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SpaceX has busy manifest of Dragon missions

WASHINGTON — SpaceX is getting ready for a busy schedule of Dragon missions carrying cargo and crew to the Worldwide House Station by way of subsequent 12 months, a manifest that can make a minimum of some use of reused spacecraft.

At a Sept. 29 NASA briefing, Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight packages at SpaceX, stated that schedule of missions means there will probably be a minimum of one Dragon spacecraft, and typically two, docked to the station constantly by way of the top of 2021 after the launch of the Crew-1 Crew Dragon mission, at present scheduled for Oct. 31.

“This actually is a brand new period for us as an organization at SpaceX, and likewise for business area generally,” he stated.

Reed stated that the present manifest initiatives seven Dragon missions will launch within the subsequent 14 months, together with three Crew Dragon missions. The Crew-1 mission will probably be adopted subsequent spring by the Crew-2 mission, for which NASA has already assigned astronauts from the U.S., Europe and Japan. A Crew-Three mission would observe late subsequent 12 months, though NASA has not introduced plans for it.

There can even be 4 Dragon cargo missions, beginning with the CRS-21 mission scheduled for launch in November. These missions will use the identical spacecraft design because the Crew Dragon missions as an alternative of the unique cargo model of Dragon flown on previous cargo missions to the station. That can allow the cargo Dragon to straight dock with the station, slightly than be grappled by the station’s robotic arm and berthed to the station.

The CRS-21 mission can even mark the primary time two Dragon spacecraft are in area on the similar time. That mission will stay docked to the station for 35 days earlier than returning to Earth. After that, the Crew-2 astronauts will board the Crew Dragon and relocate it from its authentic docking port, referred to as Node 2 Ahead, to the neighboring Node 2 Zenith port. That might liberate the Node 2 Ahead port, which gives a extra easy method to the station, for an uncrewed Boeing CST-100 Starliner check flight tentatively scheduled for late this 12 months.

Flying seven Dragon missions in 14 months would require a point of spacecraft reuse, Reed stated. “A lot of them are reused flights, and a handful of them are new,” he stated, however didn’t instantly understand how most of the missions will use beforehand flown spacecraft. NASA and SpaceX beforehand stated they might refurbish the Dragon flown on the Demo-2 check flight this summer time for the Crew-2 mission. Each Crew-1 and probably Crew-Three will use new spacecraft, he stated.

“What we’re doing proper now’s assessing the fitting method to do all of these in essentially the most environment friendly method we will, and ensure we now have the correct quantity of margin within the schedule between refurbishment and the necessity for flight,” he stated.

Dragon refurbishment takes place at a SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida, which additionally processes these spacecraft for launch. “Our aim is to have the ability to do all of Dragon processing on the Cape,” he stated. “They’re capable of work a number of Dragons by way of there on the similar time, and do refurbishment.”

NASA isn’t the one buyer for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX has introduced contracts with Axiom House for missions to the ISS and with House Adventures for a free-flyer mission. There was hypothesis that an Axiom House mission, maybe with actor Tom Cruise amongst its crew, may launch to the station as quickly as October 2021 on a short-duration keep.

Reed didn’t touch upon any particular plans for such business missions, past that they weren’t included within the manifest of seven NASA missions deliberate by way of 2021. “I feel that late subsequent 12 months is an efficient time to start out trying in direction of beginning these missions up,” he stated.

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