Astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts floated outside the International Space Station Saturday and installed wiring needed for two new docking mechanisms that will be attached later this year for use by Boeing and SpaceX crew capsules.
NASA space station managers decided Thursday to delay the first two of three planned spacewalks by one day to give flight controllers and engineers a chance to catch their collective breath after exhaustive troubleshooting to verify the health of critical internal spacesuit components.
The Obama administration has requested more than $1.2 billion from congressional appropriators next year to meet NASA’s funding commitments for Boeing and SpaceX’s commercial crew ferry spacecraft, and anything less could delay flights of the capsules past 2017.
SpaceX is finishing up preparations for a major test of a rocket-powered abort system for the company’s new Dragon crew ferry spacecraft, targeting launch from Cape Canaveral in March after a pair of Falcon 9 missions in February.
NASA hopes to begin launching astronauts to the space station aboard Boeing and SpaceX capsules in the 2017 timeframe, but managers expect to still send crews up aboard Russian spacecraft as a hedge against problems that could force some astronauts to make an emergency landing.
Work on Boeing’s CST-100 commercial crew capsule will ramp up at the program’s new home base in Florida this year, with construction of a crew access tower at the Atlas 5 rocket’s launch pad underway and assembly of a spacecraft test article due to begin in a converted space shuttle hangar.
The human-rated Crew Dragon spacecraft being developed by SpaceX will return to Earth under parachutes for splashdowns in ocean, and not execute helicopter-like propulsive touchdowns on land, a SpaceX official confirmed Monday.
NASA expects to spend some $5 billion underwriting development of commercial spacecraft built by Boeing and SpaceX to carry astronauts to and from the space station, ending reliance on the Russians for crew flights and lowering the average cost per seat to around $58 million.