Houston, TX – NASA has decided that every Commercial Crew launch from now on will use the "Super Mobility Orbital Object Tangential Hybrid Intercepting Ellipse" maneuver (also known as the SMOOTHIE maneuver) to rendezvous the crew capsules with the International Space Station. The decision was made after several astronauts complained to NASA about the terrible docking time compared to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The decision will force SpaceX and Boeing to use their abort motors no matter what. The second stages of the launchers (Falcon 9 and Atlas V N21, respectively), will use excess fuel to propel the crew capsules directly at the space station, and then the capsules themselves will use their abort motors to flip and slow down at the last second. SpaceX SuperDraco engineer Iared J'saacman said he was frustrated with the change:
"Well, we developed this escape system specifically to pull crew out of an emergency. When we reach a stable orbit, the engines are design to be neutralized. Now we have to write new software, design new components and test all of the parts again. I'm sure the Boeing engineers are going to be frustrated too, but right now they're too busy working on their Starliner valve issue."
The image above shows a render of the proposed maneuver, albeit a little dramatized.
Image credit: Nathan Kogg for NASASpaceflight