NASA/SpaceX Demo-1 Mission in 12 Hours

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Yazata, Mar 1, 2019.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The Crew Dragon capsule and its Falcon 9 booster passed their final pre-flight review and the mission is officially on for Saturday March 2 at 2:48 AM EST/Friday March 1, 11:48 PM PST. So it's to be a night launch, looks like. (They have launch windows since the Dragon has to catch the Space Station in orbit.) This flight will be the first for the Crew-Dragon and will be an unmanned supply mission much like those currently being flown by the Cargo-Dragons, except with a different capsule.

    https://twitter.com/Commercial_Crew/status/1099058961540698112

    It will be streamed live by NASA on NASA TV here (they will have informative commentary and briefings as well):

    https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

    and by SpaceX at their website (I'm guessing that the SpaceX webcast will put more emphasis on the booster landing, NASA more on the capsule and its docking with the Station):

    https://www.spacex.com/

    NASA and SpaceX seem very excited about this milestone. (A big one for NASA's commercial crew program.)

    SpaceX Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability Hans Koenigsmann is hinting that the webcast of Crew Dragon's launch will be "something fairly spectacular". Everyone knows that Elon Musk is a showman and everyone saw how the Falcon Heavy spectacular with Starman caught the world's imagination. "According to Koenigsmann, Crew Dragon will be outfitted with a mannequin (effectively an aerospace-grade crash test dummy) dressed in one of SpaceX's in-house spacesuits, a globally-recognizable icon..." Probably interior and window cams at the very least. Plus the by-now-familiar booster landing. Despite it being the middle of the night US time, it's expected to attract lots of viewers around the world. (Including me.)

    They are testing this new capsule model in preparation for manned flights starting in July, so sending up a fully instrumented mannequin to measure conditions that would be felt by an astronaut in the same acceleration seat actually makes practical as well as aesthetic sense.

    I guess that the Crew-Dragon will depart the Space Station next week and will reenter and splash down in the Atlantic ocean off Florida. That will be a dry-run for a manned flight too.

    Then assuming that all goes well with this mission, between now and July they will fly their in-flight abort test, when they shut off the booster at 'max-Q' (maximum aerodynamic pressure, the worst time for an abort) to simulate a loss-of-thrust accident and fire the capsule's abort rockets to separate the capsule from the booster. (Much like that Russian Soyuz capsule with two astronauts aboard did recently when its booster started to come apart.) NASA has to verify that the abort-escape system works and that the process is survivable by the capsule's occupants. Reportedly the used Crew Dragon from this upcoming Demo 1 flight will be used again for the inflight abort test.

    Assuming that's successful, next step is sending up a new pristine capsule for a test flight ('Demo-2') with two human astronauts aboard (wearing the sleek and stylish black-and-white SpaceX spacesuits) in July.

    They've named the test dummy "Ripley", after Ellen Ripley in the *Alien* movies. (Hopefully they aren't planning to deliver a face-hugger to the Space Station.)

    https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1101370880486076416

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    The new Crew Dragon is much roomier than the interior of the Russian Soyuz

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    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The Crew-Dragon and Ripley launched successfully. The capsule is in orbit, pursuing the space station. Meanwhile the booster landed successfully on its landing barge/drone ship in the Atlantic.

    Next up is arrival and docking at the space station tomorrow.

    Through it all, Ripley looked totally cool and collected, with the same nonchalant attitude as Starman. (She never moved once! Obviously the 'right stuff'.)
     
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The Crew Dragon, flying in autonomous robot mode, has successfully docked with the Space Station. It was a slow and laborious process that took hours. There were several points different distances from the station and the Dragon would move to each one, then back away. Then it would approach the next closer point. Through it all the astronauts on the Station, along with engineers back at NASA and SpaceX, were carefully monitoring the various rates and system statuses. Finally the Dragon just kind of nudged up to the docking port at a very low velocity in a "soft dock", and then clamps on the Space Station grabbed it and seals mated, in a "hard dock".

    I suspect that operational docking will be more straight-forward, without all the approaching and backing away stuff, but this is very much a test-flight, of the flight control computers and the autonomous mode, as much as anything else.

    https://twitter.com/JimBridenstine/status/1102201607717089281

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    This image shows the first Space Station astronaut (a Canadian!) inside the Dragon, wearing a stylish breathing mask, checking to make sure the atmosphere inside was breathable and not filled with some kind of noxious gas. The open hatch is above. He must have already reported that the air is breathable (I bet that it has that new-car smell, Tesla in this case) since another astronaut seems to be squirming through.

    Ripley is still in her seat and is paying no attention.

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    Ripley inside the Crew Dragon

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    In the NASA photo below, apparently taken by a Space Station astronaut from the cupola, I'd say that the orange thing below the Crew Dragon (suckling contentedly on the station's breast) is a lens flare. MR would probably say that it's convincing evidence of... something else.

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    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
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