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SpaceX T-24 hours until the first reuse of Falcon 9 Block 5, the milestone of Cargo Dragon



SpaceX will be the only company in history to launch the same commercial space capsule three times. This is a landmark re-use of spacecraft in an otherwise routine Cargo Dragon mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Known as CRS-18, the mission (hopefully) will see Cargo Dragon capsule C108 and a new trunk delivering several tons of cargo to the ISS, SpaceX's second of three such launches scheduled for 2019. Falcon 9 B1056.1 is the first flight-proven Block 5 booster to launch a NASA mission based on the re-use of spaceX commercial spacecraft in June 2017. This could be the core for many more NASA reuses.

SpaceX re-used one of its Cargo Dragon (1) capsules in June 2017 and became Das Enterprise is the first company in history to rebuild and reuse an orbital class spaceship, much like the company that first reuses a commercial spacecraft twice. At the 2017 ISSR & D Conference, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk noted that the cost of refurbishing the Cargo Dragon C106 – while it was the first time a commercial company (including SpaceX) reused a spacecraft – was no less than 50 % lower than building a new capsule.

The cost-effectiveness of re-using Cargo Dragon has probably improved only in the two years since the first time, which means that SpaceX's ISS post-delivery runs probably have some extremely healthy profit margins for the companies. According to a comprehensive analysis of CRS costs for 2017, the total cost of a single Cargo Dragon replenishment mission is estimated at approximately $ 175 million (FY19). (Zapata, 2017)

An overview of the expected changes required to turn Crew Dragon into Cargo Dragon 2. (NASA OIG)

In addition to CRS-18, SpaceX also includes two launches of Dragon 1's original CRS1 contract with NASA. In both cases, double-flown capsules such as CRS-18 will also be required, giving SpaceX a retired fleet of no less than three triple-flown and three double-flown orbital starships, while Dragon 2 (Crew Dragon) will assume regency. Current schedules show the final CRS1 launch of SpaceX – CRS-20 – after CRS-19 (NET December 2019) in March 2020. The launch of Cargo Dragon 2 is currently not scheduled before August 2020 and will be – as with all Cargo launches Dragon 2 – a reuse slightly modified, orbitally proven Crew Dragon capsule.

CRS-18: Bad Weather in Shovels

CRS-18 is likely to face the worst weather SpaceX has ever experienced during an attempted launch of Falcon 9. ie a scrub) of 70% or 80%. In other words, there is a low probability of 30% and 20% that Falcon 9 can start CRS-18 this Wednesday or Thursday.

To support the Cargo Dragon launch, Falcon 9's Boost B1056.2 is likely to be deployed, with a second-fastest Falcon 9 turnaround time of only 80 days between launch on May 4 and CRS-18. The SpaceX turnaround record is currently 74 days – a triple connection between Boosters B1048, B1052 and B1053. In addition, the second launch of B1056 is the first time that NASA rejects a block 5 booster. This is an important indication that the Space Agency is extremely pleased with the latest Falcon 9 variant of SpaceX and the associated re-use procedures is preparing for the vertical launch of Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 40 (LC-40), and the final Weather forecasts for the Air Force Station's T-24h start day will start.

Read Teslarati's Newsletter for up-to-date information. Ground-based perspectives and unique insights into SpaceX's rocket launch and recovery processes .


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