Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – The first uncrewed orbital test mission of the Dragon 2 spacecraft made by SpaceX has been re- scheduled for launch in January 2019.
The mission designated “SpX-DM1 (SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1)” will test the approach and automated docking procedures of Dragon 2 with the International Space Station (ISS). According to the mission profile, the Dragon 2 spacecraft will remain docked at the ISS for a few weeks.
Thereafter, the spacecraft will conduct the full re-entry, splashdown and recovery steps to provide data needed to qualify for flights transporting humans to the ISS. The same Dragon 2 will be re-used for an in-flight abort test.
The mission was originally scheduled to fly in December. The re-scheduling follows misgivings by Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, about scheduling issues that might push the test flight into 2019.
“The hardware might be ready, but we might still have to do some paperwork on the certification side of it,” said Koenigsmann. “It’s going to be a close call whether we fly this year or not.”
Despite the delay, both SpaceX and NASA still intend to have all systems prepared for launch in December,
“Having completed a number of additional milestones including substantial training and numerous integrated mission simulations, end-to-end Dragon checkouts at the Cape, complete Falcon 9 vehicle integration review, and installation of the crew access arm at LC-39A, SpaceX is on track for launch readiness in December,” said SpaceX spokesperson Eva Behrend.
“We look forward to launching our first demonstration flight of Crew Dragon — one of the safest, most advanced human spaceflight systems ever built — as part of the Commercial Crew program and working with NASA to identify the specific launch target date soon.”
The uncrewed test flights are preparation for crewed test flights. SpX-DM2 (SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2) will be the first crewed test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, and is scheduled fror June 2019. This mission will carry a crew of two astronauts. It will be the first manned flight of an American spacecraft into orbit since STS-135 in July 2011.
STS-135 was the final mission of the iconic Space Shuttle Program. It was flown by the shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011.
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