The spaceship Crew Dragon Resilience in the hangar in front of the Crew-1 mission
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – SpaceX will make history again this year Elon Musk’s The space company is preparing to launch the Crew 1 mission for NASA on Sunday evening.
NASA and SpaceX have completed the required pre-mission checks, which are scheduled to take off from Launchpad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The start takes place less than six months later the company’s historical final demonstration mission, a two month test flight that led to it the agency that certifies the SpaceX system for the transportation of astronauts.
“It marks the end of the system’s development phase,” NASA director of commercial space development Phil McAlister told reporters Thursday. “It may not seem so profound right now … but I believe that 20 years from now we will look back on this as a major turning point in our exploration and use of space.”
“With this milestone, NASA and SpaceX changed the historical arc of human space transportation,” added McAlister.
One of the key factors for the start on Sunday remains the spirited weather in Florida. NASA and SpaceX continued the launch as planned on Sunday, setting the launch at 7:27 p.m. ET. The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing predicted that there was a 50% chance that the launch would be launched on Sunday if there are current weather concerns, including rain and thick clouds. If NASA and SpaceX decide to postpone launch, the next available launch option will be Wednesday at 6:16 p.m. ET.
Musk, who was expected at the Kennedy Space Center for launch, In particular, he announced on Saturday that he “most likely” has a “moderate case” of Covid-19, while continuing to question the accuracy of the tests. NASA’s coronavirus policy states that anyone who tests positive must be quarantined by the agency’s facilities and self-isolating.
NASA will broadcast the mission live from four hours before launch until the spacecraft docked with the International Space Station the next day.
Here’s what you need to know about SpaceX’s first launch of a full crew of four astronauts.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon “Endeavor” docked with the International Space Station.
SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon spacecraft and optimized its Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which provided the company with $ 3.1 billion to develop the system and launch six operational missions. Commercial Crew is a competitive program like the one NASA has awarded Boeing with contracts worth $ 4.8 billion to develop its Starliner spacecraft – but This competing capsule is still under development due to an unscrewed flight test that experienced significant challenges almost a year ago.
Crew-1 is the first of these six missions for SpaceX. NASA is now benefiting from the company’s investments in spacecraft development.
“The money NASA put into this project is a fraction of what they have put in the past trying to get vehicles to do this, so they have been really getting their money on private sector innovation benefit, “former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver told CNBC. Garver was a catalyst for the early days of the commercial crewand helps the program get its first funding under President Barack Obama’s administration.
Since the space shuttle retired nearly a decade ago, the US has paid Russia more than $ 80 million per seat to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. And before that, Garver had stated with the Space Shuttle that the goal of NASA’s human space travel was “to reduce the cost of human access to space” – a goal with which the Space Shuttle was not satisfied Analysts estimate that previous spacecraft cost approximately $ 1.75 billion per launch if adjusted for inflation.
“This is the only way, after 40 years of getting people into space for less and more routinely than ever before has been a fundamental NASA goal. And you can’t do anything in space until you get into space in a sustainable way.” Enter Earth orbit, “said Garver.
NASA believes that not only is there a way to send astronauts into space, but also get a cost-saving option also. The agency estimates $ 55 million per astronaut to fly Crew Dragon, as opposed to $ 86 million per astronaut to fly with the Russians. In addition, earlier this year NASA estimated that two private companies were competing for contracts saved the agency between $ 20 billion and $ 30 billion in development costs.
McAlister noted that the SpaceX system is now moving from development to operations. He said that calling the SpaceX system operational makes some at NASA “nervous” because “we never want to just declare victory and say we’re done learning”. Crew-1, however, represents the first operational mission for SpaceX as the spacecraft carries a full crew and is expected to spend six months in orbit. Additionally, the SpaceX system is operational in the sense that the company is now offering regular flights to and from space.
“In the beginning there were some people who said we’d never see that day. But NASA and the SpaceX teams went through the challenges to get to that milestone,” said McAlister.
In addition to flight missions for NASA, SpaceX plans to use the Crew Dragon spacecraft for other missions. This includes space tourism, for which the company has announced two deals so far fly privately paying people into space on Crew Dragon next year.
“Now the Real Space program can begin,” said Garver.
NASA astronauts (right to left) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi in their SpaceX spacesuits as they prepare for Crew-1 before takeoff.
Crew-1 brings four astronauts to the ISS: three from the USA and one from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is the commander of the spacecraft. He was selected as an astronaut in 2009 and previously launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2013. Hopkins is a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force and expects to complete his transition to the newly formed U.S. Space Force on the space station.
NASA astronaut Victor Glover is the pilot of the spacecraft and Crew-1 represents its first space flight. He was selected as an astronaut in 2013 and will be the first black person to live on the space station. While six black astronauts previously visited the ISS, Glover will be the first to stay as a longtime crew member.
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker is a mission specialist selected by the agency in 2004. Before becoming an astronaut, Walker served as an air traffic controller for the space shuttle program before participating in one of the final 163-day space shuttle flights in 2010, mission to the space station.
JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi is a mission specialist who has already flown twice into space: once with NASA on a space shuttle mission in 2005 and again on the Russian Soyuz spaceship in 2009. He has 177 days in space spent between the two missions – and with the crew- I’ll only be the third person in the story to launch three different spaceships on board.
In particular, Crew Dragon’s ability to carry four astronauts means NASA will increase its continuous presence on the ISS from six to seven astronauts. This will allow for a significant increase in the amount of time spent on scientific research and experimentation, the agency said. The astronauts will “conduct hundreds of weightlessness studies during their mission,” NASA said, with Crew-1 also bringing new scientific hardware and experiments to the ISS. This includes experiments in space such as the examination of organs, diet changes, the cultivation of radishes and much more.
The astronauts of the Crew-1 mission visit Crew Dragon Reslience in the hangar before launch.
Crew Dragon is the SpaceX capsule that the crew will carry. This special spaceship is called “Resilience” by astronauts.
“We go into space with pride. Our name is resilience – it’s the strength to recover, the will to restore and we strive to survive,” Noguchi told reporters before the launch.
The spaceship for the Demo 2 mission in May was named “Endeavor”.
Crew Dragon is an evolved version of the company’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft that was launched 20 times to the space station. Just as Cargo Dragon was the first privately developed spaceship to bring supplies to the ISS, Crew Dragon is the first privately developed spaceship to bring people.
While SpaceX did not state how much of its own funds contributed to the development of Crew Dragon, the company’s President Gwynne Shotwell emphasized earlier this year that “SpaceX is investing heavily in our products.” Last year, Musk said SpaceX invested on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Crew Dragon development.
Crew Dragon with its trunk stands just under 27 feet tall and 13 feet around. The spaceship has its own system of small rocket engines for direction control in space and a launch abort system for emergencies. Its trunk is the large lower half covered with solar panels that can carry cargo.
The spaceship is designed for up to seven people. It has a control system that focuses on touchscreens, although NASA notes that Crew Dragon has “robust fault tolerance built into the system”. Since the astronauts are wearing custom SpaceX spacesuits, the touchscreens will work regardless of whether the astronauts are wearing gloves or not. The spacesuits are largely designed to protect the astronauts in the event that the spaceship loses pressure. Life support and power systems are connected through a point on the leg of the spacesuit.
In addition, the astronauts are expected to only control the spaceship manually for a short time. Even the very careful docking process when Crew Dragon reaches the ISS is expected to be performed autonomously.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on the Demo 2 mission with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board.
NASA / Bill Ingalls
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is the workhorse of the company’s growing missile fleet. It is nearly 30 meters high and can put up to 25 tons into orbit.
The rocket booster was carefully checked in the weeks leading up to its launch as NASA delayed the Crew 1 mission after an engine problem with another Falcon 9 rocket caused a mission for the US Air Force to be canceled. The company identified the problem as a small piece of masking paint that got caught in the rocket engines during assembly. SpaceX found that two of the Crew 1 rocket’s engines also had this paint problem. After the company repeated the problem during the test, SpaceX replaced the engines with new ones.
A few days before the Crew-1 launch, SpaceX performed a static fire test of the full Falcon 9 rocket on the launchpad. The engines fired for seven seconds, showing that the booster no longer had a paint problem.
Crew Dragon sits on top instead of the missile’s nose cone on top. After the spacecraft launches on its way, the large lower portion of Falcon 9 known as the “Booster” will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and attempt to land on the company’s drone ship in the ocean. SpaceX has landed its Falcon 9 rocket boosters 57 times.
The astronauts will get up four hours before take-off. About half an hour later, the crew will go to their house Tesla Model X rides with NASA logos going from the astronaut quarters to the launchpad.
Another two and a half hours, the astronauts buckle up in Crew Dragon and check that all systems are operational. Then, almost two hours before take-off, the hatch to the spaceship is closed.
SpaceX will begin fueling the rocket 35 minutes before launch, initiating a final series of processes and reviews.
A few minutes after takeoff, the Falcon 9’s booster stage returns and attempts to land on the company’s Atlantic-based barge.
Should anything go wrong in the last half hour before takeoff and even during takeoff, Crew Dragon will abort and fire its emergency escape system. The company appeared a full test of this system in January with no one in the spaceship. In this test, SpaceX triggered the system during the most intense part of the launch to show that it could be done at any time.
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