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NASA greenlights SpaceX crew capsule test to ISS
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 23, 2019

NASA, SpaceX finish Crew Dragon review; March 2 launch date still targeted
Washington (UPI) Feb 22, 2019 - NASA and SpaceX officials completed the flight readiness review ahead of the planned launch of an unmanned SpaceX capsule to the International Space Station.

Calling it a "phenomenal" review, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations William Gerstenmaier said at a news conference the Crew Dragon capsule remains on schedule for the planned launch date and time of 2:48 a.m. March 2. Its launch will be called Demo-1, or DM-1.

Gerstenmaier added, however, that the review yielded plans to look further at the Crew Dragon's software, specifically at how it functions while the capsule approaches the ISS.

Gerstenmaier and Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's commercial crew program, said the flight next week, though unmanned, will have implications on future launches. Even after the launch in March, SpaceX must complete the unmanned flight test before it can launch the Crew Dragon with a crew in tow.

"We need to execute a successful mission with SpaceX next week and we need to take all the learning out of this mission and we need to apply it to our upcoming crewed missions to make sure that we can deliver on our promise for delivering safe crew transportation to the International Space Station," Lueders said.

Originally slated for late August, Demo-1's launch date has been pushed back multiple times.

Another private unmanned spaceflight by Boeing is also in the works.

NASA on Friday gave SpaceX the green light to test a new crew capsule by first sending an unmanned craft with a life-sized mannequin to the International Space Station.

"We're go for launch, we're go for docking," said William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator with NASA Human Exploration and Operations.

A Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX is scheduled to lift off, weather permitting, on March 2 to take the Crew Dragon test capsule to the ISS.

NASA signed contracts in 2014 with SpaceX and Boeing for the companies to shuttle US astronauts to the ISS.

This will be the first time the US space agency lets a private-sector company transport their astronauts.

NASA ended its space-shuttle program in 2011 and since then has relied on buying spots on Russian Soyuz rockets to send US astronauts to the orbiting ISS.

"This is an absolutely critical first step that we do as we move towards returning the crewed launch capability back here to the US," said Gerstenmaier, speaking at a press conference in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The March 2 flight will be identical to a flight that is set to take two astronauts to the ISS later in the year, possibly in July.

The Crew Dragon capsule has seven seats. It should dock with the ISS on March 3, then detach and return to Earth on March 8.

"I guarantee everything will not work exactly right, and that's cool, that's exactly what we want to do," said Gerstenmaier.

"We want to maximize our learning so when... we're ready to go do a real crewed mission, and it'll be the right safety for our crews."

SpaceX has already made more than a dozen unmanned trips since 2012 carrying supplies to the ISS with the cargo version of the Dragon capsule.

But the safety criteria for manned flights are higher, and NASA said that the Crew Dragon still has some problems, including with its parachutes.

"It's a really big deal for SpaceX," said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of the company founded by billionaire Elon Musk.

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SpaceX releases Israeli moon lander, pair of satellites into orbit
Washington (UPI) Feb 21, 2019
SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket Thursday evening with a pair of satellites and an Israeli moon lander aboard. All three were successfully released into orbit. Blastoff occurred right on time at 8:45 p.m. ET. Just a few minutes after Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral, the first and second stages separated and the booster stage fell back to Earth, using its thrusters to slow its reentry and land safely on SpaceX's Of Course I Still Love You droneship. "Successful deployment ... read more

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