Saturday, January 21, 2012

SpaceX Delay Prompted by Simulation Results


Although the debut commercial flight of the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station has been postponed from the slated Feb. 7 launch date, ITWire.com is reporting that the capsule which is now expected to fly no sooner than late March has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center.

Last week California based SpaceX announced that the potentially historic flight would be delayed to allow time for engineers and NASA staff to address concerns over potential problems with the craft. ITWire is reporting that a simulation revealed issues that prompted the company to seek a postponement of the COTS-2 flight:

“a recent simulation (“sim”) of the spacecraft has apparently rang a few warning bells, and the launch has been slipped to no earlier than March 20, 2012, and possibly as late or later than the end of March.

The unmanned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) would have been the first flight of any commercial spacecraft -- and, as such, a very important event!

As the first commercial flight to the ISS, the SpaceX mission will be a historic one, and one that is much awaited by NASA in order to get back the ability to eventually launch astronauts back and forth into space.”

CBS News reported on January 20 that Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of the commercial cargo program at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, had stated:

“There's a great deal of work ahead before everything is closed out and ready to go. As we both are proceeding toward the launch, SpaceX concluded that they just wanted to take some extra time to do additional testing to make sure this vehicle is as ready to go as it can possibly be, at least to the same level that they were for the previous launch."

 “NASA sources said the company ran into problems with the planned rendezvous profile needed to guide the Dragon capsule to the space station. NASA dispatched a veteran flight director and trajectory analysts to Hawthorne to help SpaceX get to the bottom of the issue.”

Further, “Sources also said SpaceX engineers had encountered an electromagnetic interference [EMI] issue with one or more components in the Dragon capsule.”

And, “A SpaceX spokeswoman confirmed that an EMI issued had been discovered during testing, but she characterized it as relatively minor."

"Likewise, Lindenmoyer downplayed the technical issues, saying ‘it's just good practice to wring out your hardware, your software, your operations to make sure you're in the best possible shape for a good successful mission.’”



SpaceX also admitted that additional work needed to be performed with regards to software testing in order to assure that everything was ready to go for the launch.

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