Second docking adapter for commercial crew vehicles installed on International Space Station

The dock adapter, actually IDA-3 since the first IDA was lost during the SpaceX launch failure of its CRS-7 mission on June 28, 2015. IDA-2, which was …

The International Space Station is now more than ready for crew-carrying spacecraft flown by commercial companies to pay it a visit: The second planned International Dock Adapter (IDA) was installed on the Space Station during a spacewalk by NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan earlier today.

The dock adapter is actually IDA-3, as the first IDA was lost during the SpaceX launch failure of its CRS-7 mission on June 28, 2015. IDA-2, which was intended to be the second installed on ISS, instead became the first and was delivered in July 2016 during the SpaceX CRS-9 resupply mission.

IDA-2 has already proven effective, too: It received its first docking vehicle on March 3 of this year, when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-1 test vehicle used the automated docking procedure designed for this adapter to demonstrate how it will work eventually when crew are on board.

IDA-3 is the second working dock adapter that uses this automated procedure, which makes it so that vehicles arriving at the ISS don’t have to be caught and guided in manually by astronauts with the help of the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. The automated procedure is designed as an industry standard of sorts, and should mean that any commercial crew craft, from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, to Boeing’s CST-100, and any other potential future craft, can easily and automatically dock with the ISS to transfer over passengers and cargo.

Boeing is the company that was contracted to design and build these docking adapters. Each weigh about 1,150 pounds, and they’re about 42 inches high and 63 inches wide, which means it’s a bit of a tight squeeze for crew to come through (these aren’t big step-through passageways like you sometimes see in movies).

Having both the IDAs installed on the Space Station is key milestone in the commercial crew program, but there are still plenty of hurdles left to clear — including the first test flights of commercial Crew vehicles with astronauts on board.

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NASA Rehearses Astronaut Launch — and Rescue — with SpaceX, Boeing (Photos)

Both SpaceX and Boeing are busily preparing for the first crewed launches of their commercial spacecraft, and in case something goes wrong, they’re …

Both SpaceX and Boeing are busily preparing for the first crewed launches of their commercial spacecraft, and in case something goes wrong, they’re simulating different types of emergencies.

The companies are contracted under NASA to provide commercial crew spacecraft for missions to the International Space Station (ISS) to supplement the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that is currently used for all ISS launches, which blast off from a facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The first commercial crew astronauts will fly late this year or sometime in 2020, if all goes according to plan. SpaceX and Boeing will each launch their spacecraft from Florida, marking the first time American astronauts have launched from their home country since the last space shuttle mission in 2011.

SpaceX and NASA geared up for the first launch of a Crew Dragon with astronauts aboard with a dress rehearsal of launch day — including simulated emergencies. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who will fly the first Crew Dragon mission, practiced suiting up in a SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California, with SpaceX’s ground closeout team. The NASA and SpaceX teams did a simulated launch countdown, as well as several emergency launch scenarios, which is common practice for all astronauts preparing for spaceflight.

Related: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-1 Test Flight in Pictures

Some of Boeing’s first CST-100 Starliner crew also conducted emergency launch scenarios at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA astronaut Josh Cassada, who will be on the first Starliner crew, participated in the exercise, as well as Eric Boe (who initially was assigned to a Starliner mission, but pulled for medical reasons in January) and astronaut candidate Jasmin Moghbeli (who is completing certification exercises to qualify for future spaceflights).

Our @Commercial_Crew Program is making progress to launch astronauts from U.S. soil to the @Space_Station. Learn about our rehearsals to safely extract crew members from the @SpaceX #CrewDragon spacecraft that will carry astronauts to & from space: https://t.co/0k1PovEqKA pic.twitter.com/km24W9FfhfAugust 18, 2019

What’s new with our @Commercial_Crew astronauts? @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug recently performed suit-up & leak checks using the same Ground Support Equipment hardware that they will use for launch on @SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. Keep up with their training: https://t.co/irbF3GDaC3 pic.twitter.com/lqIsMGWjYIAugust 8, 2019

The astronauts and ground personnel followed a complicated set of procedures to practice safety in the event of a sudden emergency on the pad, such as a rocket explosion. Such an event could offer only seconds to respond, so practicing everything ahead of time is necessary. During the drill, participants donned portable respirators and practiced moving from the crew access arm on the spacecraft, which is nearly 200 feet (60 meters) high, toward a zip line, which they slid down to a staging location on the ground.

Once everyone reached the ground safely, they rushed inside a vehicle designed to withstand any debris from a disaster. The team drove the so-called mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle almost a mile (1.6 kilometers) to a helipad, where flight surgeons and emergency personnel were ready with ambulances and a decontamination vehicle.

Emergency response personnel surround an asteroid with simulated injuries during an exercise conducted by NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance on July 24, 2019.

Emergency response personnel surround an astronaut with simulated injuries during an exercise conducted by NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance on July 24, 2019.

(Image credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

“Astronauts evacuating from a pad emergency may come into contact with hazardous substances, such as fuel from the rocket or spacecraft, and must be decontaminated to allow medical personnel to safely treat them. In a true emergency, anyone injured would then be transported via helicopter to area hospitals,” NASA said in a statement about the Boeing exercise.

Another practice exercise focused on recovery operations with SpaceX, using a ship called “GO Searcher,” which is one of the vessels that will pick up spacecraft and astronauts splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean after a mission. In this exercise, the teams simulated that Behnken and Hurley needed to be extracted from Crew Dragon. The astronauts were removed and received a mock medical evaluation before they were transported to a nearby airport, the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Skid Strip.

.@NASA led a simulation with @BoeingSpace and @ulalaunch in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the @Space_Station. In the event of an emergency, astronauts and support teams would need to exit the launch pad as quickly as possible: https://t.co/lG6ZspSztG pic.twitter.com/UAgbmm6UZIAugust 5, 2019

“We’re making sure that the team integrates together — that’s a key to any successful mission,” Ted Mosteller, the NASA recovery director in charge of the agency’s team for the Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement concerning the recovery operations. “We worked on successfully doing what we need to do to take care of the crew once they return to Earth.”

In the same statement, Behnken said he is looking forward to his opportunity for spaceflight and returning to the ISS. “Each of these exercises puts us one step closer to fulfilling NASA’s mission of returning astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil,” he added.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow uson Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook.

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SpaceX and NASA conduct extraction rehearsals for the upcoming crewed flight of Crew Dragon

SpaceX and NASA teams coordinated to prepare astronauts for the highly anticipated crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which is …
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SpaceX and NASA teams coordinated to prepare astronauts for the highly anticipated crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which is tentatively set to happen by the end of the year.

The Crew Dragon launch, which is called Demo-2, is part of NASA’s plans of integrating private companies with future endeavors on space exploration. One of which is commissioning companies to create flight instruments for the agency.

Furthermore, Demo-2 will be a flight to and from Earth and the Internation Space Station (ISS). For Space X’s Crew Dragon, this will be its first chance to try putting living and breathing humans aboard one of its spacecraft.

On Tuesday, NASA posted on Twitter the images of teams from SpaceX and the space agency along with two astronauts — Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — that has been selected to board the Crew Dragon.

The drill conducted was part of the company’s and the agency’s full rehearsal of extraction procedures once the Crew Dragon made its way back to Earth from the ISS.

This week, @NASA & @SpaceX teams are rehearsing how to safely recover @Commercial_Crew astronauts from the #CrewDragon spacecraft, which will be used to launch astronauts to the @Space_Station. 📸https://t.co/KLCFKNZmpVpic.twitter.com/kAPyge1Jjp

— NASA HQ PHOTO (@nasahqphoto) August 14, 2019

The drills and rehearsal involved a full mockup of the Crew Dragon to help familiarize the team and the astronauts about the spacecraft, and learn how they will be extracted.

The teams were made aware how they were going be assisted to exit the capsule, and even simulated receiving medical attention that may be necessary when in a hypothetical emergency return from the ISS.

Although SpaceX and NASA have been working for years in various projects regarding space exploration, the recent event marked the first time that multiple SpaceX and NASA team were fully integrated to work aboard the ship and simulate the recovery process.

“Integrated tests like today’s are a crucial element in preparing human spaceflight missions,” Hurley said in a statement. “This opportunity allowed us to work with the recovery team and ensure the plans are solid for the Demo-2 mission.”

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley, along with teams from NASA and SpaceX, rehearse crew extraction from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

NASA | Bill Ingalls

On Thursday, August 15, two days after the capsule extraction rehearsal, NASA, once more, posted photos from their extraction rehearsal operations.

This time, the team had involved a real operating helicopter in simulating the following protocols, in the instance where astronauts require immediate airlift to land-based medical facilities for intensive care.

According to Ted Mosteller, the recovery director for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, performing these complete recovery drills will help better prepare the team and astronauts in the event of an unfortunate accident.

Furthermore, it will help both the agency and company to work seamlessly with one another, ensuring a more positive outcome if ever the time comes, by making every member aware of their roles and responsibilities.

“We’re making sure that the team integrates together – that’s a key to any successful mission,” Mosteller said. “We worked on successfully doing what we need to do to take care of the crew once they return to Earth.”

The NASA-SpaceX extraction rehearsal took place at the Trident Basin in Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard GO Searcher, one of two East Coast recovery vessels owned by SpaceX

GO Searcher is the ship that SpaceX uses to recover the Crew Dragon astronauts and spacecraft after splashing down in the ocean.

Notably, the Searcher has its medical facilities onboard, but they are only meant to rehabilitate astronauts to adjust from half a year in microgravity to full Earth gravity.

If all goes according to plan, Crew Dragon will launch from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken left, and Doug Hurley board the SpaceX GO Searcher ship at the Trident Basin in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 13, 2019, to rehearse extracting astronauts from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

NASA | Bill Ingalls

Significantly, SpaceX is the first space exploration company to devise rockets intended for reuse. In other words, Crew Dragon will be used for several other occasions instead of the traditional and costly single-use spacecraft.

Accordingly, SpaceX chose to splash down back to Earth when it makes its return. That is why both astronauts and spacecraft must be retrieved from the ocean.

Though critics have questioned this method of returning astronauts from space since it’s been decades since it was used. NASA astronauts used to land in the ocean via parachutes during the Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab missions of the 1960s and ‘70s. Once the Space Shuttle started flying in the 1980s, all astronauts have returned to solid ground when coming back from space.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Launch Experiences Setbacks

However, the SpaceX Demo-2 mission was postponed for October, at the earliest. Right now, SpaceX is thinking of scheduling the demonstration flight …

Recently, Nasa published a blog post that led readers to believe the agency is going through some changes in the leadership department, within the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, that might have a negative impact on the plans to return astronauts to the International Space Station. This is not the only setback that slows down the schedule of launching SpaceX Crew Dragon.

In the first instance, the demonstration flight meant to simulate the mission will carry astronauts Bob Nehnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS was supposed to take place this summer. However, the SpaceX Demo-2 mission was postponed for October, at the earliest. Right now, SpaceX is thinking of scheduling the demonstration flight no earlier than December. Both SpaceX and NASA believe that a Crew Dragon launch involves a set of preparations that cannot be carried out in a few months, so a 2019 launch seems impossible.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Launch Experiences Setbacks

Jim Bridenstine, the NASA Administrator, asked the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate to reevaluate the flight schedule once new leadership is established. He said: “It is very likely that these new schedule plans will push the Demo-2 launch target into 2020.” Another element that interferes with the timeline is the in-flight abort test that SpaceX needs to conduct to assure that the Crew Dragon capsule’s abort system is perfectly functional.

That is a crucial step since the original Crew Dragon capsule (C201) got destroyed during an earlier test. After the loss of C201, it was found that the SuperDraco thruster abort system was faulty and it needed to be replaced for all capsules currently in production at SpaceX. The launch date for the in-flight abort test is expected to be announced sometime this month.

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Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News. She covers politics and the economy.

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See SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Parachutes in Action in This Epic Video Compilation

If a parade of space parachutes popping open is your thing, SpaceX has you covered. The company — which is developing a Crew Dragon spacecraft …

If a parade of space parachutes popping open is your thing, SpaceX has you covered. The company — which is developing a Crew Dragon spacecraft to bring astronauts to the International Space Station — recently released a YouTube video showing a series of successful parachute tests for its spacecraft.

The compilation shows the spacecraft being dropped from anywhere between 8,000 to 50,000 feet (roughly 2,400 to 15,000 meters) using a helicopter, a high-altitude balloon or the back door of a cargo plane. In various high-definition shots, the spacecraft falls through the air, is stabilized by a drogue parachute or two, and then the main parachutes pop open.

Cameras mounted on Crew Dragon show the performance of the three or four main parachutes as the spacecraft drifts to desert ground or — in one case — water. The spacecraft needs to pass a series of qualification tests before NASA and other authorities deem it safe enough to fly astronauts.

Related: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-1 Test Flight in Pictures

Four Crew Dragon parachutes deploy during a test in this still from SpaceX's video compilation. 

Four Crew Dragon parachutes deploy during a test in this still from SpaceX’s video compilation.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

“More than 25 successful tests have been completed to demonstrate performance in various deployment conditions,” SpaceX saidin the video. (The company did not mention a failed parachute test in April. Both SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner have experienced parachute issues while preparing for commercial flights.)

While the SpaceX video focused on parachute deployment, SpaceX is pursuing many other tests to pursue its human-rating qualification for the Crew Dragon. One of these trials was putting an uncrewed spacecraft in space. The first Crew Dragon launched successfully on March 2 and later berthed with the International Space Station. Boeing’s spacecraft will do a space test of its own later this year, if all goes to plan. Launches of astronauts on both spacecraft may follow late this year, or in 2020.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow uson Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook.

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