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SpaceX gets a new NASA weapon to launch a new spacecraft on an unprepared test flight



Officially: The first unknown flight of the new Passenger Capsule SpaceX, Dragon Crew, will begin March 2 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Both NASA and SpaceX agreed to move forward with the flight today, having completed a full day of reviews, having determined that the car was ready to see the space and go to the International Space Station. If the capsule succeeds in orbit, SpaceX will be one of the important steps to bring the first people to the side of their spacecraft. The crew program, an initiative to send NASA cosmonauts to the International Space Station on board private vehicles. After the Shuttle program was completed, NASA relied on Russia to send its astronauts to and from the Earth's low Earth ̵

1; a expensive scheme that limited the types of missions that NASA could carry out. But soon the American astronauts could be re-launched on American cars, as NASA did in the era of the space shuttle

. with low Earth orbit. NASA wants the two companies to send these vehicles into space first, empty, before putting people on board. The car of the Boeing company, CST-100 Starliner, is for the first time in April intended for the aircraft. But Dragon Crew Dragon was on Cape Canaveral from December, ready to fly. SpaceX even tested the engines on the Falcon 9 rocket, which it plans to use to carry the capsule into orbit. The company simply needed approval from NASA to make it happen.

NASA pre-installed the date of March 2 several weeks ago, and now that it's okay, SpaceX is only a week away from a big flight. The capsule is scheduled to fly at 2:48 am from the Kennedy Space Center (NASA) in Florida – an early launch time dictated by the position of the International Space Station in orbit. If the Dragon crew leaves the ground, it will remain in orbit until Sunday morning and then will try to automatically moor to the space station. He will then stay at the ISS for a week before joining early in the morning on the mornings and returning to Earth to scatter in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida. The flight is short compared to the many months of missions that are expected to end with the spacecraft from the crew. But it hopes to provide both NASA and SpaceX with critical data on how the dragon crew holds in space – and whether it is ready to carry passengers. "This car, inside, has many tools," Kathy Lueders, said at a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center today. "We get a lot of imagery of the car as it returns." The capsule will be weighed in the same way as the Fighter Crew will have when it has astronauts on board, but it will also wear a mannequin test, fitting t

NASA's representatives emphasized that they still perceive this test very seriously, even if it is short. The crew's dragon will arrive at the International Space Station, which currently has three people, and NASA wants the crew members not to be in danger when the capsule got there. "This is a test flight, but it's more than a trial flight," said Bill Gerstenmeier, the administrator of NASA's Space Flight Program at a press conference. "This is a mission to the International Space Station."

In fact, NASA's international partner, Roscosmos, has expressed some concern about the Crew Dragon software that it uses when approaching the International Space Station. Station. However, Gerstenmeier said he plans to continue working with Roskosmos this week to make sure they are on board with the procedure. "I do not think it will be a problem as soon as we go through the details of why it is safe and we can explain to them the details of why we are moving forward," he said. that the flight still carries some risk, because it will be the first launch of this special car. "I hope that we will learn something about this flight," he said. – I guarantee that everything will not be right, and that's great. This is exactly what we want to do. "


The SpaceX crew dragon in the hangar of Cape Canaveral
Image: SpaceX

DM-1 will also provide NASA and SpaceX with the ability to evaluate some systems on Crew Dragon that are not yet ready to support passenger flights. One of them is the capsule parachute that is used to mow down the capsule in water when it returns from outer space. SpaceX reports that it has still conducted 17 parachuting tests, but NASA is still in the process of certifying equipment for future crew missions.

If the DM-1 does not take place on March 2, NASA has the ability to fly either on the 5th, 8th or 9th of March. Those days work better because it will allow the Dragon crew to return to Earth in the afternoon, giving NASA a better idea of ​​the parachute. If DM-1 one way or another lags behind the 9th, then it will have to wait a bit longer, because there is a future Russian mission "Soyuz", which will have a priority – the one bearing the new command.

After completing this test flight, SpaceX then installs another flight test with the crew dragon in April, which will try to withdraw the system of emergency interruption of the car. This safe feature is intended for use in the event that something goes abruptly wrong with the missile during the flight, and the crew's dragon must get to safety. During the test, the amplifiers embedded in the crew's Dragon Corps will shoot, carrying the capsule away from the rocket. This is a procedure similar to the system of emergency breaks on board the Russian "Soyuz" rocket, which saved two astronauts during an unsuccessful flight in October.

If this test is successful, it may be time for the first team to board the dragon crew. When this crew flight is still unclear, a recent report Reuters noted that there are still many technical items NASA needs to review before the agency will allow astronauts to fly on Boeing or SpaceX vehicles. . And today, NASA admitted that the crew dragon, in its current form, is not yet ready for missions with crews.

But unproduced flight tests, at least, will pave the way for the first flight from the crew. "I'll tell you, I'm ready to fly now," said Luderes.


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