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SpaceX about a month before the first commercial test flight – Spaceflight Now



The Crew Access Arm at Launch Pad 39A extended to Crew Dragon on January 3, just after the Falcon 9 rocket was erected vertically. Source: SpaceX

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said this weekend that the company was about a month away from launching the first Crew Dragon spacecraft on an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station ISS, a precursor to a demonstration launch with astronauts later in this year. He also warned that early test flights of the commercial crew capsule built on behalf of NASA will be "particularly dangerous."

Ground crews at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida rolled out the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon rockets at 39A. On Thursday, January 3, the launcher then lifted hydraulically to a series of fit-checks at the launch facility by the sea formerly used to launch Saturn 5 moon rockets and space shuttles.

SpaceX dropped the Falcon 9 rocket on Friday night However, it was expected that the booster would soon return to its launch pad for further testing, including a countdown rehearsal and refueling test to practice the launch day operations. The Merlin main engines of the Falcon 9 are also depressed before the mission is ready to fly.

Officials have not scheduled a new launch date for the first mission flight of the Low Earth Orbit crew Dragon, a Mission-NASA, and SpaceX are calling Demo-1. The test flight was scheduled to take off January 17th from Florida's Space Coast, but Musk tweeted on Saturday that launching the demo-1 mission is "about a month away."

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon are on Pad 39A. Credit: SpaceX

In a tweet on a Sunday that responded to a follower, Musk added that the mission would be "extremely intense."

"Early flights are especially dangerous as there is a lot of new hardware," Musk wrote. 19659003] The Crew Dragon Spacecraft is a privately-developed SpaceX-powered capsule designed to take NASA US astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Thus, the sole dependence of the space authority of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the crew research laboratory is final. NASA signed a $ 2.6 billion contract with SpaceX in 2014 to design, develop and fly the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The agreement includes the two test flights – demo 1 with no astronauts and demo 2 with astronauts on board – and six rotations of crew flights to the station once NASA has reviewed the results of the demonstration missions.

NASA has entered into a similar $ 4.2 billion contract with Boeing for the development of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which will also launch the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 missiles from Cape Canaveral.

Crew Dragon's Demo 1 mission launches low Earth orbit aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, meeting with the space station approximately 400 kilometers above the earth. Time savings for SpaceX.

The company's current Dragon cargo capsules are captured by the station's robotic arm. The Crew Dragon – also known as Dragon 2 – represents a brand new spacecraft design with new life support systems, crew quarters and propulsion systems, as well as electrical and thermal control systems that were not used in previous Dragon vehicles.

For example, the Crew Dragon has powerful hydrazine-powered SuperDraco engine attachments that allow the capsule to be removed from a broken launch vehicle. The rear trunk of the spacecraft also has solar panels attached to the outer mold line and a thermal radiator to limit the temperature of the vehicle. Crews carrying Dragons will also have seats and an astronaut control console.

The launch of Boeing's first CST-100 test flight into near-Earth orbit is expected this year. Recently it was officially targeted for March, but this schedule is outdated and NASA has not provided a revised timeframe for the mission.

The crew ship Crew Dragon and the rocket Falcon 9 roll on pad from the 39A SpaceX hangar on January 3rd. Credit: SpaceX

A funding gap that has affected many US government agencies, including NASA, may lead to delays in the crew's commercial test flights. NASA officers are responsible for numerous SpaceX and Boeing safety and certification exams Crew capsules prior to the test flights can be performed, including assessing technical issues – such as parachute problems – that both companies face.

While SpaceX can continue to launch preparations at the Kennedy Space Center, some reviews may require the participation of escaped NASA personnel, such as: For example, managers who ensure that the spacecraft meets the agency's needs and officials responsible for the space station program are the capsule nation's targets.

After a few weeks in orbit, the Crew will uncouple Dragon from the space station and parachute into a waterfall at sea. If the flight is going well, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken could take their seats on the second Crew Dragon test flight this summer.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .


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