Autor Wątek: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February  (Przeczytany 4400 razy)

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #15 dnia: Kwiecień 21, 2019, 12:47 »
SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft suffers anomaly during ground tests
by Jeff Foust — April 20, 2019. Updated 8:15 p.m. Eastern.[SN]


A mosaic of images of a test of a SuperDraco thruster. An anomly took place during a test of those thrusters on a Crew Dragon spacecraft April 20 at Cape Canaveral, a potential setback to the company's commercial crew efforts. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft suffered what the company said was an “anomaly” during static fire tests of its abort engines April 20, dealing a setback to the company’s plans to fly a crewed test flight later this year.

In a statement, a SpaceX spokesperson confirmed there was a problem of some kind during tests of the spacecraft at Landing Zone 1, the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but provided few details about the what happened.

“Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida,” the spokesperson said in a statement to SpaceNews. “The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand.”

“Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test,” the spokesperson added. “Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners.”

“The NASA and SpaceX teams are assessing the anomaly that occurred today during a part of the Dragon Super Draco Static Fire Test at SpaceX Landing Zone 1 in Florida,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement posted to Twitter. “This is why we test. We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.”

Eyewitnesses on beaches near Cape Canaveral reported seeing a dark cloud mid-afternoon from somewhere in the vicinity of the Air Force facility. The U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, which operates Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, confirmed there was an incident during a Crew Dragon test, which resulted in no injuries.

The anomaly apparently took place during testing of the SuperDraco thrusters used as part of the launch abort system for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Those thrusters use nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine propellants, a hypergolic combination that ignites on contact. Each SuperDraco thruster is capable of producing about 16,000 pounds-force of thrust.

SpaceX did not disclose what Crew Dragon vehicle was being used for this test. Sources, though, say it was mostly likely the spacecraft that flew the successful Demo-1 mission in March, docking with the International Space Station and staying there for five days before undocking and splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.

SpaceX planned to fly that spacecraft again in an in-flight abort test, where the spacecraft ignites its SuperDraco thrusters around the time of peak aerodynamic pressure after launch, pulling it away from its Falcon 9 booster. That test was expected to take place some time this summer prior to this anomaly.

Any delay in that test would push back the Demo-2 flight, a test of another Crew Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board. That mission was scheduled for as soon as July, but not expected to take place before this fall.

Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-crew-dragon-spacecraft-suffers-anomaly-during-ground-tests/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #16 dnia: Kwiecień 26, 2019, 19:09 »
Safety panel urges patience in SpaceX Crew Dragon investigation
by Jeff Foust — April 25, 2019 [SN]


A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft testing its SuperDraco thrusters. A NASA safety panel said it will take some time to get to the root cause of an anomaly during an April 20 test of the thrusters. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — Members of an independent safety panel said April 25 it will take time to determine what happened during a SpaceX Crew Dragon testing incident several days ago, and that its impact to the overall commercial crew program remains uncertain.

At a meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, members offered few new details about the anomaly during an April 20 test of the SuperDraco thrusters on the Crew Dragon spacecraft at a test site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. That incident enveloped the vehicle in a fireball and created a smoke plume visible far from the site.

Patricia Sanders, chair of the panel, confirmed that the anomaly took place during a static-fire test of the SuperDraco thrusters used in the spacecraft’s launch abort system. Those thrusters were being tested prior to an in-flight abort test that had been planned for this summer.

The April 20 test, she said, was intended to demonstrate the integrated systems performance of the SuperDraco system, after testing of 12 smaller Draco thrusters were successfully completed. “Firing of eight SuperDracos resulted in an anomaly,” she said.

Both NASA and SpaceX started carrying out mishap plans after the incident, and she noted the anomaly did not cause any injuries. SpaceX is leading the investigation with what she termed as “active NASA participation.” The initial work is focused on collecting all the evidence from the test site and creating a timeline of the incident.

“The investigation will take time before the root cause analysis is completed, and will determine the impact to Demo-2 and the in-flight abort test,” she said. Demo-2 is a crewed test flight, with two NASA astronauts on board, that had been scheduled for no sooner than July.

Panel members offered few other details about the incident and its effect on the overall commercial crew program. “We know that there’s a lot of interest regarding the recent SpaceX mishap. We are patient, and allow the teams to investigate,” said Sandra Magnus, an ASAP member.

The test took place about six weeks after the Demo-1 capsule returned from a successful uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station. While that test flight went well, Magnus said it was clear that even before the flight that SpaceX had a lot of work to do before it could move ahead with Demo-2, which she linked to an iterative or “spiral” development approach the company had adopted.

“Prior to the Demo-1 launch, because of this spiral development approach undertaken by the company, NASA and SpaceX identified configuration changes and subsequent qualification work that would be required to be completed before Demo-2 was possible,” she said.

“Notwithstanding the recent incident, there is a large body of work yet to be completed between Demo-1 and a crewed flight,” she continued. “It’s still too early to speculate on how that body of work will alter based on recent events.”

Boeing has taken a different, more traditional development approach that works to get the design of its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle more mature prior to any test flights. An uncrewed test flight of the spacecraft is now scheduled for early August and a crewed test flight before the end of the year.

The company, she said, has made progress on a number of technical issues, but there is still work to complete. “Both NASA and the Boeing team are facing the submission and analysis of the required data from the final certification and verification processes,” she said.

Magnus warned about schedule pressure on the program, and said that NASA had acted appropriately by securing alternative plans to maintain access to the ISS through late 2020. The panel, she said, supported the position of NASA’s commercial crew program “that crewed missions will not happen until the program has received the data that they require” to ensure the vehicles operate with adequate safety margins. “We will continue to emphasize that as the work goes forward on both programs.”


Source: https://spacenews.com/safety-panel-urges-patience-in-spacex-crew-dragon-investigation/

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SpaceX offers new details on Crew Dragon test anomaly
by Jeff Foust — May 2, 2019 [SN]


A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft testing its SuperDraco thrusters. A SpaceX executive said May 3 said it was too early to identify a cause of an anomaly that destroyed a Crew Dragon spacecraft during an April 20 test. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX executive May 2 provided new details about, but no cause of, an incident that destroyed a Crew Dragon spacecraft during a ground test last month.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said at a NASA briefing about the upcoming launch of a cargo Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station that the anomaly took place just before the ignition of the SuperDraco thrusters on the spacecraft during an April 20 test at the company’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Koenigsmann said that the spacecraft had, earlier in the day, completed other tests on the stand, including of its smaller Draco thrusters. “Just before we wanted to fire the SuperDracos, there was an anomaly and the vehicle was destroyed,” he said.

He declined to speculate on the cause of the accident. “It is too early to confirm any cause, whether probable or root,” he said. “The initial data indicates that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco system.” The activation of the thrusters takes place about a half a second before ignition. He added, though, that he didn’t think the problem was with the SuperDraco thrusters themselves, citing “about 600 tests” of the thrusters over the course of its development.

He later said it was unlikely that the incident had anything to do with composite-overwrapped pressure vessels, or COPVs, that are part of the propulsion system. The design of a COPV used on the Falcon 9’s second stage was blamed for an explosion during preparations for a static-fire test of the rocket in September 2016, leading to a redesign of that pressure vessel.

“The COPVs are different from Falcon 9. These are different in material, they have a different form,” he said. “I’m fairly confident that the COPVs are going to be fine.”

Koenigsmann said the company is currently focused on the investigation into the mishap, and declined to estimate how much of an impact it will have on the schedule of upcoming test flights. SpaceX had planned to perform an in-flight abort test using the Crew Dragon spacecraft destroyed in the anomaly as soon as June, followed by a crewed test flight no earlier than July.

“Finishing the investigation and resolving this anomaly is actually our prime focus, certainly for me, right now,” he said. “I hope this is a relatively swift investigation at the end of the day, and I don’t want to completely preclude the current schedule.”

He didn’t say how the capsule lost in the test mishap, which flew on the Demo-1 mission to the station, would be replaced for the in-flight abort test. He noted SpaceX has “multiple spacecraft” in various stages of production, which he said should mitigate any effect the loss of this capsule will have on the test flight schedule.

Koenigsmann spoke at a briefing NASA held prior to the scheduled May 3 launch of a cargo Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station. The launch was previously scheduled for May 1 but postponed because of a problem with a switching unit that routes power on the station. Kenny Todd, NASA’s space station operations and integration manager, said the faulty unit was swapped out by controllers using the station’s robotic arm, clearing the way for the launch to proceed.

Todd also said that NASA worked closely with SpaceX to confirm that there was no commonality between the systems involved in the Crew Dragon anomaly and those on the cargo Dragon. “We were able to get our arms around the common areas that we had to look at, that they had to look at,” he said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t see any change in our overall measurable risk in going into the mission.”

This cargo Dragon, flying a mission designed CRS-17, previously flew to the station on the CRS-12 mission in August 2017. The spacecraft will carry 2,482 kilograms of cargo, of which about 1,700 kilograms is in the form of science payloads, including those to be mounted on the station’s exterior.

Liftoff of the CRS-17 mission is scheduled for 3:11 a.m. Eastern May 3, but forecasts predict only a 40 percent change of acceptable weather because of an approaching system. Forecasts improve to 70 percent for a backup launch date May 4 at 2:48 a.m. Eastern. Todd said that, should the launch not take place in either instantaneous launch window, NASA and SpaceX would have to wait a week before the next attempt because of scheduled downtime on the Eastern Range.


Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-offers-new-details-on-crew-dragon-test-anomaly/

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Commercial crew capsules still beset by parachute problems
May 9, 2019 Stephen Clark [SFN]


SpaceX performs a parachute test for their Dragon capsule over the Delamar Dry Lake in this file photo from 2016. Credit: SpaceX

A malfunction during a drop test over Nevada last month for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon program has engineers re-examining the crew capsule’s parachutes, and Boeing has also encountered parachute failures during testing for its commercial crew capsule, a senior NASA official confirmed Wednesday.

The SpaceX parachute test failure occurred the same month as the explosion of a Crew Dragon spacecraft during a ground test at Cape Canaveral. The parachute drop test over Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada last month did not involve a Crew Dragon capsule, but used a simple metal test sled.

“It failed,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s human exploration and operations directorate. “The parachutes did not work as designed.”

The parachutes did not fully open, sources said, and the test sled impacted the ground at a higher-than-expected velocity. Gerstenmaier said the sled was damaged upon impact. The advanced development test was intended to measure loads within each parachute canopy, according to an industry source.

No one was hurt in the test accident.

“It was one single-out test for this parachute,” Gerstenmaier said Wednesday in a hearing before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s subcommittee on space and aeronautics. “So typically, that test would involve four parachutes, one was proactively failed ahead of time and the three remaining chutes did not operate properly.”

Gerstenmaier was asked about the outcome of the SpaceX parachute test by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, whose district includes Huntsville and Decatur, home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the rocket factory for United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and a chief rival of SpaceX.

The parachute test failure was not publicized by NASA or SpaceX before Wednesday’s congressional hearing.

“The good thing on the test was we had instrumented lines going up to the parachutes, so we know exactly what the loads were in the system,” Gerstenmaier said. “But we still need to understand whether it was a test set up configuration coming out of the aircraft or if there was something associated with the packing of the parachutes, the rigging, all of that. This is part of the learning process. By these failures, we’re going to learn the data and information to end up with a safe design for our crews. So I don’t see this as a negative, this is why we test, this is why we want to push things.”



SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft descends under its four main parachutes March 8 after a test flight to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Engineers are investigating whether the parachute malfunction was caused by a problem with the chutes themselves, or as a consequence from the way the test was conducted.

“The test was not satisfactory, we did not get the results we wanted,” Gerstenmaier said. “But we learned some information that’s going to affect potentially future parachute designs. The other thing we need to understand (are the) test-unique circumstances. Was it driven by an actual design problem in the hardware, or was it driven by the set-up of the test or the particular equipment that was used during the test?”

SpaceX has completed 19 tests of the Crew Dragon’s parachute system to date, with a number of additional tests planned before astronauts fly on the spaceship. SpaceX had successfully performed five “parachute-out” tests, in which one of the chutes was deliberately disabled, before last month’s test accident, according to an industry source.

NASA officials have long identified parachutes as a concern for SpaceX and Boeing crew capsules, which are in the final stages of development before they carry astronauts into orbit for the first time. After completing their test programs, the SpaceX and Boeing capsules will begin ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station, ending NASA’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crew transportation.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule suffered a parachute anomaly during a return from the International Space Station last year, but recovery crews retrieved the supply ship from the Pacific Ocean as intended.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship uses the same main parachutes as the Crew Dragon, also known as Dragon 2. But the heavier Crew Dragon, which is a significantly different spacecraft than the cargo Dragon variant, requires four main parachutes for to slow down for splashdown in the ocean, not the three main chutes used on the currently-flying cargo freighter, sometimes known as Dragon 1.

The Crew Dragon’s first test flight in space in early March was successful, and the capsule’s parachutes functioned as designed after a six-day unpiloted mission to the space station. The spacecraft that flew to the station in March was destroyed April 20 during an accident at Cape Canaveral, which occurred as the capsule’s SuperDraco abort engines were activated for a hold-down firing on a test stand.

Before the April 20 accident, SpaceX aimed to re-fly the Crew Dragon spacecraft on an in-flight abort test in July. Officials hoped to launch a two-man team of NASA astronauts — Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — on the next Crew Dragon spacecraft to the space station in late September or early October.

SpaceX and NASA officials have not indicated how last month’s hotfire test mishap, or the parachute failure, might impact the schedule for the Crew Dragon’s first flight with astronauts on-board.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, which will parachute to ground landings in the Western United States, is set for its first unpiloted test flight to the space station in August, followed by a demonstration mission with three astronauts on-board as soon as November. The Starliner missions will launch on ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket, while SpaceX uses its own Falcon 9 launcher for Crew Dragon missions.

Patricia Sanders, chair of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, told members of Congress on Wednesday that parachutes are one of the largest risks faced by SpaceX and Boeing engineers working on NASA’s commercial crew program.

“There have been a number of very positive tests, results confirming what we would expect, or desire, in terms of re-entry performance of the parachutes,” Sanders said. “There have been a few less satisfactory results, and some tests that are indicating there may need to be some redesign or some adjustments made to the design.

“Those are important to get right before you launch humans,” she said.

Lawmakers did not ask Gerstenmaier about Boeing’s recent parachute test results. But in response to a question from Spaceflight Now after the hearing, he confirmed that Starliner parachute drop tests have also encountered anomalies.

“We’ve gotten data that is unique, that will help us understand if this is something that needs to be fixed or if it’s something that’s just a nuance of the test and the configuration,” Gerstenmaier said of last month’s SpaceX parachute test failure.

“Boeing and SpaceX are making tremendous progress for their respective parachute design and test campaigns,” a NASA spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “Each company is extremely engaged, and we learn new things with each test that informs how we move forward in the design of the parachutes and execute each test series.

“Although Boeing and SpaceX have faced obstacles, each company’s testing is unique, and each has experienced different challenges and results during their test campaigns.”


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/05/09/commercial-crew-capsules-still-beset-by-parachute-problems/

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Investigation into Crew Dragon incident continues
by Jeff Foust — May 28, 2019 [SN]


The Demo-1 Crew Dragon spacecraft on a test stand shortly before the April 20 anomaly that destroyed it. Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON — More than a month after a Crew Dragon spacecraft was destroyed in a test of its propulsion system, NASA and SpaceX investigators are still working to determine the cause of the accident and its implications for upcoming test flights.

In a May 28 presentation to the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee, Kathy Lueders, manager of the commercial crew program at NASA, offered few updates on the progress of the investigation into the April 20 incident at a SpaceX pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In that incident, SpaceX was testing both the Draco thrusters and larger SuperDraco abort thrusters in preparation for an in-flight abort test of the capsule that, at the time, was scheduled for the end of June. “An anomaly occurred during activation of the SuperDraco system,” she said, but offered no details on what caused that anomaly.

Lueders did praise SpaceX for how it dealt with the accident and the ongoing investigation. “I will tell you that the team did a great job,” she said of the response. “The team followed the mishap plan beautifully. All the notifications were made. The SpaceX folks did a tremendous job.”

She also indicated that NASA has been kept in the loop about the accident and investigation, including NASA personnel who were at the SpaceX control room at the time the accident took place. A NASA team, she added, is embedded within SpaceX to help with the investigation, such as collecting all the data from the incident. SpaceX, though, is leading the investigation.

The capsule destroyed in the test was the one that flew to the International Space Station on the Demo-1 test flight in March. SpaceX planned to use that capsule on the in-flight abort test this summer.

With that capsule destroyed, Lueders said that SpaceX will use the Crew Dragon spacecraft originally intended for the Demo-2 crewed flight test for the in-flight abort test. The Demo-2 mission will instead use the spacecraft SpaceX was building for the first operational mission, dubbed Crew-1.

With the investigation ongoing, Lueders said the dates of both the in-flight abort test and the Demo-2 mission are under review. Assembly of the Demo-2 capsule continues, she said, although she said workers are keeping open the vehicle’s propulsion system in case they need to make modifications as a result of the investigation. “They’re making progress in a lot of the other areas while trying to keep, most particularly in the prop area, access to the systems that may need to be modified,” she said.

She didn’t give an indication of when that investigation will be completed. “You don’t push your anomaly investigation team too quick,” she said, stressing the importance for them to be “methodical” while working through all parts of the fault tree of potential causes.

Later in the meeting, a committee member asked Lueders if Demo-2 could still fly this year. “They’re getting their vehicle ready by the end of year,” she said of SpaceX. “We need to close out the anomaly investigation. That’s the big thing.”

The accident, she said, was something of a “gift” to the program, since it took place on a test stand, giving them an opportunity to understand what may need to be modified. “We’re learning a lot. Sometimes you learn more from a failure like this,” she said.

“It’s pretty sad not to have that vehicle,” she added. “I was hoping that vehicle would be in a museum one day. But, I think this is a vehicle that continues to serve her purpose to make human spaceflight safer and safer. We will learn from this test, and that learning will be applied to the next vehicle.”


Source: https://spacenews.com/investigation-into-crew-dragon-incident-continues/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #20 dnia: Listopad 15, 2019, 13:29 »
SpaceX fires up Crew Dragon thrusters in key test after April explosion
November 13, 2019 Stephen Clark [SFN]


Eight SuperDraco thrusters fired during a ground test Wednesday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX test-fired the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s eight SuperDraco abort engines Wednesday at Cape Canaveral, paving the way for a high-altitude rocket escape test and demonstrating engineers have apparently fixed the problem that triggered an explosion during a similar ground firing in April.

The ground test Wednesday was a significant achievement for SpaceX as the company steps closer toward launching astronauts, a goal set back by months after an April 20 explosion destroyed a Crew Dragon spacecraft that had recently returned from an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station.

“Full duration static fire test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system complete,” SpaceX tweeted Wednesday. “SpaceX and NASA teams are now reviewing test data and working toward an in-flight demonstration of Crew Dragon’s launch escape capabilities.”

The in-flight abort test, scheduled for mid-December, show the Crew Dragon spacecraft can escape from a Falcon 9 rocket at high altitude. The SuperDraco abort thrusters would be used to push the capsule off the top of the Falcon 9 booster in the event of a catastrophic failure.

“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,” NASA said in a statement Wednesday.

The test-firing occurred at approximately 3:08 p.m. EST (2008 GMT) Wednesday on a test stand at Landing Zone 1, the site where SpaceX lands Falcon 9 rocket boosters for reuse.

NASA has awarded more than $3.1 billion in funding to SpaceX to develop the Crew Dragon spacecraft since the commercial crew program began in 2010. The space agency has awarded Boeing a similar series of contracts valued at more than $4.8 billion.

The Crew Dragon’s first flight with astronauts is scheduled in the first half of 2020. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are assigned to the Crew Dragon’s first piloted mission, designated Demo-2, before NASA clears the SpaceX-built craft for regular crew rotation flights to the space station.

The Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines, clustered in four pods around the circumference of the capsule, are designed to rapidly ignite and ramp to to full power. The eight engines consume hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants. The two chemicals ignite when mixed together.

The SuperDracos cumulatively generate 128,000 pounds of thrust at full power to push the Crew Dragon spacecraft away from its launcher.

SpaceX and NASA did not publicize the schedule for Wednesday’s static fire test in advance.

In an update posted after the Wednesday’s test, NASA said that the testing began with one-second burns of two of the Crew Dragon’s 16 Draco thrusters, smaller control jets used for in-orbit maneuvers. The Dracos would also be used to re-orient the spacecraft during in-flight aborts.

“Following these initial Draco thruster burns, the team completed a full-duration firing for approximately nine seconds of Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines,” NASA said. “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 re-orient the spacecraft in flight to a parachute deploy attitude, and close the flaps prior to re-entry,” NASA said. “The full sequence, from SuperDraco startup to flap closure, spanned approximately 70 seconds.”

Investigators determined a leaky valve inside the Crew Dragon’s abort propulsion system led to the explosion in April, which spread toxic debris across the test site at Landing Zone 1.

“That was a very dear vehicle for us,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, last month. “We were on a high coming off Demo-1 (the unpiloted test flight), then to lose that vehicle. That vehicle was going in a museum somewhere. I’m really proud of the way the team over the summer has carefully worked through the anomaly investigation, worked through the changes in the system.”

A faulty check valve inside the propulsion system allowed nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer to enter high-pressure helium tubes during ground processing before the attempted static fire test in April.

The helium system is used to quickly pressurize the propulsion system, allowing the SuperDraco thrusters to fire up during a launch emergency.

When the abort system began pressurizing on the April test, nitrogen tetroxide that had leaked into the helium pressurization system was driven back into the check valve, which is made of titanium.

“Imagine a lot of pressure driving back a slug of liquid (that) has significant force, and that basically destroyed the check valve and caused an explosion,” said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, in a July press briefing.

“We found out that … when the pressure is high, and you drive a slug with a lot of energy into a titanium component, that you can have this rather violent reaction,” Koenigsmann said.

The violent result was surprising. Engineers did not expect titanium, a material commonly used for decades on space vehicles around the world, could react so explosively in such an environment.

SpaceX added a burst disk to prevent propellant from leaking into the high-pressure lines before ignition.

On rockets and spacecraft, burst disks are designed for a single use. The burst disks block the pathway between the propellant and pressurization systems until they rupture during the engine startup sequence, allowing fluids to mix.

SpaceX engineers will replace the ruptured burst disk on the capsule tested Wednesday, then complete a series of data reviews and hardware inspections before readying the same vehicle for the in-flight abort test next month.

A full-scale Falcon 9 rocket — with all its parts other than a second stage engine — will loft the Crew Dragon capsule into the stratosphere for the high-altitude abort demonstration.

The in-flight abort test plan calls for the rocket to take off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center and arc over the Atlantic Ocean, firing its nine main engines for nearly a minute-and-a-half, as it would during a typical launch. SpaceX will pre-program the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin booster engines to switch off after surpassing the speed of sound.

A computer on the Crew Dragon spacecraft will detect the loss of thrust and trigger an abort approximately 88 seconds after liftoff, Lueders said last month, and the capsule will parachute into the Atlantic, where recovery teams will be on standby to retrieve it.

SpaceX does not expect the Falcon 9 booster to survive the harrowing abort test.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/11/13/spacex-fires-up-crew-dragon-thrusters-in-key-test-after-april-explosion/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #21 dnia: Styczeń 11, 2020, 19:27 »
SpaceX test-fires rocket ahead of Crew Dragon in-flight abort test
January 11, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]


Credit: Steven Young / Spaceflight Now

SpaceX fired up nine Merlin main engines at the bottom of a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster Saturday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, running the rocket through a practice countdown before a scheduled liftoff Jan. 18 with a Crew Dragon capsule to test the human-rated ship’s high-altitude abort capability.

The Falcon 9 rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines ignited at 10:10 a.m. EST (1510 GMT) Saturday as hold-down clamps kept the rocket firmly grounded at launch pad 39A.

The test-firing lasted for several seconds as the Merlin engines powered up to full throttle to produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust. The engines shut down and SpaceX began preparations to drain the Falcon 9 rocket of its super-chilled kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants.

SpaceX will lower the Falcon 9 at pad 39A and return it to a hangar at the southern perimeter of the seaside launch complex for attachment of a Crew Dragon spacecraft next week.

The Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will roll back out to pad 39A, where teams will run through final launch preparations ahead of a planned liftoff next Saturday, Jan. 18, during a four-hour window opening at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT).

The high-altitude abort demonstration will be the final major test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft before it is cleared to fly astronauts. A two-man team of veteran NASA shuttle astronauts is assigned to the Crew Dragon’s first piloted flight, designated Demo-2, later this year.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who are assigned to the Demo-2 mission, are expected to participate in a countdown practice run at pad 39A next week with the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The in-flight abort test itself next Saturday will be performed with no astronauts on-board the Crew Dragon.



SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is pictured being prepared for an in-flight abort test inside of a SpaceX processing facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Credit: SpaceX Credit: SpaceX

The in-flight abort test will involve a full-up Crew Dragon spacecraft, with all its engines, computers and other key systems, launched atop a full-size Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX will launch the Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A to simulate a crewed flight to the International Space Station, but the launcher’s first stage engines will be programmed to shut down about 88 seconds after liftoff as the launcher arcs toward the east from Florida’s Space Coast.

The premature engine cutoff will be followed by an automated abort command on the Crew Dragon spacecraft, triggering ignition of the ship’s eight SuperDraco escape thrusters.

The SuperDraco engines will rapidly power up to full throttle, producing up to 130,000 pounds of thrust for less than 10 seconds to push the Crew Dragon capsule away from the top of the Falcon 9 rocket.

The in-flight abort test is timed to demonstrate the capsule’s escape system under the most extreme aerodynamic forces during launch.

Smaller thrusters will orient the crew capsule for separation of its unpressurized trunk, then deployment of parachutes before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean east of Cape Canaveral.

The Falcon 9 booster is expected to break up due to extreme aerodynamic loads during the abort sequence. According to previously-released environmental review documents, the Falcon 9 will fly without a second stage engine on the in-flight abort test because the escape maneuver will occur during the first stage burn.

SpaceX performed a test of the Crew Dragon abort system in 2015 to simulate an escape maneuver from the launch pad, and then company completed a test-firing of the SuperDraco engines in November on the Crew Dragon vehicle set to fly on the high-altitude escape test.

The SuperDraco hotfire test verified the effectiveness of SpaceX’s design changes in the Crew Dragon propulsion system after a previous capsule exploded during a similar ground firing earlier last year.

Read more about the SuperDraco hotfire test.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/01/11/spacex-test-fires-rocket-ahead-of-crew-dragon-in-flight-abort-test/


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #22 dnia: Styczeń 25, 2020, 07:05 »
SpaceX performs in-flight abort test of Crew Dragon spacecraft
by Jeff Foust — January 19, 2020 [SN]
Updated 1:30 p.m. Eastern after post-test briefing.


The Falcon 9 that launched a Crew Dragon spacecraft explodes shortly after the spacecraft fired its SuperDraco thrusters to escape the rocket, as planned, during a Jan. 19 test. Credit: NASA TV

WASHINGTON — SpaceX successfully tested the abort system of its Crew Dragon spacecraft Jan. 19, one of the final milestones before a crewed test flight that could take place as soon as this spring.

A Falcon 9 carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:30 a.m. Eastern, one day after poor weather postponed the previous launch attempt.

About 84 seconds after liftoff, the Crew Dragon ignited its eight SuperDraco thrusters, pulling the vehicle away from the Falcon 9. The spacecraft later jettisoned its trunk section and deployed parachutes, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean about 32 kilometers offshore nearly nine minutes after liftoff.

While a detailed review of the data from the test will likely take weeks, both NASA and SpaceX leadership said the test appeared to go as expected. “Overall, as far as we can tell thus far, it is a picture-perfect mission. It went as well as one could possibly expect,” said Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, at a post-test briefing. He added he was “super fired-up” about the test.

“Another amazing milestone is complete for our very-soon-to-be project, which is launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the briefing. “By all accounts this was a very successful test.”

Bridenstine said that while this test was the “final major flight milestone” in the development of Crew Dragon, more work was still ahead, such as testing of the parachutes. Kathy Lueders, manager of the commercial crew program at NASA, said later that this flight served as the second “system-level” test of the spacecraft’s upgraded parachutes, with two more such tests planned in the coming weeks.

At the briefing, Musk said that the Crew Dragon spacecraft that will fly the Demo-2 test flight, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board, should be ready by the end of February. However, various reviews for the system, as well as ISS schedules, mean it will take some time even after the spacecraft is ready before the mission can launch.

“The collective wisdom at this point is that we’re highly confident the hardware will be ready in [quarter] 1,” Musk said. “It appears probable that the first crewed launch will occur in the second quarter.”

The Falcon 9 rocket used for the test broke up and exploded several seconds after the Crew Dragon escape. That breakup and subsequent fireball was expected, as SpaceX officials said prior to the test that the first stage booster, making its fourth flight, would not survive the test.

“Fairly quickly, Falcon will be going through a lot of aerodynamic issues,” said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, during a pre-flight press conference Jan. 17. With the capsule no longer on top of the rocket, the top of the upper stage became “a big air scoop,” he said. “At some point we expect the Falcon will start to break up” with some of the remaining fuel and oxidizer igniting.

Among those watching the test were NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, who will fly the first post-certification, or operational, Crew Dragon mission along with two international astronauts yet to be assigned.

“So far, what we’ve seen is what we expected,” Glover said at the post-test briefing. This test, he and Hopkins noted, was particularly important for their families ahead of their flight on the spacecraft as soon as late this year.

“I did receive a text from my wife right afterwards,” Hopkins said. “Everything looked good from her perspective.”


Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-performs-in-flight-abort-test-of-crew-dragon-spacecraft/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #23 dnia: Styczeń 25, 2020, 07:06 »
NASA considering extended Crew Dragon test flight to ISS
by Jeff Foust — January 19, 2020 [SN]


NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley during a dress rehearsal Jan. 17 for their upcoming test flight to the ISS. NASA will decide in the coming weeks whether to extend that mission to provide additional manpower on the station. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — NASA will decide in the coming weeks whether to extend a crewed SpaceX test flight to the International Space Station, a move that could help alleviate a crew time crunch on the station.

A successful in-flight abort test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft Jan. 19 makes it increasingly likely that that the spacecraft will be ready for a crewed test flight, known as Demo-2, this spring. At a post-test news conference, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said it was “probable” that the flight will take place in the second quarter of this year.

On the Demo-2 flight, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly on the Crew Dragon to the ISS. That was originally designed as a short-term mission, on the order of a couple weeks, but NASA is leaving the door open to extending that mission by an unspecified amount.

“Do we want that first crew to be a short duration or do we want it to be a longer duration?” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the briefing immediately after Musk offered his estimate of when the mission would be ready to fly. If NASA decided to extend the Demo-2 mission, he said, the astronauts would need additional training for ISS operations, which would push back the launch.

The current plan, he said later, is to keep Demo-2 a short-duration mission. But extending the mission, he said, would ensure NASA can get “the maximum amount of capability” out of the station. “We’ll be able to maintain a larger presence of astronauts on the space station for longer periods of time.”

There are currently six people on the station, but with scheduled crew rotations and a previously planned reduction in Soyuz flights, there will only be three people — NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin — on the station starting in April. That will limit the time available for research and also restrict any spacewalks to urgent repairs.

Bridenstine specifically mentioned spacewalks in his comments at the press conference. “It’s always better to have more crew on board for those activities than less,” he said. “We want to make sure we give us the best chance of success.”

A decision on extending Demo-2, Bridenstine said, would come in the near future. “Those are decisions we’re going to be making in the coming weeks,” he said.

NASA previously exercised an option to extend the crewed flight test for the other commercial crew vehicle in development, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. The agency said last April that Crew Flight Test mission, with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing commercial astronaut Chris Ferguson on board, would be extended for up to six months. The exact flight duration, NASA said then, would be decided at a later date, but all three astronauts have been performing training for ISS operations alongside that for the Starliner test flight itself.

NASA didn’t originally consider an extension of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission for technical reasons. “When we made this agreement with Boeing at that time, the vehicle that SpaceX was going to fly for Demo-2 was not really capable of doing it,” Kirk Shireman, NASA ISS program manager, said at an October briefing.

However, the destruction of the Crew Dragon spacecraft that flew the Demo-1 uncrewed mission in March 2019 during preparations for the in-flight abort test forced SpaceX to instead use the Crew Dragon being built for Demo-2 for the abort test. The Demo-2 mission, in turn, will use a Crew Dragon spacecraft originally constructed for the first post-certification, or operational, ISS mission.

“That changed the game,” Shireman said then about extending Demo-2. “That’s why it’s much more in the discussion than it was before.”

Kathy Lueders, NASA commercial crew program manager, said at the post-test briefing that the agency had been working with SpaceX over the last six to seven months so that the Demo-2 spacecraft could support an extended mission. “You always need to have options when you’re dealing with these types of missions,” she said.

Musk said the company would be ready if NASA decided to extend Demo-2. “From a SpaceX standpoint, we will make sure we’re ready to serve whatever needs NASA may have, so that whatever decision is made, we can support either,” he said.


Source: https://spacenews.com/nasa-considering-extended-crew-dragon-test-flight-to-iss/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #24 dnia: Styczeń 25, 2020, 07:06 »
SpaceX abort test serves as practice run for astronauts, rescue teams
January 16, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]
EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated at 11 p.m. EST Jan. 16 (0400 GMT Jan. 17) after Falcon 9 was raised vertical.


NASA astronaut Doug Hurley participates in a 2019 training event to rehearse pre-launch crew operations for a Crew Dragon mission. Credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule were raised vertical at launch pad 39A in Florida late Thursday, setting the stage for a launch day dress rehearsal Friday with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — the veteran space fliers assigned to the Crew Dragon’s first piloted mission later this year — before a critical in-flight test of the ship’s emergency escape system Saturday.

NASA and SpaceX officials convened a launch readiness review Thursday and gave approval for SpaceX to proceed with final preparations for the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test Saturday.

The test flight is set for liftoff from pad 39A during a four-hour window Saturday opening at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT). There is a 90 percent chance of favorable weather for the test flight Saturday, according to the official launch weather forecast.

The launch escape demonstration will verify the SuperDraco abort engines on the Crew Dragon capsule can safely push the spacecraft away from a Falcon 9 rocket in flight. If the test goes well, the abort demonstration will be the final planned test flight for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon program — managed under contract with NASA’s commercial crew program — before astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are cleared to fly the next Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station.

Hurley and Behnken, both veterans of multiple space shuttle missions, are expected to put on their SpaceX-designed spacesuits early Friday to go through the procedures they will execute on launch day.

The two veteran NASA astronauts will not actually board the Crew Dragon spacecraft, but will practice their suit-up activities inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, the same facility where Apollo and space shuttle crews prepared for launch.

SpaceX’s spacesuits are fabricated in the company’s factory in Hawthorne, California. Made of a single garment, with built-in gloves and boots, the pressure suits have a black and white motif, matching the colors of the Falcon 9 rocket and the launch tower and crew access arm at pad 39A.

Once in their launch and entry space suits, Behnken and Hurley are expected to travel to pad 39A from Kennedy’s Operations and Checkout Building. The crew will take the same 8-mile (13-kilometer) trip by road on launch day.

Ground teams will also perform final inspections on the Crew Dragon capsule and close the ship’s side hatch as they will before a crewed mission, according to NASA.

“Additionally, SpaceX and NASA flight controllers along with support teams will be staged as they will for future Crew Dragon missions, helping the integrated launch team gain additional experience beyond existing simulations and training events,” NASA said in a statement.

The crew access arm will back away from the Crew Dragon spacecraft in the final hour of the countdown, and the spaceship’s abort engines will be armed for flight.

The modified Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon vehicle rolled out of SpaceX’s hangar and up the ramp to pad 39A Thursday. After completing the quarter-mile trip on SpaceX’s transporter-erector, the rocket was raised vertical at the launch pad shortly before 11 p.m. EST Thursday (0400 GMT Friday).



The 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft were raised vertical at pad 39A late Thursday in preparation for the In-Flight Abort Test. Credit: Spaceflight Now

The Falcon 9 rocket will fire off pad 39A Saturday with 1.7 million pounds of thrust from its nine Merlin 1D engines, following a standard launch trajectory to mimic a crew flight to the space station.

Arcing toward the east over the Atlantic Ocean, the Falcon 9 will accelerate the Crew Dragon faster than the speed of sound before reaching a predetermined supersonic velocity threshold. Once the Falcon 9 hits that velocity — expected around 84 seconds after liftoff — the rocket will shut down its nine main engines to simulate a launch failure.

Then eight SuperDraco thrusters fixed to the circumference of the Crew Dragon spacecraft will ignite to quickly propel the spaceship away from the top of the Falcon 9 at an altitude of more than 60,000 (about 19 kilometers).

The SuperDraco engines, burning a high-pressure mix of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants, will fire for less than 10 seconds to push the capsule away from its crippled booster.

Engineers expect the Falcon 9 itself, which is powered by a reused first stage booster, to break apart from aerodynamic forces after the Crew Dragon’s escape maneuver, either immediately after the abort command or during its uncontrolled descent back through the atmosphere.

The SuperDraco engines would be used on a piloted flight to save astronauts from a catastrophic launch failure.

Launch abort systems have been used during emergencies on other rockets, most recently in October 2018, when a Russian Soyuz booster failed two minutes after liftoff. The Soyuz abort rockets fired to safely carry Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA flight engineer Nick Hague away from the Soyuz booster as it tumbled out of control.

After shutting down the SuperDraco engines, smaller Draco thrusters on the Crew Dragon will re-orient the craft for descent. The capsule will coast to an apogee of about 138,000 feet (42 kilometers), then jettison its no-longer-needed trunk section. The capsule will deploy parachutes to slow for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean around 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of the Florida coast, where teams from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force will practice search-and-rescue techniques before retrieving the Crew Dragon for return to port.

Personnel with the Air Force’s Detachment 3, part of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, will work with SpaceX’s recovery team downrange in the Atlantic Ocean to observe the Crew Dragon’s splashdown. The military rescue team, working in coordination with SpaceX recovery vessels, will practice their approach to the spacecraft in the ocean, rehearsing a real-life astronaut rescue operation.

SpaceX teams will eventually pull the capsule from the sea and return it to port for inspections.



NASA astronaut Bob Behnken is pictured during a formal verification of SpaceX’s emergency escape system Sept. 18, 2019, at launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Behnken is wearing a SpaceX spacesuit in this image. Credit: SpaceX

The Detachment 3 teams from Patrick Air Force Base include an HC-130 transport and refueling plane, and two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters with search and rescue teams on-board, according to NASA officials.

The military pararescue specialists will parachute from the aircraft into the Atlantic with inflatable boats.

SpaceX and Boeing, NASA’s other commercial crew contractor, are responsible for recovering their spacecraft after a normal landing. The Crew Dragon splashes down at sea, with a primary zone in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida and a backup zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and Boeng’s Starliner capsule returns to a touchdown on land at one of several possible sites in the Western United States.

But like SpaceX’s vehicle, the Boeing Starliner is designed for a water landing in case of a launch abort.

“We requested from (the military), if something goes awry, such as a pad abort or an ascent abort — which is what we’re talking about with this In-Flight Abort Test — then they typically would go out and deploy their teams and provide for rescuing the crew, picking them up,” said Ted Mosteller, NASA’s commercial crew launch and landing lead, in an interview with CBS News.

“SpaceX, they’re really specifically for the nominal landing site and nominal landing in most cases,” he told CBS News. “And then the DoD, specifically Detachment Three down at Patrick, coordinates with the Air Force the assets that we use for rescue.”

For a crewed mission, the search and rescue team at Patrick Air Force Base will have primary responsibility for retrieving the astronauts from the Crew Dragon spacecraft after a pad abort or launch emergency in the first few minutes of the flight, a scenario that would lead to a splashdown within about a 230-mile (370-kilometer) radius from Cape Canaveral.

Launch trajectories toward the space station head to the northeast from the Kennedy Space Center, following a path roughly parallel to the U.S. East Coast. NASA required SpaceX and Boeing, which launches its Starliner capsule on United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets, to design their crew capsules to avoid splashing down in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean in the event of an in-flight abort late in the ascent sequence.

If required, thrusters on the Crew Dragon or Starliner spacecraft would fire after an abort to ensure the capsule lands within about 300 miles of eastern Canada or Ireland, NASA officials told CBS News.

“Once you detach from a failing rocket, you will either have enough propellant to slow down and land before you get there, or to boost you to the other side of that zone,” said Steve Payne, NASA’s launch integration manager for the commercial crew program.



Defense Department rescue teams practice with a mock-up of a commercial crew capsule. Credit: NASA

NASA and contractor teams will also assess sea states in the Atlantic Ocean before giving final approval for a crew launch.

On future commercial crew flights with astronauts on-board, a C-17 cargo plane from Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina will be on standby to respond for a sea rescue farther away from the launch site in Florida. A C-17 aircraft with a similar search and rescue team would deploy from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean or neighboring seas.

During a crew launch, the rescue teams at Patrick Air Force Base could be airborne in 10 or 15 minutes, Mosteller told CBS News, and will aim to retrieve the astronauts and transport them to a local hospital within six hours. The C-17s are on a one-hour alert from the time of a SpaceX or Boeing crew launch until docking with the space station, with a goal of getting to the astronauts within 24 hours after an emergency landing anywhere in the world.

Mosteller told CBS News that the SpaceX and Boeing crew capsules both carry radio beacons to help the military search and rescue team locate the spacecraft. The Crew Dragon and Starliner both have flashing lights, and crews will carry handheld radios and personal locator beacons to communicate with search and rescue teams if the astronauts have to leave the spacecraft after splashdown.

The SpaceX and Boeing crew capsules both have a raft on-board, plus a survival kit with medications, food and fresh water, signaling mirrors, blankets and other equipment, Mosteller told CBS News.

Military rescue teams are also equipped with a larger life raft that can accommodate the search and rescue forces, along with the astronaut crews, and carries provisions for up to three days.



Pararescue specialists from the 304th Rescue Squadron, located in Portland, Oregon and supporting the 45th Operations Group’s Detachment 3, based out of Patrick Air Force Base, deploy their parachutes and prepare to touch down on the Atlantic Ocean surface during an April 2018 astronaut rescue exercise with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX off of Florida’s eastern coast. The pararescue specialists, also known as “Guardian Angels,” jumped from military aircraft and simulated a rescue operation to demonstrate their ability to safely remove crew from the SpaceX Crew Dragon in the unlikely event of an emergency landing. Credit: NASA

SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon under a $2.6 billion contract with NASA signed in 2014. NASA also awarded a contract to Boeing, which is also awaiting its first crewed mission — giving the agency two vehicles to help end U.S. reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crew transportation to the station.

SpaceX conducted the first Crew Dragon test flight to the space station last March, but engineers ran into trouble in April, when the capsule exploded during a ground test. The accident occurred moments before a ground test-firing of the Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco abort engines and resulted in no injuries, but it destroyed the spaceship that just returned from the space station.

Engineers say they resolved the problem that led to the explosion, and SpaceX performed a similar ground firing of the SuperDraco engines on a new Crew Dragon vehicle in November, paving the way for the In-Flight Abort Test.

Assuming the launch escape test goes well Saturday, SpaceX could be on pace to launch astronauts Hurley and Behnken on the next Crew Dragon test flight in the next few months. That mission, designated Demo-2, is a precursor to the start of SpaceX’s operational crew rotation service, with missions ferrying up to four astronauts to and from the space station for stays of up to 210 days.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/01/16/spacex-abort-test-serves-as-practice-run-for-astronauts-rescue-teams/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #25 dnia: Styczeń 25, 2020, 07:07 »
Pending test outcomes, NASA says SpaceX could launch astronauts in early March
January 17, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]
EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated at 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) Saturday with abort test launch delay.


NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley inside SpaceX’s crew access arm early Friday at launch pad 39A, where they participated in a dry run of their suit-up activities and movements before their launch on a Crew Dragon spacecraft later this year. Credit: NASA

A NASA official said Friday that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft could be ready to ferry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station as soon as early March, pending the results from a major demonstration of the ship’s launch abort system this weekend, a pair of parachute drop tests, and space station crew schedules.

Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s commercial crew program, told reporters Friday that the Crew Dragon capsule slated to carry Hurley and Behnken into orbit on the so-called “Demo-2” mission could be ready for for flight within a couple of months.

“The vehicle will be all ready at the end of February,” Lueders said. “We’re kind of shooting for early March, right now, from a planning perspective. That would be the earliest.”

That schedule hinges on a good outcome of a Crew Dragon high-altitude launch abort test planned Sunday over the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida’s Space Coast. The abort test was delayed from Saturday due to rough seas and winds in the capsule’s downrange recovery zone.

NASA and SpaceX also plan to perform two more full-scale drop tests of the Crew Dragon’s parachutes beginning in mid-February using a boilerplate version of the spacecraft.

The outcome of those tests, coupled with data reviews to analyze their results, will ultimately drive when NASA is comfortable with flying its astronauts on the Crew Dragon spacecraft. And space station managers will also have input into the schedule to determine when Demo-2 flight best fits in the orbiting laboratory’s busy schedule of visiting vehicles.

“We’re obviously trading lots of different things, including what’s going on on (the) station, and when’s the right time to be able to provide crew coverage for ISS also, because crew on ISS right now is very valuable, so having additional hands — and Doug and Bob are additional hands — that’s going to be a very big deal,” Lueders said.

SpaceX plans to launch a Crew Dragon capsule — without any astronauts — aboard a modified Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center during a six-hour window opening at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT) Sunday. Around 84 seconds after liftoff, the Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco engines will ignite to push the capsule off the top of the Falcon 9 rocket, simulating a maneuver to quickly carry astronauts away from a failing launch vehicle.

The in-flight launch abort capability is a crucial part of the Crew Dragon safety system. SpaceX verified the Crew Dragon’s ability to escape an emergency on the launch pad in 2015 during a ground-launched pad abort test.

“Tomorrow’s test is one of these things that’s actually going to allow us test that whole system end-to-end,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management.

“The main objective of this test is to show that we can carry the astronauts safely away from the rocket in case anything’s gone wrong,” Reed said.

The Crew Dragon capsule will trigger an abort command shortly after the Falcon 9 passes the point in its ascent where it undergoes the maximum aerodynamic stress. The eight SuperDraco engines will ignite with nearly 130,000 pounds of thrust and burn for nearly 10 seconds, while the Falcon 9’s first stage will automatically shut down its Merlin engines.

The booster is expected to break apart from aerodynamic forces, and leftover propellant in the rocket could ignite in a fireball visible from the ground, assuming clear skies, Reed said.

Meanwhile, the Crew Dragon will reach a top speed of Mach 2.3 and arc on a ballistic trajectory to a peak altitude of some 138,000 feet (42 kilometers), then use its thrusters to re-orient for descent. The capsule will jettison an unpressurized trunk section and deploy four main parachutes to gently splash down in the Atlantic Ocean around 20 miles (32 kilometers) offshore, where U.S. military, NASA and SpaceX recovery teams will recover the capsule to practice procedures they would execute on a crew mission.

The entire abort test flight, from liftoff through splashdown, will take around 10 minutes.



Illustration of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket during the company’s uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test for NASA’s commercial crew program. Credit: SpaceX

The In-Flight Abort Test is the last major planned test flight of a full-up Crew Dragon spacecraft before NASA clears the vehicle to carry astronauts.

According to Reed, SpaceX is finishing up work on the Crew Dragon capsule assigned to the Demo-2 mission at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

“We just recently completed heat shield mate, where we attach the heat shield to the spacecraft, and we’re on track for completing the vehicle and delivering it later this month from Hawthorne to the Cape (the Kennedy Space Center),” Reed said. “There are number of checkouts that we do as part of that process.”

The Crew Dragon will be outfitted for Hurley and Behnken’s mission, filled with propellant for its maneuvering thrusters and abort engines, then mated with a Falcon 9 booster before liftoff from pad 39A.

Amid the hardware checkouts in Florida, NASA engineers will reviewing data packages submitted by SpaceX to verify the Crew Dragon meets the space agency’s safety requirements. NASA officials have not said how long that process will take.

Lueders said SpaceX will conduct two more drop tests of the Crew Dragon’s Mark 3 parachutes, which were strengthened after an earlier chute design failed during testing. The Mark 3 chutes are also flying on the Crew Dragon for Saturday’s abort test.

Read our earlier story for details on the parachute issues, and other reasons for delays in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon development.

“We’re getting ready to do, working with SpaceX … a couple more system-level tests with brand new chutes,” Lueders said. “We’d like to really characterize getting a brand new chute system and getting a couple of tests. So we’re working on that with SpaceX.”

The Mark 3 parachutes aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft for Saturday’s abort test have flown before.

“So what we’d like to do is, you really want to know what’s your initial capability,” Lueders said. “We’re very happy with the strength and capability of the chutes, but what we’d really like to do is go take a brand new set of chutes straight off the shelf, never used — same design that we’ve been testing, but just made — and then run some tests with that.”

SpaceX announced last month that it completed its 10th consecutive successful multi-parachute drop test using the Crew Dragon’s new Mark 3 parachute design.

In a tweet Dec. 29, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk wrote that the Crew Dragon spacecraft assigned to the Demo-2 mission should be at Cape Canaveral and “physically ready” for flight in February.

“But completing all safety reviews will probably take a few more months,” Musk tweeted.

At the end of a typical mission, the SpaceX crew capsule will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean around 27 miles (44 kilometers) off Florida’s east coast, allowing astronauts to return to port on a boat within a few hours of landing.

SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon under a $2.6 billion contract awarded by NASA’s commercial crew program in 2014. NASA also has a $4.2 billion commercial crew contract with Boeing to develop the Starliner spaceship.

In 2014, NASA and company officials aimed to have the commercial crew capsules ready to carry astronauts in 2017. But delays in both programs have pushed back that milestone.

One of the two new commercial crew spaceships will be the first U.S. vehicle to fly astronauts to orbit since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. Since then, NASA has purchased rides on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the space station, paying the Russian government more than $80 million per round-trip ticket in the space agency’s last Soyuz seat contract.

The onset of regular commercial service with the new SpaceX and Boeing spaceships will end U.S. reliance on Russia for crew transportation. But U.S. astronauts will continue flying on Soyuz capsules through an “in-kind” no-funds-exchanged arrangement with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, in which Russian cosmonauts will also launch and land on Crew Dragon and Starliner capsules.

Lueders said the duration of Hurley and Behnken’s stay at the space station has not been decided.

“Right now, we’re focused on when this vehicle going to be ready, and then we’ll be working together as an agency and with SpaceX about how do we best use it,” Lueders said. “But the first thing I’ve got to do is get through this test, and then we’ll go look at it, along with the other tests we talked about — the chute tests and other things.

“And then when we get a better idea of when the vehicle is really going to be ready to fly, we’ll go look at and work with the space station program — and obviously NASA leadership — on what’s the best way to use this capability.”

The space station is usually staffed with a crew of six, but NASA’s contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz seats expires later this year.

A three-person crew — Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA flight engineer Christina Koch — is scheduled to depart the space station in a Soyuz spacecraft and return to Earth on Feb. 6.

That will leave a team of three — commander Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan — living and working on the International Space Station until the next Soyuz crew launch scheduled for April 9.

Russian commander Nikolai Tikhonov, flight engineer Andrei Babkin and veteran NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy are training for the April 9 Soyuz launch, briefly boosting the station’s crew complement back to six for around a week until Skripochka, Meir and Morgan are scheduled to undock and land in their Soyuz spaceship.

That will leave a three-man crew on the station, with Cassidy as the only crew member to operate experiments and maintain hardware on the U.S. segment of the orbiting research complex. The crew downsizing will limit NASA’s ability to perform spacewalks, except in the case of an emergency, when a Russian cosmonaut could accompany Cassidy to conduct repairs outside the station.

Cassidy is flying in the final Soyuz seat under NASA control before the start of commercial crew transportation services, but NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said the agency could purchase additional Soyuz seats to ensure U.S. astronauts maintain access to the space station through early 2021.

Cassidy and his crewmates are scheduled to land in October after a six-month mission, and NASA has not paid for a seat on the next Soyuz mission late this year.



NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy prepares for a spacewalk training session at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. Credit: NASA/James Blair

NASA is seeking to address concerns about a possible gap in U.S. crew access to the station by extending the length of the Crew Dragon and Starliner test flights, which originally were expected to last just days or weeks. The piloted demonstration missions will pave the way to NASA’s final certification of both commercial crew capsules, and SpaceX and Boeing could begin operational crew rotation missions late this year, assuming no additional delays.

Boeing’s first piloted Starliner mission, which the company calls the Crew Flight Test, has already been approved to stay at the space station for up to six months. Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, a former NASA space shuttle commander, will be joined on the Starliner’s Crew Flight Test by NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann.

Late last year, NASA officials said they were also considering an extension to the Crew Dragon’s Demo-2 mission.

“We have been working with SpaceX to have the capability for an extended mission for a while — the same thing that we’ve been working with Boeing, too,” Lueders said Friday. “We want to make sure that we are providing the capability to have additional crew presence if we need them … We’re going down to NASA crew member on station.”

Operational flights by Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft could last up to 210 days, with the vehicles remaining at the space station to serve as escape pods.

The launch schedule for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test is uncertain as engineers assess the results of the Starliner’s first unpiloted orbital test flight in December. A wrong setting on a mission elapsed timer on the Starliner spacecraft caused the capsule to miss a critical orbit insertion maneuver minutes after an otherwise-successful launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket Dec. 20.

The error prevented the Starliner from docking with the space station as planned, and NASA officials are determining whether Boeing should conduct another unpiloted Starliner demonstration flight to complete the unaccomplished test objectives on the December mission.

The Starliner safely landed Dec. 22 in New Mexico to complete the abbreviated test flight.

“We have an anomaly investigation team going on right now,” Lueders said Friday. “We also have our post-flight review teams that the program is doing. We’re looking at both of those, and then we’re going to get together in February and say, ‘OK, what do we need to do to get to Crew Flight Test’.

“And that may be go do another uncrewed demo,” she said. “But there are other options, too … There are always lots of options. People do lots of different things to prove out spacecraft.”


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/01/17/pending-test-outcomes-nasa-says-spacex-could-launch-astronauts-in-early-march/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #26 dnia: Styczeń 25, 2020, 07:07 »
SpaceX will trigger an intentional rocket failure to prove crew capsule’s safety
January 18, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]


Illustration of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket during the company’s uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This demonstration test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape capabilities is designed to provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

SpaceX will sacrifice a Falcon 9 rocket Sunday in a fiery test a minute-and-a-half after liftoff from Florida’s Space Coast to prove the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft can safely push astronauts away from a failing launch vehicle, simulating a daring maneuver that would only be attempted on a piloted mission during an in-flight emergency.

The launch escape demonstration could be a spectacle for local residents, rocket fans and enthusiasts along the Space Coast, assuming clear skies and good visibility, according to SpaceX.

While the Crew Dragon capsule — flying without astronauts on Sunday’s test — fires away from the top of the Falcon 9 rocket, the booster itself is expected to tumble and break apart, possibly in a fireball visible from the ground.

The purpose of the test — the final planned demonstration of a full-scale Crew Dragon before NASA astronauts fly it int orbit — is to validate the ship’s launch escape system. Abort rockets mounted around the circumference of the capsule would activate to rapidly carry the spaceship and its astronaut crew away from an emergency during launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, such as a booster failure or explosion.

“On launch day (with crews), we’re really hoping for it not to be exciting,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program. “I will tell you (Sunday) will be an exciting day. We are purposely failing a launch vehicle to make sure that our abort system on the spacecraft that we’ll be flying for our crews works.”

The Crew Dragon’s eight liquid-fueled SuperDraco escape engines will ignite around 84 seconds after liftoff on top of a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A, soon after the point in the launch sequence where the booster and capsule experience the most extreme aerodynamic pressures.

The abort thrusters will generate nearly 130,000 pounds of thrust, pushing the gumdrop-shaped crew capsule away from the top of the Falcon 9 with an acceleration of up to to 4Gs.

The six-hour test window opens at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT) Sunday. SpaceX called off a launch attempt early Saturday due to concerns about rough seas in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida, where the Crew Dragon splash down under parachutes around 10 minutes after launch from pad 39A the Kennedy Space Center.

“What will happen, basically, is we’ll initiate launch escape, and the Falcon engines will shut down,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management. “So the thrust of the Falcon will shut down right after that happens.”

The abort burn should happen as the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon are flying at an altitude of roughly 62,000 feet (19 kilometers) and traveling nearly twice the speed of sound.

“Dragon, at the same time, will be getting away,” Reed said. “It takes about 10 seconds for a SuperDraco burn on the Dragon. Dragon will hit about Mach 2.3 as its getting away. We expect it to be actually quite far away from falcon at the acceleration its going before anything starts to happen on Falcon … That’s a very quick process.”

The sudden separation of the Dragon spacecraft from top of the rocket, coupled with the loss of thrust from the Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines, will likely cause the launcher to begin tumbling in the upper atmosphere.

“The Dragon will have left, so the top end of the second stage is now basically a big air scoop, so you’ve got all this air pushing against it, huge amounts of force pushing against it, and it’s also cut thrust, so its no longer pushing up in a trajectory,” Reed said. “It’s going to be a lot more susceptible to the winds and starting to fall as it loses its velocity and starts to tumble.

“At some point, we expect that the Falcon will start to break up,” Reed said. “Both stages are loaded with fuel because we want have the right mass, and test the right (way), so with those both stages loaded with fuel, we do expect there will probably be some amount of ignition, flame. We’ll see something. On a clear day, possibly from the ground you could see it.”


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObBRM4euxk" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObBRM4euxk</a>
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The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket launching the Crew Dragon on Sunday’s abort test is designated B1046. It’s set to fly for the fourth and final time, and was the first upgraded Falcon 9 “Block 5” booster to launch in May 2018.

The Block 5 is the most recent, human-rated variant of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Before the Crew Dragon abort test, the B1046 booster launched the Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite for Bangladesh from the Kennedy Space Center in May 2018, then launched again in August 2018 with the Indonesian Merah Putih communications spacecraft. The booster’s third mission occurred in December 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a rideshare mission with 64 small satellites.

The booster landed on a SpaceX drone ship after each of its previous missions, but will not be recovered intact after the Crew Dragon abort test. SpaceX says teams will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean just east of Cape Canaveral to pick up any floating debris from the rocket.

There is no second stage engine on the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the abort test.

“The second stage will be loaded with propellant,” Reed said. “There will still be quite bit of propellant in the first stage. We expect there to be some sort of ignition and probably a fireball of some kind.

“Whether I would call it an explosion that you would see from the ground, I don’t know,” he added. “We’ll have to see what actually happens, but I wouldn’t be surprised, and it wouldn’t be a bad outcome.”

In the unlikely event of a rocket mishap before the planned time of the Crew Dragon abort burn, the capsule will be armed to trigger a premature escape burn Sunday, according to Reed.

While the Falcon 9 booster’s demise could prove a spectacle, SpaceX’s attention will be on the performance of the crew capsule.

The in-flight launch abort capability is a crucial part of the Crew Dragon safety system. SpaceX verified the Crew Dragon’s ability to escape an emergency on the launch pad in 2015 during a ground-launched pad abort test.

“(Sunday’s) test is one of these things that’s actually going to allow us test that whole system end-to-end,” Reed said.

After firing its SuperDraco engines, the Crew Dragon will reach a top speed of Mach 2.3 and arc on a ballistic trajectory to a peak altitude of some 138,000 feet (42 kilometers), then use its thrusters to re-orient for descent. The capsule will jettison an unpressurized trunk section and deploy four main parachutes to gently splash down in the Atlantic Ocean around 20 miles (32 kilometers) offshore, where U.S. military, NASA and SpaceX recovery teams will recover the capsule to practice procedures they would execute on a crew mission.

The entire abort test flight, from liftoff through splashdown, will take around 10 minutes.



A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands 215 feet (65 meters) tall at pad 39A Friday with a Crew Dragon spacecraft ahead of SpaceX’s In-Flight Abort Test. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

SpaceX and NASA officials will have to carefully monitor weather and sea conditions for the in-flight abort test.

In addition the the typical launch weather constraints — such as high winds and lightning — engineers want good visibility to optically track the Falcon 9 launcher and Crew Dragon spacecraft during the escape sequence. And sea conditions in the Atlantic Ocean splashdown zone — roughly 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of pad 39A — are also important.

“It’s a nice dance between launch weather, optics, and the winds and waves offshore, so we’re trying to find a time where all those things match up,” said Mike McAleenan, the launch weather officer from the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. “But we’ll find it, and we’ll make sure we go when i’ts ready and everything is lining up.”

Launch abort systems have been used during emergencies on other rockets, most recently in October 2018, when a Russian Soyuz booster failed two minutes after liftoff. The Soyuz abort rockets fired to safely carry Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA flight engineer Nick Hague away from the Soyuz booster as it tumbled out of control.

SpaceX is conducting the in-flight abort test under the terms of a commercial crew agreement awarded by NASA in 2012.

NASA has awarded SpaceX a series of funding agreements and SpaceX since 2011 worth more than $3.1 billion for development of a human-rated Dragon spacecraft. Boeing has received more than $4.8 billion from NASA since 2010 for its Starliner crew capsule.

Both companies aim to fly astronauts for the first time later this year, ending U.S. reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crew transportation to the International Space Station. NASA paid the Russian government $3.9 billion for crew transport services to the space station since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, according to the agency’s inspector general.

A NASA official said Friday that SpaceX’s next Crew Dragon spacecraft could be ready to launch astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the space station as soon as early March. But that schedule hinges on a good outcome to Sunday’s abort test, the results of two more parachute drop tests, NASA data reviews and final assembly and processing milestones for the Crew Dragon spacecraft itself.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/01/18/spacex-will-trigger-an-intentional-rocket-failure-to-prove-crew-capsules-safety/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #27 dnia: Styczeń 25, 2020, 07:07 »
SpaceX aces final major test before first crew mission
January 19, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]


SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster disintegrated in a fireball — as expected — a few seconds after the Crew Dragon capsule fired away from the top of the rocket in an in-flight escape demonstration Sunday. Credit: Spaceflight Now

SpaceX performed a dramatic high-altitude test flight Sunday of the company’s Crew Dragon capsule over Florida’s Space Coast, testing the human-rated ship’s ability to escape a rocket failure and save its crew before two NASA astronauts strap in for a flight to the International Space Station as soon as this spring.

The unusual test flight included an intentional failure of the Crew Dragon’s Falcon 9 rocket about a minute-and-a-half after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center. The rocket, with a recycled first stage booster flown three previous times, disintegrated in a fireball high over the Atlantic Ocean as the crew capsule sped away from the top of the launcher with a powerful boost from eight SuperDraco engines.

The SuperDraco engines — mounted around the circumference of the gumdrop-shaped crew capsule — fired around eight seconds to carry the spaceship a safe distance from the Falcon 9 rocket after the booster’s first stage engines shut down, a standard part of the launch escape sequence.

The Crew Dragon arced on a ballistic trajectory to a top speed of about Mach 2.2 and a peak altitude of about 131,000 feet, according to Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and chief executive. The capsule then deployed four main parachutes for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean roughly 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of the Kennedy Space Center.



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Crew Dragon separating from Falcon 9 during today’s test, which verified the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent
8:20 PM - Jan 19, 2020
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Musk, NASA officials and astronauts were pleased with the performance of the Crew Dragon’s launch escape system.

“I’m super fired up,” Musk said. “This is great … We’re looking forward to the next step.”

NASA has signed agreements with SpaceX valued at more than $3.1 billion since 2011 to fund the design, development, construction and testing of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The next major step for the Crew Dragon program is the capsule’s first trip to space with astronauts. The Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort test Sunday was the last major flight demonstration of a full-scale Crew Dragon spacecraft before its first launch with humans on-board.

Veteran NASA shuttle fliers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are training for the mission — designated Demo-2 — to fly the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.

Musk said after Sunday’s in-flight abort test that the Demo-2 mission would likely launch in the second quarter of this year — between the beginning of April and the end of June — although rocket and spacecraft hardware for the Demo-2 flight could be in place at the Kennedy Space Center by the end of February or early March.

“The hardware necessary for first crewed launch, we believe, will be ready by the end of February,” Musk said. “However, there’s still a lot of work once the hardware is ready to cross-check everything, triple-check, quadruple-check, go over everything again so that every stone has been turned over three or four times.

“And there is also the schedule for getting to (the) space station because space station has a lot of things going to it, so what’s the right timing for this?” Musk said. “The sort of collective wisdom at this point is we’re highly confident the hardware will be ready in Quarter 1, most likely the end of February, but no later than March, and that it and it would appear probable that the first crew launch would occur in the 2nd Quarter.”



SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk speaks with reporters Jan. 19, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

In the meantime, SpaceX will collect all the data from the Crew Dragon abort test and analyze the results for any potential problem areas. NASA is also reviewing numerous Crew Dragon data packages provided by SpaceX before agreeing to fly Hurley and Behnken on SpaceX’s next crew capsule launch.

SpaceX plans at least two more atmospheric drop tests of the Crew Dragon parachute system to gain more confidence in the capsule’s decelerators, which have been a problem area on the project after chute failures on a cargo-carrying Dragon spacecraft and in Crew Dragon testing.

Engineers found that NASA was using wrong assumptions in models that predict how much force parachutes experience on spacecraft returning to Earth. Data from testing showed the parachute risers, or suspension lines, encountered more significant loads than expected, raising concerns about chutes across the agency’s human spaceflight programs, including on the Starliner commercial crew capsule being developed by Boeing.

SpaceX and NASA agreed to switch to a new generation of Crew Dragon parachutes dubbed the Mark 3, and testing of the new Mark 3 chutes — made by a company named Airborne Systems — has proceeded without failure since late last year.

Sunday’s in-flight abort test provided the parachute engineers with another successful test of the Mark 3 chutes, adding additional confidence about the system’s reliability.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called Sunday’s abort test “another amazing milestone” in the agency’s nearly decade-long effort to resume crew launches to the space station from U.S. soil.

“Make no mistake, there’s a lot left to do,” Bridenstine said. “We have a number of parachute tests upcoming, and of course, we’re going to get a lot of data from this particular test. So we’re not quite there yet, but by all accounts, this was a very successful test.”

After a one-day delay due to rough seas in the splashdown zone — and a two-and-a-half-hour hold Sunday to wait for improved winds — the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) Sunday from pad 39A at Kennedy, the same launch pad once used by NASA’s Saturn 5 moon rockets and space shuttles.

The 215-foot-tall (65-meter) rocket flew off the launch pad powered by nine kerosene-fueled Merlin 1D engines and pitched on an easterly trajectory from the Florida spaceport.



The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) Sunday. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

The Falcon 9 surpassed the speed of sound in less than a minute, and the Crew Dragon’s pre-programmed escape sequence initiated around 84 seconds after liftoff, when the rocket was at an altitude of roughly 62,000 feet (19 kilometers).

The abort was triggered soon after the point in the launch sequence where the booster and capsule experience the most extreme aerodynamic pressures.

While the nine Merlin engines on the Falcon 9 rocket cut off in response to the escape command, nearly 130,000 pounds of thrust from the SuperDraco engines pushed the Crew Dragon rapidly away from the top of the launcher.

SpaceX said the capsule, and two mannequins seated inside, accelerated at about 3.5Gs during the abort, a relatively gentle ride for astronauts in good physical condition.

The Crew Dragon can initiate an abort and free itself of a failing launch vehicle in just 700 milliseconds, according to Musk.

“It’s way more than a human could do,” he said. “It’s occurring in a fraction of a second. There’s a command for the engines to shut down, and then the abort system then presses up very rapidly, the SuperDracoss are ignited to initiate separation from the upper stage. All of this is occurring in literally a split second, and it’s really quite remarkable how quickly those engines reach full thrust.”

The SuperDracos keep the Crew Dragon pointed in the right direction using differential thrust, Musk said.

“So it’s making those thrust adjustments at the almost millisecond level,” he said. “It’s very, very fast.”



Illustration of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket during the company’s uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This demonstration test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape capabilities is designed to provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Sunday’s in-flight abort test builds on a Crew Dragon demonstration in 2015 that proved the craft’s SuperDraco engines could safely boost itself away from the top of a rocket on the launch pad in the event of a preflight emergency.

The Crew Dragon successfully flew to the International Space Station in March 2019 on its first unpiloted space mission, named Demo-1. The round-trip six-day mission included a launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy, an automated docking with the orbiting research laboratory, and a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

But SpaceX suffered a setback the next month when the same Crew Dragon spacecraft was destroyed during an attempted test-firing of its SuperDraco engines on a test stand at Cape Canaveral.

Investigators determined the Crew Dragon explosion on the ground last April was caused by a leaky valve that allowed nitrogen tetroxide — the oxidizer that feeds the SuperDraco engines — into the abort propulsion system’s high-pressure helium lines. When the system pressurized before ignition, the nitrogen tetroxide was driven back against the valve, leading to an ignition event that destroyed the vehicle.

SpaceX replaced the faulty valve with a “burst disk” to block the pathway and prevent similar leaks. The disk designed for rupture when the abort system pressurizes.

Musk said the Crew Dragon’s abort system, which is integrated on the crew module itself instead of using a top-mounted launch abort tower like the Apollo spacecraft or Russia’s Soyuz capsule, comes with the benefit of enabling an abort maneuver from before the time of liftoff all the way through the Falcon 9’s ascent to orbit.

“The fact that the launch abort system is integrated with the spacecraft, with the SuperDraco thrusters in the sidewall, means that you have launch abort capability all the way to orbit, whereas previously with launch escape tower — because that’s top heavy — that is discarded 20 or 30 percent of the time into flight.”

SpaceX designed the SuperDracos with another purpose in mind.

The company originally intended to use the high-power engines to slow the Crew Dragon for propulsive vertical landings on solid ground, aiming to achieve a helicopter-like precision similar to the braking burns and landings performed by SpaceX’s Falcon rocket boosters.



SuperDraco thrusters on a ground test article of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft fire during a hover test in 2015, when SpaceX intended to use the thrusters for landings. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX gave up on that goal after determining it would be too difficult to certify the propulsive landings for crew missions, company officials said.

The SuperDracos proved to be a difficult part of the Crew Dragon’s development, Bridenstine said.

The escape engines appeared to perform well Sunday, along with other Crew Dragon systems, according to Musk.

While wreckage from the Falcon 9 booster fell to Earth at high speed, the Crew Dragon’s parachutes slowed the capsule for an ocean landing. Winds in the splashdown area were near the limit for a Crew Dragon return.

The winds at the splashdown zone were around 18 mph, or 16 knots, providing data on the performance of the parachutes under more stressing conditions than they might see on a typical return, Musk said.

U.S. military search and rescue teams deployed in the Atlantic Ocean practiced procedures to approach the capsule after splashdown. The teams from Patrick Air Force Base just south of Cape Canaveral would rescue astronauts from the spacecraft after a launch abort.

SpaceX’s “Go Searcher” recovery ship hoisted the capsule from the sea and returned the Crew Dragon to Port Canaveral, where teams will offload the ship to begin inspections and analysis.

The schedule for the Demo-2 launch with Hurley and Behnken will partly be determined by a NASA decision in the coming weeks on whether to extend the length of their mission at the space station from a short-duration stay of about a week to an expedition that might last as long as several months.

Bridenstine said the Demo-2 crew will have to undergo additional training to perform duties on the space station if NASA extends Hurley and Behnken’s mission.

Kathy Lueders, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, suggested Friday that the Demo-2 mission might be ready for launch as soon as the first half of March.

But it’s more likely to happen in April — at the soonest — when the space station’s crew is downsized to three people through October, assuming no U.S. crew launches in that period.

“We might look at making that first crew be a long-duration crew for the purpose of getting the max amount of capability out of the International Space Station,” Bridenstine said. “Bascially we’ll be able to maintain a larger presence of astronauts on the space station for a longer period of time.

“I’m not saying this is the direction we’re going to go,” he added. “We just haven’t decided, yet and we’re working through it … Given what looks like to be a very successful test (Sunday), we now have options, so that’s a positive thing.”

Boeing, NASA’s other commercial crew partner, is readying its Starliner crew capsule for its first space mission with people later this year. The first Starliner unpiloted orbital test flight in December failed to reach the space station due to a software timing error that caused the ship to burn too much fuel just after an otherwise-successful deployment in space from a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

NASA is reviewing the results of the Starliner test flight to determine if the next Boeing crew capsule launch can carry astronauts, as officials originally intended. Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann are assigned to the first Starliner crew flight.

When Boeing’s first piloted Starliner mission might fit on the space station’s schedule of visiting vehicles remains uncertain. NASA has already approved an extended-duration Starliner test flight that could allow Ferguson, Fincke and Mann to remain on the space station up to six months.

Chris Cassidy is set to launch to the station in April on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with two Russian crewmates. Cassidy will fly on the last Soyuz seat under NASA control before the commercial crew vehicles begin flying regular crew rotation missions, a milestone to come after the initial test flights with astronauts.

Cassidy is scheduled to return to Earth in October, at which point the space station will not have a U.S. crew member unless NASA buys more Soyuz seats from Russia or a commercial crew vehicle successfully docks at the orbiting outpost.

While it looks increasingly likely at least one of NASA’s commercial crew transportation providers will launch astronauts to the space station before October, Bridenstine said Sunday the agency will proceed with plans to procure at least one more Soyuz seat from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.

“As much confidence as we have in the team, I think it’s probably not prudent to go in that direction,” he said. “I think it’s important that we have options … and make sure that the International Space Station has continuous American presence, so we’re not ready to make any adjustments on that front. We’re going to buy another Soyuz seat.”

NASA has paid the Russian government some $3.9 billion since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011 for seats on Soyuz crew ferry vehicles flying to and from the space station.

Once the Boeing and SpaceX crew capsules are declared operational, the U.S. capsules will begin flying Russian cosmonauts. NASA astronauts will continue launching and landing on Soyuz spaceships through an “in-kind” arrangement involving no exchange of funds.

The arrangement ensures at least one Russian cosmonaut and one U.S. astronaut are always on the space station, even if the Soyuz, Crew Dragon or Starliner is grounded by a technical concern.

With a U.S. crew vehicle on the cusp of launching astronauts into orbit for the first time since 2011, Musk said the space industry is at a “profound” moment.

“I think the United States is very much a nation of explorers,” he said. “Anyone who has an adventurous bone in their body is going to be very excited about this, and I think it will help reinvigorate interest in space.”

“I think it’s something that matters to all Americans and to people worldwide.”


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/01/19/spacex-aces-final-major-test-before-first-crew-mission/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #28 dnia: Styczeń 25, 2020, 07:08 »
SpaceX releases preliminary results from Crew Dragon abort test
January 23, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]


SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is offloaded from the company’s recovery ship, Go Searcher, after returning to Port Canaveral on Jan. 19 following an in-flight launch escape demonstration. Credit: SpaceX

Data from the Jan. 19 in-flight launch escape demonstration of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft indicate the performance of the capsule’s SuperDraco abort engines was “flawless” as the thrusters boosted the ship away from the top of a Falcon 9 rocket with a peak acceleration of about 3.3Gs, officials said Thursday.

The Jan. 19 test demonstrated the Crew Dragon’s ability to safely carry astronauts away from a launch emergency, such as a rocket failure, and return the crew to a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

For its final full-scale test before astronauts ride it into space, the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) on Jan. 19 from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A Falcon 9 rocket carried the capsule aloft — just as it would on a crewed mission — for the first 85 seconds of the mission.

The Crew Dragon began its launch escape maneuver at 10:31:25 a.m. EST (1531:25 GMT) — initiated by a low setting of an on-board acceleration trigger — when the Falcon 9 was traveling at a velocity around 1,200 mph (536 meters per second), according to SpaceX.

Eight SuperDraco thrusters immediately pressurized and ignited as the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage engines were commanded to shut down as part of the abort sequence.

The escape engines on the Crew Dragon produced nearly 130,000 pounds of thrust at full power. The SuperDracos performed flawlessly, SpaceX said, accelerating the capsule away from the top of the Falcon 9 at a peak acceleration of 3.3Gs.

The SuperDracos accelerated the spacecraft from about 1,200 mph up to more than 1,500 mph (about 675 meters per second) in approximately seven seconds, according to SpaceX.



The Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco thrusters are seen igniting at the time of the launch escape command Jan. 19 to separate from the top of its Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: SpaceX

While the Crew Dragon boosted itself away from the Falcon 9, the rest of the rocket was expected to break apart from aerodynamic forces. It did just that, disintegrating suddenly in a fireball as the crew capsule safely sped away.

Although the Falcon 9 erupted in a fireball seconds after the Crew Dragon escaped the rocket on the Jan. 19 abort test, the crew capsule is designed to get away from a rocket even if it explodes or breaks apart with little warning, according to Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO.

“In principle, the system is designed to withstand an adverse booster explosion … that happens even before the escape event,” Musk said at a press conference after Sunday’s abort test. “So it’s it’s intended to be very robust, in principle. And … it’s less of an explosion than it is fire. It’s a fireball, but it’s more for a fireball than it is an over overpressure event like an explosion.

“And since the spacecraft has a very powerful base heat shield and even the leeward side heat shield, it should be really not significantly affected by a fireball,” Musk said. “So it could quite literally — like something out of Star Wars — fly right out of the fireball. Obviously, we want to avoid doing that but. But it is really meant to be something that can fly out of the fireball.”

Unlike other crew capsules, such as Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft and NASA’s Orion deep space exploration vehicle, the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon do not have a large abort tower mounted to the top of the rocket. The Soyuz and Orion capsules use solid-fueled “tractor” abort systems that pull the spacecraft away from its launch vehicle in the event of a failure.

The Crew Dragon uses SuperDraco engines fed by hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants to push the capsule away from a failing rocket.

Musk said the Jan. 19 abort test appeared “picture-perfect” at first glance.

SpaceX said the telemetry signal from the Falcon 9 rocket halted around 11 seconds after the escape burn, suggesting a “comfortable” distance of about 4,900 feet (1.5 kilometers) between the Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 fireball.

The Crew Dragon reached a top speed on the abort test of about Mach 2.3, and a maximum altitude of more than 131,000 feet (40 kilometers).

The capsule jettisoned its unpressurized trunk section, which fell to the Atlantic Ocean, before deploying parachutes to slow itself for splashdown.

The drogue chutes deployed at an altitude of about 19,000 feet (5.8 kilometers), and the Crew Dragon’s four main chutes unfurled around 6,500 feet (2 kilometers) above the ocean.

The capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean around 26 miles (42 kilometers) east of the launch site at 10:38:54 a.m. EST (1538:54 GMT), just under nine minutes after liftoff, according to data released by SpaceX.

Recovery teams picked up the capsule from the sea and hoisted it on the deck of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon retrieval ship — named Go Searcher — for the trip back to Port Canaveral. The spaceship returned to port less than nine hours after launch, demonstrating SpaceX teams can quickly return the capsule to land after a splashdown close to shore.

With the Crew Dragon in-flight escape test complete, engineers will analyze additional data over the coming weeks to verify everything functioned as designed. Assuming no showstoppers, the abort demonstration was the final planned test flight of a full-scale Dragon capsule before NASA clears the commercial crew ferry ship to carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station.

At least two more drop tests to test the Crew Dragon’s parachutes are planned beginning in mid-February.

The parachutes and launch abort propulsion system have been the primary drivers of Crew Dragon schedule delays over the last year. SpaceX encountered chute failures during the capsule’s development, and an explosion destroyed a Crew Dragon spacecraft during an attempted ground test-firing of its SuperDraco thrusters last year.

While data reviews are underway, NASA is evaluating whether to extend the duration of the Crew Dragon’s first piloted test flight from a week-long mission to the space station to a longer stay that could have Hurley and Behnken live and work aboard the orbiting outpost for months.

Officials said they will factor in the astronauts’ training schedules — which may be lengthened if they’re approved for an extended stay at the space station — and the schedule of other crew rotation missions to the orbiting research lab before setting a target launch date for Hurley and Behnken.

NASA and SpaceX said after the Jan. 19 abort test that the first Crew Dragon launch with astronauts could occur in the second quarter of this year, between the beginning of April and the end of June.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule are in the final stages of testing before NASA approves the vehicles to carry astronauts. NASA has multibillion-dollar contracts with both companies to develop the human-rated spaceships.

Both capsules are designed to end NASA’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crew rotation missions to the space station, an operating scheme NASA has been in since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/01/23/spacex-releases-preliminary-results-from-crew-dragon-abort-test/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #29 dnia: Luty 15, 2020, 17:51 »
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon delivered to Cape Canaveral for first flight with astronauts
February 14, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]


SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft that will deliver astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station has arrived at Cape Canaveral for launch preparations. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s next Crew Dragon capsule was delivered to Cape Canaveral this week from a California factory for a liftoff as soon as this spring with veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a test flight to the International Space Station, officials announced Friday.

The human-rated spaceship arrived at a test and processing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Thursday following a cross-country trip from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX tweeted a photo of the crew capsule Friday, showing ground teams wearing lab coats and hair nets rolling the capsule into position on a wheeled trolley soon after arriving on Florida’s Space Coast.

“The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for its first crew launch from American soil has arrived at the launch site,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA and SpaceX are preparing for the company’s first flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.”

In a previous version of the statement Friday, NASA said the Crew Dragon will be the first spacecraft to launch astronauts from U.S. soil since 2011, when the space shuttle was retired.

But the space agency updated the statement without explanation, and deleted a tweet from the commercial crew program’s Twitter account that said SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will be the first to fly astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil since 2011.

In 2014, NASA tapped Boeing and SpaceX with contracts valued at $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, to develop, test and fly commercial human-rated spacecraft designed to ferry astronauts to and from the space station.

Barring a major setback, SpaceX is widely expected to be ready to fly astronauts before Boeing.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the same departure point as the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, and the first and last space shuttle flights.

Hurley, a pilot on two space shuttle missions, will serve as vehicle commander on the Crew Dragon test flight, known as Demo-2. Behnken, also a veteran of two shuttle flights, will be the vehicle pilot.

NASA officials are considering launch dates in May for the Demo-2 mission, but the schedule could shift as SpaceX steps through launch preparations. The space station’s busy schedule of visiting crew and cargo vehicles could also change, forcing a shift in the Demo-2 launch date.

Another factor that could drive the Demo-2 launch schedule is additional training for Hurley and Behnken in case NASA extends their stay on the space station.

The first piloted missions aboard the Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner spacecraft were originally designed as shorter-duration test flights lasting days or weeks. After the test flights, NASA intended to certify the two spacecraft for longer-duration missions lasting up to 210 days for regular crew rotation flights to the space station.

But delays in the readiness of the new commercial crew spaceships forced NASA to consider extending the duration of the test flights. NASA has purchased seats on Russian Soyuz capsules flying to the station, which have provided the only ride to the orbiting research complex for U.S. astronauts since 2011.

The last Soyuz mission with a seat currently under NASA’s control launches April 9 and returns to Earth in October. With reduced demand from NASA expected after the start of SpaceX and Boeing crew services, Russia slowed the manufacturing of new Soyuz vehicles.

But the Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft were not ready when NASA expected. The space station typically has a crew of six, but with the slower rate of Soyuz launches, the research lab will operate with a crew of three for most of 2020, at least until a U.S. vehicle arrives with reinforcements.

The space agency has approved an extension of the first crewed Starliner mission to last up to six months. NASA may also approve a months-long extension of the Crew Dragon’s Demo-2 mission to ensure the space station is staffed with more than three crew members.

That gives station managers more flexibility in planning repairs and scientific research.

Hurley and Behnken are training to live and work aboard the station in case NASA authorizes the astronauts to stay in orbit longer than initially planned. Hurley is training as a robotic arm operator, and Behnken is receiving refreshed training on spacewalks.


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1jYx4UKvUk" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1jYx4UKvUk</a>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1jYx4UKvUk&feature=emb_title

A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft completed a successful six-day automated test flight to the space station in March 2019, but the capsule exploded in a ground test last April just before ignition of the ship’s SuperDraco launch abort engines on a test stand at Cape Canaveral.

The spaceship was destroyed in the accident, and SpaceX determined nitrogen tetroxide propellant leaked into the abort propulsion system’s high-pressure helium lines before the test-firing. The activation of the abort system during the ground test forced the nitrogen tetroxide back into a titanium at high energy, leading to ignition and an explosion.

SpaceX changed the design of the pressurization system by replacing the reusable valve with a single-use “burst disk,” which is designed to separate different sides of the fluid lines, then rupture before ignition.

The redesigned abort propulsion system aced a high-altitude launch abort test Jan. 19, when SpaceX demonstrated the Crew Dragon’s ability to escape an in-flight rocket failure. The capsule — with two instrumented test dummies on-board — separated from the top of its Falcon 9 launcher in the upper atmosphere and parachuted to a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

The in-flight abort demonstration last month was the last major Crew Dragon test flight before NASA approves SpaceX to launch astronauts. Lower-level testing continues, including several upcoming drop tests of a Crew Dragon mock-up to gather additional data on parachute performance.

Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule flew its first unpiloted test flight in orbit in December, but the mission encountered multiple in-flight malfunctions, primarily caused by software problems. The Starliner capsule returned to Earth for a successful landing, but could not dock with the space station as intended.

Engineers have identified at least two software errors that occurred during the abbreviated mission.

One of the errors was disclosed soon after the Starliner’s launch Dec. 20 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. The spacecraft’s mission elapsed timer had a wrong setting, causing the capsule to miss a planned orbit insertion burn before ground controllers could intervene to manually command the maneuver.

The error caused the spacecraft to burn too much fuel to reach the space station, and Boeing and NASA officials decided to bring the Starliner back to Earth two days later at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.

But engineers found a second software defect as they reviewed the spacecraft’s code following the mission timing malfunction on launch.

Boeing teams discovered an error in the software controlling the Starliner service module’s separation sequence before re-entry. The mis-configured software could have led the service module to drive back into the Starliner’s crew module on the unpiloted test flight, possibly damaging the capsule, or worse.

The second software error was not disclosed by Boeing or NASA until last week.

Boeing is reviewing all of the crew capsule’s software code to look for other potential defects after investigators discovered “numerous process escapes in the software design, development and test cycle for Starliner,” said Doug Loverro, head of NASA’s human spaceflight division, in a media teleconference last week.

NASA and Boeing officials have not determined whether another the Starliner spacecraft needs to fly another test flight without astronauts before proceeding with a crew mission.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/02/14/spacexs-crew-dragon-delivered-to-cape-canaveral-for-first-flight-with-astronauts/

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #29 dnia: Luty 15, 2020, 17:51 »