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Dragon Pad Abort Test “Critical Step” Forward

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Dragon pad abort test. (Credit: NASA)

Dragon pad abort test. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NASA PR) — A loud whoosh, faint smoke trail and billowing parachutes marked a successful demonstration Wednesday by SpaceX of its Crew Dragon spacecraft abort system – an important step in NASA’s endeavor to rebuild America’s ability to launch crews to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. The successful test of the spacecraft’s launch escape capabilities proved the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of a life-threatening situation on the launch pad.

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Musk: Dragon Abort Test Successful

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Dragon abort test with SuperDraco engines.  (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon abort test with SuperDraco engines. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also held a brief press conference after the test. Here are the highlights:

  • Test vehicle went from zero to 100 mph (160 kph) in 1.2 seconds “That’s pretty zippy.”
  • Dragon reached top speed of 345 mph (555 kph)
  • “If there had been people on board they would’ve been in great shape.”
  • One of SuperDraco thrusters had a lower than expected thrust due to a fuel mixture ratio that was “slightly off”
  • Only four of the eight SuperDragos need to fire for an abort
  • SuperDragos can be used for propulsive touch downs on land
  • Up next: an in-flight abort test out of Vandenberg Air Force Base
  • SpaceX will conduct an uncrewed flight to the International Space Station followed by a second test with a crew
  • Musk expects to be transporting astronauts to ISS within two years, give or take six months

The pad abort test was one of two remaining milestones under SpaceX’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities agreement with NASA. The other is the in-flight abort test. Each milestone is worth $30 million.

Dragon's trunk separates from capsule during pad abort test. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon’s trunk separates from capsule during pad abort test. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon pad abort test article descends under parachutes. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon pad abort test article descends under parachutes. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon pad abort test. (Credit: NASA)

Dragon pad abort test. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX Performs Successful Dragon Pad Abort Test

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SpaceX performed a successful pad abort test at Cape Canaveral this morning. The capsule rocketed skyward using Super Draco abort motors and then splashed down at sea. The test was not completely nominal; the vehicle didn’t reach as high as expected.

The video above is long. Skip ahead to about 15 minutes to catch the final countdown and abort test.

Here’s a shorter version of the video.

Awesome Photo of Falcon 9 Barge Landing Attempt

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SpaceX Dragon Abort Test Set for May 6

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SpaceX Dragon vehicle undergoes preparation for abort test. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX Dragon vehicle undergoes preparation for abort test. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — SpaceX now is targeting Wednesday, May 6, for a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon, a spacecraft under final development and certification through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The test window will open at 7 a.m. EDT.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the test, which will simulate an emergency abort from a test stand on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.

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House Science Committee Whacks NASA Science Budget

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Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith

The House Science Committee would whack nearly a half billion dollars out of NASA’s proposed Earth Science budget in order to boost funding for deep space exploration under a two-year authorization legislators will mark up on Thursday.

“For more than 50 years, the U.S. has led the world in space exploration,” said Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). “We must ensure that the U.S. continues to lead in space for the next 50 years.

“The NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 builds on the bipartisan one-year agreement that the House passed just weeks ago,” Smith added. “It restores much-needed balance to NASA’s budget while complying with funding levels set by current law. It authorizes full funding for the exploration systems that will take us to the Moon and Mars as well as the Commercial Crew program. It provides NASA with a science portfolio that is truly balanced.”

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ISS to Get New Docking Ports

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One of the International Space Station's new docking ports. (Credit: NASA)

One of the International Space Station’s new docking ports. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — In the next year, the International Space Station will gain two new docking ports for spacecraft visiting the orbiting laboratory, including the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon under development in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Earlier this year, NASA astronauts conducted three spacewalks to rig the power, data, and communications cables for the docking ports.

The next step is to add the International Docking Adapters that will provide a flawless fit between the space station and any visiting spacecraft so crews can safely move between them through connecting hatches. The first docking adapter now is deep into processing at Kennedy Space Center to prepare for its delivery to the station on the seventh SpaceX commercial resupply services mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than June 19. The second adapter will go through similar processing later this year for launch on the ninth SpaceX resupply mission.

Engineers will continue in-depth analysis and measurements of the ports before they are launched. Commercial Crew providers, Boeing and SpaceX, are using the precise measurements and standards of the adapters and space station as they build the spacecraft and docking mechanisms they will launch to carry astronauts to the station.

SpaceX Hit With Another Class Action Labor Suit

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Marlin 1D engines undergoing checks. (Credit: SpaceX)

Marlin 1D engines undergoing checks. (Credit: SpaceX)

Another proposed class action labor suit against SpaceX over alleged wage and working violations:

A former clerical employee hit Space Exploration Technologies Corp. with a proposed class action in California court on Monday, accusing the company of shorting him overtime and minimum wage pay as well as proper break periods.

Plaintiff Sebring Whitaker alleged in his complaint that SpaceX didn’t adequately pay him and similar nonexempt employees for normal and overtime work and didn’t adequately provide required meal and rest breaks. Whitaker said that he believes there are at least 100 current and former nonexempt employees…

There were several lawsuits filed after a round of mass lay-offs that were done last summer.

Read more here.

News Briefs: CRS2 Delayed, Accident Updates, Blue Origin & Dream Chaser Flights

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SpaceShipTwo disintegrates as its two tail booms fall away. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo disintegrates as its two tail booms fall away. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Several agencies gave presentations yesterday before the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. Jeff Foust of SpaceNews reported on the following updates:

  • NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier said the agency has delayed a decision on its Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contracts from June to September to allow more time to evaluate bids. Known bidders include SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corporation.
  • Gerstenmaier said Sierra Nevada’s final funded commercial crew milestone — a second drop test of the Dream Chaser shuttle — is now scheduled for December.
  • FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) George Nield reported that Blue Origin will be flying its suborbital New Shepard spacecraft within weeks.
  • Nield said the NTSB will be providing FAA AST with a report on the SpaceShipTwo accident within a month or two. He expects a final report to be published sometime in the summer.
  • Nield said he expects an accident report from Orbital ATK on last October’s Antares failure within the next several weeks.

SpaceX Pad Abort Test Set for NET May 5

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SpaceX Dragon vehicle undergoes preparation for abort test. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX Dragon vehicle undergoes preparation for abort test. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Media accreditation is open for a pad abort test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft next month. The test will simulate an emergency abort from a test stand on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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