NASA and SpaceX have set April 22 as the target launch date for the upcoming Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station. The veteran crew of four will be the first to board the previously enhanced Falcon 9 spacecraft and reused Dragon spacecraft, and a NASA official said this week that the launcher and capsule are “in really good condition” as the refurbishment wraps up even Cape Canaveral.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft – the same capsule that flew to the space station last year with astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken – is scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Platform 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. A NASA spokesperson said the launch date for April 22 is 6:11 a.m. EST (1011 GMT).
NASA confirmed the launch date on April 22 on Friday, which is a two-day delay from the previous target launch date of April 20. NASA and SpaceX officials said earlier this week that the launch would likely be delayed “two days” to enable a further “optimization” “pathway to reach the space station after takeoff.
Assuming the mission – designated Crew-2 – will launch as scheduled on April 22, the Crew Dragon will dock with the space station around 7:05 a.m. EDT (1105 GMT) on April 23, according to a NASA spokesperson. For Spaceflight Now.
Veteran NASA astronaut Shane Kimbro will lead the crew 2 mission. Kimbro, who is making his third trip into orbit, will be joined by a second space pilot, Megan MacArthur, who will act as a pilot for the Crow Dragon spacecraft. Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshid and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet Kembra and Mac Arthur will accompany the space station on a six-month expedition.
Hoshid and Pesquet will be on their third and second space missions, respectively.
SpaceX technicians in Cape Canaveral are restoring a Falcon 9 Booster and Crew Dragon in preparation for its April 22 launch.
“I can happily say that the vast majority of the spacecraft has proven effective in flight,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s senior director of human spaceflight programs, referring to the Crowdragon spacecraft. “In this case, we change some valves, for example, we change some thermal protection systems. On the crew vehicles … we always fly with new parachutes. So some of them are new, but other than that it is really the same car that has been very carefully inspected. Carefully prepared, refurbished as needed, and ready to fly. “
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Director, Steve Stitch, said at a press conference Monday that the Crew Dragon for the Crew-2 mission will feature “enhanced capabilities” designed to make spacecraft safer and ready to deal with the wildest seas and strong winds.
“One of the improvements to this vehicle is the improved cushioning performance,” said Stich. “The Dragon is designed to have a continuous abortion capability from launch to orbit. SpaceX set out and looked at a way to improve its propulsion system and provide more propellant for off-pad abortion.”
“It did two things,” said Stitch. “Firstly, it improved crew safety if we got into this kind of unfortunate situation to abort a pillow where the crew would need to leave the platform for an emergency. Second, it really improved launch capability. We can handle a little stronger shoreline wind and improve launch potential.”
The Crew Dragon can thwart in the event of a major problem with the Falcon 9 missile on the launch pad. The capsule will launch its aborted SuperDraco engines to propel itself from the rocket and over the Atlantic Ocean near Florida’s coastal launch complex, where the spaceship will deploy parachutes and land on the beach.
A pillow miscarriage or an in-flight abortion will help ensure that the astronauts can escape a catastrophic missile failure.
One of the technical issues that delayed the first astronaut flight on a Crew Dragon spacecraft involved the explosion of a test capsule in 2019 before the SuperDraco engines were launched to Earth. Investigators found that the explosion was caused by an unexpected reaction of nitrogen tetroxide, one of the propellers used in SuperDraco engines, with a titanium valve in the high-pressure propulsion system. Stich said SpaceX has modified the propulsion system for the upcoming mission to make it safer.
“We learned a lot about titanium, nitrogen tetroxide, and the oxidizer, and that compatibility,” said Stich. “We beefed up the SuperDraco propulsion motors and removed some titanium from that system and went to some type of stainless steel in those materials, and we improved the safety there.”
“I really consider this trip to be a kind of journey to improving abortion,” said Stitch. “If you go back and look at this trip, we are improving the vehicle’s stakes position by improving the abortions, improving the pad abort capacity, removing titanium in the propulsion system, and improving the abortions by changing the program. So overall … we are continuing with …” Seek to reduce the risks in the program over time. “
NASA engineers on SpaceX’s Dragon regeneration team at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station have been tracking preparations aboard the spaceship since it landed in the Gulf of Mexico on August 2. The Crew Dragon Endeavor capsule spent 64 days in orbit, most of that time docked with the space station.
Stitch said a review of the spacecraft’s refurbishment last Friday showed that SpaceX and NASA are in “really good shape” with their plans to reuse the capsule on the Crew Mission 2.
“When we go through this certification process, we really look at every part of the car,” said Stich. “There are new umbrellas, new heat shield, new nose cone, new components and then we look at what we do during the refurbishment process… In general, I don’t see any high risks of reuse because through a systematic process, we have verified reinstalling the components “.
Kimbrough said Monday the Crew-2 astronauts will retain the “Endeavor” name for the spacecraft that Hurley and Behnken unveiled shortly after their launch in May.
Other modifications to the Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft include strengthening the capsule exoskeleton to handle fluid splashing in harsh sea conditions. The changes primarily aim to reduce impacts to the hull through a “secondary splash,” as water could strike the spacecraft moments after its parachute landing in the ocean.
“If there is just the right combination of wave height, wind and vehicle speed when entering it, this secondary flow can hit hard,” Reed said. “We did a lot to analyze that and test that, and what that ultimately does is make the car as strong as possible to handle that, but you also look at the weather. So you put a lot of restrictions around the weather, about wind speed and wave height, and all these different things that happen. “.
But weather restrictions can limit launch and landing opportunities for manned missions.
“One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve already reinforced parts of the hull, so we can expand that window of opportunity to bring the crew home, while keeping all that safety and all that margin for the crew,” Reed said. “I think it’s a really important update we’ve done on. This is the dragon in particular. Moving forward, this will always be part of the design. “
Reed said that SpaceX took its time to revamp the Crew Dragon between last year’s test flight and Crew-2. Task. “As we go through this process, we learn what needs to be completely replaced, as we have to examine more deeply, and the kinds of things we need to do going forward.”
SpaceX ultimately wants to shorten its renewal schedule to “two months,” according to Reid. Locating refurbishment work near the launch site in Cape Canaveral, rather than the SpaceX plant in California or the test facility in Central Texas, helps simplify the process.
“The golden key to entering this new space age is about rejecting and reusing vehicles,” said Reid.
Crew training for the upcoming Dragon launch will be concluded soon. Kimbro and his comrades will travel to Florida’s launch base later this month and crawl into their spacecraft for final inspections, then return to Florida in mid-April for final training before takeoff on April 22.
The Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft currently docked at the space station will move to a different port in the orbiting complex in late March or early April, providing the station’s forward docking location for the arrival of Crew-2 astronauts. Crew-1 astronauts, who were launched aboard the Resilience spaceship in November, will climb aboard the vehicle for a robotic transport maneuver.
After the Crew-2 mission arrives next month, 11 astronauts will be temporarily on board the space station. After a one-week handover, Crew Commander 1 Mike Hopkins, Pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialists Soichi Noguchi and Shannon Walker will leave the space station in late April or early May and head off to launch off the coast of Florida, completing a five-month half-month flight in orbit.
NASA and SpaceX want the Crew-1 mission to return to Earth before May 9, when the space station’s orbit movement provides night landing opportunities for the Crew Dragon.
The Crew-2 launch will reuse the same Falcon 9 booster that was recovered after the Crew-1 launch in November.
April is a busy month for crew rotation on the space station. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft is scheduled to be launched from Kazakhstan on April 9 with two Russian astronauts and a NASA astronaut to replace the Soyuz crew who have been on the station since October. The outgoing Soyuz plane will land and land in Kazakhstan on April 17th.
“We’re excited and ready to go,” said Reid. “Obviously, we keep checking all the boxes, checking three times under all the rocks and everywhere to make sure we’re ready to move this crew. And as we always say, we’re not going to fly until we’re ready.”
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