SpaceX Sets Dates for Dragon Abort Tests

SpaceX Dragon abort test article. (Credit: SpaceX)
SpaceX Dragon abort test article. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has updated its schedule for completing its remaining commercial crew milestones. A pad abort test is now scheduled for November, with an in-flight abort test set for January 2015. NASA recently granted the company an extension to complete its six remaining milestones until March 2015.

SpaceX CCiCAP Milestone Status
Award Period: August 2012 – March 2015
Milestones: 20
Milestones Completed: 14
Milestones Remaining: 6
Total Possible Award: $460 Million
Total Award to Date: $357 Million
Total Award Remaining: $103 Million


11Pad 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 2013November 2014$30 Million
12Dragon 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 20142nd Half 2014$30 Million
13BGround Systems and Mission Operations Critical Design Review (CDR). Part 2 of the CDR focused on ground systems and mission operations. The goal of the CDR is to demonstrate that the maturity of the CTS design is appropriate to support proceeding with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test. March 2014August 2014$3 Million
13CCrew Vehicle Technical Interchange Meetings. Part 3 of the CDR. The goal of the CDR is to demonstrate that the maturity of the CTS design is appropriate to support proceeding with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test. March 2014September 2014$5 Million
13DDelta Crew Vehicle Critical Design Review (CDR). The final milestone in the CDR.The goal of the CDR is to demonstrate that the maturity of the CTS design is appropriate to support proceeding with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test.
March 2014November 2014$5 Million
14In-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 2014January 2015$30 Million

  • windbourne

    Hmmm. THis still sounds like the parth to human flight in 2015.
    Of course, that depends on SpaceX hitting these deadlines, which to be honest, SpaceX/Musk are MANY MANY things, but great at scheduling? Nope.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Well, in all fairness, some of the slip is due to the reduced funding levels. That said, all the CC companies have suffered schedule slippage to varying degree.
    In addition, it’s entirely new territory both for NASA and also for the CC companies.
    But the fact remains that even with slippages occurring, the CC companies are meeting the milestones and NASA only pays out when a milestone has been successfully completed, not before. Therein lies the real test for a CC company. To meet the standard and bear the cost of any overrun.
    Sorry, just can’t help comparing the progress and cost control of the CC companies to MPCV Orion. Even with the slippages, at least one CC company will be flying crew well before a full up test flight of the Orion after how many years and billions of dollars.

  • windbourne

    Actually, I was not talking just about their CCdev work.
    The fact is, that SpaceX has NOT been great about meeting their schedules. BUT, to be truly fair, few of the aerospace companies ever make their schedules.

    As to who is flying first, I think that even if CCtCap goes to Boeing, SpaceX will STILL beat them to the punch.
    And yeah, CC will beat Orion by a long time. But then again, Orion was never realy intended for LEO operations.

    The real issue is that CONgress continues to send money to Russia to launch humans, rather than spend less on getting CC going.
    In addition, we desperately need 2 or more human launch systems to guarantee that we never lose space access again.

  • therealdmt

    Yeah, it really seems like (if they were able to stay on this new schedule) they should be able to go later in 2015. Like you say though, they’re becoming known for, besides all the amazing stuff, schedule slippage — so maybe 2016 is more realistic.

    The other factor is that the final phase of developing commercial crew (CCtCap?) was specified by congress as being – I’m not sure on all the wording. Anyway, the final phase won’t be through funded space act agreements as the earlier rounds have been. It seems there will be joint test teams “with NASA personnel operating in a more traditional acquisition approach whereby NASA oversees some design choices, with NASA offering non-firm fixed priced ‘cost sharing’ to pay for the tests”. Also, FARs seem likely.

    Hmmm. With all that in mind, things could really be brought to a grinding halt.

  • therealdmt

    It’s exciting to see these dates set. Assuming the abort tests go well, the US will be pretty much back in business. Not quite of course, but the finish line will be in sight.

  • jb

    is it me or am I the only one surprised that these tests have a “firm” date where Dragonfly hasn’t flown yet. I thought they would do a bunch of dragonfly flights before committing to a full blown test of the system…

  • Robert Gishubl

    Escape with parachute landing has different control and throttling requirements so you can do one without the other. Mind you I would love to see Dragonfly fly.

  • jb

    agreed..but with dragonfly flights they can tweak the software to have more fidelity before the full test..

  • Hug Doug

    i think it’s just as firm a date as the original schedule, where the pad-abort test was December 2013 and the in-flight abort test was April 2014…

  • Saturn13

    requires parachute deployment in close proximity to the ground. Yes, but it has forward speed to inflate the chute. Propulsive landing has only gravity to increase speed enough to inflate. Maybe 500′ from a hover as seen in the last chute test video. I hope the comment is correct and NASA will not be a silent partner. NASA should not do propulsive landings. Too radical. Let SpaceX do it on there own or another customer. A 3 month delay. Plenty of time to be ready for the first crew rotation flight in Nov. or Dec. ’17. NASA will have a test flight before then. NASA will have at least one astronaut and SpaceX no telling how many. I think they will just dock and visit. When they get the docking port installed, whenever that is. Only room for 1 more on ISS.

  • windbourne

    More importantly, if we can get 2 or more human launch systems going, along with a second destination, the west will never again have to depend on Russia or China for space access.
    Hopefully, both cst-100 and DC will work airbus to mate to ariane. It makes sense to have another system other than atlas for them.

  • windbourne

    Well, that bs was from the house GOP. The senate will nix that.

  • windbourne

    Hey, I had forgotten about dragonfly. Anybody know when that starts? I have to wonder if that happens after F9R is good, I.e. one system at a time.

  • Vladislaw

    The difference in schedule slips between the usual suspects and commercial cargo and crew, is that when the cost plus, fixed fee, sole sourced FAR contracts slips, it invariably costs the American taxpayer hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. When commecial fixed price,milestone based SAA’s slip, it doesn’t seem to cost taxpayers much at all.

  • windbourne

    Exactly right.
    Sadly, so few ppl realize that the real private space (SAA) takes on a lot of risk, while the FAR work leaves all risk to the taxpayers, with outrageous profits to those companies.

  • Come-On

    These tests are not of propulsive landing or ‘Dragonfly’, they are more tests for the Superdraco engines to ensure they have enough throttle to lift Dragon from the rocket in case of emergency. These tests will employ parachutes to land, not superdracos. Whether SpaceX will gamble and try to soften the landing with the Superdracos, that remains to be seen.