Monday, February 6, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Flight a "High-Stakes Event"

Florida Today reports that the SpaceX Dragon demonstration flight scheduled for early April "can be seen as a test of whether it was a good idea to retire the shuttle and have the private sector take over the job of carrying crew and cargo to the space station. As NASA unveils its budget next week, officials are likely to ask for more money to keep the commercial initiative on track."

John Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, calls the SpaceX launch “a really high-stakes event ... symbolic of a new way of doing business in space.”

The launch was scheduled for February 7, but was postponed until early April so NASA and SpaceX could address all remaining concerns.

Perhaps coincidentally, February 7 is also scheduled to be the day for the NASA's commercial crew forum at the KSC press site. This event will begin the third round of funding that should lead to the selection of finalists.

UPDATE February 7, published this article on February 3 reporting that the main delay for Dragon is software testing.

Describing an "insane amount of testing" on the Dragon's control software, Musk said a sizable chunk of the work in the weeks ahead will wring out the capsule's fault-tolerance capabilities, which are designed to respond to system failures without jeopardizing the space station astronauts or the spacecraft.

"The critical path task is verification of the systems failure/response matrix," [SpaceX CEO Elon] Musk wrote in an email to Spaceflight Now. "Dragon is designed to be tolerant of two failures of almost anything. We need to make sure that the failover systems work correctly in all scenarios."

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