RocketSTEM –24 January 2019
FL – In a historic first SpaceX engineers ignited the first stage engines of the first integrated Falcon 9 rocket and space worthy Crew Dragon capsule this
afternoon, Thursday, Jan. 24 and conducted the first ever static fire test of
the combined booster stack that will launch from NASA’s historic Launch Complex
39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and eventually lead to
the long awaited and long delayed return of human spaceflight capabilities to
the United States later this year.
This particular engine test carried out today at
4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT) involved the actual rocket hardware
that will fly on the first pathfinding demonstration flight
dubbed Demo-1; which is an
uncrewed test flight that is now targeted to launch the Crew Dragon capsule to
the International Space Station (ISS) several weeks from now – at some point in
mid to late February, SpaceX confirmed via tweet late this evening.
A source told Space UpClose that the test duration was a
bit shorter than planned. Despite that the results were apparently good enough for
SpaceX – although it took several hours longer than normal for SpaceX to announce
the successful outcome.
fire test complete—targeting February launch from historic Launch Complex 39A
for Crew Dragon’s first demonstration flight!” SpaceX tweeted along with some video views of the test.
in my photos taken this afternoon at a distance from Titusville, FL.
Due to the government shutdown closer viewing locations at
the National Wildlife Refuge are completely closed to the public for the foreseeable
a launch target of NET (no earlier than) Feb 23.
the moment there is no end in sight to the US government shutdown.
Thus a true target
Demo-1 launch date likely remains elusive since most NASA workers remain furloughed.
A small team of NASA workers assigned to the Demo-1 mission to oversee and
verify the work carried out by SpaceX technicians at pad 39A remains on duty – exempted from the furlough but without being
payed. Their work is deemed
essential for ISS operations
SpaceX technicians rolled out the integrated Falcon 9 rocket
and Crew Dragon overnight Tuesday morning, Jan 22, and raised it vertical in
the 8 a.m. EST hour in anticipation of
the crucial static fire test initially planned for Jan. 23 but postponed to today
Cargo Dragon including life support systems for astronauts and upgraded composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPV) filled with helium in the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket to minimize the potential for a
friction ignition of carbon fibers as occurred during the AMOS-6 catastrophe.
If all goes well with Demo-1, then the crewed Demo-2
mission would launch to the ISS with a pair of NASA astronauts – Bob Behnken
and Dour Hurley – sometime in the last half of 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
static fire test is routinely carried by SpaceX to ensure all is ready with the
The crew access
arm, or astronaut walkway, was retracted away from the Dragon capsule about half
an hour prior to ignition. Occasional venting of liquid oxygen was observed during
the fueling process.
During the engine test all nine Merlin 1D first stage
engines were very briefly ignited for several seconds. The resulting exhaust plume generated was
directed away from the north side of the flame was dissipated rapidly.
During the hold down static fire test,
the rocket’s first and second stages are fueled with liquid oxygen and RP-1
propellants just like an actual launch, and a simulated countdown is carried
out to the point of a brief engine ignition.
down engine test with the erected Falcon 9 rocket involved the ignition of all
nine Merlin 1D first stage engines generating some 1.7 million pounds of thrust
at pad 39A while the two stage rocket was restrained on the pad.
The flight utilizes
the new Falcon 9 booster core #B1051 and the Crew Dragon – both on their maiden
stack rolled out once before in early January for pad fit checks and checkout
The stack will
now be lowered and rolled back into the processing hangar at pad 39A for final
checks and analysis and loading any gear which may fly.
The ship will
dock at the ISS a day or so after liftoff and remain a few weeks into March.
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.
crew dragon will fly on the Demo-1 mission to the ISS and was developed under
the auspices of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
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 mid 2019 or later –
according to current projections.
In another sign
showing progress towards astronaut launches, a mock-up of SpaceX’s privately
built Crew Dragon spaceship sailed into Port Canaveral last week on the dedicated
‘GO Searcher’ recovery ship after
conducting trails at sea as practice demonstrations to prepare the naval team for
hoisting real capsules holding NASA astronaut crews on deck after their fiery return
from space and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
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.
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
received a personally guided tour from SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell and met
with SpaceX employees.
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.
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.
do it safely for NASA with significantly fewer staff after the company
announced a 10% reduction in workforce earlier this month – as I reported here.
interview and commentary about the negative impact of the US Government
shutdown on NASA- as seen on Jan 8:
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.
and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter
@ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
journalist and photographer based in the KSC area.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events