NASA, SpaceX Simulate Upcoming Crew Mission with Astronauts

On Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20, SpaceX teams in Firing Room 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the company’s Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, executed a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley (front) participating in SpaceX’s flight simulator. (Credits: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Joint teams from NASA and SpaceX continue making progress on the first flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station by completing a series of mission simulations from launch to landing. The mission, known as Demo-2, is a close mirror of the company’s uncrewed flight test to station in March 2019, but this time with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

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NASA Adds Shannon Walker to First Operational Crewed SpaceX Mission

Shannon Walker looking out of the international space station’s cupola at the Caribbean view beneath on November 25, 2010. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has assigned astronaut Shannon Walker to the first operational crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

Walker will join NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover Jr., as well as Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), for a six-month expedition aboard the unique space laboratory.

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Japanese Astronaut Prepares to Fly on SpaceX Crew Dragon

Japanese astronaut Noguchi Soichi. (Credit: NASA)

JAXA has announced that astronaut Noguchi Soichi is preparing and training for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Soichi will be flying to the orbiting facility for the third time. He previously flew aboard the U.S. space shuttle on the STS-114 mission and on Russia’s Soyuz TMA-17 transport. Soichi has spent 177 days in space.

A Crew Dragon flight test with astronauts aboard is currently scheduled for mid- to late May. The schedule for the first operational flight has not been announced yet.

NASA Statement on SpaceX Crew Dragon Parachute Test Mishap

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — To date, SpaceX has completed 24 tests of its upgraded Mark 3 parachute design they are working to certify for use on the Crew Dragon spacecraft that will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The system was used during the SpaceX in-flight abort test in January.

On March 24, SpaceX lost a spacecraft-like device used to test the Crew Dragon Mark 3 parachute design. The test requires a helicopter to lift the device suspended underneath it to reach the needed test parameters. However, the pilot proactively dropped the device in an abundance of caution to protect the test crew as the test device became unstable underneath the helicopter. At the time of the release, the testing device was not armed, and a test of the parachute design was not performed.

Although losing a test device is never a desired outcome, NASA and SpaceX always will prioritize the safety of our teams over hardware. We are looking at the parachute testing plan now and all the data we already have to determine the next steps ahead of flying the upcoming Demo-2 flight test in the mid-to-late May timeframe.

Upcoming Launches to Close Out March

Astra Space 1 of 3 rocket on the launch pad in Alaska. (Credit: DARPA webcast)

Here’s quick look at the launches scheduled for the rest of March. Information from Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for March 30 is listed. However, unofficial reports say it has been delayed indefinitely due to travel restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The booster will launch the SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite for Argentine.

What the months ahead hold in terms of launch is uncertain. Europe has suspended flights out of its launch base in French Guiana. Whether other spaceports are closed remains to be seen. China appears to have weathered the worst of the virus.

I would expect crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue. The first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to ISS is scheduled for mid- to late May. It’s difficult to say whether that schedule will hold.

March 23/24

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payloads: 3 Yaogan 30-06 military surveillance satellites
Launch Time: Approximately 11:40 p.m. EDT on 23rd (0340 GMT on 24th)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

UPDATE: Launch successful.

March 24

Launch Vehicle: Astra Rocket 3.0 “1 of 3”
Payloads: TBA
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska

UPDATE: Media report of an “anomaly” during a dress rehearsal on Monday.. Extend of anomaly and new schedule uncertain. Doesn’t sound like they’re launching on Tuesday. More details here: https://kmxt.org/2020/03/anomaly-at-pacific-spaceport-complex-launch-rehearsal-no-injuries-as-a-result/

March 26

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: AEHF 6 military communications satellite
Launch Window: 2:57-4:57 p.m. EDT (1857-2057 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Electron “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Payloads: Multiple CubeSats
Launch Window: 12:43-2:33 a.m. EDT (0443-0633 GMT)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com/

UPDATE: Rocket Lab has suspended preparations on this launch due to the coronavirus.

March 30
(Possibly Postponed)

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite
Launch Time: 7:21 p.m. EDT (2321 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Crew Dragon Flight to ISS Set for May

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken practice extraction from a Crew Dragon capsule. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Media accreditation is open for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test, which will send two astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. This mission will be the return of human spaceflight launch capabilities to the United States and the first launch of American astronauts aboard an American rocket and spacecraft since the final space shuttle mission on July 8, 2011.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the spacecraft, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX are currently targeting no earlier than mid-to-late May for launch.

This second demonstration mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is another end-to-end flight test of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, which will include launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations. It is the final flight test of the system before SpaceX is certified to carry out operational crew flights to and from the space station for NASA.

NASA is proactively monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation as it evolves. The agency will continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and communicate any updates that may impact mission planning or media access, as they become available.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry through a public-private partnership to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. The goal of the program is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

Awesome Flight Video of Crew Dragon Demonstration Flight

Video Caption: On March 2, 2019, Falcon 9 launched Crew Dragon on its first demonstration mission, and the next day it became the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the International Space Station.

After its stay at the space station, the spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, completing its mission and demonstrating SpaceX’s capabilities to safely and reliably fly astronauts to and from the space station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

SpaceX Looks to Raise More Money

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

CNBC reports that SpaceX is looking to raise another round of funding.

The company is seeking to bring in about $250 million at a price of $220 a share, according to people familiar with the financing. The new raise would value SpaceX at around $36 billion, up from $33.3 billion  previously.

The round is not expected to close until the second week of March, those people told CNBC, and includes an equivalent purchase offer to existing SpaceX shareholders.

SpaceX did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment. The details of the raise could change depending on market conditions between now and the second week of March.

Last year SpaceX raised $1.33 billion across three funding rounds. It’s one of the most valuable private companies in the world and, with consistently oversubscribed capital raises, SpaceX shares rank as some of the most in demand of any pre-IPO companies as well.

The steady fundraising comes as SpaceX continues development on three important programs: Crew Dragon, Starlink and Starship.

Space Adventures, SpaceX Announce Agreement to Launch Private Citizens on Crew Dragon

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

VIENNA, Va., February 18, 2020 (Space Adventures PR) — Building on the success of Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission to the International Space Station in March 2019 and the recent successful test of the spacecraft’s launch escape system, Space Adventures, Inc. has entered into an agreement with SpaceX to fly private citizens on the first Crew Dragon free-flyer mission. This will provide up to four individuals with the opportunity to break the world altitude record for private citizen spaceflight and see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program.

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Gerstenmaier Joins SpaceX as Consultant

William Gerstenmaier (Credit: NASA)

CNBC reports that SpaceX has hired William Gerstenmaier, who formerly headed NASA’s human spaceflight program, to serve as a consultant for the company’s reliability engineering team.

The move comes as SpaceX prepares to fly its first Crew Dragon mission with astronauts later this year. The flight test is currently scheduled for the second quarter.

The crew plans to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). A successful flight would clear the way for certification of the vehicle to fly crews to ISS on a commercial basis.

Gerstenmaier was demoted from his position as NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations last July over continued delays with the Space Launch System and Orion programs. He had served in that position for 14 years.

Gerstenmaier’s reassignment as a special adviser to Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard was his first step out the door. He left NASA in December after 42 years with the space agency.

GAO: Accelerating Commercial Crew Schedule Poses Risks

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s plan to move up the start of operational crew missions to the International Space Station (ISS) by Boeing and SpaceX could pose serious safety risks, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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SpaceX Completes Crew Dragon In-flight Abort Test in Florida

NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 19, 2020. The test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency. (Credits: NASA Television)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon In-flight Abort Test Set for Saturday

In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credits: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Saturday, January 18 for an in-flight test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape capabilities from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

This test, which does not have NASA astronauts onboard the spacecraft, is intended to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to reliably carry crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent.

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