SpaceX Crew Dragon In-flight Abort Test Set for Saturday

In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credits: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Saturday, January 18 for an in-flight test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape capabilities from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

This test, which does not have NASA astronauts onboard the spacecraft, is intended to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to reliably carry crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent.

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Early Weather Reports Positive for SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test

In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credits: SpaceX)

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center


With the launch of SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration three days away, early weather reports are promising. According to Mike McAleenan, a launch weather officer with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, there is a 90 percent chance of favorable weather at liftoff. The primary concern is flight through precipitation, as some shallow coastal rain showers are predicted.

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NASA to Provide Live Coverage of SpaceX Crew Dragon In-flight Abort Test

Crew Dragon abort static test (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch escape demonstration, as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with U.S. companies to launch American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil.

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SpaceX, NASA Gear up for In-Flight Abort Demonstration

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

The test, known as in-flight abort, will demonstrate the spacecraft’s escape capabilities — showing that the crew system can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch. The uncrewed flight test is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, at the start of a four-hour test window, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

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Dragon Returns Research from Space Station

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), January 7, 2020 – Earlier today, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft successfully splashed down off the coast of California, bringing with it more than 500 pounds of research investigations sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.

This successful splashdown and transfer of investigations completes SpaceX’s 19th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission to the space station (contracted by NASA) to send critical research and supplies to the orbiting laboratory.

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SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean

A camera on the tip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm views the SpaceX Dragon as it separates from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 10:42 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean about 271 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 19th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

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SpaceX Launches 60 More Starlink Satellites

Falcon 9’s first stage conducts an entry burn as its second stage continues toward orbit. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX conducted its third launch of 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Monday, January 6 at 9:19 p.m. EST.

Falcon 9’s first stage supported a Starlink mission in May 2019, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

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NASA TV to Air US Cargo Ship Departure from Space Station

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Filled with almost 3,600 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Sunday, Jan. 5. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 9:15 p.m. EST.

Robotic flight controllers at mission control in Houston will issue remote commands at 9:41 p.m. to release Dragon using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 61 Station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

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Animation of Crewed Dragon Flight to Space Station

Video Caption: SpaceX will soon demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely and reliably carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Editor’s Note: Musk tweeted the following concerning the schedule for the actual flight:

“Crew Dragon should be physically ready & at the Cape in Feb, but completing all safety reviews will probably take a few more months”

That would place the flight sometime in the second quarter of 2020. That fits with what I reportedly previously. Keep in mind that Musk’s predictions have been optimistic in the past.

So, why wold it take that long. The story is more complicated than one might think.

When the capsule destined for the in-flight abort test exploded earlier this year, SpaceX spent months investigating the cause and devising a fix for the anomaly. NASA had to review all the data those efforts generated and sign off on the modifications.

Musk’s company needed to modify the capsule it was building for the Crew Dragon mission with astronauts to fly on the in-flight abort test, which is currently scheduled for Jan. 11.

The test will require extensive data analysis to determine how well it went. The spacecraft will be subjected to severe stresses, so it won’t be recycled for another flight.

Meanwhile, SpaceX has had to build a brand spacecraft incorporating the modifications for the Crew Dragon flight test. That process can typically take six months to a year.

Contrary to a popular impression that seems to be out there, SpaceX didn’t have a Crew Dragon in any advanced state of development that could have been easily slid into the flight rotation. And since this mission will be the first to carry a crew, it will undergo a lot of additional checks.

Starliner Reaches Orbit, Can’t Dock with Station

Atlas V lifts off with Starliner spacecraft on Orbital Flight Test 1. (Credit: NASA webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft suffered an anomaly after reaching space during its maiden flight test on Friday morning, resulting in the abandonment of plans for a rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station (ISS).

Boeing and NASA officials said the spacecraft is in a good orbit and performing well. They are planning an abbreviated two-day flight test before bringing the spacecraft down for a landing on Sunday morning at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

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SpaceX, NASA Now Targeting Jan. 11 for In-flight Abort Test

Crew Dragon abort static test (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Jan. 11, 2020, for a critical In-Flight Abort Test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, pending U.S. Air Force Eastern Range approval.

As part of the test, SpaceX will configure Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape shortly after liftoff and demonstrate Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the unlikely event of an in-flight emergency. The demonstration also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The demonstration of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and is one of the final major tests for the company before NASA astronauts will fly aboard the spacecraft.

The In-Flight Abort Test follows a series of static fire engine tests of the spacecraft conducted Nov. 13 near SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX will also conduct a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket ahead of the In-Flight Abort Test.

Original Firefly Shareholders Sue Firefly’s Markusic, Polyakov Alleging Fraud

Tom Markusic

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A group of original shareholders in the defunct Firefly Space Systems have accused co-founder and CEO Tom Markusic of fraudulently conspiring with Ukrainian billionaire Maxym Polyakov to force the rocket company into bankruptcy in 2017 and reconstitute it under a nearly identical name without giving them any stake in the new venture.

Markusic “betrayed the trust of his original co-founders and investors and committed fraud to cut them out of his aerospace company. Instead of managing the operations of the Original Firefly, a revolutionary rocket company with endless potential, Markusic schemed with…Maxym Polyakov…to rob Plaintiffs of their investments and form a new company called Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (the ‘New Firefly’),” the plaintiffs said in a lawsuit.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Communications Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Monday, December 16 at 7:10 p.m. EST, SpaceX launched JCSAT-18/Kacific1 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The satellite was deployed approximately 33 minutes after liftoff.

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Spaceflight Inc. Closes 2019 with Three Successful Launches in One Week Across Three Continents

PSLV-C48 launch (Credit: ISRO)

SEATTLE, December 11, 2019 (Spaceflight PR) - - Spaceflight, the leading provider of mission management and rideshare integration services, today announced it successfully executed nine missions in 2019, the most rideshare launches the company has performed in one year, representing a 300 percent growth from the previous year.

The company ended last year with its historic dedicated rideshare mission, SSO-A, and continued to execute many more firsts in 2019. This includes the most recent accomplishment of manifesting and managing three rideshare launches in one week on three continents. The final missions of 2019 were SEOPS-2 (ISS SpX-19/NG-12) launched in the U.S., RL-2 (Rocket Lab’s “Running Out of Fingers”) launched in New Zealand, and PSLV-C48 launched in India.

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