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Forum:Commercial Space - Military Space
Topic:CCDev: SpaceX Dragon V2 crewed spacecraft
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The SuperDraco is an advanced version of the Draco engines currently used by SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to maneuver on orbit and during reentry. As part of SpaceX's state-of-the-art launch escape system, eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety should an emergency occur during launch.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program awarded SpaceX $75 million in April of last year to begin work developing the escape system in order to prepare the Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. Less than nine months later, SpaceX engineers have designed, built and tested the engine.

In a series of recent tests conducted at the company's Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, the SuperDraco sustained full duration, full thrust firing as well as a series of deep throttling demonstrations.

SpaceX's launch escape system has many advantages over past systems. It is inherently safer because it is not jettisoned like all other escape systems. This distinction provides astronauts with the unprecedented ability to escape from danger at any point during the launch, not just in the first few minutes. The eight SuperDracos provide redundancy, so that even if one engine fails an escape can still be carried out successfully.

SuperDracos can also be restarted multiple times if necessary and the engines will have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power. In addition, as a part of a recoverable Dragon spacecraft, the engines can be used repeatedly, helping to advance SpaceX's long-term goal of making spacecraft more like airplanes, which can be flown again and again with minimal maintenance between flights.

Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
Enter the Dragon, Please take your Seats

SpaceX Completes Important Commercial Crew Milestone

Recently, SpaceX completed an important milestone — the first NASA Crew Trial, one of two crew tests as part of SpaceX's work to build a prototype Dragon crew cabin.

For this milestone SpaceX demonstrated that our new crew cabin design will work well for astronauts in both nominal and off-nominal scenarios. It also provided our engineers with the opportunity to gain valuable feedback from both NASA astronauts and industry experts.

Above: SpaceX and NASA conducted a day-long review of the Dragon crew vehicle layout using the Dragon engineering model equipped with seats and representations of crew systems.

The engineering prototype includes seven crew seats as well as representations of crew accommodations such as lighting, life support and environmental control systems, displays, cargo racks, and other interior systems.

During the day-long test, SpaceX and NASA evaluators, including four NASA astronauts, participated in human factors assessments which covered entering and exiting Dragon under both normal and contingency cases, as well as reach and visibility evaluations.

Above: The test crew included (from top left): NASA crew survival engineering team lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA astronauts Tony Antonelli and Lee Archambault, SpaceX mission operations engineer Laura Crabtree and thermal engineer Brenda Hernandez, and NASA astronauts Rex Walheim and Tim Kopra.

The seven seats mount to strong, lightweight supporting structures attached to the pressure vessel walls. Each seat can hold an adult up to 6 feet 5 inches tall, 250 pounds, and has a liner that is custom-fit for the crew member.

Above: With all seven crew members in their seats, Dragon has sufficient interior space for three additional people to stand and assist the crew with their launch preparations.

Above: NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk and SpaceX Commercial Crew Development Manager and former NASA Astronaut Garrett Reisman standing inside the Dragon spacecraft during testing activities.

In fact, Dragon has so much interior volume, that we could place an entire three-person Russian Soyuz capsule descent module inside Dragon's pressure vessel.

Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
SpaceX Announces Independent Safety Advisory Panel for Commercial Crew

Industry Leaders Lend Expertise As Company Prepares for Astronaut Flights

Today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), one of the leading private companies working to restore America's ability to carry astronauts to the Space Station, announced it has assembled a team of outside experts to help the company create the world's safest human spaceflight system.

"When it comes to manned spaceflight, safety is our top priority," said SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer, Elon Musk. "These experts will provide us with important insights as we prepare to carry astronauts on the next generation of American spacecraft."

The independent Safety Advisory Panel is composed of leading human spaceflight safety experts, including several former NASA astronauts and senior NASA officials. The panel will provide objective assessments of the safety of the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to help SpaceX maintain the highest level of safety.

Among the experts joining the SpaceX Safety Advisory Panel are:
  • Dr. Leroy Chiao, PhD, Former NASA astronaut, Former International Space Station commander, member of the Augustine Commission (Review of United States Human Spaceflight Plans Committee).

  • Dr. G. Scott Hubbard, Former Director of NASA Ames Research Center, Stanford University professor of aeronautics and astronautics, sole NASA representative on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

  • Dr. Richard T. Jennings, MD, MS, Former Chief of Medicine for NASA Johnson Space Center, University of Texas Medical Branch professor at the Aerospace Medicine Center.

  • Captain Mark Kelly, Former NASA astronaut, Former Space Shuttle commander, Retired Navy Captain.

  • Dr. Edward Lu, PhD, Former NASA astronaut.
The panel will convene in the fall of 2012 and will continue its work well after SpaceX begins flying people to space.
Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
NASA Commercial Partner SpaceX Completes Crew Accommodations Milestone

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has finished an important evaluation of a prototype Dragon spacecraft designed to carry people into orbit. This key milestone is part of SpaceX's partnership with NASA under a funded Space Act Agreement to advance the design of crew transportation vehicles.

The primary goal of the tests was to determine whether the layout will allow astronauts to maneuver effectively in the vehicle. Several veteran space shuttle astronauts and NASA engineers conducted the evaluation during a pair of two-day-long reviews.

"I am very pleased with the progress SpaceX and our other commercial partners are making during the CCDev2 effort," said NASA Commercial Spaceflight Director Philip McAlister. "Together with NASA's development of beyond low-Earth orbit systems, commercial crew and cargo transportation is an integral part of our overall human spaceflight program."

As part of the Commercial Crew Development Round 2, or CCDev2, agreement, the company invited the astronauts and engineers to its headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., to conduct the evaluation. The prototype was equipped with seats, lighting, environmental control and life support systems, conceptual displays and controls, cargo racks and other interior systems.

"This milestone demonstrated the layout of the crew cabin supports critical tasks," said SpaceX Commercial Crew Development Manager Garrett Reisman. "It also demonstrated the Dragon interior has been designed to maximize the ability of the seven-member crew to do their job as effectively as possible."

During the reviews, space shuttle veterans Rex Walheim, Tony Antonelli, Eric Boe and Tim Kopra participated in so-called "human factor assessments." This included entering and exiting Dragon under normal and emergency scenarios. They also performed reach and visibility evaluations.

"As an anchor customer for commercial transportation services, we are happy to provide SpaceX with knowledge and lessons learned from our 50 years of human spaceflight," said Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango. "We appreciate the opportunity SpaceX gave us to provide feedback on these critical interior systems while the company maintains its flexibility to appeal to other customers."

This is the seventh of 10 milestones SpaceX must meet under the CCDev2 agreement, which continues through July 31. This includes the development of a launch abort system for crew escape during launch or ascent.

Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
NASA Commercial Partner SpaceX Completes Dragon Design Review

NASA partner Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has completed an important design review of the crewed version of its Dragon spacecraft. The concept baseline review presented NASA with the primary and secondary design elements of its Dragon capsule designed to carry astronauts into low Earth orbit, including the International Space Station.

SpaceX is one of several companies working to develop crew transportation capabilities under the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Through CCDev2, NASA is helping the private sector develop and test new spacecraft and rockets with the goal of making commercial human spaceflight services available to commercial and government customers.

In the June 14 review conducted at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., SpaceX provided details about each phase of a potential crewed mission. This included how the company plans to modify its launch pads to support such missions, Dragon's docking capabilities, the weight and power requirements for the spacecraft, and prospective ground landing sites and techniques. The company also outlined crew living arrangements, such as environmental control and life support equipment, displays and controls.

"SpaceX has made significant progress on its crew transportation capabilities," NASA CCP Manager Ed Mango said. "We commend the SpaceX team on its diligence in meeting its CCDev2 goals to mature the company's technology as this nation continues to build a real capability for America's commercial spaceflight needs."

Safety was a key focus of the review. The SpaceX team presented NASA with analyses on how its SuperDraco launch abort system would perform if an emergency were to occur during launch or ascent. The review also outlined plans for getting astronauts away from danger quickly and safely on the way to low Earth orbit, in space and during the return home.

"The successful conclusion of the concept baseline review places SpaceX exactly where we want to be — ready to move on to the next phase and on target to fly people into space aboard Dragon by the middle of the decade," said SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk.

Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
NASA selects SpaceX to return Americans to space

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) today won a $440 million contract with NASA to develop the successor to the Space Shuttle and transport American astronauts into space.

"This is a decisive milestone in human spaceflight and sets an exciting course for the next phase of American space exploration," said SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk. "SpaceX, along with our partners at NASA, will continue to push the boundaries of space technology to develop the safest, most advanced crew vehicle ever flown."

SpaceX expects to undertake its first manned flight by 2015 — a timetable that capitalizes on the proven success of the company's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft combination. While Dragon is initially being used to transport cargo to the International Space Station, both Dragon and Falcon 9 were designed from the beginning to carry crew.

Under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative's base period, SpaceX will make the final modifications necessary to prepare Dragon to safely transport astronauts into space. These include:

  • Seats for seven astronauts.

  • The most technically advanced launch escape system ever developed, with powered abort possibilities from launch pad to orbit. SpaceX will demonstrate that Dragon will be able to escape a launch-pad emergency by firing integrated SuperDraco engines to carry the spacecraft safely to the ocean. SpaceX will also conduct an in-flight abort test that allows Dragon to escape at the moment of maximum aerodynamic drag, again by firing the SuperDraco thrusters to carry the spacecraft a safe distance from the rocket.

  • A breakthrough propulsive landing system for gentle ground touchdowns on legs.

  • Refinements and rigorous testing of essential aspects of Dragon's design, including life-support systems and an advanced cockpit design complete with modern human interfaces.
SpaceX will perform stringent safety and mission-assurance analyses to demonstrate that all these systems meet NASA requirements.

With a minimal number of stage separations, all-liquid rocket engines that can be throttled and turned off in an emergency, engine-out capability during ascent, and powered abort capability all the way to orbit, the Falcon 9-Dragon combination will be the safest spacecraft ever developed.
Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Completes Two Human-Critical Reviews

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., recently completed two milestones for NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which is intended to make commercial human spaceflight services available for government and commercial customers.

These were the fifth and sixth milestones for SpaceX, a partner in NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The company is on track to complete all 14 of its CCiCap milestones by mid-2014.

In a human certification plan review May 7, SpaceX outlined all the steps the company plans to take to certify its system for crewed missions, including testing, demonstrations, analyses, inspections, verifications and training events. This was a key milestone to ensure SpaceX's integrated Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule will be safe to carry humans to and from low-Earth orbit beginning in the middle of this decade.

At its pad abort test review, SpaceX presented plans for a pad abort test, currently targeted for later this year or early next year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The review successfully demonstrated the adequacy of the test plan objectives and the pad abort scenario.

"The beauty of having the pad abort test review was it allowed both NASA and SpaceX to start coalescing toward an understanding of what will be tested and how we'll measure success," said Ed Mango, NASA's CCP manager. "We're really looking forward to seeing SpaceX's pad abort system take off from along Florida's Space Coast."

During the upcoming pad abort test, SpaceX will perform a recovery operation following a simulated Falcon 9 anomaly. Plans call for the company to put one of its Dragon capsules on a launch pad test stand, countdown to T-0, ignite the system's SuperDraco abort engines and initiate a separation command. At around 5,000 feet, the spacecraft's parachutes will deploy resulting in a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Completes Orbit and Entry Review

NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) recently reviewed the systems critical to sustaining crews in orbit and returning them safely to Earth aboard the company's Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX is one of three commercial space companies working under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative to develop spaceflight capabilities that eventually could provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

During the preliminary design review at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., company engineers presented NASA representatives and aerospace industry experts detailed analyses of Dragon systems critical to keeping crews safe in orbit and during re-entry operations. From basic life support functions, including pressurizing Dragon with breathable air, to stocking the capsule with enough food and water for as many as seven crew members, the spacecraft must be designed to protect humans in the harsh conditions of space. Company designers and NASA engineers dissected the plans carefully to make sure no details were overlooked.

"NASA has learned a lot about keeping our astronaut crews safe throughout a mission, and we don't want those lessons to be forgotten," said Ed Mango, NASA's CCP manager. "So, we're sharing a lot of what we already know, and the company is adding its own innovations to suit its needs and meet its challenges."

The review detailed equipment and software aboard Dragon that would help guide crews to the International Space Station for rendezvous and docking operations. This included discussion on SpaceX’s planning for software code which, in this modern era of spaceship design, just as critical as the hardware design. The company also described how the spacecraft will be operated both by its onboard crew and by ground controllers.

While SpaceX works to further develop its crewed Dragon spacecraft, it also is preparing for the upcoming launch of the third of at least 12 cargo missions to the space station with a remotely controlled Dragon under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract.

"SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft was designed from the outset to accommodate the upgrades necessary to safely carry people, so we’re excited to have reached the halfway point in our agreement with NASA to design those features,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer. “As we leverage our experience successfully delivering cargo both to the International Space Station and back to Earth, SpaceX remains committed to providing the safest manned flights ever conducted."

In December, the company completed preliminary design reviews covering the ground systems and ascent, which are the first two phases of flight. Completion of the orbit and entry review clears the way for SpaceX to proceed with detailed designs for its integrated space transportation system, comprised of its Dragon spacecraft, Falcon 9 rocket and supporting ground systems.

The review was the seventh milestone for SpaceX under CCiCap. The company is on track to complete all 15 of its CCiCap milestones by the summer of 2014. All of NASA's industry partners, including SpaceX, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachute System

Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) gathered in Morro Bay, Calif., in late December to demonstrate how the company's Dragon spacecraft's parachute system would function in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent.

The test was part of an optional milestone under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative and approved by the agency in August. Through the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is one of NASA's commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil. NASA intends to use such commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The 12,000-pound test craft was lifted 8,000 feet above sea level by an Erickson Sky Crane helicopter and flown over the Pacific Ocean. Following Dragon's release, two drogue parachutes were released from the top of the spacecraft to slow its decent, before the three main parachutes deployed. The craft splashed down and was quickly recovered by the Sky Crane and carried back to shore.

"The parachute test is essential for the commercial crew effort because it helps us better understand how SpaceX's system performs as it safely returns crew," said Jon Cowart, NASA Partner Integration deputy manager working with SpaceX. "Like all of our partners, SpaceX continues to provide innovative solutions based on NASA's lessons learned that could make spaceflight safer."

During a normal spacecraft landing, the parachutes will be aided by the Dragon’s SuperDraco thrusters to provide a soft controlled landing. This redundancy on both the parachutes and thrusters is designed to ensure safe landings for crews.

"SpaceX is working diligently to make the Dragon spacecraft the safest vehicle ever flown," said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. "The parachute system is an integral part of Dragon’s ability to provide a safe landing for nominal and abort conditions -- with this successful test we are well-positioned to execute a full end-to-end test of the launch escape system later this year."

The parachute test puts SpaceX a step closer to launch abort system tests. The company currently is manufacturing the spacecraft and rocket to be used for these flight tests.

SpaceX is on track to complete all 15 of its CCiCap milestones in 2014. All of NASA's industry partners, including SpaceX, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing of SuperDraco Thruster

Thruster to Power Revolutionary Launch Escape System on Dragon Spacecraft

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed qualification testing for the SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power the Dragon spacecraft's launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy.

The qualification testing program took place over the last month at SpaceX's Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas. The program included testing across a variety of conditions including multiple starts, extended firing durations and extreme off-nominal propellant flow and temperatures.

The SuperDraco is an advanced version of the Draco engines currently used by SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to maneuver in orbit and during re-entry. SuperDracos will be used on the crew version of the Dragon spacecraft as part of the vehicle's launch escape system; they will also enable propulsive landing on land. Each SuperDraco produces 16,000 pounds of thrust and can be restarted multiple times if necessary. In addition, the engines have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power.

The SuperDraco engine chamber is manufactured using state-of-the-art direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), otherwise known as 3D printing. The chamber is regeneratively cooled and printed in Inconel, a high-performance superalloy that offers both high strength and toughness for increased reliability.

"Through 3D printing, robust and high-performing engine parts can be created at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional manufacturing methods," said Elon Musk, Chief Designer and CEO. "SpaceX is pushing the boundaries of what additive manufacturing can do in the 21st century, ultimately making our vehicles more efficient, reliable and robust than ever before."

Unlike previous launch escape systems that were jettisoned after the first few minutes of launch, SpaceX's launch system is integrated into the Dragon spacecraft. Eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety should an emergency occur during launch.

As a result, Dragon will be able to provide astronauts with the unprecedented ability to escape from danger at any point during the ascent trajectory, not just in the first few minutes. In addition, the eight SuperDracos provide redundancy, so that even if one engine fails an escape can still be carried out successfully.

The first flight demonstration of the SuperDraco will be part of the upcoming pad abort test under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities (CCiCap) initiative. The pad abort will be the first test of SpaceX's new launch escape system and is currently expected to take place later this year.

Robert PearlmancollectSPACE
SpaceX unveils upgraded Dragon capsule as space taxi for astronauts

Revealing what he described as a "21st century spaceship," Elon Musk unveiled SpaceX's Dragon V2, the commercial spaceflight company's first spacecraft designed to fly astronauts, during an event held Thursday night (May 29).

"There you have it, Dragon Version 2," the billionaire CEO and chief designer told an audience of employees, invited guests, and media gathered at the company's Hawthorne, California headquarters. "[It is] capable of carrying up to seven astronauts, propulsively landing almost anywhere in the world, and is designed to be fully reusable so you can fly it multiple times, allowing a potential dramatic reduction to the cost of access to space."

The streamlined space capsule, intended as an upgrade to the company's current Dragon used to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station, features a flat-panel dashboard, leather-lined bucket seats, the world's first 3-D printed engine and landing legs.

"We wanted to take a big step in technology," said Musk, explaining that they wanted to "create something that was a step change in spacecraft technology."

Robert PearlmanNASA release
SpaceX Completes First Milestone for Commercial Crew Transportation System

NASA has approved the completion of SpaceX's first milestone in the company's path toward launching crews to the International Space Station (ISS) from U.S. soil under a Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with the agency.

During the Certification Baseline Review, SpaceX described its current design baseline including how the company plans to manufacture its Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 v.1.1 rocket, then launch, fly, land and recover the crew. The company also outlined how it will achieve NASA certification of its system to enable transport of crews to and from the space station.

"This milestone sets the pace for the rigorous work ahead as SpaceX meets the certification requirements outlined in our contract," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. "It is very exciting to see SpaceX's proposed path to certification, including a flight test phase and completion of the system development."

On Sept. 16, the agency unveiled its selection of SpaceX and Boeing to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their Crew Dragon and CST-100 spacecraft, respectively. These contracts will end the nation's sole reliance on Russia and allow the station's current crew of six to increase, enabling more research aboard the unique microgravity laboratory.

Under the CCtCap contracts, the companies will complete NASA certification of their human space transportation systems, including a crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut aboard, to verify the fully integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch from the United States, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, and validate its systems perform as expected.

Throughout the next few years, SpaceX will test its systems, materials and concept of operations to the limits to prove they are safe to transport astronauts to the station. Once certified, the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket will be processed and integrated inside a new hangar before being rolled out for launch. This will all take place at the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Crew Dragon is expected to be able to dock to the station for up to 210 days and serve as a 24-hour safe haven during an emergency in space.

"SpaceX designed the Dragon spacecraft with the ultimate goal of transporting people to space," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer. "Successful completion of the Certification Baseline Review represents a critical step in that effort — we applaud our team's hard work to date and look forward to helping NASA return the transport of U.S. astronauts to American soil."

See here for discussion of SpaceX's efforts to develop a crewed Dragon.

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