SpaceX Test Fires Merlin 1D – 55 Percent Power Upgrade

Wednesday, SpaceX conducted a full length test firing of the new Merlin 1D rocket engine at their test facility in McGregor, Texas.

Merlin 1D is the fifth version in the Merlin 1 series, all of which have been built in-house at their manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, California. The first generation Merlin flew on several Falcon 1 missions. The Merlin 1B never flew, and the Merlin 1C flew a couple of Falcon 1 flights before being superseded by the Merlin Vacuum in 2009, which has powered all the Falcon 9 rockets.

The Merlin 1D produces 147,000 pounds of thrust (55% more than the Merlin Vacuum) and burned for 185 seconds, simulating a complete Falcon 9 first stage launch.

The Merlin 1D engines will first see flight on Falcon 9 Flight 6, expected to launch in 2013.

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

Dragon Cargo Transfer to the ISS


At 1200 UTC on Monday, 28 May, the crew of the International Space Station is busy unloading the 1,014 pounds of cargo brought up by the Dragon spacecraft.

You can watch the process live at UStream.

Activity will continue today and tomorrow.

After that, the Dragon will be loaded with 1,367 pounds of science experiment results and other gear from ISS. On Thursday, Dragon is scheduled to depart from the ISS and return to Earth. Splashdown will be several hundred miles off the coast of Southern California.

Transferring Dragon Cargo to the International Space Station
Image Credit: NASA via UStream

Dragon Hatch Opening Images


This morning, we had the opening of the Dragon hatch.

Here are some more images from the opening.

Dragon Hatch Opening
Image Credit: NASA TV








For another view of the interior, see the post on CCDev2 with Cady Coleman, Mark Kelley and two SpaceX folks inside the Dragon.

Dragon COTS 2,3 – Day 5 – Hatch Opening


After a long day of thruster burns yesterday, Dragon completed all of the tests for both the COTS-2 and COTS-3 requirements. Dragon was then given a Go to approach the International Space Station (ISS) first to the 30 meter mark and then to the 10 meter mark, where the SSRMS arm captured the spacecraft and berthed it to the Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA2) on the Harmony Node.

The SpaceX/Dragon hatch opening coverage on NASA TV will begin at 0930 UTC, Saturday, 26 May.

At 0930, the crew has opened the PMA2 hatch and are now equalizing pressure between the Dragon and the Space Station.

Diagram of Dragon Location at the International Space Station
Image Credit: NASA TV

Dragon Hatch Closed Prior to Opening
Image Credit: NASA TV

As shown in the diagram above, left, Dragon is currently located on the nadir port of the Pressurized Mating Adaptor (PMA) located on the Harmony module.

The next step will be to open the hatch and place air vent tubes to prevent particles from Dragon getting in the eyes and lungs of the crew. Once the air is well mixed (about 20 minutes), the crew will move inside Dragon and begin work unloading the cargo. Total time for unloading is scheduled for 25 hours.

Upmass: 1014 lbs

  • 674 lbs food and provisions
  • 46 lbs utilization payload: nanoracksetc, icebricks
  • 271 lbs cargo bags
  • 22 lbs computer, batteries, etc.

Downmass: 1367 lbs

  • 315 lbs Crew items
  • 205 lbs Science experiments
  • 760 lbs Pump assembly and other hardware
  • 86 lbs Spacewalk gear

At 0953 UTC, the hatch on Dragon has been opened. The ISS is 253 miles above the Earth, near Auckland New Zealand.

Inside view of Dragon at ISS
Image Credit: NASA TV

Dragon Hatch Open
Image Credit: NASA TV

The crew has now installed the air ducts and will start the airflow. After 20 minutes, the crew can remove their masks and begin unloading the Dragon.

Don: “No sign of fog or dust floating, so ok to remove our masks. Size looks like it can fit in my pickup, and it smells like a new car”.

Megan: “We ask you to wear your dust masks per flight rules”.

So, the crew is anxious to get started, and Megan Benken at Cap Com says follow the rules.

Dragon COTS 2,3 – Day 4 – Update


At 1525 UTC, the command to maneuver to the pre-latch position was given. The solar arrays on the Dragon have to be turned to their zero position to allow the berthing.

Don Petitt is operating the Canadarm (SSRMS) and Joe Acaba is the Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM) operator.

At 1548 UTC, the command to proceed with first stage capture was given. Nominal 1st stage capture is complete. Go to take the SSRMS to “limp”. This takes the stress of the docking mechanism. With the SSRMS “limp”, GO for 2nd stage capture was ordered.

And at 1602 UTC, 2nd stage capture is complete and Dragon is officially secured to the International Space Station.

The first commercial spacecraft to be launched to the ISS has completed its berthing procedure.

Dragon Berthed to the Pressurized Mating Adapter on Harmony
Image Credit: NASA