SpaceX Dragon 2 Making Progress

Elon Musk has taken a break from digging holes in the ground to tweet a bit on SpaceX and the Dragon 2 crew vehicle the company is building for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Earlier this month, Musk tweeted that the first Dragon 2 would be shipped to Cape Canaveral in about three months. If the prediction is accurate, that would be mean sometime in August. If his previous schedule predictions are anything to go by, delivery will occur later than that. Unless, of course, SpaceX ships the spacecraft earlier than Musk is predicting.

In any event, the spacecraft will likely require a lot of prep work at the Cape before it makes an automated flight test to the International Space Station. A second flight to ISS with a crew would follow before Dragon 2 would be certified to carry NASA astronauts on a commercial basis.

With Dragon 2 Still Unfinished, Musk Rolls Out an Even More Ambitious Plan

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

When on May 29, 2014, Elon Musk unveiled the Dragon 2 spacecraft at a gala ceremony at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., the future of American human spaceflight seemed assured and tantalizingly close.

By 2017, the new spacecraft would begin making crewed flights to the International Space Station, restoring a capability that had ended with the last space shuttle mission in 2011. NASA’s dependence on  Russian Soyuz spacecraft would come to an end.

Four years after its unveiling, Dragon 2 is still months away from making an automated flight test to the space station. A test flight with astronauts aboard might not occur until next year. The Government Accountability Office believes additional delays could push certification of the spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts on a commercial basis to December 2019. (Certification of Boeing’s crew vehicle might not occur until February 2020).

It’s good to keep all this in mind as Musk prepares to unveil his latest transportation plan this evening. At 7 p.m. PDT, Musk will hold a town-hall style meeting in Los Angeles to discuss plans by The Boring Company for tunneling under the city. The event will be webcast at https://www.boringcompany.com/.

Musk might have given a preview of the session on Twitter this week when he made a connection between his tunneling work and the mega rocket/spaceship that he is designing to render Dragon 2 and its Falcon 9 booster obsolete.

The spaceport in question is apparently the offshore platform where passengers will board the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which Musk says will be capable of going anywhere in the world in about 30 minutes. The rocket is also being designed to launch satellites and transport people and cargo to the moon and Mars.

It sounds as ambitious as anything Musk has attempted to date. If the past is any guide, his estimates on cost and schedules will be extremely optimistic.

Multi-user Kennedy Space Center is Home to Diverse Activities

Two Launches in One Week: On Aug. 14, 2017, a Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the photo on the left. It was carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the image on the right, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug.18, 2017 placing in orbit NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

On Aug. 14, 2017, a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was a commercial resupply mission delivering supplies to the International Space Station. Four days later, the agency’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M lifted off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

This kind of diverse activity is typical at a multi-user spaceport.

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GAO Commercial Crew Assessment: More Delays Likely

Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew vehicles certified to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station might not be available until the end of next year, according to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“The Commercial Crew Program is tracking risks that both contractors could experience additional schedule delays and its schedule risk analysis indicates that certification is likely to slip until late 2019 for SpaceX and early 2020 for Boeing,” the report states.

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Rescue Operations Take Shape for Commercial Crew Program Astronauts

Pararescue specialists secure a covered life raft as the sun sets during an astronaut rescue training exercise off of Florida’s eastern coast in April. The specially designed 20-person life raft is equipped with enough food, water and medical supplies to sustain both rescuers and crew for up to three days, if necessary. (Credit: NASA)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — As a child watching Apollo 11 land on the Moon, Ted Mosteller dreamed of working for the space program. As leader of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Landing and Recovery Team, he directs a multi-agency operation to rescue astronauts in emergency landing scenarios.

“It’s like insurance,” he said. “You have insurance on your car or house, but you hope you never have to use it.”

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United Launch Alliance Names John Elbon Chief Operating Officer

CENTENNIAL, Colo., April 26, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) today named veteran aerospace industry executive John Elbon as its next Chief Operating Officer, succeeding Dan Collins, who had served as COO since ULA’s founding in 2006 and retired early this year.

Elbon joins ULA from The Boeing Company where he served as Vice President and General Manager, Space Exploration, a division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. He was responsible for the strategic direction of Boeing’s civil space programs and support of NASA programs such as the International Space Station (ISS), Commercial Crew Development program and the Space Launch System.

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SpaceX Proposes Recovering Dragon Spacecraft in Gulf of Mexico

Dragon capsule after recovery. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has proposed recovering Dragon spacecraft in the Gulf of Mexico as a contingency option to recovering them in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

“With the introduction of the [commercial crew program], the ability to return crew to Earth in a safe and timely manner is extremely important, particularly in cases where human life or health may be in jeopardy,” according to a draft environmental assessment published by the FAA.

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Boeing & SpaceX Continue Parachute Tests for Commercial Crew Vehicles

At left, Boeing conducted the first in a series of parachute reliability tests its Starliner flight drogue and main parachute system Feb. 22, 2018, over Yuma Arizona. Photo Credit: NASA. At right, SpaceX performed its fourteenth overall parachute test supporting Crew Dragon development March 4, 2018, over the Mojave Desert in Southern California. The test demonstrated an off-nominal, or abnormal, situation, deploying only one of the two drogue chutes and three of the four main parachutes. (Credit: SpaceX)

By Marie Lewis
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Crew safety is paramount in the return of human spaceflight launches from Florida’s Space Coast, and the latest round of parachute testing is providing valuable data to help industry partners Boeing and SpaceX meet NASA’s requirements for certification.

On March 4, SpaceX performed its 14th overall parachute test supporting Crew Dragon development. This exercise was the first of several planned parachute system qualification tests ahead of the spacecraft’s first crewed flight and resulted in the successful touchdown of Crew Dragon’s parachute system.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2018 Budget


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.

So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.

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Omnibus Spending Bill Includes $20.7 Billion for NASA


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Well, now that spring has arrived, it’s time for Congress to get around to passing the 2018 budget that was due in time for the start of the fiscal year last Oct. 1 — that is to say, nearly two seasons ago.

Yes, we went through all of winter, most of fall and a couple of days of spring before Congress got around to cobbling together a spending bill. On Wednesday, the House released a $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that is 2,232 pages long.

They say good things happen to those who wait; in this case, that patience may well pay off for NASA (not that the agency any choice in the matter).

The space agency’s budget would be boosted to $20.7 billion. The budget would be $1.1 billion above the $19.6 billion NASA received in FY 2017 and $1.6 billion above the $19.1 billion the Trump Administration proposed to spend in FY 2018.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s Proposed Human Exploration Plan

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would launch the first element of a human-tended Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in 2022 under a proposed exploration plan that would make use of commercial and international partnerships.

A power and propulsion module would be followed soon afterward by habitation, airlock, and logistics modules. The gateway would serve as a base for astronauts to explore the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 lifted off from the surface in 1972.

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Falcon Heavy: A Multi-User Spaceport Success Story

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

The launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on its demonstration flight is another sign that NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is continuing to grow as the nation’s premier, multi-user spaceport. The new vehicle lifted off from NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy at 3:45 p.m. EST on Feb. 6.

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