SpaceX targeting May 1 for next cargo Dragon launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Following a successful static test fire of its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX is eyeing the beginning of May for its next cargo mission to the International Space Station.
The F9’s nine Merlin 1D engines were checked out at around 10 a.m. EDT (14:00 GMT) on Saturday, April 27, 2019. With the rocket firmly attached to the launch pad, all nine of its first stage Merlin 1D engines were ignited for several seconds before shutting down as planned.
SpaceX confirmed about 25 minutes later that the test had occurred and that the company is planning on beginning the mission at 3:59 a.m. EDT (7:59 GMT) May 1. If everything goes as planned, this will be the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract (giving it the moniker of ‘CRS-17’). The CRS-17 Dragon has more than 5,500 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of crew supplies, hardware and experiments on board.
Once in orbit, the vehicle is expected to take about two days to reach the orbiting lab before being captured by the outpost’s robotic Canadarm2. Ground teams are then expected to remotely maneuver the arm to attach the spacecraft to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module. It is expected to remain at the station for the better part of a month.
It is sometimes stated that the Cargo Dragon ‘docks’ with the station. In fact, given how the vehicle is attached to the 21-year-old outpost it is actually ‘berthed.’
The successful test fire comes about a week after the April 20 “anomaly” that occurred during the static fire test of the SuperDraco engines on the Crew Dragon capsule that was used for the Crew Demo-1 mission in March.
While Crew Demo-1 was a complete success, SpaceX was planning to reuse the capsule that carried out that flight for an in-flight abort test sometime this summer. The prepare it for the in-flight abort test SpaceX was putting the capsule through various ground tests at Landing Zone 1 at Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1.
Because the Crew Dragon investigation is still ongoing, SpaceX opted to move its planned recovery of the Falcon 9 first stage being used for the CRS-17 mission. Instead of touching down on the ground at LZ-1, SpaceX has decided to use its autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) Of Course I Still Love You. The company will position the drone ship about 17 miles (28 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.
Once the CRS-17 mission gets off the ground, it should mark the fifth launch by SpaceX in 2019 and the 70th Falcon 9 mission since 2010 (not counting the two triple-core Falcon Heavy flights in 2018 and 2019).
NASA isn’t SpaceX’s only customer. The Hawthorne, California-based company’s 2019 launch manifest has at least seven more missions on its manifest, all but one of these are slated to take to the skies from Florida’s Space Coast (the Radarsat C1, C2 & C3 mission is set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4 on May 16).
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.