of any international competitors that I think they’ll soon be knocking at the door and regret not investing in a similar insightful manner.
The goal is to get American’s back in space on American rockets from American soil – rather than being totally dependent on Russian rocket technology and Soyuz capsules for astronaut rides to the International Space Station (ISS) and back.
“We need to have our own capability to get our crews to space. Commercial crew is really, really, really important,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told me in an exclusive interview – here.
Boeing and Sierra Nevada are competing with SpaceX to build the next generation spaceship to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS by 2017 using seed money from NASA’s CCP.
The BoeingCST-100 and Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser ‘space taxis’ are also vying for funding in the next round of contracts to be awarded by NASA around late summer 2014.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Orion, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more planetary and human spaceflight news.
The private Dream Chaser mini-shuttle being developed by Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) has successfully completed a series of rigorous wind tunnel tests on scale models of the spacecraft – thereby accomplishing another key development milestone under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to restore America’s human spaceflight access to low Earth orbit.
Engineers from SNC and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia conducted six weeks of intricate testing with several different Dream Chaser scale model spacecraft to study its reaction to subsonic, transonic and supersonic conditions that will be encountered during ascent into space and re-entry from low-Earth orbit.
The tests are among the milestones SNC must complete to receive continued funding from the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiative (CCiCAP) under the auspices of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The Dream Chaser is among a trio of US private sector manned spaceships being developed with seed money from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in a public/private partnership to develop a next-generation crew transportation vehicle to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017 – a capability totally lost following the space shuttle’s forced retirement in 2011.
Since that day, seats on the Russian Soyuz are US astronauts only way to space and back.
The SpaceXDragon and BoeingCST-100 ‘space taxis’ are also vying for funding in the next round of contracts to be awarded by NASA around late summer 2014.
“What we have seen from our industry partners is a determination to make their components and systems work reliably, and in turn they’ve been able to demonstrate the complex machinery that makes spaceflight possible will also work as planned,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “These next few months will continue to raise the bar for achievement by our partners.”
To prepare for the wind tunnel testing, technicians first meticulously hand glued 250 tiny sand grains to the outer surface of the 22-inch long Dream Chaser scale model in order to investigate turbulent flow forces and flight dynamic characteristics along the vehicle that simulates what the actual spacecraft will experience during ascent and re-entry.
Testing encompassed both the Dream Chaser spacecraft by itself as well as integrated in the stacked configuration atop the Atlas V launch vehicle that will boost the vehicle to space from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The testing of the Dream Chaser model was conducted at different angles and positions and around the clock inside the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel at NASA Langley to collect the data as quickly as possible.
“All the data acquired will be used to validate computer models and populate the Dream Chaser spacecraft performance database,” according to NASA test engineer Bryan Falman.
NASA says that the resulting data showed the existing computer models were accurate.
Additonal wind tunnel testing was done at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and the CALSPAN Transonic Wind Tunnel in New York.
The wind tunnel work will also significantly aid in refining the Dream Chaser’s design and performance as well as accelerate completion of the Critical Design Review (CDR) before the start of construction of the full scale vehicle for orbital flight tests by late 2016.
Video Caption: Engineers used a wind tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to evaluate the design of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft. Credit: NASA
“The aerodynamic data collected during these tests has further proven and validated Dream Chaser’s integrated spacecraft and launch vehicle system design. It also has shown that Dream Chaser expected performance is greater than initially predicted,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems.
“Our program continues to fully complete each of our CCiCap agreement milestones assisted through our strong collaboration efforts with our integrated ‘Dream Team’ of industry, university and government strategic partners. We are on schedule to launch our first orbital flight in November of 2016, which will mark the beginning of the restoration of U.S. crew capability to low-Earth orbit.”
The Dream Chaser design builds on the experience gained from NASA Langley’s earlier exploratory engineering work with the HL-20 manned lifting-body vehicle.
“The NASA-SNC effort makes for a solid, complementary relationship,” said Andrew Roberts, SNC aerodynamics test lead. “It is a natural fit. NASA facilities and the extensive work they’ve done with the Dream Chaser predecessor, HL-20, combined with SNC’s engineering, is synergistic and provides great results.”
Dream Chaser will be reusable and can carry a mix of cargo and up to a seven crewmembers to the ISS. It will also be able to land on commercial runways anywhere in the world, according to SNC.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Sierra Nevada, Boeing, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Orion, Curiosity, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more planetary and human spaceflight news.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Boeing expects to launch the first unmanned test flight of their commercial CST-100 manned ‘space taxi’ in “early 2017,” said Chris Ferguson, commander of NASA’s final shuttle flight in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Universe Today for an inside look at Boeing’s space efforts. Ferguson is now spearheading Boeing’s human spaceflight capsule project as director of Crew and Mission Operations.
“The first unmanned orbital test flight is planned in January 2017 … and may go to the station,” Ferguson told me during a wide ranging, in depth discussion about a variety of human spaceflight topics and Boeing’s ambitious plans for their privately developed CST-100 human rated spaceship – with a little help from NASA.
Boeing has reserved a launch slot at Cape Canaveral with United Launch Alliance (ULA), but the details are not yet public.
If all goes well, the maiden CST-100 orbital test flight with humans would follow around mid-2017.
“The first manned test could happen by the end of summer 2017 with a two person crew,” he said.
Boeing is among a trio of American aerospace firms, including SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp, vying to restore America’s capability to fly humans to Earth orbit and the space station by late 2017, using seed money from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) in a public/private partnership. The next round of contracts will be awarded by NASA about late summer 2014.
That’s a feat that America hasn’t accomplished in nearly three years.
“It’s been over 1000 days and counting since we landed [on STS-135],” Ferguson noted with some sadness as he checked the daily counter on his watch. He is a veteran of three space flights.
Since the shuttles retirement in July 2011 following touchdown of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the last shuttle flight (STS-135) with Ferguson in command, no American astronauts have launched to space from American soil on American rockets and spaceships.
The only ticket to the ISS and back has been aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule.
Chris and the Boeing team hope to change the situation soon. They are chomping at the bits to get Americas back into space from US soil and provide reliable and cost-effective US access to destinations in low Earth orbit like the ISS and the proposed private Bigelow space station.
Boeing wants to send its new private spaceship all the way to the space station starting on the very first unmanned and manned test flights currently slated for 2017, according to Ferguson.
“NASA wants us to provide [crew flight] services by November 2017,” said Ferguson, according to the terms of the CCP contact award.”
The CST-100 will launch atop a man rated Atlas V rocket and carry a mix of cargo and up to seven crew members to the ISS.
“So both the first unmanned and manned test flight will be in 2017. The first unmanned orbital flight test is currently set for January 2017. The first manned test could be end of summer 2017,” he stated.
I asked Chris to outline the mission plans for both flights.
“Our first flight, the CST-100 Orbital Flight Test – is scheduled to be unmanned.”
“Originally it was just going to be an on orbital test of the systems, with perhaps a close approach to the space station. But we haven’t precluded our ability to dock.
“So if our systems mature as we anticipate then we may go all the way and actually dock at station. We’re not sure yet,” he said.
So I asked whether he thinks the CST-100 will also go dock at the ISS on the first manned test flight?
“Yes. Absolutely. We want go to all the way to the space station,” Ferguson emphatically told me.
“For the 1st manned test flight, we want to dock at the space station and maybe spend a couple weeks there.”
“SpaceX did it [docking]. So we think we can too.”
“The question is can we make the owners of the space station comfortable with what we are doing. That’s what it really comes down to.”
“As the next year progresses and the design matures and it becomes more refined and we understand our own capability, and NASA understands our capabilities as the space station program gets more involved – then I’m sure they will put the same rigor into our plan as they did into the SpaceX and Orbital Sciences plans.”
“When SpaceX and Orbital [wanted to] come up for the grapple [rather than just rendezvous], NASA asked ‘Are these guys ready?’ That’s what NASA will ask us.”
“And if we [Boeing] are ready, then we’ll go dock at the station with our CST-100.”
“And if we’re not ready, then we’ll wait another flight and go to the station the next time. It’s just that simple.”
“We looked at it and this is something we can do.”
“There are a lot of ways we have to make NASA and ourselves happy. But as a company we feel we can go do it,” Ferguson stated.
So the future looks promising.
But the schedule depends entirely on NASA funding levels approved by Congress. And that vital funding has been rather short on supply. It has already caused significant delays to the start of the space taxi missions for all three companies contending for NASA’s commercial crew contracts because of the significant slashes to the agency’s CCP budget request, year after year.
In fact the schedule has slipped already 18 months to the right compared to barely a few years ago.
So I asked Chris to discuss the CCP funding cuts and resulting postponements – which significantly affected schedules for Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada.
Here it is in a nutshell.
“No Bucks, No Buck Rogers,” explained Ferguson.
“The original plan was to conduct both the unmanned and manned CST-100 test flights in 2015.”
“Originally, we would have flown the unmanned orbital test in the summer of 2015. The crewed test would have been at the end of 2015.”
“So both flights are now a full year and a half later.” Ferguson confirmed.
“For the presidents [CCP] funding requests for the past few years of roughly about $800 million, they [Congress] only approved about half. It was significantly less than the request.”
Now at this very moment Congress is deliberating NASA’s Fiscal 2015 budget.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has said he will beg Congress to approve full funding for the commercial crew program this year – on his hands and knees if necessary.
Otherwise there will be further delays to the start of the space taxi missions. And the direct consequence is NASA would be forced to continue buying US astronaut rides from the Russians at $70 Million per seat. All against the backdrop of Russian actions in the Ukraine where deadly clashes potentially threaten US access to the ISS in a worst case scenario if the ongoing events spin even further out of control and the West ratchets up economic sanctions against Russia.
The CST-100 is designed to be a “simple ride up to and back from space,” Ferguson emphasized to me.
It is being designed at Boeing’s Houston Product Support Center in Texas.
In Part 2 of my interview, Chris Ferguson will discuss the details about the design, how and where the CST-100 capsule will be manufactured at a newly renovated, former space shuttle facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Boeing, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Orion, Curiosity, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more planetary and human spaceflight news.
Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 launch of Dragon spacecraft on March 1, 2013 to the ISS from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.- shot from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. During 2014, SpaceX plans two flight tests simulating human crewed Dragon emergency abort scenarios launching from right here at pad 40. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com Story updated[/caption]
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – A trio of American companies – SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada – are working diligently to restore America’s capability to launch humans into low Earth orbit from US soil, aided by seed money from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in a public-private partnership.
We’ve been following the solid progress made by all three companies. Here we’ll focus on two crucial test flights planned by SpaceX in 2014 to human rate and launch the crewed version of their entry into the commercial crew ‘space taxi’ sweepstakes, namely the Dragon spacecraft.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak about the upcoming test flights with the head of SpaceX, Elon Musk.
So I asked Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, about “what’s ahead in 2014”; specifically related to a pair of critical “abort tests” that he hopes to conduct with the human rated “version of our Dragon spacecraft.”
“Assuming all goes well, we expect to conduct [up to] two Dragon abort tests next year in 2014,” Musk told me.
The two abort flight tests in 2014 involve demonstrating the ability of the Dragon spacecraft abort system to lift an uncrewed spacecraft clear of a simulated launch emergency.
The crewed Dragon – also known as DragonRider – will be capable of lofting up to seven astronauts to the ISS and remaining docked for at least 180 days.
First a brief overview of the goals of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It was started in the wake of the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle program which flew its final human crews to the International Space Station (ISS) in mid-2011.
“NASA has tasked SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to develop spacecraft capable of safely transporting humans to the space station, returning that capability to the United States where it belongs,’ says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
Since 2011, US astronauts have been 100% dependent on the Russians and their Soyuz capsules to hitch a ride to low Earth orbit and the ISS.
The abort tests are essential for demonstrating that the Dragon vehicle will activate thrusters and separate in a split second from a potentially deadly exploding rocket fireball to save astronauts lives in the event of a real life emergency – either directly on the launch pad or in flight.
“We are aiming to do at least the pad abort test next year [in 2014] with version 2 of our Dragon spacecraft that would carry astronauts,” Musk told me.
SpaceX plans to launch the crewed Dragon atop the human rated version of their own developed Falcon 9 next generation rocket, which is also being simultaneously developed to achieve all of NASA’s human rating requirements.
The initial pad abort test will test the ability of the full-size Dragon to safely push away and escape in case of a failure of its Falcon 9 booster rocket in the moments around launch, right at the launch pad.
“The purpose of the pad abort test is to demonstrate Dragon has enough total impulse (thrust) to safely abort,” SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin informed me.
For that test, Dragon will use its pusher escape abort thrusters to lift the Dragon safely away from the failing rocket. The vehicle will be positioned on a structural facsimile of the Dragon trunk in which the actual Falcon 9/Dragon interfaces will be represented by mockups.
This test will be conducted on SpaceX’s launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It will not include an actual Falcon 9 booster.
The second Dragon flight test involves simulating an in flight emergency abort scenario during ascent at high altitude at maximum aerodynamic pressure at about T plus 1 minute, to save astronauts lives. The pusher abort thrusters would propel the capsule and crew safely away from a failing Falcon 9 booster for a parachute assisted landing into the Atlantic Ocean.
“Assuming all goes well we expect to launch the high altitude abort test towards the end of next year,” Musk explained.
The second test will use the upgraded next generation version of the Falcon 9 that was successfully launched just weeks ago on its maiden mission from Cape Canaveral on Dec. 3. Read my earlier reports – starting here.
To date, SpaceX has already successfully launched the original cargo version of the Dragon a total of three times. And each one docked as planned at the ISS.
The next cargo Dragon bound for the ISS is due to lift off on Feb. 22, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL.
Orbital Sciences – the commercial ISS cargo competitor to SpaceX – plans to launch its Cygnus cargo vehicle on the Orb-1 mission bound for the ISS on Jan. 7 atop the firms Antares rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Watch for my on site reports from NASA Wallops.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program’s goal is launching American astronauts from U.S. soil within the next four years – by 2017 to the ISS.
The 2017 launch date is dependent on funding from the US federal government that will enable each of the firms to accomplish a specified series of milestones. NASA payments are only made after each companies milestones are successfully achieved.
SpaceX was awarded $440 million in the third round of funding in the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCAP) initiative which runs through the third quarter of 2014. As of November 2013, NASA said SpaceX had accomplished 9 of 15 milestones and was on track to complete all on time.
Musk hopes to launch an initial Dragon orbital test flight with a human crew of SpaceX test pilots perhaps as early as sometime in 2015 – if funding and all else goes well.
Either a US commercial ‘space taxi’ or the Orion exploration capsule could have blasted off with American astronauts much sooner – if not for the continuing year-by-year slashes to NASA’s overall budget forced by the so called ‘political leaders’ of all parties in Washington, DC.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars and more news.