NASA reported on Aug. 21 that spaceflight experts in its Commercial Crew Program (CCP) met throughout July with aerospace partners to review increasingly advanced designs, elements and systems of the spacecraft and launch vehicles under development as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiatives.
Blue Origin, The Boeing Co., Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX are partners with NASA in these initiatives to develop a new generation of safe, reliable and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit.
Engineering representatives from the partner companies meet regularly with NASA engineers and specialists to survey advancements. As progress is checked off, larger, more formal reviews are conducted to show the achievement of milestones in system development. Each of the reviews also addresses points brought up in prior sessions and ends with areas to look into before the next session is held.
"These discussions capitalize on all the aspects of working as partners instead of working solely as a customer and supplier," says Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. "The partners are innovative in a number of developmental areas. We have a set of detailed criteria drawn up so we can adequately evaluate what they are doing and they can tell us where adjustments fit in with their system's overall success. It's exactly what we had in mind when we kicked off this effort four years ago."
The next milestone for Blue Origin will be a subsystem interim design review that will assess the progress of the company's Space Vehicle design.
Development of the Boeing CST-100 continued throughout July with two milestone reviews conducted. The spacecraft phase two safety review demonstrated the CST-100 design follows the NASA safety analysis process, including documenting spacecraft hazard reports. The integrated critical design review demonstrated the design maturity of the integrated spacecraft, launch vehicle and ground systems are at their appropriate points.
Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC), which is working on the Dream Chaser lifting-body spacecraft, is expected to complete the review of its fifth design cycle in the coming weeks. The company also completed a review of the engineering test article with CCP and NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center specialists ahead of its second free-flight test later this year. SNC continues to vacuum test its reaction control system ahead of its incremental milestone test review.
SpaceX will conduct a critical design review of its ground systems and mission and crew operations plans toward the end of August as it advances Dragon V2 through development. The company also is coming up on the primary structure qualification for the Dragon V2, which is a more advanced version of the cargo-only spacecraft SpaceX uses to transport supplies to the International Space Station.
In August or September, NASA plans to award one or more contracts to one or more of these partners that will provide the agency with commercial services to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station by the end of 2017.
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