WASHINGTON – NASA plans to launch a cargo version of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) next week as investigations into an explosion of a Crew Dragon spacecraft continue.
During a previously scheduled media conference call on April 22 about the upcoming cargo mission to the station, designated as CRS-17, NASA spokesman Josh Finch said the mission will be ready for launch on April 30 at 4:22 Eastern is planned. Three days earlier, NASA relocated the April 26 launch, citing "restrictions on orbit and orbital mechanics."
NASA did not provide any updates during the Crew Dragon April 20, anomaly review that was conducted while testing the SuperDraco engines of the demolition system of this spacecraft. Finch referred reporters to the statement NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine had posted on social media shortly after the accident. SpaceX has also not provided any updates to the study.
The incident in SpaceX landing zone 1 created a large, widely visible cloud that was reported to have caused great damage to the Crew Dragon spacecraft. This is the same one that was flown the demo 1 test flight to the ISS in March and prepared for an apron – flight demolition test this summer. It is expected that both the in-flight and demo-2 flight test will be delayed by several months, depending on the cause of the accident, the steps required to correct the problem and the production status of other Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The fact that NASA is continuing with the Cargo Dragon mission for the time being suggests that the problem is limited to the SuperDraco engines that are not used in the Cargo version of Dragon. However, according to industry sources, the CRS-17 mission may still be delayed, depending on what the ongoing investigation could announce in the coming days, as well as the concerns of its international partners.
However, on April 22, SpaceX filed a license application with the Federal Communications Commission for a first-stage landing of Falcon 9 on a small-scale dron ship offshore for an upcoming launch. The first nine Dragon Cargo missions usually land in Landing Zone 1, suggesting that the ongoing investigation or cleanup following the Crew Dragon incident will not make the zone available for the upcoming launch.
The cargo of the kite will contain nearly 1,700 kilograms of scientific payloads. These include a number of biomedical and pharmaceutical experiments, such as several "tissue-chip" experiments that could allow accelerated testing of disease treatments in weightlessness. Another experiment called photobioreactor will test the ability to grow algae in space that could be used as food for future long-term missions.
The dragon also carries the OCO Experiment 3 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory), which is mounted on the outside of the station. The US $ 110 million payload NASA wanted to repeal in their budget applications for 2018 and 2019 will measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and provide continuity should the existing OCO-2 spacecraft cease operations.
The OCO-3 orbits on the ISS differ from those of the OCO-2, which are in a solar synchronous orbit. "The opportunity to go to the International Space Station is really exciting and adds some new features," said Annmarie Eldering, project scientist at the OCO-3 project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, during the meeting, including the opportunity to see the same area different times of day to measure the daily fluctuations in carbon dioxide content.
The Dragon CRS-17 mission will follow Northrop Grumman's NG-11 Cygnus mission, which landed at the station on April 19, two days after launching her with a Virginia Antares rocket. This spacecraft brought more than 3,400 kilograms of cargo to the station, including 1,569 kilograms of scientific research.