The next release of Crew Dragon is set for April 22nd

Pictured from left are NASA astronaut Megan MacArthur, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshid, and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbro. Credit: NASA

NASA and SpaceX have set April 22 as the target launch date for Crew Dragon’s upcoming flight to the International Space Station. The veteran four-member crew will be the first to board the upgraded Falcon 9 spacecraft and reuse the Dragon spacecraft, and a NASA official this week said the launcher and capsule were “in excellent condition” when repairs were completed in 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 slated to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Platform 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. A NASA spokesman said the launch date for April 22 was 6:11 a.m. EST (1011 GMT).

NASA confirmed the launch date for April 22 on Friday, which was a two-day delay from the previous target launch date of April 20. NASA and SpaceX officials said earlier this week that launches would likely be delayed by “two days” to allow for more. “A path to reach the space station after takeoff.”

Assuming the mission – designated Crew-2 – will launch as scheduled on April 22, Crew Dragon will dock with the space station around 7:05 am EDT (1105 GMT) on April 23, according to a NASA spokesman. For Spaceflight Now.

Veteran NASA astronaut Shane Kimbro will lead crew mission 2. Kimbro, who made his third trip into orbit, will join forces with a second space pilot, Megan MacArthur, who will act as a pilot for the Crow Dragon spacecraft. Japanese astronauts Akihiko Hoshid and European Space Agency astronauts Thomas Pesquet Kembra and Mac Arthur will accompany the space station on the six-month expedition.

Hoshid and Pesquet will undertake a third and second space mission respectively.

SpaceX technicians at Cape Canaveral are recovering Falcon 9 Booster and Crew Dragon in preparation for their launch on April 22.

“I can happily say that most spacecraft have proven effective in flight,” said Benji Reed, senior director of SpaceX’s human spaceflight program, referring to the Crowdragon spacecraft. “In this case, we changed some of the valves, for example, we changed some of the thermal protection systems. In crew vehicles… we always fly with new parachutes. So there are some that are new, but other than that the same car has been examined very carefully. Carefully prepared, updated as needed, and ready to fly.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Director, Steve Stitch, said at a press conference Monday that Crew Dragon for the Crew-2 mission will feature “enhanced capabilities” designed to make spacecraft safer and ready for the wildest seas and strong winds.

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“One of the improvements to this vehicle is the improved bearing performance,” said Stich. “The dragon is designed to have the capability of continuous abortion from launch to orbit. SpaceX takes off and is looking for ways to improve the propulsion system and provide more propellant for off-pad abortion. “

“It does two things,” said Stitch. “First, it improves crew safety if we run into an unfortunate situation like this to overturn the pillow where the crew has to leave the platform for an emergency. Second, it actually increases launch capability. We were able to handle slightly stronger shore winds and increased launch potential. “

Crew Dragon can thwart if there is a big problem with the Falcon 9 missile on the launch pad. The capsule will launch a canceled SuperDraco engine to propel itself off the rocket and across the Atlantic Ocean near the Florida coastal launch complex, where the spacecraft will deploy a parachute and land on the beach.

A miscarriage or abortion in flight will help ensure that astronauts can avoid catastrophic missile failures.

One of the technical issues that delayed the flight of the first astronauts on the Crew Dragon spacecraft was the explosion of a test capsule in 2019 before the SuperDraco engine was launched to Earth. Investigators discovered that the explosion was caused by an unexpected reaction from nitrogen tetroxide, one of the propellers used in the SuperDraco engine, with a titanium valve in a high-pressure propulsion system. Stich said SpaceX has modified the propulsion system for future missions to make it safer.

“We learned a lot about titanium, nitrogen tetroxide, and oxidizers and their compatibility,” says Stich. “We upgraded the SuperDraco motor and removed some titanium from the system and used some kind of stainless steel in the material, and we increased safety there.”

“I really think of this trip as kind of a journey to improve abortion,” said Stitch. “If you come back and see this ride, we are increasing the vehicle betting position by increasing abortion, increasing abortion carrying capacity, removing titanium in the propulsion system, and increasing abortion by changing the program. So overall… we continued with… “Trying to reduce risk in the program over time.”

NASA engineers on the SpaceX Dragon regeneration team at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station have been tracking preparations aboard the spacecraft since landing in the Gulf of Mexico on August 2. The Dragon Endeavor Crew Capsule spends 64 days in orbit, most of the time at anchor. With the space station.

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Stitch said a spacecraft repair review last Friday showed SpaceX and NASA were in “very good shape” with their plans to reuse the capsule in Crew Mission 2.

“When we went through this certification process, we really paid attention to every part of the car,” said Stich. “There was a new umbrella, a new heat shield, a new nose cone, new components, then we looked at what we were doing during the restoration process … In general, I don’t see a high risk of reuse because through the process system we have verified reinstalling the component” .

Lifting the Crew Dragon “Endeavor” capsule from the Gulf of Mexico after being sprayed on August 2, 2020, to complete test mission 2. Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls

Kimbrough said Monday that Crew-2 astronauts would retain the “Endeavor” name for the Hurley and Behnken spacecraft announced shortly after their launch in May.

Other modifications to the Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft include reinforcing the outer shell of the capsule to handle splashes of liquid in extreme sea conditions. The changes are primarily aimed at reducing the impact on the hull through the “secondary splash”, because water can hit the spacecraft shortly after the parachute lands in the sea.

“If there is the right combination of wave height, wind and the speed at which the vehicles they enter, this secondary flow can hit hard,” said Reed. “We did a lot of things to analyze and test it, and what we ended up doing was making the car as strong as possible to handle it, but you also look at the weather. So you limit the weather a lot, about wind speed and wave height, and all the different things that happen. “.

But weather restrictions can limit launch and landing opportunities for manned missions.

“One of the things we’ve done is we’ve strengthened the hull section, so we can expand the window of opportunity to bring the crew home, while keeping all the safety and all that margin for the crew,” said Reid. This is especially the dragon. Going forward, this will always be part of the design. “

Reid said SpaceX is taking the time to switch Crew Dragon between last year’s test flight and Crew-2. Duty. “As we go through this process, we learn what needs to be completely replaced, because we have to look a little deeper, and the things we need to do going forward.”

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SpaceX ultimately wants to shorten its renewal schedule to “two months,” according to Reid. Finding repair work near the launch site at Cape Canaveral, not at the SpaceX plant in California or a testing facility in Central Texas, helps simplify the process.

“The golden key to entering this new space era is about rejecting and reusing vehicles,” said Reid.

Crew training for the upcoming Dragon launch is coming to an end. Kimbro and his colleagues will travel to a Florida launch base later this month and crawl onto their spacecraft for final inspections, then return to Florida in mid-April for final training before take-off on 22 April.

The Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft currently anchored on the space station will move to a different port in the orbiting complex in late March or early April, providing a docking station location for Crew-2 astronauts to arrive. Astronaut Crew-1, launched aboard the Resilience spacecraft in November, will board the vehicle to perform robotic transport maneuvers.

After the Crew-2 mission arrives next month, 11 astronauts will temporarily be on the space station. After a week-long surrender, 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 depart to launch off the coast of Florida, concluding a five and a half-month flight at orbit. .

NASA and SpaceX want Crew-1 missions to return to Earth before May 9, when the orbital movement of the space station provides an opportunity for a night landing for Crew Dragon.

The Crew-2 launch will reuse the same Falcon 9 boosters that were restored 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 launch from Kazakhstan on April 9 with two Russian astronauts and a NASA astronaut to replace the crew of the Soyuz who have been at the station since October. The exiting Soyuz aircraft will land and land in Kazakhstan on April 17.

“We are very excited and ready to go,” said Reid. “Obviously, we keep checking all the boxes, triple checking under all the rocks and everywhere to make sure we’re ready to move this crew.” And like we always say, we’re not going to fly until we’re ready. “

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