Friday, August 9, 2013

Commercial Crew Suits Up

The interior of the Boeing CST-100 spacecraft. Click here to see a larger version. Image source: NASA.

Wearing a Space Shuttle-era ACES suit, astronauts Randy Bresnik and Serena Aunon climbed into a mockup of the Boeing CST-100 spacecraft recently in Houston as part of a fit check evaluation.

According to a July 22 NASA article, the capsule uses “tablet technology” in place of a traditional console.

Chris Fergsuon, STS-135 commander and now Boeing's Director of Crew and Mission Operations, said:

“What you're not going to find is 1,100 or 1,600 switches,” said Ferguson. “When these guys go up in this, their primary mission is not to fly this spacecraft, their primary mission is to go to the space station for six months. So we don't want to burden them with an inordinate amount of training to fly this vehicle. We want it to be intuitive.”

Bigelow Aerospace, more famous for its inflatable habitats, helped build the capsule's outer shell. A 2010 promotional video showed the CST-100 docking at the Bigelow space station projected for the end of this decade.

Watch the 2010 Boeing CST-100 promotional video.

According to, “Boeing turned to Bigelow Aerospace to construct the outer shell of the 14.8-foot-wide (4.5 meters) model, but outfitted most of the interior itself.”

The surprisingly-spacious module has room for two rows of crew seats and cargo storage, including a freezer used to transport science experiments to and from the station. In its current configuration, the capsule seats five, trading two additional seats for more cargo room.

The flight controls, which are mounted on a console that is suspended above the front row seats, employs shuttle-era switches and hand controllers, augmented by touch-panel digital displays.

A window located forward of the control console offers the pilots a view, with additional portal windows to either side. A side hatch allows entry and exit into the cabin, while an overhead hatch leads into the space station after docking.

A NASA video reporting on the CST-100 fit check.

The crewed version of the SpaceX Dragon underwent a similar evaluation in March 2012. They completed their crew accomodations milestone two months later.

NASA astronauts and others pose inside a mockup of the crewed Dragon vehicle in March 2012. Image source: NASA.

As for Sierra Nevada, astronauts flew a Dream Chaser simulator in May 2013 at the Langley Research Center.

Watch a NASA video on the Dream Chaser simulator flights.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Stephen, a very well researched, informative and written post.