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NASA Test of Dragon Aces, scheduled for test flight on March 2nd



  It's almost time for crew flights with the SpaceX spacecraft Dragon.
Enlarge / It's almost time for crew flights with the SpaceX spacecraft Dragon.

SpaceX

On Friday, Key NASA officials gathered in a large meeting room at the Kennedy Space Center. For decades, NASA managers have been reviewing analyzes of the next Space Shuttle mission and releasing the vehicle for takeoff. After 201

1, however, there were no crew vehicles to check.

Things changed this week when NASA convened a "Flight Readiness Review" for SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft for their first test flight, with no people aboard. On Friday night, the meeting was over and the verdict was dropped among NASA and SpaceX officials. Dragon was ready for his demonstration mission as part of the commercial crew program on March 2nd. The launch time for the Falcon 9 rocket is 2:48 pm ET (07:48 UTC), from the Kennedy Space Center. "I'm ready to fly," said NASA's Commercial Crew Programs Manager Kathy Lueders, succinctly.

The mood was under NASA leadership and Hans Koenigsmann, Vice President of Build, SpaceX's premier representative and flight reliability. He, too, had participated in the air-readiness review in the historic space where so many shuttle meetings took place. "It was a big deal for SpaceX and for me personally," he said.

Crewed has returned to the United States almost : this demo-1 mission must be launched successfully, docked to the International Space Station about 24 hours later, and then a few days later, under lighted conditions, parachuted to Earth to return. Assuming this test is going well, and after SpaceX has completed an escape test of the capsule escape system, the first crew from Florida could orgasm from Florida this summer.

NASA has been waiting for a long time, since July 2011, when the Space Shuttle completed its last flight and the agency withdrew the venerable vehicles.

A true test

This will not be a pro-forma test. Although Lueders and the other NASA officials are familiar with the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft for this test flight, there are still some issues they want to close before the astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken with an identical rocket and capsule to launch into space. 19659005] NASA is still gathering data on rocket and spacecraft composite COPVs (COPVs), which are essentially bottles that store rocket propellants at extremely high pressure. Engineers also want to make sure that there is enough room in the parachutes of the kite for a safe landing in various conditions, and to investigate some concerns about the fuel delivery system in the Dragon probe. Finally, during the test flight, a mannequin flies into the vehicle to determine the human strain during the flight.

"The vehicle is not suitable for a crew flight, but we know the hardware is good enough for this flight." said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's human spaceflight chief. "We expect to learn some things, we want to maximize our learning."

An Open Question

Regarding the launch date of March 2, Gerstenmaier cited only an open question relating to software related to the vehicle approach to the International Space Station. Normally, an autonomous vehicle has a primary computer system for controlling its flight and a separate, isolated box for this function when the main computers fail. The Crew Dragon does not have this feature.

Russia, NASA's main partner on the station, has expressed concerns about this and noted that the spacecraft could drift and crash into the station if this system fails. Gerstenmaier believes that NASA has "sufficient justification" for the dragon's computer system and expects to clear it up with Russian officials this week before launching.

The station has a busy schedule in March and April, so there's a pretty narrow edge to start this flight from the ground. The next launch of the Russian Soyuz crew is scheduled for the 14th of March, and at the end of March and April there will be three spacewalks and two cargo missions. SpaceX should anticipate potential weather or technical problems and should have three take off opportunities between March 2 and March 9. However, if this window is not displayed, it is not clear when the company would make another attempt.


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