Archive for September, 2010

Kennedy Space Center Space Shuttle Launch 2nd to Last

Space Shuttle Discovery

NASA image: Space Shuttle Discovery transport to launch pad

The November 1st Space Shuttle Discovery launch is expected to be the second to last shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Slated for a launch time of 4:40 pm EDT, shuttle mission STS-133 will supply the International Space Station (ISS) with a MultiPurpose Logistics Module (MPLM), the Express Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4), and spare components.

This is the last mission for Discovery before being retired. Workers at the space center and their family members watched the shuttle’s last rollout. Discovery was moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy late last night and arrived at the launch pad early this morning. The 3.4 mile journey was made, on top of a crawler-transporter, at a speed of less than 1 mph.

Six astronauts will be aboard Discovery on its 39th, and final flight. Unless an extra Atlantis Space Shuttle flight is approved by congress, mission STS-134, scheduled for February 26, 2011, utilizing Space Shuttle Endeavour will be the last mission before the entire shuttle fleet is retired.

NASA will purchase seats aboard Russian space vehicles until commercial enterprises such as Boeing create space transportation that can safely send astronauts to the ISS. NASA has been given direction by President Obama to focus on engineering spacecrafts that can reach a near Earth object (neo) such as an asteroid and a distant destination, possibly Mars.

Boeing Receives $1.24 Billion Extension of Space Station Contract

International Space Station (ISS)

International Space Station (NASA image)

Boeing announced in a press release that NASA awarded the company a contract extension for sustaining engineering at the International Space Station (ISS). The extension begins October 1st and continues for five years, into 2015.

The sustaining engineering that Boeing will provide for the ISS will include software and hardware support for the U.S. segment of the space station and support for common software and hardware utilized by international partners.

Joy Bryant, Boeing Vice President and Program Manager for ISS, said that “Boeing’s knowledge of the International Space Station allows us to safely fly and operate the station to 2015, setting the stage to enable ISS operations until 2020, and potentially extend operations through 2028. We are partnering with NASA to ensure the health of the station’s many subsystems in order to pave the way for ground-breaking science and research aboard the laboratories on station in the years ahead.”

Boeing will perform the work at several locations including Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL., Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Al., and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

The services that Boeing will also provide include:

  • management of ISS subsystems
  • analytical integration and flight support
  • on-orbit engineering support
  • monitoring and trending system performance
  • anomaly resolution, specialty engineering, and oversight of ongoing maintenance

During the course of the contract extension Boeing will purchase spare components and modify currents systems.

Boeing Space Taxi for Astronauts and Space Tourists

Crew Space Transportation (CST-100)

Artist rendering of Boeing's proposed Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) spacecraft. (Boeing image)

On Wednesday, Boeing announced that it will become a competitor in the fledgling space tourism market.

The company is vying for a government contract that will allow it to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). To do so, Boeing is building the Crew Space Transportation capsule (CST-100), which will contain more seats than needed by NASA. The space agency expects to send astronauts to the ISS in groups of four. The CST-100 will contain seven seats leaving the three remaining seats to be occupied possibly by commercial entities, education-based organizations, governments with no current access to space or private citizens with the desire to be space tourists. Boeing has teamed up with the company Space Adventures, which will coordinate the sale of the available seats.

In an interview with Discovery News, Eric Anderson, the Chairman of Space Adventures stated that “The marketplace has not been constrained by the number of people who wanted to go [to space]. It’s been constrained by access to orbit.

Of course fare on board the capsule is not for those on a tight budget. Unlike the relatively inexpensive $200,000 price tag of a suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, orbital flights on the CST-100 are expected to be priced at something near $40 million dollars. This puts Boeing’s price structure inline with space flights on board a Russian Soyuz rocket. Both Boeing and Space Adventures believe that flights on board the capsule could begin as early as the end of 2015.