October 21, 2021

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NASA regroups commercial astronaut roles due to Starliner delay

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – NASA has reassigned astronauts from Boeing’s commercial missions to SpaceX, as the agency addresses delays in development of the CST-100 Starliner and is working on a seat-sharing agreement with Russia.

NASA announced October 6 that astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will be captains and pilots for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon-5 mission, which will launch to the International Space Station in the fall of 2022 at the latest. Two more people will announce these tasks at a later time.

MAN was previously part of the three-member Flight Crew Test (CFT) mission, Starliner’s first manned flight. Cassada was part of Starliner-1, the first operational Starliner mission to follow the CFT mission. Neither CFT nor Starliner-1 has confirmed launch dates due to ongoing delays on Starliner’s second unmanned mission, Orbital Flight Test 2. This was first reported by Ars Technica on October 5Which at that time did not wait for official notification for several weeks or months.

In a prescheduled briefing on the upcoming SpaceX Crew-3 mission on October 6, NASA officials announced that they had reassigned Cassad and MAN because they wanted to give rookie astronauts a flight experience sooner rather than later. “It seemed like the right time,” said Steve Stitch, director of the Sales Personnel Program at NASA. “We really wanted to get some experience with Nicole and Josh and get them to space as soon as possible.”

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Mike Fink remained missions for CFT and Sonny Williams on the Starliner-1. All three are experienced astronauts, and NASA said more astronauts will be added to the mission in the future.

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Janet Epps also remained on Starliner-1, another rookie astronaut who was removed from the Soyuz mission to the International Space Station in 2018 for reasons the agency refused to release at the time. “We are reviewing the flight mission,” Stitch said. “Because Starliner-1 is a little further from the CFT, we’ll take a look at that mission and see if that changes over time.”

NASA hopes one of the two open seats on Crew-5 will be filled by a Russian cosmonaut. The agency is continuing discussions with the Russian space agency Roscosmos over a seat swap agreement that would allow NASA and other Western astronauts to fly aboard the Soyuz spacecraft in exchange for Russian cosmonauts traveling in commercial crew vehicles. These “hybrid crews” will ensure that astronauts and astronauts are on the station if there is a problem with the Soyuz, Crew Dragon or Starliner spacecraft.

“We’re working with our Russian partners on a strategy we call crew exchange,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s deputy director of space operations, said at a news conference.

Joel Montalbano, NASA’s International Space Station program manager, said he met with Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) officials in Moscow last week about the deal. “Our goal is still to be the fifth crew in the fall of ’22, to have an astronaut on this ship and to be aboard an American Soyuz in the same time frame,” he said.

This would preclude the deployment of an astronaut aboard Crew-4, which will launch in the spring of 2022. NASA has left one of the four mission sites open in case an agreement is reached in time. Stitch said a replacement crew member from Flight 4’s crew would be in place “in due course.”

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The three Russian cosmonauts will be aboard another Soyuz crew rotation mission, which will begin in the spring of 2022. Montalbano said that NASA did not plan to take a seat this summer, as it did earlier this year when it reached an agreement with Axiom Space through a third party. . Buy a seat and fly with NASA astronaut Mark Vand because it’s where it is. Russian astronaut. Montalbano said the deliveries between the Crew-3 and Crew-4 missions will be timed “so that we can maintain the American presence on board.”

Kite Crew Updates

The briefing was on the Crew-3 mission, which began on October 30 and sent to International Space Station astronauts Raja Charim, Tom Marshburn and Kyle Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer.

This will be the first flight of the new spaceship Crew Dragon and the third in the SpaceX fleet. SpaceX has made minor changes to this ship based on experience from previous voyages, including the Crew-1 mission, where the wreck caused minor damage to one of the rotating parachutes upon return to Earth.

Stich said the problem was with a “small lane” on the steroids to protect the raised lines on the canopy from abrasion. “In fact, we fixed it to improve the sewing on this small sleeve,” he said.

Another problem with the spacecraft waste management system is that a small intersection can be “a bit loose,” says Sarah Walker, SpaceX’s Dragon mission management director. “We are just starting to make improvements to make this joint a little narrower.”

SpaceX is also sharing NASA data it collected in September during the Inspiration4 Special Crew Dragon mission. Stitch said the mission was significant because it flew higher than the one that reached the International Space Station, exposing the spacecraft to more fine particles and orbital debris. The three-day flight also provided a more robust test of the spacecraft’s life support system.

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In addition to the new crewed kite for the Crew-3 SpaceX mission, they are also building a fourth crewed kite that Walker says will be ready in the spring of 2022, likely for the Crew-4 mission. She added that there are currently no plans to build more Crew Dragon capsules. “Four Crew Dragons seem to be enough to meet our bullish statement.”