New photos from an official tour of PadX Pad 39A's launch facilities from SpaceX show that SpaceX has successfully completed the integration and preflight preparations of the company's first flight-capable Crew Dragon and the new Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket At the beginning of next year.
The launch of Crew Dragon – known as Demonstration Mission 1 (DM-1) – will be held January 17 (NET) on January 17 and will be conducted without a crew aboard to ensure that the spacecraft is safe Performance and features fit into the design parameters and hopefully give NASA the data it needs to certify Crew Dragon's launch of astronauts as early as June 201
omfg @spacex has just posted some impressive photos in Pad 39A's hangar: Meet the first finished Crew Dragon and their Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket (B1051). 😀 At the far left (second photo) you can also see what is probably B1047 in t he is in the middle of the refurbishment. pic.twitter.com/NWULyAEhpQ
– Eric Ralph (@ 13ericralph31) December 18, 2018
Apart from the wonderful fact that all (or almost all) hardware components require the debut by Crew Dragon can be seen on the four photos released today. This is also the first time that SpaceX has provided a true photograph of the next generation spacecraft fuselage-based solar array. SpaceX dramatically decided on Cargo Dragon's traditional duo of multi-panel solar arrays that fold out of disposable cases and fold wings out. From the beginning, SpaceX opted for a completely different approach. For a measure that is believed to reduce the risk of using solar arrays, the crew dragon panels are conformally fastened (ie, bent to fit) to the rear outside of the disposable trunk.
Incredible Opportunity to See the Dragon @SpaceX 2 Capsule – An important part of the future of exploration of space exploration by the Americans, as American astronauts were using US missiles from US soil in the US Want to return to space! pic.twitter.com/Pk5lkpOFEX
– Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) December 18, 2018
Rather than outsource the arrays like wings, Crew Dragon will always have solar cells, who are willing to generate energy by the spacecraft being facing only one half of its hull towards the sun. According to some people involved with the boot, it was not an easy task to ensure dietary supplementation between individual cells and subsections and to avoid the problems caused by different coefficients of thermal expansion (shrinkage and expansion due to temperature changes) and led to many, many headaches last weeks of integration and testing. From a less objective standpoint, Crew Dragon's new compliant solar array is absolutely stunning, and it is a shame if every sculptural trunk is banished to a destructive atmospheric reentry after each launch.
Pragmatically, it is extremely satisfying to see all the hardware (both rocket and spacecraft) is effectively mounted under a roof on the launch pad, from which it soon lifts off. Similar to Falcon Heavy, NASA's commercial crew program (CCP) for Boeing and SpaceX has been delayed for over two years, more than two years after the original launch targets. Since then, a combination of NASA bureaucracy and the technical / programmatic stumble of both companies has plotted to delay the initial unmanned and manned trips to orbit almost indefinitely.
SpaceX suffered catastrophic Falcon 9 failures in 2015 and 2016 and worked to a large extent to address the technical and organizational deficiencies that made these anomalies possible while convincing NASA that they were ready To save the life of space astronauts of the agency. Since SpaceX's last total vehicle failure in September 2016, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy have achieved an extraordinary success in a row in just over 24 months.
SpaceX targets the first orbital launch of Crew Dragon in January 2019. The launch date was set on January 17th. The availability of the International Space Station (ISS) is pending and NASA agrees. Due to the presence of Falcon 9 B1051 in 39As integration hangar and the fact that SpaceX technicians already seem to integrate the first and second stage, the company may be ready to perform a full dress rehearsal – with the role of Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon on pad 39A go up and down – before 2018 is out.
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