Sunday , February 28 2021

NASA's ISS, SpaceX and Boeing program is as American as the moon



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NASA commercial crew astronauts with the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Dragon models in 2018.

Robert Markowitz / NASA / Johnson Space Center

It almost sounds like the beginning of a joke: NASA enters a bar with one of the oldest aerospace companies and a guy who smoked pan with Joe Rogan

But while they may sound like unlikely fellow travelers, NASA has formed partnerships with Boeing and SpaceX in an attempt to get into space faster and to once again launch US soil astronauts. It is known as the Commercial Crew Program, and was created to help NASA take the astronauts to the International Space Station (without spending many taxpayer dollars).

In this week's episode Watch this space, let's take a look at what these two US industry giants bring to the table and what NASA has to gain from outsourcing its space program. Let's get this over with.

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What is the Commercial Crew Program?

CCP is known as a public-private partnership – it's a common way for government agencies to use private industry expertise to complete their projects on time and on budget. In 2014, NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX, two of the biggest names in the American aerospace industry, to help bring astronauts into space and the International Space Station.

The idea is that Boeing and SpaceX will help NASA develop and operate launch systems and spacecraft to bring humans into low-Earth orbit and help fulfill their obligations to help the ISS team. Since NASA's space shuttle program wrapped up in 2011, the US has relied on other countries to take its astronauts to space, launch on the Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft as far as in Kazakhstan. NASA wants to bring these releases back home.

Why Boeing and SpaceX?

While both focus on the sky, these companies could not be more different. Boeing has been in existence for more than 100 years and has been working with NASA since its formation in the 1960s, including working on the Apollo program. SpaceX, on the other hand, has existed for less than two decades, with ambitious take humans to Mars, make spaceflight more accessible and even take tourists to the moon.

But both companies are at the forefront of aerospace technology and have in-house experience in developing, manufacturing and launching spacecraft. It is this set of skills that NASA wants to use to help it get to space faster without having the kind of cost loss that has caused problems in the past.

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The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule ahead of a test flight that was later delayed.

SpaceX

How will they get there?

To take the astronauts into space, Boeing developed the Crew (Transportation Crew) -100 Starliner. According to Boeing, the Starliner can accommodate up to seven passengers, or up to four crew members for ISS missions, along with research loads. It is a reusable aircraft that can be used up to 10 times. It can land on land instead of landing on the ocean (which is the first time in an American spacecraft). And there are backup controls inside the pilot.

SpaceX, on the other hand, is using its Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX has been using the Dragon to carry cargo to the ISS since 2012. (It made history as the first commercial spacecraft to visit the space station.) But the Dragon is also configurable to carry crew in its capsule section, with onboard controls , Environmental Control and Life Support System and an emergency escape system that takes astronauts to safety with "on the same G forces as a ride at Disneyland." Because this is SpaceX, of course.

What is the timeline?

One member of Boeing's Starliner team works on the spacecraft.

Boeing

We can expect NASA astronauts to head to the ISS this year, but the CCP has not run out of trouble. NASA named its two crews for the Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft, although there were last-minute changes to Boeing vessels due to medical problems. SpaceX has also been forced to delay their test flights an number of times.

But according to the latest up-to-date timeline and if everything goes as planned, SpaceX and Boeing must complete the March tests and abort the tests (to make sure systems are secure if the launch needs to be aborted on the block or on the rise ) performing manned flights in the middle of the year. The estimate is June for SpaceX and August for Boeing.

After that, both companies will be certified to launch humans into low Earth orbit and send crew members to the International Space Station.

To learn more about NASA partnerships, check out the latest episode of Watch this space.

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