SpaceX Successfully Completes NASA Preliminary Design Review for Dragon Spacecraft Mission


SpaceX Press Release
February 12, 2008

HAWTHORNE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for the second Falcon 9 / Dragon demonstration under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) project. NASA representatives attended the event, held at SpaceX’s new headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Under COTS, SpaceX will conduct three Falcon 9 / Dragon flights, demonstrating the ability to approach, berth, and ultimately deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and return cargo to Earth. The first COTS flight will demonstrate launch, operations over several orbits, reentry and return to Earth.

During this second and much longer demonstration, the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft will approach within 10 kilometers of the ISS and hold its position. The primary objective of the four day long mission is to demonstrate Dragon’s communication and control system links to the ISS. According to the SpaceX plan, astronauts and ground controllers will conduct an extensive test of the two-way Dragon-ISS UHF band communications system, which will be essential to the third COTS demonstration mission. This system, being developed and qualified by SpaceX, includes transceiver equipment planned for installation on each Dragon Spacecraft and aboard the ISS. It will permit the ISS crew to monitor and operate the Dragon craft directly.

“Planning this mission required SpaceX to collaborate closely with ISS personnel and it went very well,” said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. “This is a working relationship that will be increasingly important as we move forward to meet NASA’s need for transport to and from the Space Station.”

Although these demonstrations are for cargo re-supply, SpaceX designed the Dragon spacecraft to transport up to seven astronauts to Earth orbit and back. “We have made substantial progress and are confident we can address the gap between Shuttle retirement and Orion operations,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX VP of Business Development. “We look forward to advancing with the crew-carrying Dragon configuration for NASA should they give the go-ahead.”

Other objectives for this second COTS demonstration include proof of navigation and maneuvering abilities, deployment and operation of solar arrays and thermal cooling systems, Dragon receiving GPS data from the ISS, and transmission of telemetry from Dragon to SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne via the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS).

During the meeting, held on December 19, 2007, all comments and questions raised by NASA’s experts were addressed by the SpaceX design team. SpaceX continues its record of successfully meeting all COTS milestones to date on schedule.