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SpaceX Running More Than One Year Behind Schedule on Commercial Crew

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
May 25, 2016
Filed under , , , , , , ,
Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s commercial crew program is running more than a year behind schedule on the Commercial Crew program it is performing for NASA.

Garrett Reisman, SpaceX’s Director of Crew Operations, said on Tuesday that an automated flight test of the Crew Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) has slipped into the second quarter of 2017.  (Spaceflight Now has the mission listed for May 2017.) It was scheduled to occur in March 2016 under the contract NASA awarded to SpaceX in September 2014.

The original schedule showed a test flight to the station with crew occurring in October 2016, some seven months after the automated one. Once testing is complete, SpaceX would begin ferrying astronauts to ISS on a commercial basis. The company has been awarded a minimum of six commercial missions.

During an appearance at the Space Tech Expo in Pasadena, Calif. Reisman showed a slide that indicated SpaceX had completely roughly half of the 18 milestones required to complete the Crew Dragon development program..

The table below shows milestones for the CCtCap phase. Two tests on the list — pad and in-flight abort tests — were not completed during SpaceX’s earlier Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) contract. There are also a pair of milestones — post-certification mission 1 initiation review and propulsion module validation testing — that were listed on Reisman’s slide that were not on the original list of paid milestones.

1 Certification Baseline Review (CBR) December 2014 Complete December 2014
2 Initial Propulsion Module Testing Complete April 2015
Complete November 2015
CCiCap  Pad Abort Test December 2013
May 2015
3 Avionics Test Bed Activation May 2015 Complete June 2015
4 Delta Critical Design Review  (dCDR) June 2015 Complete December 2015
5 Docking System Qualification Testing Complete August 2015 Complete December 2015
6 Propulsive Land Landing Test Complete September 2015 Complete December 2015
7 Launch Site Operational Readiness Review November 2015 Complete November 2015
Post Certification Mission 1 Initiation Review  — Complete December 2015
8 Flight Test Without Crew Certification Review (FTCR)
December 2015 Pending
9 ECLSS Integrated Test Complete February 2016 Pending
 – Delta Critical Design Review II (dCDR) June 2015 Pending
 – Validation Propulsion Module Testing  – Pending
10 Flight to ISS Without Crew March 2016 Pending
In-flight Abort Test April 2014 Pending
11 Parachute Qualification Complete April 2016 Pending
12 Space Suit Qualification Testing Complete May 2016 Pending
13 Launch Site Operational Readiness Review for Crew
June 2016 Pending
14 Design Certification Review (DCR) July 2016 Pending
15 Flight Test Readiness Review (FTRR)
September 2016 Pending
16 Flight to ISS with Crew
October 2016 Pending
17 Operations Readiness Review (ORR) January 2017 Pending
18 Certification Review (CR) April 2017 Pending

The pad abort test, which was originally scheduled for December 2013, was not completed until 17 months later in May 2015. Meanwhile, initial Dragon propulsion module testing ended up slipping by seven months from April to November 2015.

SpaceX completed avionics test bed activation in June, only a month late. On June 28, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo ship to ISS exploded after launch, resulting in a six-month gap until the next flight.  SpaceX did not complete another commercial crew milestone until November even though several were scheduled.

The Delta Critical Design Review, which had been set for completion in June, was split into two parts. The first part was completed in December, with the remainder of the review still pending.

SpaceX has a number of crucial milestones to complete in order to fly the two test missions. These include: environmental and life support testing, spacesuit and parachute qualification, and propulsion module verification.