SpaceX Falcon 9 test fire for Crew Dragon debut on ‘Demo-1’, currently targeting NET late February 2019 launch from KSC pad 39A in Florida. Photo: SpaceX
SpaceX conducted a long-awaited Static Test Fire yesterday (Jan 24) of the Falcon 9 rocket which will soon launch their first Crew Dragon from Florida, marking the first time a crewed vehicle and ground systems have been integrated together on pad 39A since space shuttle Atlantis last soared on the STS-135 mission almost 8 years ago.
With the milestone pre-flight test complete, both SpaceX and NASA are pressing onward for a ‘no earlier than’ late February liftoff and moving the nation a giant leap closer to its first commercial crew launch.
We reached out to SpaceX to clarify whether or not an anomaly was observed, with speculation swirling that the rocket shut down prematurely. And while a minor issue may have occurred, that’s what pad tests are for – to find issues before launch day. Whatever it was (if at all), it wasn’t serious enough for SpaceX or NASA to say so on record, as both parties insist the pre-flight test was “completed”.
“Any claims to the contrary are not accurate”, said a spokesperson with the company, in an email to AmericaSpace Friday afternoon.
The upcoming flight, Demo Mission (DM)-1, will mark the spacecraft’s highly-anticipated debut, which will pave the way for soon returning astronauts to flight from U.S. shores (hopefully) later this year, a capability which was foolishly lost with the retirement of NASA’s shuttle fleet in 2011.
Falcon 9 on launch pad 39A with the first Crew Dragon & the company’s new astronaut walkway. Photo: SpaceX
SpaceX has since 2012 launched cargo for NASA to and from the International Space Station (ISS) under contract for the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services. In September 2014 NASA awarded a $2.6 billion Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract to SpaceX to demonstrate delivery of crew to and from ISS. Both commercial resupply and crew are part of NASA’s efforts beginning in the early 2000’s to stimulate development of privately built and operated American-made space vehicles for transporting astronauts to and from the ISS.
DM-1 will see Crew Dragon take flight from 39A, without crew, on an orbital shakedown & validation flight test to and from the ISS. The mission will provide key data on the rocket and spacecraft’s performance, the supporting ground systems, as well as on-orbit, docking and landing operations, ahead of the first Crew Dragon flight test with astronauts, the first ‘Dragon Riders’, known as ‘Demo-2’, which would follow in the later part of the year.
And despite the current partial government shutdown, NASA continues to support Commercial Crew Program operations as things progress towards the flight. Working without pay too, many NASA civil servants are now being offered interest-free, three-month loans by federal credit unions and banks in order to keep the lights on and the eviction or foreclosures at bay.