Friday, November 23, 2018

Launch Date for SpaceX’s Demo-1 Flight Announced

Illustration of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft launching atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credits: SpaceX

The planned launch date for the first test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has been announced. A new name for the company’s “Big Falcon Rocket” has also been released. These bits of information help provide the first hints of a larger story—the company’s first missions that will include people.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has had the first planned flight slip repeatedly. However, the wait might be coming to an end with an official date finally posted—Jan. 7, 2019. Demo Flight 1 will be SpaceX’s uncrewed test flight, one that could help demonstrate the viability of its entry in the CCP.

The announcement was posted on NASA’s Blog concerning CCP on Nov. 21. As is so often the case of late, the launch will take place at night. As was noted by NASASpaceflight, the mission should get underway at approximately 11:55 p.m. EST (04:55 GMT Jan. 8) and last about two weeks. The demo is planned to help certify the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon to support its first two astronauts—a flight currently expected in June of 2019 with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

SpaceX has groomed Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A for crewed flights and it is from this location that Demo Flight 1 will get underway. 

Under CCP, SpaceX is tasked with ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Demo Flight 1 is meant to show that Crew Dragon is ready to send astronauts to and from the orbiting outpost. The agency posted the following on their Commercial Crew Program blog regarding the mission’s Countdown Clock starting to tick:

“To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demo-1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will carry out spacecraft abort tests to demonstrate their crew escape capability during an actual on-pad, or ascent emergency. The final test flights for each company will be crew flight tests to the space station prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions.”

While SpaceX might be involved with the U.S. space agency’s efforts to regain the ability to send people to and from orbit, its founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed a new name for the Big Falcon Rocket or “BFR” (although the vehicle had a more colorful moniker that Musk has used). SpaceX has never given overly-complicated names to its offerings and the new one for BFR is no exception. It has now been christened “Starship.”

“Technically, two parts: Starhip is the spaceship/upper stage & Super Heavy is the rocket booster needed to excape Earth’s deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons),” Musk tweeted.

While the name might be somewhat bland, its mission includes a far more attention-grabbing goal—sending people to Mars.

Written by: Jason Rhian
Original source: spaceflightinsider.com

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