Boeing recently tested systems that will be used on Boeing’s Commercial Space Transportation (CST-100) spacecraft. The interface test was conducted between Mission Control Center (MCC) and software which will be used on Boeing’s commercial offering. The tests were conducted at NASA’s Johnson Space Center located in Houston, Texas.
Boeing, along with launch service provider United Launch Alliance (ULA), is working to transport crew to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It is hoped that these efforts might return the capability of launching astronauts on U.S. spacecraft from U.S. soil.
“Every day, our connection to the humans living and working in space comes through the historic and hallowed MCC in Houston,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s CCP manager. “As low-Earth orbit opens to a growing commercial space industry, the ability of new spacecraft to communicate with existing space infrastructure is critical.”
The test, conducted in August, validated that Boeing could send/receive data between the MCC and Boeing’s Avionics Software Integration Facility. This use of the CST-100 simulator is viewed as an important first step toward integrated flight operations training.
“Our continued partnership with NASA Mission Operations Directorate brings valued experience to our Commercial Crew Program,” said John Mulholland, vice president of Boeing Commercial Crew Programs. “This fully integrated team will ensure that we can safely and affordably conduct missions.”
Boeing is working under a reimbursable Space Act Agreement (SAA), which was started during CCP’s second phase, to develop flight training and operations for the CST-100. According to a press release issued by NASA, the company still has other interconnectivity assessments that still need to be done. One of the major ones noted by the space agency is software avionics testing for the ascent phase of flight and demonstrations with a person at the controls of the spacecraft simulator. During this test, the pilot will go through all of the key points of the flight. These include rendezvous, docking, navigation, and adjusting the CST-100’s altitude.
As it currently stands, the CST-100 is on target to meet all of the 20 milestones laid out before it under NASA’s Commercial Crew integrated Capability by summer of next year. Boeing is not alone in this field: To date, the other two participants under CCiCap, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Sierra Nevada Corporation, have seen their respective Dragon and Dream Chaser spacecraft accomplish the objectives laid out before them.