SpaceX and the Dragon Cargo to the ISS

Dragon
Interior of Dragon Spacecraft Prior to Launch to ISS
Image Credit: NASA

NASA has release a series of images of the preparations leading up to the launch of Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch is scheduled for 30 April from Cape Canaveral and launch complex 40 at 9:22 AM Phoenix time (1622 UTC). The mission is designed to satisfy both the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program (COTS) level 2 and 3 requirements. Officially, the mission will be successful if it satisfies the COTS 2 requirements. All of us hope that both sets of requirements will be met, and the Dragon will deliver its cargo to the ISS.

NASA has released an overview of the Dragon mission along with a review of the objectives for the mission.

The Dragon is the only spacecraft with down mass capability other than the crewed Soyuz spacecraft. The Russian Progress, European Space Agency (ESA) ATV and Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) HTV all burn up upon re-entry. The up mass and down mass manifest for Dragon include:

  • Going up:
  • 117 standard meals. 45 low sodium meals
  • Crew clothing
  • Pantry items
  • Module 9 nano-racks with student experiments
  • Spare cargo bags
  • Laptop, batteries, related supplies
  • “Official flight kit”
  • Going down:
  • “Crew preference items”
  • Hardware from several past experiments
  • Some ISS hardware bits
  • Some EVA-gear sized for previous crew members

SpaceX Dragon Flight Readiness Review

COTS 2,3
COTS 2,3 Objectives for SpaceX Dragon Mission to ISS
Image Credit: NASA FRR

SpaceX is on track for a 30 April (Monday) launch of the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, according to a detailed Flight Readiness Review (FRR) meeting between NASA and SpaceX officials met Monday (16 April) at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The mission is to fulfill both the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) 2 and 3 requirements. Dragon is expected to deliver more than 1,200 pounds of supplies, if it is successful.

An FRR is standard part of all NASA pre-launch preparations. Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations said:

“Everything looks good heading to the April 30 launch date.”

NASA Television launch commentary from Cape Canaveral will begin at 8 AM Phoenix time (1500 UTC). There is a single instantaneous launch opportunity at 9:22 AM Phoenix time (1622 UTC).

The mission is composed of two sets of requirements. COTS 2 (see the slide above) deals with communicating and flying in the vicinity (but not too close, about 1.5 miles) of the International Space Station. The COTS 3 requirements concern the Dragon executing safety maneuvers (abort, retreat, hold), and eventually docking with the ISS when grappled by Canadarm.

Below are details of the Mission.

Overview
COTS 2,3 Mission Overview for SpaceX Dragon Mission to ISS
Image Credit: NASA FRR

Profile
COTS 2,3 Mission Profile for SpaceX Dragon Mission to ISS
Image Credit: NASA FRR

Rendezvous
COTS 2,3 Rendezvous Maneuvers for SpaceX Dragon Mission to ISS
Image Credit: NASA FRR

Docking
COTS 2,3 Demonstration Maneuvers for SpaceX Dragon Mission to ISS and Docking
Image Credit: NASA FRR

Additional NASA TV Coverage:

  • Tuesday, May 1 (Flight Day 2): An update on the Dragon’s flight during the daily “ISS Update” program from NASA’s Johnson Space Center airs at 8 AM Phoenix time (1500 UTC).
  • Wednesday, May 2 (Flight Day 3): Live coverage from NASA’s Johnson Space Center mission control in Houston as the Dragon spacecraft performs its fly-under of ISS to test its systems begins at 11:30 PM Tuesday night Phoenix time (0630 UTC Wednesday) and will continue until the Dragon passes out of the vicinity of the station. A news briefing will be held following the activities.
  • Thursday, May 3 (Flight Day 4): Live coverage of the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon spacecraft to the station begins at 11 PM Phoenix time Wednesday night (0600 UTC Thursday) and will continue through the capture and berthing of the Dragon to the station’s Harmony node. A news briefing will be held once Dragon is secured to the ISS.
  • Friday, May 4: Live coverage of the hatch opening and entry of the Dragon spacecraft includes a ceremony during which the ISS crew will mark the occasion. (TBD)
  • Sunday, May 20: A news briefing at Johnson will preview the following day’s unberthing and splashdown of the Dragon spacecraft. (TBD)
  • Monday, May 21: Live coverage of the unberthing, re-entry and splashdown of the Dragon spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean. Specific times of coverage will be provided at a later date. (TBD)