Michael Sheetz+ Your Authors @thesheetztweetz Space Reporter @CNBC | pitches [email protected] | DM for cell, WhatsApp, Signal, ProtonMail | formerly @DJNF @ESTribune | alumnus @TheKingsCollege May. 14, 2020 3 min read + Your Authors

NASA commercial spaceflight director Phil McAlister is giving an update on the @Commercial_Crew program, including the upcoming test flights by SpaceX and Boeing.


McAlister: The flight readiness review (FRR) on May 21st "is a very big milestone," which will be the last time the program heads get together to see if NASA and SpaceX are ready to launch.

McAlister: SpaceX Demo-2 will follow a strict quarantine protocol for the astronauts.

"Direct interaction with the crew is not permitted without appropriate protective gear." There may be interaction with VIPs the day before launch but that will be through a glass wall.

An overview of completed and remaining Commercial Crew milestones for SpaceX and Boeing:

McAlister: The Independent Review Team (IRT) will have more than 60 corrective actions for Boeing's Starliner from, so that number will be updated when the investigation of the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) is finished "very soon."

McAlister: NASA is designating Boeing's Starliner orbital flight test as a "High Visibility Close Call."

McAlister starts to talk about the SpaceX Inflight Abort Test in January and then stops and laughs:

"I know you guys really want me to get to Demo-2, the main attraction."

He adds that this photo overlay of IFA is "super cool:"

Here's a look at members of @45thSpaceWing simulating a crew rescue while recovering the capsule after SpaceX's inflight abort test:

McAlister: SpaceX Demo-2 has "an unbelievably complicated set of criteria and considerations for the duration of the mission," which is currently set for between 30 to 119 days.

He adds that it "could gov even longer" if Crew Dragon's solar arrays perform better than expected.

McAlister: NASA has "a couple of backup days" if SpaceX Demo-2 doesn't launch on May 27. There isn't a "quantitative number" right now for how probable a launch is on the current date.

McAlister: Boeing has "walked the walk" in terms of learning from OFT and preparing for OFT-2.

And now, the key slide:  https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/13/nasa-estimates-having-spacex-and-boeing-build-spacecraft-for-astronauts-saved-up-to-30-billion.html 

McAlister: I wanted to put this slide in here "because I felt like we had been doing a pretty good job on cost and we haven't talked much about that."

McAlister: Right now, the Commercial Crew program is "a little bit under" $6 billion to date, including early development.

That compares to the Ares 1 Block 1 (with Orion), which was being built to do ISS crew transportation.

McAlister: "You might say, shoot, why doesn't NASA do this for everything?"

To be clear, the Commercial Cargo and Crew program approach to contracting "is not appropriate for everything NASA does."

McAlister: January 2015 was "really when I hit the starting gun and both" SpaceX and Boeing gave baseline schedules.

McAlister: I think SpaceX's deals with Space Adventures and Axiom Space are "super cool and didn't get a lot of media attention" (I covered them!) and notes that it "potentially enables a new market to develop in which the US can lead."

McAlister says he "set loose" his summer intern to help figure out how prices came down for other modes of transportation, after starting off with high prices.

What's different in roles/responsibilities for NASA & SpaceX for Demo-2 versus Crew-1?

McAlister: "One of the big differences is that the test flight is really for government purposes only, so it's not going to be FAA licensed," but Crew-1 onward will be.

How will NASA handle the private astronaut missions without impacting its own crew plans?

McAlister: We haven't scheduled anything yet but that's a completely legitimate request. "We've just sort of initiated that process ... so the details are getting worked out."

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