NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will hold a media briefing on Monday, April 16, to preview the SpaceX demonstration mission to the International Space Station, currently scheduled for launch April 30.
The briefing will immediately follow a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) conducted by senior NASA managers, space station partners and SpaceX officials. The review likely will conclude in the early afternoon. The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.
During the flight, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will conduct a series of checkout procedures, which will test and prove its systems in advance of the rendezvous with the space station. The primary objectives for the flight include a fly-under of the station at a distance of 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous. The spacecraft also will demonstrate the capability to abort the rendezvous.
As part of NASA’s ongoing efforts to foster development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station, NASA has issued a call for industry to submit proposals for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative.
It’s expected that proposals will lead to Space Act Agreements that will help NASA and the U.S. achieve safe, reliable, and cost effective human access to space. NASA expects to make multiple awards this summer, with values ranging from $300 – $500 million.
To provide industry a better understanding of this initiative so that they may provide more comprehensive proposals, NASA plans a pre-proposal conference on Feb. 14, at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Proposals are due March 23.
More than 6,300 individuals applied to become a NASA astronaut between Nov. 15, 2011 and Jan. 27, the second highest number of applications ever received by the agency. After a thorough selection process, which includes interviews and medical examinations, nine to 15 people will be selected to become part of the 21st astronaut class.
“This is a great time to join the NASA family,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Our newest astronauts could launch aboard the first commercial rockets to the space station the next generation of scientists and engineers who will help us reach higher and create an American economy that is built to last.”
The Astronaut Selection Office staff will review the applications to identify those meeting the minimum requirements. Next, an expanded team, comprised mostly of active astronauts, will review those applications to determine which ones are highly qualified. Those individuals will be invited to Johnson Space Center for in-person interviews and medical evaluations.
NASA announced today a modified competitive procurement strategy to keep on track the agency’s plan to have U.S. companies transport American astronauts into space instead of outsourcing this work to foreign governments.
Instead of awarding contracts for the next phase of the Commercial Crew Program, the agency plans to use multiple, competitively awarded Space Act Agreements. Using competitive Space Act Agreements instead of contracts will allow NASA to maintain a larger number of partners during this phase of the program, with the flexibility to adjust technical direction, milestones and funding.
This flexibility is important during a period of high budget uncertainty when NASA is receiving less funding than President Obama requested for the agency’s commercial space program.