SpaceX’s third NASA astronaut launch to reuse Crew Dragon and Falcon 9

NASA has revealed that SpaceX could reuse the upcoming Falcon 9 booster and the first Crew Dragon spacecraft scheduled to launch astronauts as soon as SpaceX’s third launch, scheduled for early 2021.

First, however, SpaceX must successfully return two NASA astronauts to Earth within a few days and launch another four astronauts, three from NASA and one Japanese (JAXA), to the International Space Station (ISS) alone ~ 8 weeks later. Astronauts Bob Behnken are currently occupying the ISS as part of the inaugural launch of Crew Dragon, which has been an almost perfect success thus far. Those astronauts are slated to board the spacecraft in orbit and exit the ISS on August 1 and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere about a day later on August 2.

It will be Crew Dragon’s second orbital reentry but also the first with astronauts on board. If Crew Dragon performs as designed and the C206 capsule recovers smoothly, SpaceX and NASA will question all of the teams involved, inspect the spacecraft and astronauts’ space suits, and hopefully certify the spacecraft for operational launches with crew.

Falcon 9 B1061, the booster that NASA previously referenced, arrived in Florida on July 14 before SpaceX’s second astronaut launch. (SpaceX)

As previously mentioned, the first of those astronaut operational launches will be known as Crew-1 or Post-Certification Mission 1 (PCM-1) and is currently expected to launch no earlier than (NET) in late September. The Crew-1 release date depends almost entirely on the successful completion of Demo-2 and subsequent certification of NASA’s Crew Dragon. SpaceX is in the process of delivering all necessary rocket and spacecraft hardware for Crew-1 from its Hawthorne, California, factory to launch and process facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

Believed to be C207 capsule, the Crew Dragon spacecraft pictured here in May 2020 is assigned to Crew-1. (SpaceX)
In a major twist, NASA has effectively confirmed that SpaceX will become the first private company in history to launch astronauts into orbit.  (SpaceX)
The Demo-2 Crew Dragon spacecraft arrived in Florida approximately 3.5 months before launch.(SpaceX)

Falcon 9’s new B1061 booster completed a set of acceptance tests at SpaceX’s development facility in McGregor, Texas, between April and June 2020, and was finally shipped from Texas to Florida on July 11, arriving on July. There’s likely to be a new Falcon 9 upper stage near the amp, and SpaceX will be able to start integrated processing, culminating in a pre-test of Wet Dress (WDR) and static fire a few weeks before launch.

An expendable trunk and the new Crew Dragon capsule assigned to Crew-1, believed to be the C207 capsule, could arrive at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) processing facility at any time. Before heading to Florida, the spacecraft must complete numerous acceptance tests, including looping hardware launch simulations, static fire from all four SuperDraco abort drive modules, and Draco maneuver pods, one from WDR, and more. . Upon arrival, SpaceX will inspect each part of the spacecraft, complete any necessary final equipment, load the capsule with monomethylhydrazine (MMH) fuel, and dinitrogen tetroxide oxidizer (NTO), and install its trunk section.

Crew Dragon C206 was installed on its trunk on May 1, one month before launch. (SpaceX)
Crew Dragon C206 was photographed in orbit by one of the astronauts who piloted it during a July 1 spacewalk. (POT)

If the Demo-2 Crew Dragon C206 capsule is able to safely return astronauts Behnken and Hurley to Earth and return to the mainland in one piece, it could become the first American space capsule in history to launch astronauts into space. orbit twice. The same goes for the Crew-1 Falcon 9 Booster B1061 – if it successfully launches and lands as part of SpaceX’s astronaut launch operational debut, it will be restored to become the world’s first liquid rocket rocket to withstand two launches. astronauts when it flies back into Crew-2.

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