SpaceX Crew Dragon Anomaly Occurred During Super Drago Static Fire

NASA has released the following statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:

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

SpaceX has been scheduled to conduct an in-flight abort test using the Super Drago engines in June. That test would use the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that successfully flew to the International Space Station last month.

A flight test to the space station with crew would follow in July. Both those flights could be delayed depending upon the outcome of the investigation into today’s anomaly.

UPDATE NO. 1, 5:53 pm PDT: Source at the Cape says the Crew Dragon that flew to ISS last month was destroyed in an explosion. In-flight abort and flight test to ISS scheduled for June and July, respectively, have been postponed indefinitely.

UDPATE NO. 2, 6:08 pm PDT: Some uncertainty about which spacecraft was involved. Will update.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Suffers Problem During Test Firing

SpaceX issued the following statement:

“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 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. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners.”

Editor’s Note: My guess is they were running tests of the SuperDraco engines that will be used on the escape system. There is an in-flight abort test scheduled using the Crew Dragon capsule that just visited the space station. That is set to take place prior to the Crew Dragon flight with astronauts aboard scheduled for sometime in July.

It’s not clear what vehicle they were using today for the test.

Toppled Falcon Heavy Core Stage Returns to Port

NASA to Launch New Technologies on Next Falcon Heavy Flight

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A new kind of atomic clock, non-toxic propellant system and missions to characterize how space weather interferes with satellites and communication transmissions are one step closer to liftoff. With the second-ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch complete, these NASA technologies await the powerful rocket’s next flight.

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SpaceX Wins NASA Launch Contract for Asteroid Redirect Test Mission

DART mission profile (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the first-ever mission to demonstrate the capability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed – a technique known as a kinetic impactor.

The total cost for NASA to launch DART is approximately $69 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Launches Communications Satellite, Hits Landing Trifecta

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launched its first commercial satellite on Thursday, with its three first stage boosters successfully landing for later reuse.

The world’s most powerful booster lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:35 p.m. EDT. The rocket successfully orbited the Arabsat 6A communications satellite.

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Falcon Heavy Launch Scrubbed, Rescheduled for Thursday

Falcon Heavy on the launch pad. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX scrubbed the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket with the Arabsat 6A communications satellite on Wednesday due to high upper level winds. The next window opens at 6:35 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 11. The launch will be conducted from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Second Falcon Heavy Launch Set for Wednesday

Lifting off at 3:45 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its demonstration flight. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

SpaceX has rescheduled the second launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Wednesday, April 10. The nearly two-hour window opens at 6:36 p.m. EDT  (2236 GMT).

The booster will launch the Arabsat 6A communications satellite, which will provide Ku-band and Ka-band communications services for  the Middle East, North Africa a part of South Africa.

This will be the first Falcon Heavy rocket to use the more powerful Block 5 boosters. The two first-stage side boosters will land back at Cape Canaveral while the center core will land on an off-shore drone ship.

SpaceX Drops Protest Over Contract for Lucy Mission

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

SpaceNews reports that SpaceX has dropped it protest of NASA’s decision to award a launch contract to United Launch Alliance (ULA) for its Lucy asteroid mission.

SpaceX did not disclose the reason it withdrew the protest, and a company spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by SpaceNews about the withdrawal. According to GAO’s website, SpaceX filed a separate protest over the same contract March 25, which was also withdrawn April 4. The company also declined to comment on the difference between the two protests.

When it filed the protest in February, SpaceX argued it could perform the same mission for a “dramatically lower” price than the $148.3 million value of the ULA contract. “We believe the decision to pay vastly more to Boeing and Lockheed for the same mission was therefore not in the best interest of the agency or the American taxpayers,” a company spokesperson said then. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

ULA said that it was selected in part because it offered schedule assurance for the mission. Lucy must launch during a 20-day window in October 2021 in order to carry out its complex trajectory of flybys of six Trojan asteroids and one in the main asteroid belt. Should the launch miss that window, the mission cannot be flown as currently planned.

Amazon Constellation Sends Number of Planned Communications Satellites Soaring Above 20,000

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.

Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.

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NASA to Update Schedule for Crew Dragon Test Soon

Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast. (Credits: NASA Television)

A Crew Dragon with two astronauts aboard will then conduct a flight test to the space station. The planning date for that flight is July.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is working with SpaceX to return human spaceflight launches to American soil. The company completed an uncrewed flight test, known as Demo-1, to the space station in March.

SpaceX now is processing the same Crew Dragon spacececraft for an in-flight abort test. The company then will fly a test flight with a crew, known as Demo-2, to the station.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX are expected to reevaluate its target test dates in the next couple weeks.

Editor’s Note: Current target test dates are June for the in-flight abort test and July for the crew test to the space station.

Will Alcântara Finally Stop Being the Spaceport of the Future?

Cyclone 4 launch pad under construction. (Credit: Alcantara Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Brazil’s decades-long effort to launch satellites from its underused Alcântara Launch Center could finally be bearing fruit.

On Monday, Brazil and the United States signed a Technology Safeguards Agreement that will allow American companies to launch orbital rockets from Alcântara.
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Starship Hopper Testing Set for Wednesday at Earliest

The Monitor reports on SpaceX’s plans to test its Starship Hopper this week at Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas:

Cameron County has posted public notice that it will close Highway 4 to Boca Chica Beach for space flight activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

In the alternative, the public notice said Highway 4 to Boca Chica Beach will be closed for the same time duration on either Thursday or Friday.