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Astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Eric Boe evaluated the controls, seating and other aspects of the crew compartment of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during a recent visit to the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Sitting in a mock-up of the Crew Dragon cockpit, the two studied many aspects of the layout including spacing of displays and ease of movement.

The testing is taking place as SpaceX develops the Crew Dragon with an eye toward launching the spacecraft into orbit in the near future on a flight test to and from the International Space Station. Later, the Crew Dragons, launching atop Falcon 9 rockets, will perform operational missions to rotate crews aboard the orbiting laboratory. Companies build high fidelity models of their spacecraft and systems to help determine everything from practicality and operation to fit and comfort.

Boeing also is building a spacecraft and launch system to take astronauts to and from the station. Both companies are developing their systems under contracts with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program as the agency strives to return America’s human launch capability with domestic companies.

Behnken and Boe along with Doug Hurley and Suni Williams are the four NASA astronauts who travel across the country to evaluate design and manufacturing by Boeing and SpaceX. The astronauts have not been assigned to specific test flights yet and are pooling their test pilot expertise and engineering prowess to help the companies meet NASA requirements. Other astronauts also take part in the analysis of spacecraft, launch vehicles and the myriad ground systems that are under construction to make sure they meet NASA’s strict requirements for use, safety and reliability. Photos by SpaceX.

 

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ECLSS Put to the Test for Commercial Crew Missions

Extensive evaluations are underway on the life support systems vital to successful flight tests as NASA prepares to return human spaceflight to the United States. One of the most intensely studied systems is called ECLSS. Short for environmental control and life support system and pronounced 'e-cliss,' the system is a complex network of machinery, pipes, tanks and sensors that work together to provide astronauts with air and other essentials during missions for NASA's Commercial Crew Program to and from the International Space Station.

"ECLSS Systems and Subsystems present unique challenges to a developer," said Brian Daniel, Crew Systems lead for the Commercial Crew Program. "Such systems must assure tight control of parameters that are important to human safety such as temperature, carbon dioxide levels, oxygen levels, and cabin pressure.   The various functions of the life support system must not only be failure tolerant and robust, but also able to perform their function for the whole gamut of the mission, from countdown to splashdown." 

Although tests are run by the companies building the spacecraft, NASA engineers certify the results to see that they meet requirements for safe and reliable operation in flight. NASA also offers insight to head off potential problems and helps solve other dilemmas that show up during testing. Both Boeing and SpaceX are building spacecraft, launch systems and operational networks for Commercial Crew Program missions to the International Space Station.

SpaceX built a test version of its Crew Dragon solely for evaluation of the life support system. The ECLSS Module, as the prototype spacecraft is known, was built as close to the specifications of operational spacecraft as possible, SpaceX said, so knowledge gained during its manufacture and testing could be passed on smoothly to flight versions of the spacecraft.

The complex network also provides air for the spacesuits, maintains cabin pressure and regulates all the conditions inside the spacecraft such as temperature and humidity. It can also provide fire suppression and scrubs the air of the carbon dioxide that astronauts exhale. The system relies heavily on computer software to automatically adjust conditions for the crew throughout a mission. 

Astronauts will still wear launch-and-entry spacesuits while inside the spacecraft during certain phases of their missions to guard against cabin leaks or other emergencies such as a launch abort.

During an earlier phase of development, engineers were sealed inside the ECLSS Module for four hours while the ECLSS provided them a mix of oxygen and nitrogen. The conditions were closely related to those the spacecraft and astronauts will experience in flight.

"Unlike relying solely on computer simulation and analysis, the ECLSS Module allows us to test and observe Crew Dragons life support systems as they autonomously control a real cabin environment," said Nicolas Lima, a life support systems engineer at SpaceX. "Extensive testing of the ECLSS module has and will continue to contribute to improvements to Crew Dragons design and operation, which ultimately leads to greater crew safety."

Crew Dragons will carry astronauts to the International Space Station on missions for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft will fly into orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Separately, Boeing is manufacturing a line of spacecraft called CST-100 Starliners that also will take astronauts to the station for on Commercial Crew missions. NASA has awarded contracts to both companies for flight tests and operational crew rotation missions to the station.

The ECLSS Module of the Crew Dragon includes a transparent floor panel that will not be duplicated on operational spacecraft. While the rest of the spacecraft was built as closely as possible to a flightworthy Crew Dragon, the see-through panel was placed solely for the testing module so engineers could watch the heart of the ECLSS system itself run through its work.

The ECLSS systems  along with all the others necessary for a safe spacecraft  will see their ultimate tests in orbit once NASA experts certify the spacecraft, launch vehicle and other systems for flight. 

Last Updated: March 8, 2017


ECLSS Module images

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More info at the link....

 

https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/2017/04/11/astronauts-work-with-crew-dragon-qualification-vehicle/

 

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Astronauts Work with Crew Dragon Qualification Vehicle

 

Bob Behnken and Eric Boe, two of NASA’s four veteran astronauts who supported SpaceX as it refines its crew transportation system designs, checked out the Crew Dragon being used for qualification testing. NASA astronauts routinely travel to industry facilities during spacecraft and mission development to train and offer insights to engineers.
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