Friday, November 18, 2011

NASA, Russia May Delay SpaceX Flight

Aviation Week reports that NASA bureaucracy, and Russian acquiescence, may delay the next historic flight of the SpaceX Dragon.

The mission’s timing will depend on the outcome of NASA’s SpaceX flight software assessments to identify potential hazards posed by two Orbcomm data-relay satellites carried by the Falcon 9 as secondary payloads and possible impingements of Dragon thruster firings on the station’s outstretched solar panels, Lindenmoyer says.

In addition, NASA intends to brief its Russian partners on the SpaceX mission strategy before signing off on the flight, according to Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

Plans for a January liftoff from Cape Canaveral AFS are subject to change depending on the software test results and outcome of discussions with Russia, Gerstenmaier said from Moscow, where he was following the Nov. 16 docking of the Soyuz TMA-22 crew with the space station.


  1. So the safety concerns generated by NASA in response to SpaceX's decision to deploy commercial satellites, as well as by-the-book concerns about plume impingements (a problem that is not new with the Dragon, nor is a full review of same) are simply dismissed as "bureaucracy" - with no assessment (even a make-believe assessment) of the reason for the concerns?

    Just starting with the satellites - are you even aware that there are at least 3 government agencies trying to sort all this out? Do you have any clue as to the number or nature of meetings and discussions that have gone on over the past few months on this topic? Have you bothered to learn a thing about the technical and operational issues involved - on all sides?

    Are you aware that SpaceX has not yet delivered its final software load? That they and NASA are working on the milestones together? Do you seriously expect that anyone, anywhere in the history of aviation or space in would concur with a decision to launch before integrated testing took place?

    Onto impingement - do you have any idea what the effects are of impingement on the arrays? Do you know what the consequences of failure are? Are you aware of the hazards to crewmembers who could - depending on the scenarios - have to work with damaged arrays?

    Written like a true bureaucrat with no knowledge of operational hazards, but perfectly willing to read an article and on that basis write a dismissive, judgmental one-liner as though he has a clue.

  2. In response to:

    "Are you aware that SpaceX has not yet delivered its final software load?"

    From NASA's ISS Daily Report for 11/29/11 at:


    In preparation of tomorrow’s scheduled CUCU (COTS UHF Communications Unit) software & Dragon CCP (Crew Command Panel) firmware update, Burbank installed a USB thumb drive (#60) and readied a blank CD (#1675) in SSC-10 (Station Support Computer 10). The ground then uplinked a software patch and burned it on the CD. [New software, version R3.2, will be loaded into the CUCU from a DVD delivered on ULF7 and a patch from the thumb drive. CUCU is the SpaceX avionics box that is used for space-to-space communication with “Dragon” during rendezvous. CUCU contains two completely redundant strings, and each string needs a software update to the RIO (Remote Input/Output (RIO) control modules, the radio and the 1553 card. In addition, the firmware on the CCP will need to be updated for both the primary and spare CCP. The software update is done with a T61p laptop that will be booted to the Linux operating system from the ULF7 DVD. After the software load, MCC-X (SpaceX’s Control Center in Hawthorne, CA) will be doing some checkouts of the box and then Dan Burbank will do a checkout of both CCPs. Background: The originally planned Demo 2 & 3 missions have been merged. For the new “Dragon” Combined Demo, “Commanding from ISS” via the CCP will be demonstrated while the spacecraft flies 2.5 km under the ISS.]