SpaceX Plans for Pad Abort Test at Cape

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

SpaceX is gearing up for two critical commercial crew tests involving its Dragon capsule in the coming months: a pad abort test in Florida, and an in-flight abort at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The pad abort test will occur sometime between Feb. 10 and May 10 according to an application for special temporary authority (STA) that SpaceX has filed with the Federal Commission Commission. The STA is required for use of radio frequency during the test.

The application specifies a maximum altitude of 6,000 feet and a maximum downrange distance of three kilometers. SpaceX will conduct the test from Complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The STA application indicates this is an extension of an earlier FCC approval. SpaceX had earlier anticipated conducting the abort test no earlier than Nov. 20, 2014.

No date has been announced for the in-flight abort test at Vandenberg.

The two abort tests are the final two milestones to be accomplished under SpaceX’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities (CCiCap) agreement with NASA. The milestones are worth $30 million apiece.

Both milestones are running significantly behind the original schedule. The pad abort was originally set for November 2013; the in-flight abort for April 2014.

SpaceX has completed 18 of 20 milestones under CCiCAP, collecting a total of $400 out of a total of $460 million in awards.

In September, NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing contracts under its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability effort. The companies will build, test and fly their vehicles to the International Space Station under this final phase of the commercial crew program.

SpaceX CCiCAP Milestone Status
Award Period: August 2012 – March 2015
Milestones: 20
Milestones Completed: 18
Milestones Remaining: 2
Total Possible Award: $460 Million
Total Award to Date: $400 Million
Total Award Remaining: $60 Million

NO.DESCRIPTIONORIGINAL DATE
STATUSAMOUNT
1CCiCap 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
2Financial 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
3Integrated 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
4Ground 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
5Pad 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
6Human 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
7On-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$34 Million
7ADelta Ground Systems Preliminary Design Review (PDR). A PDR of the delta ground systems.
July 2013Complete$1 Million
8In-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
9Safety 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
10Flight 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 2013Compete$0
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 2014Complete$30 Million
13AIntegrated Crew Vehicle Critical Design Review (CDR). Milestone 13, Integrated Critical Design Review, has been split into four separate milestones. 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 2014Complete$27 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 2014Complete$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 2014Complete$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 2014Complete$5 Million
15ADragon Parachute Tests Phases I & II. SpaceX will conduct parachute drop tests in order to validate the new parachute design as capable of supporting a pad abort event. Milestone 15A included a crane drop test.November 2013Complete$15 Million
15BDragon Parachute Tests Phases I & II. SpaceX will conduct parachute drop tests in order to validate the new parachute design as capable of supporting a pad abort event. Milestone 15B featured a helicopter drop test.November 2013Complete$5 Million
TOTAL TO DATE (OUT OF $460 MILLION):$400 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 2013TBA$30 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 2014TBA$30 Million
TOTAL REMAINING (OUT OF $460 MILLION):$60 Million