SpaceX Completes Commercial Crew Safety Milestone

View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station May 25, 2012. (Credit: NASA)
View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station May 25, 2012. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) met in late October to review the safety of the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket being developed to launch humans into low-Earth orbit later this decade.

The detailed overview of safety practices the company is implementing was a major milestone for SpaceX under a funded Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

SpaceX is one of NASA’s commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil. NASA intends to use new commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station within the next four years.

A team of NASA engineers went to SpaceX headquarters for two days of detailed presentations and question-and-answer sessions that reviewed the company’s safety practices.

“The milestone is not the end of the safety discussion, it’s really the beginning,” said Jon Cowart, deputy manager of the NASA Partnership Integration Team for CCP. “Because we’ve been doing this for so long, we all have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t and how safety processes can be strengthened to increase our confidence in the system.”

Teams from NASA and SpaceX are working closely together to make sure the innovative technologies employed meet the rigorous requirements that come with flying crews in space.

“We greatly appreciate NASA’s support and feedback throughout this process,” said Garrett Reisman, commercial crew project manager at SpaceX and a former astronaut. “Together we are taking all the necessary steps to make Dragon the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown.”

SpaceX already has flown several cargo missions to the space station using its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, but those spacecraft have not yet transported astronauts. Through NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, the company is deep into the design process of the integrated crew-capable Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX plans to test its launch abort system next year at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Two flight tests will demonstrate the ability the Dragon spacecraft abort system to lift an uncrewed spacecraft clear of a simulated emergency.

The first test will simulate an abort from the pad prior to launch in the second quarter of 2014. The second test, targeted for the third quarter of 2014, calls for the spacecraft to separate from a Falcon 9 booster in flight and parachute safely into the Atlantic Ocean. The company is building the spacecraft for the flight tests and manufacturing of the rocket is expected to begin shortly.

This safety review was the ninth milestone for SpaceX under CCiCap. The company is on track to complete all 15 of its CCiCap milestones by the third quarter of 2014. All of NASA’s industry partners, including SpaceX, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

For more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its aerospace industry partners, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

SpaceX CCiCAP Milestone Status
Award Period: August 2012 – August 2014
Milestones: 15
Total: $460 Million

No.
DescriptionDateStatusAmount
1.CCiCap Kickoff Meeting. SpaceX will hold a kickoff meeting at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, or a nearby facility to review the current state of existing hardware, processes and designs, describe plans for CCiCap program execution during both the base period and the optional period and lay the groundwork for a successful partnership between NASA and SpaceX.August 2012Complete$40
Million
2.Financial and Business Review. SpaceX will hold a financial and business review to accomplish verification of financial ability to meet NASA’s stated goals for the CCiCap program by providing NASA insight into SpaceX finances.August 2012
Complete$20 Million
3.Integrated System Requirements Review (ISRR). SpaceX will hold an integrated System Requirements Review (ISRR) to examine the functional and performance requirements defined for the entire CTS for the Commercial Crew Program design reference mission per section 3.1 of CCT-DRM-1110, as well as to evaluate the interpretation and applicability of each requirement.October 2012Complete$50 Million
4.Ground Systems and Ascent Preliminary Design Review (PDR). SpaceX will hold a Ground Systems and Ascent Preliminary Design Review (PDR) to demonstrate that the overall CTS preliminary design for ground systems and ascent meets all requirements with acceptable risk and within schedule constraints and that it establishes the basis for proceeding with detailed design.December 2012Complete$35 Million
5.Pad Abort Test Review. SpaceX will hold a Pad Abort Test Review to demonstrate the maturity of the pad abort test article design and test concept of operations.March 2013Complete$20 Million
6.Human Certification Plan Review. SpaceX will hold a Human Certification Plan Review to present the Human Certification Plan. This Human Certification Plan Review will cover plans for certification of the design of the spacecraft, launch vehicle, and ground and mission operations systems.May 2013Complete$50 Million
7.On-Orbit and Entry Preliminary Design Review (PDR). SpaceX will hold an On-Orbit and Entry Preliminary Design Review (PDR) to demonstrate that the overall CTS preliminary design for orbit, rendezvous and docking with the ISS, and entry flight regimes meets all requirements with acceptable risk and within schedule constraints and that it establishes the basis for proceeding with detailed design.July 2013Complete$35 Million
8.In-Flight Abort Test Review. SpaceX will hold an In-Flight Abort Test Review to demonstrate the maturity of the in-flight abort test article design and test concept of operations.September 2013Complete$10 Million
9.Safety Review. SpaceX will hold a Safety Review at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, or a nearby facility to demonstrate that the CTS design is progressing toward meeting the Commercial Crew Program’s safety goals.October 2013Complete$50 Million
TOTAL TO DATE
(OUT OF $460 MILLION):
$310 Million
10.Flight Review of Upgraded Falcon 9. SpaceX will conduct a review of a launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle demonstrating the operation of enhanced first-stage M1D engines, stage separation systems, enhanced second-stage MVacD engine and mission-critical vehicle telemetry during flight. Demonstration of the upgraded launch vehicle will serve as a risk reduction for the planned inflight abort test.November 2013Pending$0
15.Dragon Parachute Tests. SpaceX will conduct parachute drop tests in order to validate the new parachute design as capable of supporting a pad abort event.November 2013Pending$20 Million
11.Pad Abort Test. SpaceX will conduct a pad abort test of the Dragon spacecraft. The scenario where an abort is initiated while the CTS is still on the pad is a design driver for the launch abort system as it dictates the total impulse and also requires parachute deployment in close proximity to the ground.December 2013Pending$30 Million
12.Dragon Primary Structure Qualification. SpaceX will conduct static structural testing of all Dragon primary structure components to ultimate load factors, as applicable. This series of tests will validate the Dragon structure’s ability to maintain integrity during all driving load cases as well as verify the accuracy of math models used to analyze the Dragon structure. Individual tests will be designed to exercise all credible failure modes and minimum margin areas.January 2014Pending$30 Million
13.Integrated Critical Design Review (CDR). SpaceX will hold an Integrated Critical Design Review (CDR) to demonstrate that the maturity of the CTS design is appropriate to support proceeding with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test.March 2014Pending$40 Million
14.In-Flight Abort Test. SpaceX will conduct an in-flight abort test of the Dragon spacecraft. The in-flight abort test will supplement the pad abort test and complete the corners-of-the-box stress cases. The in-flight abort scenario represents a Dragon abort while under propulsive flight of the launch vehicle during the worst-case dynamic loads on the CTS.April 2014Pending$30 Million
TOTAL:$460 Million