SpaceX Completes Crew Dragon Static Fire Tests

Crew Dragon abort static test (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Nov. 13, 2019 (NASA PR) — Today, SpaceX completed a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in advance of an in-flight launch escape demonstration, known as the In-Flight Abort Test.

The engine tests, conducted near SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, began with two burns for a duration of one-second each for two of Crew Dragon’s 16 Draco thrusters. The Draco thrusters are used for on-orbit maneuvering and attitude control, and would also be used for re-orientation during certain in-flight launch escapes. Following these initial Draco thruster burns, the team completed a full-duration firing for approximately nine seconds of Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines. The SuperDraco engines are designed to accelerate Dragon away from the F9 launch vehicle in the event of an emergency after liftoff.

In quick succession, immediately after the SuperDracos shut down, two Dracos thrusters fired and all eight SuperDraco flaps closed, mimicking the sequence required to reorient the spacecraft in-flight to a parachute deploy attitude and close the flaps prior to reentry. The full sequence, from SuperDraco startup to flap closure, spanned approximately 70 seconds.

In April, during a similar set of engine tests, the spacecraft experienced an anomaly which led to an explosion and loss of the vehicle. In the following months, an Anomaly Investigation Team made up of SpaceX and NASA personnel determined that a slug of liquid propellant in the high-flow helium pressurization system unexpectedly caused a titanium ignition event resulting in an explosion. Based on that investigation’s findings and months of testing, SpaceX redesigned components of the system to eliminate the possibility of slugs entering the high-flow pressurization system.

Today’s tests will help validate the launch escape system ahead of Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort demonstration planned as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX and NASA will now review the data from today’s test, perform detailed hardware inspections, and establish a target launch date for the In-Flight Abort Test.

Elonopoly: Smoke Pot, Collect $5 Million

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk’s decision to smoke marijuana on the Joe Rogan podcast prompted a review of SpaceX’s workplace culture by NASA and raised questions about whether the entrepreneur would be able to keep his security clearance.

It also somehow resulted in NASA sending more money to Musk’s space company. Politico reports:

The space agency agreed to pay SpaceX $5 million in May to cover the cost of the review, which includes educating its employees and ensuring they are following strict guidelines for federal contractors barring illegal drug use.

The decision, which has not previously been reported, struck some space industry insiders as a highly unusual expenditure given that Musk, who holds a security clearance, prompted the concerns about whether SpaceX is following the rules.

While marijuana is legal in multiple states – including California, where Musk’s stunt took place – it remains illegal under federal law. And illegal drug use is also considered a violation of the terms of a government security clearance.

The NASA contract to SpaceX to pay for the workplace review — a modification to a previous contract to build a space capsule — also marks a new chapter in its ongoing tension with more established rivals like Boeing.

SpaceX is building the Crew Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Flights with astronauts are expected to begin in 2020.

Even though it was Musk who smoked pot, NASA Administrator ordered an similar review of Boeing’s effort to build a commercial crew spacecraft named Starliner.

However, Politico reports Boeing did not get funding to cover the cost of the review.

Boeing Starliner Commercial Crew Delay: ~3 Years

Boeing’s first crewed Starliner finished initial production at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. and is readied for its cross-country trip. (Credit: Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On March 26, Vice President Mike Pence went to Huntsville, Ala., to declare that the Trump Administration would use “any means necessary” to accelerate the return of American astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024 — four years earlier than planned.

Pence was putting Huntsville-based Marshall Space Flight Center and prime contractor Boeing on notice to get the delayed, over budget Space Launch System (SLS) being built to accomplish that goal back on track. If they didn’t, the administration would find other rockets to do the job.

In his effort to accelerate the Artemis lunar program, however, Pence unintentionally contributed to delays in NASA’s behind schedule effort to launch astronauts to a much closer location: low Earth orbit.

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Virgin Galactic to Unveil New “Milestone” Next Week

Editor’s Note: My guess is they will unveil the passenger flight suits in some sort of fashion event, probably involving some fashion models. I wonder if Karlie Kloss, who has said her dream is to fly to space, will be there.

Why do I think it’s the flight suit? Ticket holders have been coming in and other of Mojave in recent months to get fitted for the “spacesuit.” There’s not going to be a lot of things going into space with them. And NYC is a major fashion capital.

Chief Pilot David Mackay gave a talk recently here in Mojave. He said passengers will not wear pressure suits, but they will have oxygen masks in the event of an emergency.

If they are unveiling the flight suit on Wednesday, calling it a milestone is a bit of a stretch. The Crew Dragon parachute drop tests, static fire, in-flight abort flight and orbital mission discussed during the briefing at SpaceX headquarters on Thursday are actual milestones.

Unveiling a flight suit is primarily a marketing and public relations event. Really important milestones will be completing the SpaceShipTwo flight test program and actually flying some passengers next year.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Program Delay: 3+ Years

An instrumented mannequin sits in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

Updated Oct. 9, 2019 at 9:08 am PDT with paragraph summarizing some of the reasons for the schedule delays.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There’s been a lot of discussion over the last week or so about NASA’s delay plagued Commercial Crew Program, which is designed to restore the nation’s ability to launch astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011.

Prior to SpaceX CEO’s Elon Musk’s Sept. 28 webcast update on the Starship program, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed frustration that the company wasn’t more focused on the Crew Dragon program that hasn’t flown astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) yet.

Asked about the delay by a CNN journalist after giving an update on Starship’s progress on Sept. 28, Musk questioned whether Bridenstine was asking about delays at with commercial crew or with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). He laughed and mugged for the camera.

Musk’s rabid fans cheered it to be a sick burn against against a slow-moving space agency. The administrator diplomatically called it not helpful. He also revealed the cause of his pique.

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NASA Administrator to Visit SpaceX HQ on Thursday

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will tour SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Thursday, Oct. 10, to see the progress the company is making to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station from American soil as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Following the tour, SpaceX will host a media availability with Bridenstine, SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley – the crew for the Demo-2 flight test to the space station.

The media availability will be streamed live on Bridenstine’s Twitter account:

http://www.twitter/com/jimbridenstine.

SpaceX will carry NASA astronauts to the space station on the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, and help return the ability to fly American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. This is an important step toward sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024, as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

In March, SpaceX completed Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission, Demo-1, sending the uncrewed spacecraft to and from the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX currently are preparing for an upcoming in-flight abort test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system and the company’s second demonstration mission, Demo-2, which will send NASA astronauts to and from the station aboard Crew Dragon.

SpaceX may not be able to accommodate all who request accreditation, as space is very limited, and outlets may be asked to cap the number of representatives they request to send.

SpaceX will provide additional logistical details for credentialed media closer to the visit.

China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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NASA, SpaceX Test Pad Emergency Egress System

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, in front, and Bob Behnken participated in the exercise to verify the crew can safely and quickly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency before liftoff of SpaceX’s first crewed flight test, called Demo-2. During the escape verification, Walker and Behnken pass through the water deluge system on the 265-foot level of the crew access tower. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX conducted a formal verification of the company’s emergency escape, or egress, system at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida on Sept. 18, 2019. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Shannon Walker participated in the exercise to verify the crew can safely and swiftly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency before liftoff of SpaceX’s first crewed flight test, called Demo-2.

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Elon Musk to Provide Starship Update on Saturday as NASA Administrator Gives a Bronx Cheer

UPDATE: The presentation will be at around 8 p.m. EDT tonight. It will be webcast at www.spacex.com/webcast.

If you had plans for Saturday night, you might want to change them.

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk will provide an update on the progress of the Starship Mk1 vehicle live from the company’s test site at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

Musk tweeted the presentation will start at 6 or 7 p.m. CDT (7 or 8 p.m. EDT).. There are reportedly plans to webcast the event, most likely via the SpaceX website (www.spacex.com). However, those details have not been confirmed.

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NASA Racks Up Two Emmy Nominations for Mission Coverage, Shares One with SpaceX

The Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), located on the robotic arm of NASA’s InSight lander, took this picture of the Martian surface on Nov. 26, 2018, the same day the spacecraft touched down on the Red Planet. The camera’s transparent dust cover is still on in this image, to prevent particulates kicked up during landing from settling on the camera’s lens. This image was relayed from InSight to Earth via NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft, currently orbiting Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

UPDATE: NASA has won an Emmy for interactive programming for its coverage of the SpaceX Demonstration Mission-1. Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted, “Congrats to all involved and those who help tell the @NASA story every day!”

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced July 16 two award nominations for NASA for its coverage of a Mars mission and the agency’s first test of a spacecraft that will help bring crewed launches to the International Space Station back to U.S. soil.

The nominations for the 71st Emmy Awards went to:

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NASA and SpaceX: Dragon Crew Extraction Rehearsal

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken practice extraction from a Crew Dragon capsule. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

On August 13, 2019, NASA at the Trident Basin in Cape Canaveral, Florida, astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken work with teams from NASA and SpaceX to rehearse crew extraction from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which will be used to carry humans to the International Space Station. Using the ship Go Searcher to recover their spacecraft after splashdown and a mock-up of the Crew Dragon, the teams worked through the steps necessary to get Hurley and Behnken safely out of the Dragon. The pair will fly to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon for the SpaceX Demo-2 mission. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX Dragon to Fly to Space Station for Third Time

Dragon spacecraft (Credit: NASA)

Update: Launch scrubbed for weather on Wednesday. SpaceX will try again on Thursday, July 25 at 6:01 p.m. EDT (22:01 UTC).

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, July 24 for launch of its eighteenth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-18) at 6:24 p.m. EDT, or 22:24 UTC, fromSpace Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Dragon will separate from Falcon 9’s second stage about nine minutes after liftoff and attach to the space station on Friday, July 26. A backup launch opportunity is available on Thursday, July 25 at 6:01 p.m. EDT, or 22:01 UTC.

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SpaceX Says Nitrogen Tetroxide Leak Resulted in Destruction of Crew Dragon Vehicle

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 18:13 UTC, SpaceX conducted a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort test vehicle on a test stand at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Boeing, SpaceX Continue to Work Through Technical Challenges on Commercial Crew

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing and SpaceX are continuing to work through a number of technical challenges on their commercial crew spacecraft as NASA struggles to process data needed to certify the vehicles, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

There is sufficient schedule uncertainty, in fact, that GAO recommended the space agency continue planning for additional delays in providing crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS).

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Falcon 9 Launches Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission

Falcon 9 first stage descends toward a landing as the second stage orbits Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) on Wednesday, orbiting three satellites that will improve the nation’s ability to conduct maritime surveillance, monitor its ecosystem and climate change, and undertake disaster relief efforts.

The booster lifted off on time at 7:17 a.m. PDT, piercing a thick layer of fog at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Deployment of the three RADARSAT spacecraft was completed just over one hour after liftoff.

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