Unmanned Launch Of US SpaceX Dragon 2 To Int’l Space Station Delayed Until Feb 16 – Source

The unmanned launch of a Dragon 2 spacecraft, developed by US aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, to the International Space Station (ISS) has been …

The unmanned launch of a Dragon 2 spacecraft, developed by US aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed until February 16 and may be postponed further, a Russian space industry source told Sputnik on Monday

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 21st January, 2019) The unmanned launch of a Dragon 2 spacecraft, developed by US aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed until February 16 and may be postponed further, a Russian space industry source told Sputnik on Monday.

Earlier, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) stated that the first unmanned launch of the Dragon-2 was slated for February. A Sputnik source, meanwhile, reported that the launch was scheduled for February 9.

“The launch of Dragon 2 was postponed until February 16. Further postponement of the launch is not excluded. At least, this is what the US side says,” the source said.

Earlier in January, a source told Sputnik that the manned launch of the Dragon 2 with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board had been postponed fromJune to July.

Both launches will be test flights, after which Dragon 2 � which has two configurations: Crew Dragon and Cargo Dragon � will get certified by NASA for regular flights to the ISS.

Another US spacecraft, Starliner, is being constructed by Boeing. According to a Sputnik source, its unmanned launch to the ISS is scheduled for March 28, while the manned flight is slated for August 27.

Both launches will be test flights, after which the Starliner will be certified by NASA for regular flights to the ISS.

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SpaceX’s Crew Dragon settles on Feb 9 launch debut as Falcon 9 nears static fire

In the midst of several confusing delays, schedule updates, and official statements, the orbital debut of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has made its …

In the midst of several confusing delays, schedule updates, and official statements, the orbital debut of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has made its way onto the Eastern range’s planning schedule for the first time, placing Falcon 9 B1051’s static fire and Crew Dragons launch no earlier than (NET) January 23rd and February 9th, respectively.

As the brand new spacecraft’s first attempted trip to orbit, the demonstration mission (Demo-1/DM-1) will be performed without crew aboard, allowing SpaceX and NASA an opportunity to fully verify performance and explore Crew Dragon’s capabilities without risking the lives of the astronauts that will step inside a nearly identical vehicle as early as June or July.

Obviously preliminary, but the Eastern Range is now showing the Static Fire for the DM-1 mission’s Falcon 9 (B1051.1) as NET January 23, (and still showing NET February 9 as the launch date). As always, but especially this one, all very much subject to change. pic.twitter.com/EWOEpbpI9o

— Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) January 17, 2019

The US government has been shut down for more than four weeks as a consequence of the inability of elected representatives to pass and sign a funding bill, now the longest shutdown in the country’s history. As a result, more than 95% of NASA’s workforce has been furloughed, leaving around 800 people left working (without pay) across the agency in positions or groups deemed absolutely essential to avoid loss of life or property damage.

How NASA defines “essential” is unknown but it seemed improbable that the Commercial Crew Program – around six months away from actually launching astronauts and presently marked by NASA’s attempts to complete reams of approval and certification paperwork – would fall under that extremely narrow umbrella. Delays to Crew launches are unlikely to harm hardware or directly risk harm to astronauts, although a very tenuous case could be made that delays to the program now would snowball and cause the debut of operational crewed launches to slip so far into 2019 (or even 2020) that NASA could lose assured access to the International Space Station (ISS) for several months. Again, there is no obvious way that a slip like that would actually increase the risk to life or limb for astronauts and hardware/infrastructure.

Apparently, Demo-1 and 2 don’t need FAA launch licenses (under auspices of NASA, like TESS launch. Post-certification missions will require FAA license, like CRS flights today

— Irene Klotz (@Free_Space) January 16, 2019

Despite the logical improbability that NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) would – at this point in time – remain operating at full capacity during an extended government shutdown, NASA provided a statement to The Atlantic earlier this week more or less implying that CCP was deemed essential and has continued to operate for the last several weeks. There is certainly some wiggle room in NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs’ comments, enough to make it ambiguous if they are primarily PR spin, frank honesty, or something in between.

A SpaceX spokesperson added [paraphrased by The Atlantic] that “if NASA made the call, the company would carry out the uncrewed [DM-1] launch”, a tactical nonanswer that redirects the impetus to NASA. It’s not clear if the people at NASA that would ‘make the call’ to launch are furloughed or not – they certainly would not be essential in the sense described by NASA’s own overview of the current shutdown’s impact. Originally targeting a launch sometime in mid to late January, an official NASA update posted on January 10th showed that Crew Dragon’s first launch had slipped into February (on the launch range for February 9th).

DM-1 and Falcon 9 were greeted by an extraordinary – albeit mildly bittersweet – dawn during their first-ever trip out to Pad 39A. (SpaceX)

The integrated DM-1 Crew Dragon ‘stack’ rolled out to Pad 39A for the first time in the first few days of 2019. (SpaceX)

Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon vertical at Pad 39A. (SpaceX)

Crew Dragon shows off its conformal (i.e. curved) solar array while connected to SpaceX’s sleek Crew Access Arm (CAA). (SpaceX)

DM-2 astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley train for their first flight in Crew Dragon. (NASA)

“NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews.” – NASA, 01/10/2019

“Hardware testing” likely refers to the need for Falcon 9 to complete a static fire at Pad 39A, a test now scheduled for January 23rd. It’s ambiguous whether SpaceX can actually perform a static fire test – a complete launch rehearsal involving full propellant loads and the ignition of all nine Merlin 1D engines – at Kennedy Space Center, a NASA operated with federal funding that does not currently exist. Although the Air Force-helmed range is operating at a normal capacity, KSC must still perform a number of basic tasks ranging from infrastructure maintenance to roadblock setup to allow a static fire test – let alone a launch – to occur. I

f SpaceX completes its NET January 23rd static fire with no problems, then it would appear to be the case that some sort of SpaceX-side delay – perhaps augmented or slowed down by NASA operating at 5% capacity – caused the slip from mid-January to mid-February. Stay tuned to find out!


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Here’s how SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule will look motoring in from sea

If you’re coming back from space at high speeds, it’s generally safer to descend over water than land, for a number of reasons. Certainly SpaceX’s …

If you’re coming back from space at high speeds, it’s generally safer to descend over water than land, for a number of reasons. Certainly SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule will do so, and this is how it’ll look when it comes back to land aboard the GO Searcher retrieval ship. Expect a bit more of a hero’s welcome, though.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the GO Searcher; it got a bit of publicity late last year when it underwent some helicopter landing tests at sea.

See, the GO Searcher isn’t just a giant mitt like the boats that are intended to catch falling fairings; they not only have to collect a large, heavy capsule from the surface of the water but accommodate (and potentially administer medical aid to) anyone on board. So this is more of a mobile headquarters than a utility boat.

Dock lurkers at Port Canaveral in Florida (near the famous cape, naturally) spotted the ship returning from, presumably, some mock operations out at sea.

PRACTICE OFF THE PORT: @SpaceX‘s upgraded Go Searcher vessel returns to Port Canaveral on Wednesday with an apparent mock-up Crew Dragon capsule aboard after a sea trial. Go Searcher will recover Crew Dragon capsules that splash down in the Atlantic. pic.twitter.com/tL5WgvNrsg

— Port Canaveral (@PortCanaveral) January 17, 2019

That does appear to be a Crew Dragon capsule (not likely an actual production capsule but a full-scale mock-up or prototype) on the back, so they probably were practicing snatching it up out of the water and setting it down softly in the boot there.

Coming back into port after practice will likely look a lot like this, though depending on the distance and mission it’s also more than possible that the safe astronauts, cosmonauts and other spacefarers will expedite their return by means of helicopter. The landing pad on the roof will be crucial if anyone is injured, of course (though there are medical facilities on board), but depending on where splashdown takes place — not to mention the weather — it might be preferable to take to the air rather than ride a slow boat to shore.

Whatever the case, you can certainly expect to see ships like this one arriving with great regularity soon. I’ve asked SpaceX for more details on this particular operation and whether it is related to the company’s upcoming Crew Dragon test flights.

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Unpaid NASA workers protect missions during shutdown

In the meantime, NASA sources say SpaceX is expected to test fire the first stage engines of the Falcon 9 rocket slated for use in the test flight next …

NASA managers and engineers working on the agency’s high-priority commercial crew program are still on the job, without pay, during the ongoing government shutdown, continuing preparations for the first unpiloted launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on a long-awaited test flight in February, officials say.

Whether senior NASA managers would actually press ahead with the Demo-1, or DM-1, launch if the shutdown lasts that long is not yet clear. But multiple agency officials confirm unpaid government personnel are in place to carry out final safety assessments, a flight readiness review and other required pre-flight activities if it comes to that.

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In the meantime, NASA sources say SpaceX is expected to test fire the first stage engines of the Falcon 9 rocket slated for use in the test flight next week at historic launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The unpiloted test flight is tentatively targeted for launch Feb. 9, although sources say additional delay is expected.

Whenever it goes up, the spacecraft will carry out an autonomous rendezvous and docking, spending about two weeks attached to the lab complex before returning to Earth with an ocean splashdown.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft atop pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center earlier this month. The spacecraft is scheduled for launch on a critical unpiloted test flight next month.SpaceX

Assuming the initial flight goes well, NASA and SpaceX plan to launch another Crew Dragon, this one carrying two NASA astronauts, on a flight to the space station in the June timeframe. After that, again assuming no major problems, the spacecraft could begin operational flights to the orbital lab before the end of the year or shortly thereafter.

Boeing also is working toward two test flights of its CST-100 Starliner capsule, the first without a crew and the second with three astronauts aboard. Those flights are expected in the spring and late summer respectively.

The commercial crew missions, support of the International Space Station and major NASA space probes like the Hubble Space Telescope, along with work on missions awaiting launch, like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Mars 2020 rover, are considered critical. As such, agency workers remain on the job without pay, monitoring contractors and helping meet milestones.

“None of the major programs are in any imminent threat in terms of oh my God, we’ve got to shut this down,” a NASA official said. “Mars 2020 is still going, Webb is still being worked on … not only (to protect the hardware) but potentially missing a launch window is also considered critical as well. None of that is impacted.

“Basically, the operational missions are being maintained and the work continued on them if they’re considered critical,” he added. “And most of them are.”

But at some point, if the government remains in partial shutdown and NASA continues to be unable to pay its mounting bills, projects on the ground, at least, could face slowdowns or work stoppages. Insiders say the agency is probably on solid ground through the end of the month, but if the shutdown extends very far into February, serious consequences, in terms of delays and higher costs, may be unavoidable.

The long-awaited commercial crew missions are critical steps in NASA’s push to end the nation’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for ferrying crew members to and from the International Space Station at more than $80 million per seat. The final currently contracted U.S.-sponsored seats on a Soyuz are booked for launch in July.

SpaceX holds NASA contacts valued at around $3 billion for 20 space station resupply flights using automated Dragon cargo ships through next year and another contract for an unspecified amount for at least six additional flights through 2024. The company’s Crew Dragon project is funded through a separate contract valued at up to $2.6 billion.

Boeing’s contract for development of the CST-100 Starliner is valued at $4.2 billion. Both contracts, awarded in 2014, called for initial flights in 2017 but the program has been repeatedly delayed by funding shortfalls in Congress and by technical issues.

Sources say NASA personnel working on the first four commercial crew missions, two with each company, are considered “excepted,” or critical to the program and therefore allowed to continue working, without pay, during the shutdown.

SpaceX announced a 10 percent company-wide workforce reduction last Friday, but officials said the move was intended to streamline operations related to other company objective. No mention was made of the shutdown, and the company did not immediately answer emailed questions about its impact on commercial crew operations.

080218-dragon-dock.jpg An artist’s impression of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft moments before docking at the International Space Station.NASA

Boeing said in a statement the shutdown has not had a major impact on the company to date. But it’s not clear how long Boeing, SpaceX and their subcontractors can continue work on the NASA projects in the absence of expected payments.

“While the partial government shutdown has not had a material impact on Boeing to date, we are concerned about the short term effects on our friends, families and neighbors in the communities we operate in as well as the long term effects that may begin to weigh on our operational efficiency, pose other challenges for our business and the aviation and space sector in general,” Boeing said in a statement.

“We urge the Administration and Congress to reach a solution to this funding impasse quickly to fully reopen the government and preserve U.S. economic growth.”

NASA and contractor flight controllers and support personnel at the Johnson Space Center in Houston also remain on the job supporting the space station and its six-member crew. That includes monitoring the spacecraft’s health, coordinating with the Japanese, European and Russian space agencies and maintaining normal communications through NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay System satellites.

NASA and its contractors also are continuing work on the agency’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket and Orion deep space capsule, although project milestones face possible delays. Other high-profile NASA projects remain in operation as well, although in virtually all cases NASA personnel are working without pay.

The Hubble Space Telescope, for example, continues making science observations in low-Earth orbit. One of its four operational instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3, has been sidelined by a technical problem, but managers are optimistic it can be restored to normal operation soon despite the shutdown.

“The shutdown is not affecting us (at the Space Telescope Science Institute), and the flight operations people at Goddard (Space Flight Center) are considered essential,” Thomas Brown, head of the Hubble Space Telescope mission office at the Space Telescope Science Institute, said in an interview last week.

“As far as troubleshooting this anomaly on Wide Field Camera 3 … we have all the experts from the flight ops team and the people who built the instrument at Ball Aerospace. They’re also not affected by the shutdown. We have all the right experts on the line troubleshooting things. So we’re fine right now.”

Contractor funding for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory was expected to run out next week, but NASA has declared the spacecraft “excepted” and the Smithsonian Institution, which operates Chandra through the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, has agreed to advance funding to cover operating expenses as necessary through mid-March.

012615-cst100-launch.jpg Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule will fly into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket as shown in this artist’s impression.NASA

Likewise, work continues on the James Webb Space Telescope, the $9.7 billion follow-on to Hubble scheduled for launch in March 2021. The oft-delayed and over-budget JWST is currently undergoing critical tests and checkout at a Northrop Grumman facility in California.

While the shutdown has curtailed NASA participation and oversight, an agency manager said no critical steps would be taken “before the agency could give it the appropriate oversight. No one’s going to be able to put anything together without (NASA) looking at it at some point.”

Other operational spacecraft, ranging from the twin Voyagers now in interstellar space to the Parker Solar Probe in orbit around the sun, also remain under active NASA or contractor oversight and control to protect the vehicles and to make sure the flow of valuable science continues throughout the shutdown.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto in 2015 and carried out the first flyby of a Kuiper Belt body known as Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day, is beaming back stored science data to the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University using NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas in Australia, Spain and California.

The DSN, like NASA’s TDRS communications satellite system, is considered a critical asset and is in no danger of shutting down in the near term.

New Horizons mission releases first photo of Ultima Thule

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SpaceX to develop, test Starship prototype in South Texas

SpaceX, the commercial space company of billionaire Elon Musk, is working in South Texas to develop and test an early prototype of the vehicle …

SpaceX, the commercial space company of billionaire Elon Musk, is working in South Texas to develop and test an early prototype of the vehicle designed to take people to the moon and Mars.

The Starship vehicle, with a test version recently assembled at Boca Chica beach near Brownsville, could one day carry space travelers atop a powerful rocket. The Starship integrated with the Super Heavy Rocket, previously called BFR, is expected to be more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that NASA used to propel astronauts to the moon.

The assembly of the test Starship is reinvigorating the Greater Brownsville community after long delays and roadblocks. SpaceX first announced its Gulf Coast launch facility in 2014, but then years went by with little to no activity. People can now see the vehicle while driving along the beach, stopping to gawk and take pictures.

At HoustonChronicle.com: SpaceX success gives Texans reason to cheer

Gilberto Salinas, who spent three years negotiating with SpaceX to build the Boca Chica beach launch facility, took his family to see the test vehicle on Sunday.

“When this company gets to Mars,” he said, “we will be able to come back and say, ‘Well, we were there when it all started.'”

SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk in 2002. He started with big ambitions and, six years later, launched the Falcon 1 rocket that became the first privately developed, liquid-fuel rocket to reach Earth’s orbit. The company’s growth has continued since then, winning work with NASA to bring cargo and, one day, astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX selected Boca Chica for a commercial launch site due to its proximity to the equator and distance from populated areas.

SpaceX used a local company to help manage the manufacturing process associated with assembling the test vehicle, said Mario Lozoya, executive director and CEO of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp., one of the organizations that provided incentive money to help attract SpaceX.

Lozoya believes tests and launches will take place this year, which could provide data for future versions of the Starship.

To the moon: SpaceX names first private passenger to fly around the moon

“For people from the immediate area around Brownsville and the border region,” he said, “to see front-end technology in our backyard is really exciting.”

Construction of the Boca Chica launch site had previously been delayed as SpaceX discovered the ground was unstable. The company trucked in 310,000 cubic yards of soil, enough to cover a football field that’s 13 to 14 stories tall, which was put on top of the sand and left to settle and compress before construction.

Unexpected incidents with SpaceX operations outside of Texas, including an anomaly during a flight to the International Space Station in 2015, also forced the company to put its Boca Chica launch site plans on the back burner. The problem temporarily grounded SpaceX operations and demanded the company’s attention.

But work slowly ramped up. Last year, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy — billed as the world’s most powerful operational rocket — from Kennedy Space Center, sending a Tesla sports car into space during the test launch. Musk then floated the idea of testing an even more powerful vehicle in South Texas.

Starship is not the first SpaceX test vehicle to be in Texas. In McGregor, where SpaceX tests all of its rocket engines, the “Grasshopper” reusable rocket prototype was used to perfect the guidance, navigation and control systems for landing a rocket booster vertically. The prototype’s namesake comes from its large, insect-like landing gear. The Grasshopper started with hops of only a matter of inches, but ultimately it flew half a mile into the air.

At HoustonChronicle.com: SpaceX engineers put rocket engines through their paces

In a statement, SpaceX said it’s developing the Starship test vehicle in Texas “to streamline operations.” The decision won’t affect its current manufacturing, design and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In a Tweet, Musk said the test vehicle, or “test hopper,” at Boca Chica beach is at its full diameter of 30 feet, but it’s not at full height. It’s designed to do suborbital tests. SpaceX expects to complete its first orbital prototype around June.

In a separate Tweet, Musk said he will provide a full technical presentation of Starship “after the test vehicle we’re building in Texas flies, so hopefully March/April.”

It’s the kind of news that Lozoya said can help counter a barrage of negativity brought onto border communities by the border wall and immigration debates.

“Something like this kind of mitigates that narrative to more of a positive narrative,” he said.

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