A golden age could come for human spaceflight research as more astronauts than ever fly to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard commercial vehicles and through private companies, NASA officials said at an online conference on Thursday (27). August).
“We will have more people in International Space Station than we had long ago and [research and development] bandwidth will actually increase, “said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein at the opening of pre-recorded remarks for the ISS R&D conference.
Bridenstine was referring to a new era of human spaceflight that began on May 30, when SpaceX launched its first mission of its kind, Demo-2 flight tests. Demo-2 sent NASA astronauts Bob Benken and Doug Hurley to the ISS for two months, ending on August 2, when SpaceX̵
Connected: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 test flight in photos
Demo-2 was made possible by more than a decade of work in several presidential administrations. The goal was to stimulate the development of private US spacecraft to fill NASA’s shoes. space shuttle fleet, who retired in 2011 after 30 years of service.
The space shuttle typically sends crews of seven astronauts to and from the space station. Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, the only orbital vehicle available in the last nine years to Dragon crew came online, can only carry three people at a time.
Dragon and Boeing crew are late (but forthcoming) CST-100 Starliner capsule will carry four astronauts in number on its ISS operational missions to NASA. (Both companies won multibillion-dollar contracts from NASA’s sales crew program in 2014)
This boost to the size of the Union’s crew will extend crew research time during long missions to 70 hours a week, NASA’s ISA program manager Joel Montalbano said in another set of pre-recorded notes broadcast at the conference. (Montalbano did not say how many hours ISS crews typically perform from three to six people today).
“For commercial vehicles with crew, we continue to work with the teams,” Montalbano added, adding that the agency is striving for a “stable rhythm” between SpaceX and Boeing to send astronauts to the space station to carry out science and research.
SpaceX ‘s first manned operational mission is set to fly in late Octoberand NASA is speeding up crew communications for future flights – like this week, in which it named an astronaut Jeanette Epps to Boeing Starliner’s first operational mission to the space station, which is expected to launch next year.
These crews will arrive at the space station, forged with several years of astronaut training. They will also benefit from the knowledge gained over the last 20 years, during which the ISS has been continuously assigned by rotating crews of astronauts.
Cathy Luders, NASA’s newly appointed space flight director, said she recalled an early flight to assemble a space station.Flight 2A in 1998) derailed for five hours as crew and ground control discussed how to deal with a broken piece of treadmill, with the treadmill being crucial to keeping astronauts healthy through exercise. “Today it will be a very short conversation,” Lueders said in remarks live at the conference on Thursday. The crew would fix it and move on.
Connected: International space station inside and out (infographics)
Lueders said NASA felt more comfortable with the space station’s continued challenging work, even during test missions. During Demo-2, for example, ISS crew members participates in the current set of battery replacements to upgrade the power of the station. “In the past, we would have avoided that,” she said.
Increased crew autonomy and increased crew size are two things that support the possibility of more ISS research. Private modules and crews are also on the horizon.
In January 2020, NASA selected the company from Houston Axiom Space construction of a private ISS module, with a target launch date of 2024. In June, Thales Alenia chose an axiom to build this new module, which will be designed to fly independently when the station program is completed.
Proposals for the space law for private astronaut missions continue, said Angela Hart, NASA’s low-Earth commercialization manager, in a live speech at the conference. These private astronauts will be different from space tourists; a handful of people have paid millions of dollars for a short stay on the ISS or the Soviet / Russian space station, I, which was defused in 2001. However, the new private astronauts are likely to be hired by a private research company, similar to the position of payload specialist, which was previously open to outsiders at the start of the space shuttle program.
NASA has received proposals from a number of companies and two proposals are being reviewed, Hart said, without disclosing details of what the evaluation metrics are and which companies are being considered for the opportunity. (However, Axiom and SpaceX jointly announced earlier this year that they are trying to fly four private astronauts to the ISS immediately after 2021 for a 10-day mission.)
Hart added that the selected companies will be able to fly up to twice a year for short-term missions of 10 to 30 days in number. A typical stay on the space station for NASA astronauts and international crews is six months.
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