NASA executives held a flight readiness review on Friday and declaredto advance the work to include a Falcon 9 rocket and a commercial Crew Dragon ferry ship for launch on March 2 to prepare an unpopulated test flight in the International Space Station. The long-awaited mission is a landmark milestone in NASA's $ 6.8 billion commercial crew program, which seeks to end US Agency's sole reliance on the Russian probe – American and partner astronauts to and from the station to bring eight years ago the retirement of the Space Shuttle.
If all goes well, two NASA astronauts hope to board aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on the first piloted test flight in July.
"It's more than a test flight mission to the International Space Station, it's part of the Commercial Crew program that really prepares us for the … crew flight that pops up later," said Bill Gerstenmaier, director of space flight operations at NASA Headquarters on the unpiloted test flight
"So this is an absolutely critical first step we need to take to bring the crew's launch capabilities back to the US."
The liftoff of the historical pad 39A is activated for 2:49:03 o'clock. ET a we ek of Saturday, approximately at the moment when the rotation of the earth carries the rocket in the plane of the orbit of the space station. That's the only way rockets can hit a target today that moves at a speed of almost eight kilometers per second.
There will be opportunities to start the backup on March 5 and 9, but NASA would not have to resign after a Russian Soyuz started the flight on March 1
Ovchinin and The Hague suffered a dramatic dysfunction of the Soyuz booster during their first ascent into space last October, but the capsule and crew landed about 250 miles from the launch site in Kazakhstan. The Russian space agency corrected the problem, revised the start schedule and Koch, who was already in training for a downstream flight, was added to the mission.
In any case, NASA executives who were at the Kennedy Space Center on FRR Friday checked the take-off and the status of the remaining "open" points that need either be resolved or canceled before the flight, and those at short notice can be deferred.
Topics discussed included Crew Dragon's parachute system and certification tests for use in the upcoming pilot mission, temperature-related problems with the capsule's maneuvering engines, and the status of newly designed high-pressure helium tanks (COPVs) operating in high-temperature liquid oxygen be dipped within the Falcon 9 rocket.
Problems with an earlier version of the tank were blamed in 2016 for a spectacular blast of the Falcon 9 on the pad. The helium pressurization system was also connected to a disruption during the flight in 2015. Trut, who holds a tank in place, failed and triggered the destruction of a stationary kite cargo ship.
The problem of the Crew Dragon mission is to understand the physics that has led to the explosion on the pad, and to make sure that the newly designed tanks are known as COPV version 2.0 are not prone to the same failure mode ,
"One of the things that the compound envelope pressure vessel contains are fibers that are twisted together," said Gerstenmaier. "When they are under pressure, they can break, and if they break, they can potentially generate heat, and if they can generate enough heat in the oxygen environment, they can be a source of ignition."
"Well, now we go back and we & # 39; We prove to ourselves that this breaking is so unlikely that it is not a problem.
One issue that needs to be resolved in the short term concerns Russian concerns about the computer-based command and safety systems aboard the Dragon Crew, which will take control of the spacecraft's final approach to the space station.
Gerstenmaier said, European, Japanese and Russian spacecraft meeting with the station usually carry independent systems that can drive off an approach in the event of a massive computer failure that could leave a ship in a collision. Of course, with the lab, the Crew Dragon relies instead on redundancy
"One of the actions that I did was to look at error detection a little more rigorously and respond to various mistakes to make sure the computers are doing all the right things that we are not getting into a situation, in which the vehicle is essentially dead or dormant and then just continue f and collides with the station, "said Gerstenmaier.  "This is the basic concern of the Russians, why is not there a separate system or box to provide this backup function? We believe that we have a sufficient reason to do so."
Gerstenmaier said such technical issues are not unusual in the development of manned spacecraft and the introduction of the demo-1 mission. "The hardware can work and how it can be used" during pilot flights.
"But we know that the hardware is good enough to carry out this demonstration flight," he said, "In fact, we want to see it escape, see if we've missed anything, and we expect to see some things in it  Provided that demo version 1 starts on March 2nd, as planned, the crew Dragon will conduct an autonomous rendezvous. The day after take-off at the space station and move in at the forecourt of the lab, the same, which the space shuttles had used on 3 March at 6 o'clock.
The crew of the station – the Russian commander Oleg Kononenko, the Canadian doctor-astronaut David Saint-Jacques and the NASA flig Anne McClain, engineer, opens the hatches and inspects the new spacecraft a few hours after docking.
The schedule envisages demo 1 crew crew undocking on 8 March and returning to an Atlantic jump approximately 230 miles east of Cape Canaveral. Nearby SpaceX rescue teams pull the capsule onto a ship and transport it back to Port Canaveral for detailed post-flight inspections.
Provided there are no major issues – and it is expected that a crash test during the flight will be good this spring – Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley hope to be able to take off with a Crew Dragon this summer The first launch of US astronauts aboard an American rocket from US ground since the shuttle program ended in July 2011.
NASA is also funding development of a Boeing capsule called the CST-100 Starliner, due to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 missile in the spring. The first piloted Starliner flight with Boeing astronaut Christopher Ferguson and crew members of NASA, Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke, is scheduled for fall.
If these flights go well, US crew rotation flights could begin before the end of the year.
The last, currently contracted US Soyuz flight is due to start in July. With the ubiquitous possibility of unexpected problems with commercial crew ships, NASA is considering the option of acquiring two additional Soyuz seats, one for the fall and next spring.
SpaceX currently holds NASA contracts worth $ 3.04 For 20 space station deliveries, one billion dollars and another unspecified amount contract will fly for at least six additional flights by 2024.
SpaceX also has one $ 2.6 billion contract with NASA to build and launch a piloted version of its Dragon Cargo Pod. Boeing won a $ 4.2 billion contract to build the CST-100.