SpaceX, NASA managers decide on May 7 launch date following slip

May 23, 2018 – 05:36 pm

no altFollowing SpaceX’s announcement that their Falcon 9 launch date will be slipping from its April 30 target, evaluations have been taking place – in cooperation with NASA – to ascertain when the Dragon spacecraft can make its debut attempt to berth with the International Space Station (ISS). With the NET date of May 7 now official, Dragon will have two opportunities before potential conflicts with an upcoming Soyuz mission.

Falcon 9 Slippage:

Being ready to launch is always a challenge, regardless if one is launching sounding rockets out of Wallops or Space Shuttles out of KSC. As such, any slip prior to launch should not be seen as a negative, but as a necessity of ensuring no stone is left unturned ahead of a launch and its subsequent mission.

Although SpaceX’s growing fan base sometimes treat the Californian company as an invincible force of nature in the spaceflight arena, their need to work within the decades of mission experience – provided by the likes of the Space Shuttle – has at least been proven by their own decision to slip the launch of their key Falcon 9/Dragon mission, not only past the April 30 target, but also the May 3 reserve date, despite some confidence they could have made the latter.

“After reviewing our recent progress, it was clear that we needed more time to finish hardware-in-the-loop testing and properly review and follow up on all data. While it is still possible that we could launch on May 3rd, it would be wise to add a few more days of margin in case things take longer than expected, ” noted SpaceX in a short release to the media on Monday.

“As a result, our launch is likely to be pushed back by one week, pending coordination with NASA.”

The background to the slip began with last week’s SpaceX Flight Readiness Review (FRR) and its subsequent overview to NASA managers assembled at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). Although the review was unlike the FRR’s held for the Space Shuttle, NASA’s involvement was required from a ISS standpoint, ensuring they were ready to receive the Dragon at the orbital outpost, in the event the spacecraft achieved its required flight milestones.

With this mission being a combined C2/C3 demonstration – renamed to C2+ as a result – Dragon will have the opportunity to prove its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) ambitions, after what will be only its second ride into space via its Falcon 9 launch vehicle.


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