Dragon Delayed for Software Testing

Dragon Spacecraft Prior to Grappling by Canadarm
Image Credit: SpaceX

As of 6 February, the NASA launch schedule shows the SpaceX Dragon launch to be under review. It is currently listed after the Progress resupply mission on 20 April and before the Soyuz TMA-04M launch on 15 May 2012. Originally scheduled for launch on 30 March, the mission has been delayed due to the failure of the pressurized descent module. The failure was so severe that the module cannot be repaired. Russia has therefore decided to swap out the TMA-05M spacecraft for the 15 May launch.

The return of Soyuz TMA-22 has been delayed until at least 30 April in order to keep the station crew at six. This is to allow for continued science experiments and to handle the probable docking of the Dragon spacecraft. Additional delays in the schedule will now ripple through until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the current delay is the result of operating software problems that surfaced during a simulation in January.

Mike Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager, indicated that the amount of testing required to validate the fault tolerant software was too great to meet the February launch date. Between now and the launch, five simulations are scheduled:

There are a few changes being made to software that has to go through stage testing. Enhancing their tools for real-time operations is a very important thing to us and to SpaceX.

Elon Musk has stated:

Dragon is designed to be tolerant of two failures of almost anything. We need to make sure that the failover systems work correctly in all scenarios.


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