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Image credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

NASA gets new Dragon capsule training simulators this year

The touchscreen systems will train astronauts on every phase of ISS supply missions.

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NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

With both the SpaceX Dragon and Starliner modules just a few years from their maiden launches, NASA has already started training the crews that will operate them. To that end, NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Eric Boe recently spent some time at Boeing's St. Louis facility trying out a pair of the company's brand new part-task training simulators for the CST-100 Starliner.

These simulators operate like the command consoles from the USS Enterprise -- that is, everything is a touchscreen. "We can run multiple simulations by just changing software," Williams said in a statement. "then [we] put that same software into a bigger crew simulator, which we will use to train the whole crew for a spaceflight."

"The simulations are important for the flight tests, because this is the place to put it all together," Boe added. "Think of the part-task trainer as our training wheels. As we get more familiar with the systems, the training wheels will come off and we will start advancing to the next systems. Eventually, we will work with another crew member, then with the whole flight control team."

Astronauts will initially train individually on the simulators, learning how to operate the capsule under a variety of nominal and emergency situations that could arise on a trip to the ISS. However, once the simulators are shipped to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston later this year and wired into both the Boeing and NASA networks, astronauts will be able to interact with each other as well as mission and launch control to get the fullest training experience. Plus, once Boeing finishes building its full-size Starliner flight deck simulator, astronauts will be able to train on that as well.

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