Dragon – Capture By ISS – CRS-1

Dragon 12 Meters from the International Space Station
Image Credit: NASA TV


NASA TV provides coverage of the SpaceX/Dragon rendezvous and grappling. SpaceX will also provide coverage.

Latest Key times:

  • 5:13am et/2:13am pt – 250 meter hold (go/no-go)
  • 6:25am et/3:25am pt – 30 meter hold (go/no-go)
  • 6:57am et/3:57 am pt – 10 meter hold (go/no-go for capture)
  • 7:17am et/4:17 am pt – Capture/grapple

And we are at the 10 meter capture point at 3:43 AM Phoenix time. About 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

NASA has given GO for capture.

From Dragon
Dragon Ready for Grapple by Canadarm on the International Space Station
Image Credit: NASA TV

One Meter to go.

Capture complete at 3:56 AM Phoenix time. Everything has gone according to plan and ahead of schedule.

One Meter
Dragon One Meter From Canadarm on the International Space Station
Image Credit: NASA TV

Dragon One Captured By Canadarm on the International Space Station
Image Credit: NASA TV

Close Up of Dragon One Attached to the Canadarm
Image Credit: NASA TV

Dragon Attached to ISS – In The Sunlight Above Earth
Image Credit: NASA TV

Dragon On Course For The International Space Station

Dragon Rendezvous with the International Space Station
Image Credit: SpaceX

While a lot of attention has been drawn to the drama of the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Sunday night and the engine anomaly, the Dragon space craft is making steady progress toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday morning.

Day 2: Tuesday: Dragon Phasing – Approaching the Space Station

  • Coelliptic burn places Dragon in a circular orbit

Day 3: Wednesday: Height Adjustment Maneuvers to R-Bar and Grappling

  • (R-Bar – Radial Bar – is an imaginary line connecting station to the center of the Earth)
  • Height adjust burns start adjusting altitude higher toward station
  • COTS Ultra-high Frequency Communication Unit (CUCU) and on-board UHF communication system between Dragon
    and ISS is configured
  • Height adjust burn: Dragon begins burns that bring it within 2.5 km of station (go/no-go)
  • Dragon receives and sends information from/to the CUCU unit on station
  • Height adjust burn brings Dragon 1.2 km from station (go/no-go)
  • Height adjust burn carries Dragon into the station’s approach ellipsoid (go/no-go)
  • Dragon holds at 250 meters (go/no-go) for confirmation of proximity sensors targeting acquisition
  • Dragon begins R-Bar Approach
  • Dragon holds at 30 meters (go/no-go)
  • Dragon holds at capture point, 10 meters below the station (go/no-go)
  • Crew captures Dragon using the station’s robotic arm (SSRMS)
  • Dragon is attached to the station

Day 4: Thursday:

  • Hatch Opening

And from Facebook, SpaceX says:

Tonight, Dragon will make its final approach to the station, passing a series of GO/NO-GO points determined by both Mission Control in Houston and the SpaceX team in Hawthorne. It will also establish its close-range guidance systems, comprised of LIDAR and thermal imagers. If all goes according to plan, at approximately 5:30AM ET, Dragon will be permitted to enter the Keep-Out Sphere (KOS), an imaginary circle drawn 200 meters (656 feet) around the station that prevents the risk of collision, and continue its approach to the capture point. Grapple is currently targeted for 7-7:30AM ET; however, this time is variable. Live coverage will begin at 6:30AM ET at spacex.com/webcast

This means 3:30 AM Phoenix time with grappling scheduled for roughly 4:00 to 4:30 AM tomorrow morning.

Dragon Grappled by Canadarm on the the International Space Station
Image Credit: SpaceX

For greater detail on the process, see this post on the COTS 2,3 mission last May.


NASA Gains Breathing Room On Commercial Crew Program

NASA has negotiated a continuation of its successful Space Acts Agreements (SAA) procedures for contracting and funding of the next phase of its Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The SAA has also been the process for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), which saw the flight of the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) with cargo, and its return with science experiments and no longer needed space station equipment.

The deal, worked out between NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee, Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va), will allow NASA to select 2.5 partners under the CCP using SAA rather than the more restrictive and cumbersome Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Wolf’s statement on his website was followed by a letter from Bolden.

The agreement allows the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) phase of CCP to proceed under SAA rules, but then commits NASA to using FAR procedures for certification and procurement of services.

There was also agreement to fund the program at the Senate level of $525 million, although Bolden in his letter urged the conference committee to fund the CCP at a higher level for 2013. The Administration had originally requested $836 million.

Contenders in the Commercial Crew arena include:

  • Space Exploration Technologies Corporation – SpaceX – Dragon
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation – SNC – Dream Chaser
  • Boeing – CST-100
  • Blue Origin – New Shepherd

NSS Congratulates SpaceX Team — Calls on Congress to Fully Fund Commercial Crew & Space Technology

Washington, DC-June 1 – The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Elon Musk and the entire SpaceX team on the Dragon spacecraft’s historic mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and its safe return to Earth yesterday.

“The mission was truly spectacular and marks a watershed moment in space history – proving that the commercial sector can successfully service the ISS,” said NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse. “We were especially fortunate to celebrate the Dragon’s grappling at ISS on Friday morning with NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr., who was at that very moment addressing an audience of nearly one thousand at NSS’s recent International Space Development Conference (ISDC).”

ISDC, the National Space Society’s annual conference, wrapped up in Washington, DC earlier this week. Administrator Bolden was delivering the opening keynote speech just as Dragon approached and then berthed at the ISS.

The safe return of Dragon and the advancement of commercial cargo and crew programs mark true milestones on the path to enabling a space-faring civilization. NASA’s efforts to advance space technology will also have a significant impact: technologies such as cryogenic propellant storage and transfer (CPST), solar electric propulsion (SEP), and advanced robotics are “mission-multipliers,” and are but a few examples being advanced by NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. These efforts will help to enable robust space operations while providing dramatic reductions in overall costs.

The National Space Society recognizes that there is still much to be done, and maintains that strong leadership in government will be critical going forward. In this context, NSS calls on the Senate to fully fund the commercial crew development program and space technology lines of the NASA budget as proposed in the President’s budget request earlier this year, removing the proposed cuts made by the House in May. While NSS acknowledges the difficult budgetary parameters under which Congress must work, we strongly encourage both the Senate and the House to accede to the President’s FY2013 budget request for both commercial crew and space technology during conference later this year.

“The successful conclusion of SpaceX’s COTS-2/3 missions has demonstrated that the commercial sector is now ready to move forward with increased responsibility for servicing ISS, including the development of crew transport capability,” Damphousse said. “If funded and executed correctly, the commercial crew program will end our sole reliance on foreign providers and bring that capability – and the jobs associated with it – back home. We should be preserving funding for these commercial and space technology programs – which are producing tangible successes today, and will continue to do so in the near-term and beyond – rather than shifting it to already well-funded programs that may be years away from providing results.”

About the National Space Society: NSS is an independent, educational, grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded when the National Space Institute and the L5 Society merged in 1987, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space. NSS has over 10,000 members and supporters, and over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. To learn more, visit www.nss.org.

Dragon Completes Successful COTS 2,3 Mission

Dragon Floating
The Dragon Spacecraft Floating in the Pacific Ocean
Image Credit: Michael Altenhofen / SpaceX

The Dragon spacecraft successfully completed all mission objectives and floats quietly in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico following reentry and splashdown.

Dragon Barge
The Dragon Spacecraft Loaded onto its Barge Following Recovery
Image Credit: Michael Altenhofen / SpaceX

Dragon Parachute
Parachutes on the Horizon at Dragon Splashdown
Image Credit: Michael Altenhofen / SpaceX

Falcon 9 Hot Fire Test

Hot Fire
T-Minus 27:53 Minutes
Image Credit: SpaceX

At 11:35 Phoenix time, we are 25 minutes away from SpaceX conducting a hot firing of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, prior to blastoff with the Dragon spacecraft, which is tentatively scheduled for 7 May 2012.

PAO just noted two minutes to polling for go/no go on the static firing. The countdown has proceeded well so far.

Polling: All systems go for static fire at L-minus 20 minutes.

T-minus 15 minutes.

Terminal Count Autosequence has started.

T-minus 8 minutes. Going to internal power.

T-minus 90 seconds.

Holding at T-minus 47 seconds.

Dragon did not start up.

Contingency abort and disabling prop systems.

SpaceX does have the ability to recycle the count and try it again today.

Twitter from @SpaceX: “Reviewing Data”

Recycled to T-minus 13:00. Launch team is reviewing the data.

Lox continues to vent, so a full blown abort has not been declared as yet.

Twitter @SpaceX: “May recycle and try again today, watch for update.”

PAO: “Picking up the clock at T-20 minutes”. The problem was a “limit improperly set” (Overly restrictive redline on second stage engine position).

Twitter @Elon: “Flight computer aborted rocket hold down firing. Anomaly addressed. Cycling systems to countdown .” Included image of the SpaceX launch control room.

Countdown sequence resumed. Now T-minus 15 minutes. Final Readiness Poll again in progress.

Polling complete and launch director says proceed.

Coming up on T-10 minutes. Terminal Count Autosequence has started.

Dragon Internal On sequence is beginning. T-8 minutes. Configuring power for internal handover. Dragon on internal power.

T-5 minutes.

T-2 minutes. Vehicle vents closed, LOX lines are venting at launch duct.

T-30 seconds.

T+3 seconds PAO – “Good static fire. Continue”.

Twitter @Elon: “Woohoo, rocket hold down firing completed and all looks good!!”

We may know the results of the data gathered by tomorrow, and then know if the 7 May launch date for the Dragon mission to the ISS is set.

Hot Fire
T-Minus 8:00 Minutes
Image Credit: SpaceX

T-Minus 47 Seconds and Holding
Image Credit: SpaceX

Control Room
SpaceX Launch Control Room
Image Credit: SpaceX

Falcon 9 Ignition.
Image Credit: SpaceX

Falcon 9 Hot Fire Completed Successfully.
Image Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX Falcon 9 Hot Fire Test 30 April 2012

Falcon 9
Hot Fire Test Set For Falcon 9
Image Credit: SpaceX

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is set to test fire the nine (9) Merlin engines on the Falcon 9 tasked with the launch of the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX will begin its webcast at 11:30 AM Phoenix time (1830 UTC), and if all goes well, ignite the engines at 12:00 PM (1900 UTC). SpaceX engineers will conduct a complete rehearsal of the upcoming launch of the Dragon. That flight is to fulfill the second set of test requirements under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

If Dragon performs the COTS 2 requirements, NASA can give the go ahead to perform the COTS 3 maneuvers, which could lead to the Dragon being grappled by the Canadarm on the ISS and berthing to the Space Station.

If the Dragon berths successfully, 1,200 pounds of supplies will be unloaded and SpaceX will start this Fall to fulfill its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract for NASA for at least 12 missions to carry cargo to and from the space station.

Dragon will undock from the Space Station at the end of May after its three week mission, and return with nearly 1,400 pounds of science experiments and equipment to splash down in the Pacific off the coast of Southern California.