Home News SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft shown off in photo ahead of next launch

SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft shown off in photo ahead of next launch

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NASA has released a brand new SpaceX picture of the next Crew Dragon spacecraft scheduled for launch and confirmed that the mission is now scheduled to lift off a Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than (NET) January 18th.

Known as an In-Flight Abort (IFA) test, the most incredibly challenging mission will represent a significant landmark for Crew Dragon regardless of the outcomes. Meant to simulate an abort in the (near) worst possible time throughout launch, Crew Dragon will activate its SuperDraco abort thrusters about 60-90 seconds after liftoff, exposing the spacecraft to more intense stresses around the exact identical time both it and Falcon 9 are passing through Max Q – “the second of peak mechanical stress”. If the test is unsuccessful, SpaceX Demo-2 – Crew Dragon’s NASA astronaut launch – would almost definitely be delayed.

If successful it may pave the way for Crew Dragon’s first astronaut just a month or 2 afterwards, although Q2 2020 is a lot more likely. Simultaneously, although hard to logically describe, Boeing seems confident that its Starliner spacecraft – having lost control and failed to achieve the International Space Station (ISS) barely more than a week past and endured a parachute installation failure onto a pad abort test one month before – remains on course for the first astronaut launch (“Crewed Flight Test”, CFT) just a handful of weeks from today. In line with the distinctive remedy NASA seems fated to bestow upon Boeing, it seems that Crew Dragon and Starliner’s race to become the first commercial spacecraft to launch astronauts is as close as it s been.

NASA, @SpaceX update In-Flight Abort Test date: https://t.co/gUaO5XVs98 pic.twitter.com/SwQse3bENf

— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) January 7, 2020

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No matter January 18th signifies a delay of one week since SpaceX and NASA’s launch date statement – NET January 11th, 2020 as of December 18th, 2019. January 11th was itself a week delay from January 4th, the first special In-Flight Abort launch target released on December 6th, 2019. The date of Crew Dragon’s IFA test has therefore publicly slipped 14 days in the last 31 days, although it has technically slipped 7 days in the last 19.

To put it differently, as previously discussed Teslarati, these 2 months of delays mean that Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will probably launch sometime in January 2020 – that a substantial advancement in schedule assurance compared to Crew Dragon’s Demo-1 launch debut, which endured some three weeks of delays despite its hardware being ready for flight throughout.

SpaceX completed a prosperous static fire of the first Falcon 9 rated for individual flight on January 24th. (SpaceX)

It took nearly six months for Crew Dragon to go from static fire to liftoff on its Demo-1 launch debut on March 2nd, 2019. (NASA)

With any luck, thrice-flown Falcon 9 booster B1046 – all but ensured to be destroyed by Dragon’s overburdened evaluation – could launch fresh Crew Dragon pill C205 and also an abysmal trunk segment maybe just one week after executing a routine static fire and wet dress rehearsal at Pad 39A. That would represent an improvement relative to the timing of this spacecraft’s Falcon 9 launch, that took to go from fire.

NASA says that the delay from January 11th to January 18th “allows extra time for spacecraft processing”, even though the fact is almost definitely a pretty even split between SpaceX processing and NASA’s plodding review process (i.e. paperwork). Now standing just 11 days from the launching date that is most recent, Crew Dragon’s second Falcon 9 launch is converging sometime in the past two months of January 2020.

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