Two astronauts floated outside the International Space Station Thursday and installed two new cameras on the front of the lab complex that will provide views of commercial crew ships during final approach and docking. The spacewalkers also replaced a faulty high-definition camera and closed a door that was jammed open on an external instrument.
SpaceX is still working on a new, safer helium tank design needed for launches with astronauts, and the debut of the company’s upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket earlier this month did not count as one of seven successful missions in “crew configuration” NASA says it requires before putting astronauts aboard the vehicle, officials said Thursday.
NASA has agreed to consider a Boeing proposal to extend the first piloted test flight of its commercial CST-100 Starliner crew capsule from two weeks to up to six months with an extra crew member for the International Space Station, hedging against potential delays that could jeopardize U.S. crew access to the orbiting outpost.
Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center tasked with overseeing launches of scientific satellites and interplanetary probes will be responsible later this year for ensuring six major missions safely get into space over a span of a little more than six months, beginning with the launch of NOAA’s new GOES-S weather observatory on an Atlas 5 rocket March 1.
The White House’s $19.9 billion NASA budget outline released Monday would continue development of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule and begin the deployment of a mini-space station around the moon as soon as 2022, but the proposal would cancel WFIRST, a flagship-class astronomy mission planned for launch in the mid-2020s.
Boeing and SpaceX hope to launch commercial crew ferry ships on long-awaited test flights later this year, but both companies face major challenges getting the spacecraft certified before late 2019 when seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft will no longer be easily available for NASA space station crews, officials told lawmakers Wednesday.