SpaceX’s ships upgraded the spacecraft to ship to Florida for its first dragon-shaped orbital encounter

SpaceX says it shipped its first upgraded Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft to Florida, opening the door to the first simultaneous space flight of two Dragons.

Somewhat, a modified version of SpaceX’s rapidly maturing Crew Dragon spacecraft, the company says will be “capable of carrying 50% more science payloads” than the original Cargo Dragon. Cargo Dragon achieved several milestones over the course of its career, eventually becoming the first privately developed spacecraft to reach orbit, re-enter, and take off; The first commercial spacecraft to meet and deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and the first orbital capsule to be routinely reused.

SpaceX has retired the historic spacecraft after successfully completing its 21st orbital launch and landing in April 2020, less than two months before the Crew Dragon launches a more historic astronaut launch. Prior to Beta 2, Crew Dragon completed what NASA and SpaceX considered Almost flawless unmanned launch debut In March 2019. Now, two months after the spacecraft has successfully returned two NASA astronauts from orbit to Earth for the first time, SpaceX is preparing to launch an operational astronaut for a Crew Dragon around the same time as Cargo Dragon 2 is preparing for its debut.

The first upgraded Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft was photographed here in Hawthorne, California shortly before shipping to Florida. SpaceX

As of the October 10 update from NASA, SpaceX and the space agency decided to delay the launch of Crew Dragon’s Crew-1 for several weeks to double and triple check that the boost engine issue that aborted the Falcon 9 satellite’s recent launch does not have a shared root with its sister missile. Possibly built side-by-side at SpaceX’s Hawthorne, CA, plant, it is not unreasonable to want to verify that the Falcon 9 Booster B1061 (Crew-1) is not affected by the same issue that forced the B1062 to thwart the launch of its US military GPS III satellite On October 2nd. .

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Falcon 9 Booster B1061 launched flatly in McGregor, Texas around April 2020. SpaceX
Falcon 9 booster B1062 was tested in McGregor after only a few months. SpaceX

As a result, Crew-1 has rolled back from the placeholder October 23 and October 31 placeholder release dates to sometime in “early to mid November”, while most outside sources indicate a mid to late November target is likely. NASA and SpaceX have never confirmed the arrival, but it is possible that the Crew Dragon C207 capsule arrived in Florida in late August or early September, as teams have since prepared and processed the spacecraft for final inspection and closure procedures.

Meanwhile, SpaceX says it shipped its first Crew Dragon-derived Cargo Dragon to Florida several days ago, which means the company will soon begin processing simultaneous pre-testing of two upgraded Dragons for the first time. Notably, SpaceX did not present any launch target in its CRS-21 update, although NASA planning documents – before recent Crew-1 delays – stated that the NET mission is scheduled to launch November 22.

Falcon 9 B1058 and capsule C206 prepare for inaugural Crew Dragon launch, May 2020 (NASA / Joel Kowsky)
SpaceX’s first Astronaut Crew Dragon is preparing to leave Hawthorne in early 2020. SpaceX
The first upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft was shipped from SpaceX to Florida ahead of the first orbital meeting of two SpaceX spacecraft. SpaceX

In other words, CRS-21 and Crew-1 are currently scheduled to be launched within roughly the same two-week period – a situation that could pose some unique issues. As of now, both the Crew Dragon and Cargo Dragon 2 must launch from the Kennedy Space Center 39A launch complex, with the board equipped with a unique turret and a Crew Access Arm (CAA) both allowing astronauts to board the aircraft and load cargo. The shift record for SpaceX’s Pad 39A – the time between two launches from the same platform – is nearly 10 days and this number is likely much higher for Crew Dragon missions.

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If current dates continue, NASA will have to decide which SpaceX Dragon mission will launch first. Either way, though, it would take a significant delay for CRS-21 and Crew-1 not to pinpoint the first time two SpaceX Dragon spaceships meet in orbit on the International Space Station. If successful, it is safe to say that SpaceX will solidly cement its position as the only spaceflight company on Earth capable of truly doing all of this – from affordable and reusable rocket launches, manned spaceflight, space station resupply to orbital tourism and more. .

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Phil Schwartz

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