Launch Target for 1st SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight Slips to Early 2019

The crew access arm,
or astronaut walkway, at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL,
is extended to the SpaceX Crew Dragon DM-1 spacecraft soon after the Falcon 9
rocket was erected vertical on Jan. 3, 2019. Credit: SpaceX
Ken Kremer  SpaceUpClose.com &
RocketSTEM
–8 January 2019


CAPE CANAVERAL,
FL – The launch target date for SpaceX’s first unpiloted test flight of the commercial
Crew Dragon spacecraft on
the Demo-1 mission
from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has slipped several
times over the past two months and is currently foreseen to be sometime in early
2019.



The launch delays
are a result of both technical and political issues. Yes – sadly I wrote political
issues are responsible too.



Because of the
ongoing shutdown of the US Government many NASA employees are on furlough for two
and a half weeks and counting and unable to work on many projects – such as NASA’s
critical Commercial Crew Program (CCP) which aims to launch US astronauts once
again from US soil on US spaceships and end our sole reliance on the Russian Soyuz
capsule for rides to the International Space Station (ISS) sometime this year 2019!! 



Therefore the
NASA workforce can’t observe and certify that the ongoing prelaunch preparatory
and processing work by SpaceX technicians meets all the technical, safety and reliability
requirements and milestones set forth in SpaceX CCP contracts with NASA. 



And there is no
end in sight to the US Government Shutdown. 



In Nov. 2018,
NASA and SpaceX announced Jan 7, 2019 as the target launch date for Demo-1
(DM-1).



By early December
that Jan 7 target had slipped as I learned from SpaceX VP Hans Koenigsmann
during a briefing at the KSC press site. 



I asked Koenigsmann
about the status of preparations for the DM-1 especially in light of comments
by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine that a delay was very probable and there were
problems with some systems like the parachutes according to the safety reviews.



Koenigsmann told Space UpClose that there would
be a slight slip to mid-Jan as processing work continued in full swing at the
Kennedy Space Center. 



“What I could see is a
couple days delay [for Demo-1] because of traffic from visiting vehicles at the
ISS. Our target is, at this point in time, mid-January, and we’re pushing as
hard and as diligently as we can for this particular launch,”  Koenigsmann told Space UpClose at the KSC
briefing in Dec 2018.


The Crew Dragon
and Falcon 9 rocket were already inside the huge processing hanger just outside
the pad 39A perimeter fence with preparations ongoing for the upcoming launch. 
Currently the earliest
possible launch date for SpaceX Crew Dragon on the Demo-1 (DM-1) mission
appears to be roughly in the mid-February time frame based on a new tweet from
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.



“About a month away from the first orbital test flight of
crew Dragon,” Musk tweeted on Jan. 5.





Last week for the first time SpaceX technicians rolled an
integrated Falcon 9 rocket capped with the SpaceX Crew Dragon DM-1 spaceship
out to Launch Complex 39A and raised it erect at the Kennedy Space Center
launch pad that once sent astronauts to the Moon aboard the NASA Saturn V/Apollo
vehicles and NASA Space Shuttle Orbiters to Earth orbit.

“Preparing to return human spaceflight capabilities to the
United States, Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 went vertical at historic Launch
Complex 39A in Florida,” SpaceX tweeted along with several photos and artwork
on Jan. 4.



The crew access arm,
or astronaut walkway, at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL,
is extended to the SpaceX Crew Dragon DM-1 spacecraft soon after the Falcon 9
rocket was erected vertical on Jan. 3, 2019. Credit: SpaceX

The SpaceX Crew
Dragon and Boeing Starliner
under currently development to
once again
ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil on American rockets to end our
sole reliance on the Russian Soyuz since the forced shutdown of NASA’s space
shuttles in 2011.



The private SpaceX
crew dragon will fly on the Demo-1 mission to the ISS and was developed under
the auspices of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Although no astronauts will be
aboard this test flight, two crew members will soar to orbit on the follow-up Demo-2
test flight several months later in June 2019 – according to current
projections. 



At the moment
there is no end in sight to the US government shutdown.

Vice
President Mike Pence recently visited the SpaceX launch facility at NASA’s
Kennedy Space Center in Florida where the Crew Dragon DM-1 spaceship and Falcon
9 rocket are being processed for the launch.

Pence
received a personally guided tour from SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell and met
with SpaceX employees.

VP Mike Pence tours the SpaceX launch processing facility with
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell to visit the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket
on Dec. 18, 2018. Credit: SpaceX
“Incredible
opportunity to see @SpaceX‘s Dragon 2 Capsule – an important part of the
future of American human space exploration as we aim to return American
astronauts to space on U.S. rockets from U.S. soil!” VP Pence tweeted on Dec.
18, 2018 from Launch Complex 39A at KSC.

VP Mike Pence tours the SpaceX launch processing facility with
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell to visit the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket
on Dec. 18, 2018. Credit: SpaceX
The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is to restore America’s capability to
launch
human spaceflight missions
from the U.S. to low Earth orbit (LEO) and the International Space Station
(ISS) on American capsules with American rockets from American soil – and
thereby end our 100% reliance on the Russian Soyuz capsules.

The US became solely dependent
on Russia due to the forced shutdown of NASA’s Space Shuttles back in 2011 when
both political parties failed to provide sufficient US Federal budget funding
support to NASA’s human spaceflight programs.  

Target timelines for return US
human spaceflight capability have been pushed back repeatedly since 2015 due to
endless mindless political squabbling as well as technical challenges.

Here’s a link to my Fox News 35 Orlando interview and
commentary about the negative impact of the US Government shutdown  on NASA- as seen on Jan 8:



https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/local-news/government-shutdown-impacting-space-industry

Watch
for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin,
Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space
Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight Facility,
Virginia.



Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science
and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter
@ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist,
journalist and photographer based in the KSC area.

………….

Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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