Thursday, 21 March, 2019

SpaceX’s unmanned Crew Dragon to launch on March 2 to ISS

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon ferry ship seen here during launch pad tests in January.             
    SpaceX The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon ferry ship seen here during launch pad tests in January. SpaceX
Cary Marshall | 26 February, 2019, 06:52

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will work with its Russian partners on their concerns in relation to the planned first unmanned test flight of the US Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS), Kirk Shireman, the NASA manager for ISS Program said.

SpaceX will launch the Falcon 9 with the Crew Dragon capsule from NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A at 2:49 a.m. Saturday. Today at @NASAKennedy, we held a flight readiness review for the March 2 liftoff of @SpaceX Demo-1.

Gerstenmaier added, however, that the review yielded plans to look further at the Crew Dragon's software, specifically at how it functions while the capsule approaches the ISS.

"It's more than a test flight, it's really a mission to the International Space Station, it's part of the Commercial Crew Program that really gets us ready for the ... crew flight that comes up later", Bill Gerstenmaier, director of space flight operations at NASA Headquarters, said of the unpiloted test flight.

One of those risks is SpaceX's rocket canister, which has been redesigned since one caused a devastating explosion in 2016 after bursting inside a Falcon 9 rocket's liquid oxygen tank.

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"But we know the hardware is good enough to go do this demonstration flight", he said.

"The next vehicle that we're going to be walking up to on the pad is going to be their crewed craft", Lueders said. Two NASA astronauts will be in the spacecraft then, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

SpaceX recovery crews stationed nearby will pull the capsule onto its recovery ship GO Searcher and haul it back to Port Canaveral for detailed post-flight inspections.

This will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station, since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, NASA said on Friday. The agreement with Russian Federation to fly crews on Soyuz will end in 2019.

Both Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon unmanned missions were earlier scheduled for 2018 launch, but were delayed due to lack of clearance by NASA. - By next weekend, the US could be one step closer to launching astronauts from American soil again.

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