Like a kid in a candy store, I’m ecstatic about the Space X Dragon spacecraft mission and I will very likely stay up all night waiting for the launch window to open at 6:03 AM PST. Ladies and gentleman, this is history in the making.
According to the COTS Demo Flight 1 press kit, “This is the first flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to develop commercial supply services to the International Space Station and encourage the growth of the commercial space industry.” The press kit goes on to state: “After the Space Shuttle retires, SpaceX will make at least 12 flights to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station as part of a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract for NASA awarded in 2008. The $1.6 billion contract represents a minimum of 12 flights, with an option to order additional missions for up to $3.1 billion. Only SpaceX has the ability to return cargo from the station.”
- Inclination: 34.5 degrees.
- Orbit: 300 kilometers circular orbit
- # Orbits: Almost 2 nominal, 3 contingency
- Top Speeds: Greater than 17,000 mph, allowing Dragon to orbit Earth in 90 min
- Time: Roughly 3 ½ hours from launch to splashdown
- Landing site: Roughly 500 miles west of the coast of Mexico.
Mission Timeline (Actual timing will vary with specific mission requirements.)
- T-02:35:00 Chief Engineer polls stations. Countdown master autosequence proceeds with Liquid Oxygen (LOx) load, RP-1 fuel load, and vehicle release.
- T-01:40:00 Allow countdown master autosequence to proceed into lowering the strongback
- T-00:60:00 Allow the master autosequence to proceed with stage 2 fuel bleed, stage 2 thrust vector control bleed. Verify all sub-autosequences in the countdown master autosequence have been performed, except for terminal count.
- T-00:13:00 SpaceX Launch Director polls readiness for launch.
- T-00:11:00 Logical hold point
TERMINAL COUNT (begins at T-10min)
- T-00:09:43 Open prevalves to the nine first stage engines and begin chilling Merlin engine pumps
- T00:0-6:17 Command flight computer to enter alignment state
- T-00:05:00 Stop loading of GN2 into ACS bottle on stage 2
- T-00:04:46 Transfer to internal power on stage 1 and stage 2
- T-00:03:11 Begin arming flight termination system
- T-00:03:02 Terminate LOx propellant topping, cycle fuel trim valves
- T-00:03:00 Verify movement on stage 2 thrust vector control actuators
- T-00:02:30 SpaceX Launch Director verifies ―GO‖
- T-00:02:00 Range Control Officer (Air Force) verifies range is ―GO‖
- T-00:01:35 Terminate helium loading
- T-00:01:00 Command flight computer state to startup
- T-00:01:00 Turn on pad deck and Niagara water
- T-00:00:50 Flight computer commands thrust vector control actuator checks on stage 1
- T-00:00:40 Pressurize S1 and S2 propellant tanks
- T-00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
- T+0:02:58 1st Stage Shut Down (Main Engine Cut Off)
- T+0:03:02 1st Stage Separates
- T+0:03:09 2nd Stage Engine Start
- T+0:09:00 2nd Stage Engine Cutoff
- T+0:09:35 Dragon Separates from Falcon 9 and initializes propulsion
- T+0:13 On-Orbit Operations
- T+2:32 Deorbit Burn Begins
- T+2:38 Deorbit Burn End
- T+2:58 Reentry Phase Begins (Entry Interface)
- T+3:09 Drogue Chute Deploys
- T+3:10 Main Chute Deploys
- T+3:19 Water Landing
Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO & CTO, said: “When Dragon returns, whether on this mission or a future one, it will herald the dawn of an incredibly exciting new era in space travel. This will be the first new American human capable spacecraft to travel to orbit and back since the Space Shuttle took flight three decades ago. The success of the NASA COTS/CRS program shows that it is possible to return to the fast pace of progress that took place during the Apollo era, but using only a tiny fraction of the resources. If COTS/CRS continues to achieve the milestones that many considered impossible, thanks in large part to the skill of the program management team at NASA, it should be recognized as one of the most effective public-private partnerships in history.”
I find this mission fascinating and believe it’s a major stepping stone for space travel, namely for regular folks like you and me. I’m looking forward to the day when we jump on a spacecraft for a vacation to the moon as opposed to Las Vegas, Hawaii and other hot spots.
Let’s wish everyone luck tomorrow and may the force be with them.
Aaron Schoenberger is Founder of The Brainchild Group — a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing company in Los Angeles, California. He’s known for his work with celebrity clients, top restaurants, professional athletes and Fortune 500 companies.