Ahead of its 2017 spaceflights to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA astronauts will virtually train using Boeing spaceflight simulators.
In July 2015, NASA chose astronauts Eric Boe and Sunita Williams along with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to undergo test flights aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Starliner to the ISS. The simulators, also known as part-task trainers, are among a collection of hands-on and cloud-based trainers that would prepare a person for space travel.
As some NASA astronauts are gearing up on Orion spacecraft for a planned Mars mission, Williams and Boe have practiced docking simulations of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner on the ISS.
The machines are equipped with touchscreen simulators that would provide hands-on training on all aspects of shuttle launch, flight, and docking process. Williams said the touchscreen displays make the simulator more versatile than early trainers they have used.
"We can run multiple simulations by just changing software and then put that same software into a bigger crew simulator, which we will use to train the whole crew for a spaceflight," said Williams.
Astronauts are expected to undergo hours of training to familiarize them with normal activities and emergency situations that may arise during a spaceflight.
To run rehearsals, the simulators will use launch and mission controllers by connecting to the extensive networks of Boeing and NASA.
Deputy program manager and director of Crew and Mission Systems for Boeing's Commercial Crew Program Chris Ferguson said the simulators are just an initial training ground for astronauts, as they are continually developing new systems of training.
Boe describes simulators, such as the part-task trainer, as their training wheels that will eventually come off as soon as astronauts learn and become familiar with the system.
The part-task trainers will eventually be transferred to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to allow other astronauts to practice for future spaceflights.