SpaceX and NASA reaffirm their intentions to make the debut launch of the Crew Dragon in January 2019
Attempting to confuse everyone, here's how to describe the official launch schedule of the Crew Dragon manned spacecraft (demonstration mission - 1, then DM-1). NASA administrator James Brydenstein himself hints that the date is so vague that the “first half of 2019” is the best forecast.
For a commercial manned program, such unspecified dates are the norm, but the fact is that SpaceX and NASA have recently issued an application confirming the dates for launching the DM-1 of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The launch window starts a little more than 4-6 weeks from today (approx. Translation. 10.12.2018).
At a meeting of the NASA Research and Management Advisory Committee, William
Gerstenmayer says that the SpaceX DM-1 mission is scheduled for the end of January.
The fact that Deputy Administrator William H. Gerstenmayer, NASA's key commercial and research program manager, frankly stated that NASA and SpaceX intend to make DM-1 in January, is a clear indication that two high-ranking NASA officials read more than one piece of paper. if you can call it that. The reasons for such significant discrepancies in official statements with a difference of one week are difficult to understand, and this can lead to speculation and political wiles.
More importantly, with the support of Phil McCalister, NASA's director of commercial flights, Gerstenmayer confirmed that NASA is planning to launch Spacex's Crew Dragon spacecraft for the first orbital launch in January 2019, albeit with a 10-day shift dates since the announcement of a specific launch date (January 7).
Hans Koenigsmann, Vice-President of SpaceX for reliability and safety of systems, speaking at a press conference (before and after) on December 5 at the recent launch of a cargo ship on the Falcon 9 rocket carrier with the NASA procurement mission for the ISS (CRS-16), added another vote saying SpaceX is extremely confident that all Crew Dragon hardware and software will be ready for launch on January 7th.
Phil McCallister from NASA updated the DM-1 start-up status and says that the company intends to prepare all the equipment until December 20th, then they go on holidays and continue the pre-launch work in January.Why are there ambiguities?
It is not possible to fully grasp the complex political and bureaucratic subtleties of the current NASA. However, the uncertainty inside NASA and the disagreement between official NASA statements and SpaceX as a whole can be explained by the simple fact that you need to complete a sufficient number of important checks that will finally show when or if Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon are ready to launch.
Depending on the results of these checks, DM-1 will be given the green light to start in January, or the launch may be delayed by 6 months, because NASA wants SpaceX to change happy critical spacecraft systems. This is a stick of two ends, which in general can be described as additional opportunities that have appeared.
In other words, Königsmann from SpaceX and Gerstenmayer with McKalister from NASA hinted that they were confident that the last checks would pass successfully before the launch dates, and this roughly means "As soon as possible." Theoretically, the opinion of Brydenstein, the head of NASA, can be considered as special and exceptional, which presumably can be described as the worst option for SpaceX, when they are ready to launch DM-1, if the final checks are very bad.
The comments of Brydenstein and Königsmann are worth exploring in more detail, unobtrusively, but unequivocally pointing out the differences in the opinions of NASA and SpaceX specialists, who do not become public knowledge. When asked about Brydenstein's assumption that DM-1 might shift a little more, Koenigsmann replied skeptically, but calmly:
What I could understand was a shift for several days through traffic to the ISS. For example, the CRS-16 (Cargo Dragon cargo ship) at the station at the same time with heavy traffic and the station crew, which is very busy, but our goal is now - mid-January, and we make maximum (as far as possible) efforts to ensure launch right timeMoreover, it seems that NASA and SpaceX simultaneously came to the conclusion that the new launch date, January 17, is the preferred option, taking into account the logistical difficulties voiced by Hans. For these additional 10 days, the ISS crew will be able to complete other tasks before the planned arrival of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Crew Dragon is
moving closer to the ISS, the official render from SpaceX. Overwhelming interest was a question from local reporter Ken Kremer regarding the Brydenstein proposal (according to USA Today) that the “difficulty” with Crew Dragon parachutes were the leading factors in canceling the launch in January. Hans responded in his deadpan style:
No, we solve problems, obviously, that is, each launch has its own characteristics, which we solve to make sure everything is in order. (Parachutes on the Dragon ver. 2) actually have a greater margin of safety than those on the Dragon ver. 1, and they are (constructively) reinforced for DM-1, thus, almost sure that they will cope with their task.It now remains to wait.
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