SpaceX Passing NASA Tests with Flying Colors, Will Be Ready for Crewed Launch On Time

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 - 11:58AM
Technology
Space
SpaceX
Tuesday, 28 August 2018 - 11:58AM
SpaceX Passing NASA Tests with Flying Colors, Will Be Ready for Crewed Launch On Time
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Image Credit: Kennedy Space Center
After carrying out several successful deliveries to the International Space Station, SpaceX is poised to become the first private company to carry a human crew into space. The spacecraft is currently preparing for its uncrewed debut launch in November 2018, and according to Elon Musk, the crewed mission will be ready for take-off between January and April 2019, if everything goes well.

So far, SpaceX has overcome some major hurdles, including a difficult re-entry test that involved testing the crew capsule's parachute system, which will ensure the astronauts safely return to Earth after passing through the planet's atmosphere on the return trip. Right now, the Crew Dragon Capsule C201 is scheduled to participate in DM-1, or Demonstration Mission 1, this November. The launch will also include the booster B1051, which will serve as the primary launch vehicle, and the trunk segment, which will provide power for the capsule using solar arrays and regulate temperature with a set of radiator panels. If DM-1 goes off without a hitch, then DM-2, the first crewed test mission, will happen by April 2019. Right now, the crew of that mission is scheduled to include just two astronauts: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

SpaceX's progress is sharply contrasted against Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, whose abort engines had a widely reported propellant leak during testing this summer. NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) panel examined some details from the incident and expressed the need for Boeing to take some extra time to figure out what went wrong. Meanwhile, the panel praised SpaceX's newly developed system to track changes to a spacecraft, which an ASAP member commented "would have been great to have for the Space Shuttle program."

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic has made a new deal with an Italian company to launch its space tourism flights from a future spaceport, but no word yet on when those spaceflights will be scheduled. Looks like SpaceX is still leading the pack.

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