Technicians will load more than 1,000 pounds of food and clothing into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule next month for delivery to the International Space Station on the commercial craft’s first flight to the outpost.
Working inside the company’s hangar adjacent to the Falcon 9 launch pad, technicians will carefully stow approximately 530 kilograms, or 1,168 pounds, of station-bound cargo inside the Dragon’s pressurized section. Most of the supplies are currently scheduled to be loaded inside Dragon in mid-April.
Boeing has released crucial details of its commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) bid that it delivered to NASA on 23 March.
The company has twice won awards under the commercial crew development (CCDev) programme, predecessor to CCiCap, to work on its CST-100 capsule. CCDev was meant to stimulate development of vehicles to transport astronauts to the International Space Station.
“It’s really in two phases,” says John Mulholland, the capsule’s programme manager, of the latest bid. “There’s a 21-month base period where we’ll accomplish our critical design review and a significant amount of risk reduction design testing, and we will culminate at the end of the option period with a two-crew flight test.”
As SpaceX prepares for the April 30 test flight of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for the “commercial cargo” phase of its business plan, yesterday it announced creation of a five-person safety panel to provide advice on what it hopes will be the next phase — “commercial crew.”
If all goes according to plan on the April 30 flight, Dragon will berth with the International Space Station (ISS) to demonstrate its ability to deliver cargo to the ISS. Dragon will not carry any crew on this flight, which is part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. NASA initiated the COTS program to facilitate the emergence of a commercial capability for companies to build and launch space transportation systems to provide ISS-related services to NASA on a commercial basis.
Hawthorne rocket venture Space Exploration Technologies Corp. announced it has assembled a team of independent experts to help the company create a safe spacecraft for NASA astronauts.
The company, better known as SpaceX, is already building its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and has a $1.6-billion contract to do just that for NASA.
SpaceX plans to send its unmanned Dragon capsule to dock with the International Space Station on April 30 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in a demonstration flight for NASA. If successful, SpaceX would be the first private company to accomplish the feat.
In preparation for the upcoming SpaceX demonstration flight, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur performed a crew equipment interface test March 28 in Florida. The test was part of current prelaunch preparations for the scheduled April 30 liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. McArthur worked together with SpaceX flight controllers for five hours in their hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-40, as the team entered its final phase of testing the Dragon capsule. The SpaceX launch is part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services partnership with U.S. industry.
The interface test, known as CEIT, is an activity that dates back to the Space Shuttle Program, when it provided a training opportunity to prepare astronauts still on Earth for their missions in space by working with the actual hardware they would use.
Think about how you feel when you see the Earth from space or the Apollo astronauts walking on the moon. These images are achievements of science, sure, but they also have a religious feel to them; they tug at something deeper than engineering, something sublime. When viewed as a whole, space exploration has a lot in common with religion. It offers us a salvation narrative, for instance, whereby we put our faith in technology in order to be delivered to new worlds. Its priests, figures like Neil deGrasse Tyson, extoll its virtues in what sound like sermons. In its iconography, astronauts are like saints that ascend into heaven and extraterrestrials are like gods—benevolent, kind, wise, capable of manipulating space and time.
This idea of seeing space exploration as a religion has a long history, dating back to the Russians of the early twentieth century, many of whom self-identified as “Cosmists.” From there it migrated to German rocket scientists like Werner von Braun, who took his ideas about space travel to America after the Second World War. Americans were slow to warm to space exploration. They saw it as a fantasy, but that changed as Americans began to regard technology with a new reverence in the postwar period. Today Americans are the most fervent Cosmists on the planet, even if manned space exploration seems to have stalled for the time being.
NASA does not have a complete plan to assure manned access to space through 2017, say Government Accountability Office (GAO) officials. The assessment came during a 28 March hearing before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology covering the ‘significant challenges’ NASA faces in utilizing the International Space Station (ISS), where officials described risks associated with the commercial resupply effort even as preparations for the first commercial launch to ISS are well underway.
“If the international partner agreements and commercial service provider contracts do not materialize as NASA plans for the years beyond 2016, this could lead to a potential cargo shortfall,” says GAO.