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Commercial Crew Development

Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) is a human spaceflight development program that is funded by the U.S. government and administered by NASA. CCDev will result in US and international astronauts flying to the International Space Station (ISS) on privately operated crew vehicles. Operational contracts to fly astronauts were awarded in September 2014 to SpaceX and Boeing. An uncrewed test flight was performed by each company in 2019. Space-X's Crew Dragon Demo-1 flight of Dragon 2 arrived at the International Space Station in March 2019 and returned via splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. Due to a Mission Elapsed Time anomaly, the Boeing Orbital Flight Test of the CST-100 spacecraft failed to reach the station in December 2019, but completed some test objectives and performed a safe airbag landing in the New Mexico desert two days after launch. Pending completion of the demonstration flights, each company is contracted to supply six flights to ISS between 2019 and 2024. The first group of astronauts was announced on 3 August 2018.

human spaceflight ccdev development

1. Requirements

Key high-level requirements for the Commercial Crew vehicles include:

  • Safely deliver and return four crew members and their equipment to the International Space Station (ISS)[1][2]
  • Provide assured crew return in the event of an emergency[1]
  • Serve as a 24-hour safe haven in the event of an emergency[1][2]
  • Capable of remaining docked to the station for 210 days[1][2]

2. Development Program Overview

After the retirement of STS in 2011, NASA had no domestic vehicles capable of launching astronauts to space.[3] The next major human spaceflight initiative will launch in 2022 as Artemis 2 on the Space Launch System.[4]

In the meantime, NASA continued to send astronauts to the ISS on Soyuz spacecraft seats purchased from Russia.[5] The price has varied over time, with the batch of seats from 2016 to 2017 costing 70.7 million per passenger per flight.[6] The intent of CCDev is to develop safe and reliable commercial ISS crew launch capabilities to replace the Soyuz flights. CCDev follows Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), an ISS commercial cargo program.[7] CCDev contracts are issued for fixed-price, pay-for-performance milestones.[8]

2.1. CCDev 1

Construction of the CST-100 pressure vessel was one of Boeing's CCDev 1 milestones.

Commercial Crew Development phase 1 (CCDev 1) consisted of $50 million awarded in 2010 to five US companies to develop human spaceflight concepts and technologies.[7][9][10]

NASA awarded development funds to five companies under CCDev 1:

  • Blue Origin: $3.7M for a 'pusher' Launch Abort System (LAS) and composite pressure vessels.[11]
  • Boeing: $18M for development of the CST-100[12]
  • Paragon Space Development Corporation: $1.4M for a plug-and-play environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) Air Revitalization System (ARS) Engineering Development Unit.[13]
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation: $20M for development of the Dream Chaser[14]
  • United Launch Alliance: $6.7M for an Emergency Detection System (EDS) for human-rating Atlas V[15]

2.2. CCDev 2

The construction of a Dragon crew mock-up was one of SpaceX's CCDev 2 milestones.

On 18 April 2011, NASA awarded nearly $270 million to four companies for developing U.S. vehicles that could fly astronauts after the Space Shuttle fleet's retirement.[16]

Funded proposals:[17]

  • Blue Origin: $22 million. Technologies in support of a biconic nose cone design orbital vehicle, including launch abort system liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen engines.[18][19]
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation: $80 million. Dream Chaser
  • SpaceX: $75 million. Dragon 2 integrated launch abort system[20]
  • Boeing: $92.3 million. Additional CST-100 development[21]

Proposals selected without NASA funding:

  • United Launch Alliance: extend development work on human-rating the Atlas V[22]
  • Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and Astrium proposed development of Liberty.[23] NASA will share expertise and technology.[24][25]
  • Excalibur Almaz Inc. was developing a crewed system with modernized Soviet-era hardware intended for tourism flights to orbit. An unfunded Space Act Agreement to establish a framework to further develop EAI's spacecraft concept for low Earth orbit crew transportation.[26][27]

Proposals not selected:

  • Orbital Sciences proposed the Prometheus lifting-body spaceplane vehicle[28]
  • Paragon Space Development Corporation proposed additional development of the Commercial Crew Transport-Air Revitalization System.[29]
  • t/Space proposed a reusable eight-person crew or cargo transfer spacecraft[30]
  • United Space Alliance proposed to commercially fly the two remaining Space Shuttle vehicles.[31]

2.3. CCiCap

Flight testing of the Dream Chaser Engineering Test Article was one of Sierra Nevada's CCiCap milestones.

Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) was originally called CCDev 3.[32] For this phase of the program, NASA wanted proposals to be complete, end-to-end concepts of operation, including spacecraft, launch vehicles, launch services, ground and mission operations, and recovery. In September 2011, NASA released a draft request for proposals (RFP).[33]

The final RFP was released on February 7, 2012, with proposals due on March 23, 2012.[34][35]

The funded Space Act Agreements were awarded on August 3, 2012, and amended on August 15, 2013.[36][37]

The selected proposals were announced 3 August 2012:

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation: $212.5 million. Dream Chaser/Atlas V[36]
  • SpaceX: $440 million. Dragon 2/Falcon 9[36]
  • Boeing: $460 million. CST-100/Atlas V[36]

2.4. CPC Phase 1

The first phase of the Certification Products Contract (CPC) involved the development of a certification plan with engineering standards, tests, and analyses.[38]

Winners of funding of phase 1 of the CPC, announced on December 10, 2012, were:[38]

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation: $10 million
  • SpaceX: $9.6 million
  • Boeing: $9.9 million

2.5. CCtCap - Crew Flights Awarded

The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) is the second phase of the CPC and included the final development, testing and verifications to allow crewed demonstration flights to the ISS.[38] [39] NASA issued the draft CCtCap contract's Request For Proposals (RFP) on 19 July 2013 with a response date of 15 August 2013.[39]

On 16 September 2014, NASA announced that Boeing and SpaceX had received contracts to provide crewed launch services to the ISS. Boeing could receive up to US$4.2 billion, while SpaceX could receive up to US$2.6 billion.[40] In November 2019 NASA published a first cost per seat estimate: US$55 million for SpaceX's Dragon and US$90 million for Boeing's Starliner. Boeing was also granted an additional $287.2 million above the fixed price contract. Seats on Soyuz had an average cost of US$80 million.[41]

Both the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon will fly an uncrewed flight, then a crewed certification flight, then up to six operational flights to the ISS.[42][43]

3. Timeline

NASA Commercial Crew.

3.1. Ongoing Delays

The first flight of the CCDev program was planned to occur in 2015, but insufficient funding caused delays.[44][45][46]

As the spacecraft entered the testing and production phase, technical issues have also caused delays, especially the parachute system, propulsion, and the launch abort system of both capsules.[47]

3.2. Crew Dragon Explosion

On 20 April 2019, an issue arose during a static fire test of Crew Dragon.[48] The accident destroyed the capsule which was planned to be used for the In-Flight Abort Test (IFAT).[49] SpaceX confirmed that the capsule exploded.[50] NASA has stated that the explosion will delay the planned in-flight abort and crewed orbital tests.[51]

4. Test Flights

NASA has ordered twelve operational missions to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station, six with each supplier.[52] Astronaut selections for the first four missions were announced on August 2, 2018.[53]

Spacecraft Mission Description Crew Date Outcome
Dragon 2 Dragon 2 pad abort test Pad abort test, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida None 6 May 2015 Success
Dragon 2
Crew Dragon Demo-1
Uncrewed test flight. DM-1 launched on 2 March 2019 and docked to ISS PMA-2/IDA-2 docking port a little under 24 hours after launch. The Dragon spent five days docked to ISS before undocking and landing on 8 March 2019. None 2 March 2019[54] Success
CST-100 Starliner
Boe-Pad Abort
Uncrewed Pad Abort Test None 4 November 2019 Success
CST-100 Starliner
Uncrewed test flight. Was the first flight of an Atlas V with a dual engine Centaur upper stage. Was originally planned to spend eight days docked to ISS before landing. However, Starliner was unable to rendezvous with the station due to the MET anomaly forcing it to enter a lower-than-expected orbit.[55] The spacecraft returned on 22 December 2019 after spending two days in orbit. None 20 December 2019[56] Partial failure due to a MET anomaly. Rendezvous with ISS cancelled.
Dragon 2
In-Flight Abort Test
A Falcon 9 booster launched a Dragon 2 capsule from LC-39A to perform an in-flight abort shortly after Max q in order to test Dragon 2's launch abort system. Abort occurred at 84 seconds after launch and Dragon 2 successfully separated from the Falcon 9 and flew away using its SuperDraco thrusters. The Falcon 9 booster disintegrated as a result of aerodynamic forces on hollow interstage not normally exposed to such conditions. Dragon 2 splashed down nine minutes after launch after successfully deploying its four parachutes. None 19 January 2020 Success
Dragon 2
Crew Dragon Demo-2
Crewed test flight. Dragon 2 will launch with two crew members and dock to the ISS under 24 hours later. The Dragon will spend one to two weeks docked to the ISS before returning to Earth. Robert Behnken
Douglas Hurley
April 2020 Planned
CST-100 Starliner
Extended crewed test flight, might deliver ISS Expedition 62/63 crew to ISS. Michael Fincke
Christopher Ferguson
Nicole Aunapu Mann
NET Mid 2020[57] Planned

5. ISS Crew Rotation Flights

Spacecraft Mission Description Crew Date Outcome
Crew Dragon USCV-1 Deliver ISS Expedition 64/65 crew Michael S. Hopkins
Victor Glover
Soichi Noguchi
July 2020 Planned
CST-100 Starliner USCV-2 Deliver ISS Expedition 66/67 crew. Would be only the fourth US Spaceflight to have a female Commander. Sunita Williams
Josh Cassada
Thomas Pesquet
Andrei Borisenko
December 2020 Planned
Crew Dragon USCV-3 Will transport four astronauts to the ISS who will spend 6 months aboard the ISS.   May 2021 Planned

6. Funding Summary

Requested vs appropriated funding by year up to 2015.

The first flight of the CCDev program was planned to occur in 2015, but insufficient funding caused delays.[44][46]

For the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget, US$500 million was requested for the CCDev program, but Congress granted only $270 million.[58] For the FY 2012 budget, $850 million was requested and $406 million approved.[45] For the FY 2013 budget, 830 million was requested and $488 million approved.[59] For the FY 2014 budget, $821 million was requested and $696 million approved.[44][60] In FY 2015, $848 million was requested and $805 million, or 95%, was approved.[61]

The funding of all commercial crew contractors for each phase of the CCP program is as follows—CCtCap values are maxima and include post-development operational flights.

Funding Summary (millions of US$)
(2010–current[needs update]
Manufacturers of spacecraft
Boeing 18.0 112.9 480.0 9.9 4,200.0 4,820.9
SpaceX 75.0 460.0 9.6 2,600.0 3,144.6
Sierra Nevada Corporation 20.0 105.6 227.5 10.0 362.1
Blue Origin 3.7 22.0 25.7
Manufacturers of launch vehicles and equipment
United Launch Alliance 6.7 - 6.7
Paragon Space Development Corporation 1.4 1.4
Total: 49.8 315.5 1,167.5 29.6 6,800.0 8,362.4

On November 14, 2019, NASA's inspector general published an auditing report listing per-seat prices of $90 million for Starliner and $55 million for Dragon Crew. With these, Boeing's price is higher than what NASA has paid the Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, for Soyuz spacecraft seats to fly US and partner-nation astronauts to the space station. The report also states that NASA agreed to pay an additional $287.2 million above Boeing's fixed prices to mitigate a perceived 18-month gap in ISS flights anticipated in 2019 and to ensure the contractor continued as a second commercial crew provider, without offering similar opportunities to SpaceX.[65]


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