Status Report

NASA Independent Review Team SpaceX CRS-7 Accident Investigation Report Public Summary

By SpaceRef Editor
March 12, 2018
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Commercial Services and the International Space Station

In the past few years, as NASA has focused on developing capabilities to further human and robotic exploration beyond low Earth orbit, the Agency has incubated new commercial capabilities to provide access to and support the International Space Station (ISS). NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office and the ISS Program Office have successfully developed and implemented two novel models for using commercial rather than government sources to deliver cargo to ISS. Implementation of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) and Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) approach required a significant change in culture throughout the Agency and in how NASA interacts with the aerospace industry. COTS and CRS established a new approach for sharing financial and technical risks with industry to develop and operate new space transportation systems in support of human exploration endeavors. Within a few short years at a reasonable financial investment from NASA, this new approach resulted in the development of the following:

– Two commercial companies (i.e., Orbital ATK and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)) capable of providing cargo delivery services to and from the ISS

– Two new and different launch vehicles (i.e., Antares and Falcon 9) capable of not only supporting ISS missions, but also other commercial and government missions

– Two new and different spacecraft vehicles (i.e., Cygnus and Dragon) capable of not only transporting cargo to and from the ISS, but also providing a baseline capability that can support other commercial and government missions; these spacecraft also have the capability of being launched on different launch vehicles, increasing availability to space should launch vehicle issues arise

– Two new and different spacecraft vehicles (i.e., Cygnus and Dragon) capable of complex rendezvous and proximity operations with a human occupied spacecraft that must safely maneuver to a precise capture box for capture by the ISS crew and must fully meet the human requirements associated with the ISS

– Three new launch pads and supporting facilities (Pad 0A at Wallops Flight Facility, Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral and launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center) capable of launching medium-class Liquid Oxygen /Liquid Kerosene launch vehicles in support of the ISS Program and other commercial customers

– Four successful launches and missions to demonstrate the design and operational capability of the new launch vehicles, spacecraft, and support facilities; specifically single test missions for Antares and Falcon 9, and separate cargo demonstration missions to the ISS demonstrating the complete cargo delivery systems

This effort established the framework to allow commercial companies to execute a total of eight successful cargo transportation missions to the ISS using these new systems under the CRS contract. The first launch failure occurred using the Antares model 130 launch vehicle for the Orb-3 ISS mission on 24 October 2014, after two consecutive successful ISS missions using the Antares model 120 launch vehicle; the second launch failure occurred using the Falcon 9 version 1.1 launch vehicle for the CRS-7 ISS mission on 28 June 2015, after six consecutive successful ISS missions (two using the Falcon 9 version 1.0 and four using the Falcon 9 version 1.1) and a total of 13 successful flights using the Falcon 9 version 1.1. The NASA Independent Review Team (IRT) recognizes the incredible achievement of these efforts, and believes these are accomplishments for which NASA and its COTS and CRS contractors should be extremely proud.

Full report

SpaceRef staff editor.