For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – NASA announced today that the launch of 4 astronauts aboard a Space X Crew Dragon spacecraft on the commercial Crew-1 human mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed from Halloween to no earlier than (NET) early-to-mid November to investigate concerns with the Merlin engines that power their Falcon 9 carrier rocket – that became evident during an unexpected last moment launch scrub of another Falcon 9 on the GPS navigation satellite mission for the U.S. Space Force last week.
The postponement of the NASA contracted commercial crew SpaceX Crew-1 mission was confirmed by tweet on Saturday, Oct. 10, by Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, and is a direct result of the sudden abort at T Minus 2 seconds of the Falcon 9 GPS mission on Oct 2 – ascribed to “off nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators.”
“We’re now targeting NET early-to-mid November for launch of @NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the @Space_Station. The extra time will allow SpaceX to resolve an unexpected observation during a recent non-NASA launch attempt. More: ,” tweeted NASA’s Kathy Lueders. go.nasa.gov/2Iie87G
We’re now targeting NET early-to-mid November for launch of @NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the @Space_Station. The extra time will allow SpaceX to resolve an unexpected observation during a recent non-NASA launch attempt. More: https://t.co/sheWOD74m6 pic.twitter.com/YLq1Tb4LfN
— Kathy Lueders (@KathyLueders) October 10, 2020
NASA needs more time to study and resolve the engine issue – especially since humans are on board Crew Dragon and since another duo of critical science and space station mission are scheduled to launch on other Falcon 9s before the end of 2021.
This date change counts as the second recent launch postponement.
Liftoff of Crew-1 had been recently rescheduled from Oct. 23 to Halloween, Oct. 31 to give more time to complete certification reviews for the Crew Dragon spacecraft – which is slated to launch on the first SpaceX Crew Dragon operational crew rotation mission for NASA to the ISS.
“Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station is now targeted for no sooner than early-to-mid November, providing additional time for SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt,” NASA explained in a statement.
“We have a strong working relationship with our SpaceX partner,” explained Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, in a statement.
The four person international crew launching aboard NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission is comprised of NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Crew-1 astronauts have named their Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience – in recognition of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic terribly afflicting the entire world.
To date over 215,ooo Americans have died from infection by the coronavirus .
NASA reports that Crew Dragon Resilience was secured to its unpressurized trunk on Friday, Oct. 2, at SpaceX’s processing facility on Cape Canaveral.
“With the high cadence of missions SpaceX performs, it really gives us incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions. The teams are actively working this finding on the engines, and we should be a lot smarter within the coming week.”
“Through the agency’s Commercial Crew and Launch Services Programs partnership with SpaceX, NASA has full insight into the company’s launch and testing data,” said NASA officials.
NASA is actively involved in resolving the Merlin engine issue because it impacts numerous other agency flights.
Beyond Crew-1, the other upcoming NASA missions set to launch on Falcon 9 have not yet been delayed but certainly will not blastoff until the engine issues are fully and satisfactorily resolved to insure safety and reliability.
The duo of upcoming missions include the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch still targeted for Tuesday, Nov. 10, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and NASA’s SpaceX CRS-21, is targeted for launch in late November or early December, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
“NASA and SpaceX will use the data from the company’s hardware testing and reviews to ensure these critical missions are carried out with the highest level of safety.”
The unexplained problems with Merlin-1D first stage that forced a Falcon 9 launch abort a T Minus 2 seconds on Oct. 2 of the GPSIII SV04 mission for Space Force must be fully investigated, explained, resolved and lessons learned implemented before NASA’s Crew-1 can liftoff with full confidence.
In a tweet SpaceX CEO Elon Musk attributed the abort to “unexpected rise in turbo machinery gas generator.”
The gas generator is part of the hardware inside the first stage Merlin 1 D engines
Unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2020
The astronauts continue to train for the Crew-1 mission.
Meanwhile SpaceX teams continue to practice sea recovery operations with the GO Searcher recovery vessel and a test article mockup.
Up Close nighttime views SpaceX Crew Dragon practice test article on deck of GO Search recovery ship, with SuperDracos visible, docked at Port Canaveral, Florida after crossing the channel in front of just arrived/berthed 3x recovered/landed Falcon 9 1st stage atop OCISLY droneship on Oct. 8, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
See our photos of GO Searcher and the Crew Dragon test article in Port Canaveral taken this week.
Furthermore, the U.S Coast Guard inspected GO Searcher yesterday Oct. 9 also.
“Earlier today, personnel from the US Coastguard were onboard GO Searcher! Inspectors evaluated readiness & execution of emergency drills including man overboard, fire, casualties, and abandon ship,” reported Gavin of SpaceX Fleet updates.
Earlier today, personnel from the US Coastguard were onboard GO Searcher!
Inspectors evaluated readiness & execution of emergency drills including man overboard, fire, casualties, and abandon ship.
Photos from USCG Sector Jacksonville. pic.twitter.com/uyOCwwTmg8
— Gavin – SpaceXFleet.com (@SpaceXFleet) October 9, 2020
Crew-1 is the 2nd and next Crew Dragon human mission following the inaugural Demo-2 test flight mission to the ISS that lasted 64 days in space with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken & Doug Hurley.
Demo-2 was the first human spaceflight launch from US soil since the last NASA space shuttle mission STS-135 in July 2011.
The 4 person Crew-1 team will stay aboard the orbiting laboratory complex for the normal science mission increment length of six months – triple that of the 2 months of Demo-2 which was extended from its original duration of roughly two weeks.
Crew Dragon was developed and funded as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program under a $2.6 Billion contract awarded to SpaceX in 2014 to end dependence on the Russian Soyuz capsule.
“The Crew-1 mission is a major step for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Operational, long duration commercial crew rotation missions will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station. Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.”
Watch my prelaunch commentary at WESH 2 NBC News and WKMG CBS 6 New Orlando on Oct. 5/6 about SpaceX CEO Elon Musk visit to the Cape to determine cause of so many launch scrubs
Watch my SpaceX GPS post scrub commentary at Fox 35 News Orlando on Oct. 3
“They need to stand back. They need to rethink. They need to look at all of their procedures and that’s why Musk is coming here for. He’s going to do a thorough review,” I explained to Fox 35 about the many launch scrubs.
“We hope the weather is good, but we have no control over the weather. But they have plenty of control over the rocket and the pad to make sure they’re in order.”
Watch my commentary at WFTV Channel 9 ABC TV News Orlando in this Sept. 25/26 report about 3 upcoming Space Coast launches in 3 days by ULA and SpaceX.
Also Fox 35 TV News Orlando on Sep 28/29 about the impact of scheduling so many back to back launches and impact of repeated launch scrubs.
Watch my live interview discussion of current space missions and launches on Sept. 18 edition of ‘Stay Curious’ daily space show presented by the American Space Museum, Titusville, FL.
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Starlink, Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
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 and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Credit: NASA/SpaceX