by Jeff Foust —
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — NASA has reassigned two astronauts from Boeing business crew missions to a SpaceX one because the company addresses delays within the improvement of the CST-100 Starliner and works out a seat barter settlement with Russia.
NASA introduced Oct. 6 that astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada can be the commander and pilot, respectively, of the Crew-5 mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, launching to the International Space Station no sooner than the autumn of 2022. The different two individuals flying that mission might be introduced later.
Mann was beforehand a part of the three-person Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, the primary crewed flight of Starliner. Cassada was a part of Starliner-1, the primary operational Starliner mission that may comply with the CFT mission. Neither CFT nor Starliner-1 has agency launch dates due to continued delays within the second uncrewed Starliner mission, Orbital Flight Test 2. The reassignments have been first reported by Ars Technica Oct. 5, which on the time didn’t anticipate a proper announcement for weeks or months.
In a beforehand scheduled briefing concerning the upcoming SpaceX Crew-3 mission Oct. 6, NASA officers mentioned they reassigned Cassada and Mann as a result of they needed to present the 2 rookie astronauts flight expertise sooner reasonably than later. “To us, it appeared like the correct time,” mentioned Steve Stich, NASA business crew program supervisor. “We actually needed to get Nicole and Josh some expertise and get them into house as quickly as we will.”
NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Mike Fincke remained assigned to the CFT mission and Suni Williams to Starliner-1. All three are veteran astronauts, and NASA mentioned different astronauts might be added to these missions sooner or later.
Also remaining on Starliner-1 is Jeanette Epps, one other rookie astronaut who was faraway from a Soyuz mission to the ISS in 2018 for causes the company declined to reveal on the time. “We’re reevaluating that flight task,” Stich mentioned. “Since Starliner-1 is a bit of additional out than CFT we’re within the technique of that task and see if that will change over time.”
NASA is hoping that one of many two open seats on Crew-5 might be stuffed by a Russian cosmonaut. The company is constant discussions with Roscosmos on a seat barter settlement to permit NASA and different Western astronauts to fly on Soyuz spacecraft in trade for Russian cosmonauts flying on business crew autos. Such “blended crews” would guarantee each astronauts and cosmonauts can be on the station if there’s a downside with a Soyuz, Crew Dragon or Starliner spacecraft.
“We have been working with our Russian companions on what we name a ‘crew swap’ technique,” mentioned Kathy Lueders, affiliate administrator for house operations at NASA, on the briefing. “We’ve demonstrated that the Crew Dragon is a succesful car going ahead, and now it’s only a matter of placing the following layer of government-to-government agreements collectively to help that.”
Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program supervisor, mentioned he met with Roscosmos officers final week in Moscow concerning the settlement. “Our goal continues to be for Crew-5 in fall of ’22, to have a cosmonaut on that car,” he mentioned, “and we might have an American on the Soyuz in the identical time-frame.”
That would rule out flying a cosmonaut on Crew-4, launching within the spring of 2022. NASA had left open one of many 4 seats on that mission within the occasion an settlement might be reached in time. Stich mentioned a backup crew member for Crew-4 might be assigned to fill that seat “on the proper time.”
The subsequent Soyuz crew rotation mission, launching within the spring of 2022, could have three Russian cosmonauts on board. Montalbano mentioned NASA had no plans to amass a seat on that flight, because it did early this 12 months when it labored out an settlement via a 3rd get together, Axiom Space, to purchase the seat and fly NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei within the place of a Russian cosmonaut. Montalbano mentioned the handover between the Crew-3 and Crew-4 missions might be timed “such that we preserve a U.S. presence on board.”
Crew Dragon updates
The briefing was primarily concerning the Crew-3 mission, launching Oct. 30 and sending to the ISS NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer.
The flight would be the first for a brand new Crew Dragon spacecraft, the third in SpaceX’s fleet. SpaceX has made minor modifications to this car primarily based on expertise from earlier flights, together with the Crew-1 mission the place, throughout its return to Earth, particles induced minor injury to one of many drogue parachutes.
Stich mentioned the problem was with a “minor sleeve” on the drogue supposed to guard riser traces on the parachute from abrasion. “We already made a repair to that to enhancing some stitching on this little sleeve,” he mentioned.
Another situation is with the waste administration system on the spacecraft, the place a small connection “might be a bit free,” mentioned Sarah Walker, director of Dragon mission administration at SpaceX. “We simply rolled in an enchancment to make that joint a bit of tighter.”
SpaceX can also be sharing with NASA knowledge it collected on the Inspiration4 non-public Crew Dragon mission in September. Stich mentioned that mission is of curiosity because it flew increased than these to the ISS, exposing the spacecraft to the next quantity of micrometeroids and orbital particles. The three-day flight additionally provided a extra strong check of the life help system on the spacecraft.
In addition to the brand new Crew Dragon for the Crew-3 mission, SpaceX is constructing a fourth Crew Dragon that Walker mentioned needs to be prepared within the spring of 2022, maybe for the Crew-4 mission. There aren’t any plans, she added, to construct extra Crew Dragon capsules at the moment. “Those 4 Crew Dragon autos appear adequate to fulfill our manifest, which is prospering.”