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SpaceX Cargo Launch to ISS on Track Despite Crew Dragon Test Anomaly

SpaceX Cargo Launch to ISS on Track Despite Crew Dragon Test Anomaly

SpaceX’s 17th cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) remains on track for launch on April 30 while the company and NASA continue to investigate an anomaly over the weekend during a test of the crew version of the Dragon spacecraft.

NASA confirmed the launch date for SpaceX CRS-17 (SpX-17) during a briefing yesterday on the science experiments that will be delivered to the ISS by the Dragon spacecraft.  The launch is set for 4:22 am ET on April 30 from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.  Among the payloads is the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) that the Trump Administration tried to kill in its FY2018 and FY2019 budget requests, but Congress did not agree.

Saturday’s anomaly occurred during a test of the SuperDraco engines that are integrated into the version of Dragon that will be used for crews.  SpaceX and NASA have said little about what happened other than the initial announcement.  The eight SuperDraco engines would be used to safely return the capsule to Earth if an emergency occurred during launch or ascent to orbit.

SpaceX successfully conducted its Demo-1 (DM-1) uncrewed test flight of Crew Dragon to the ISS last month.  It was the Demo-1 capsule that was being tested on Saturday in preparation for an in-flight abort test that had been planned for June.  Neither NASA nor SpaceX have publicly stated whether the capsule survived the incident as they continue to investigate what went wrong.

The impact on the Crew Dragon schedule is unclear.  NASA has been hoping that at least one of the two commercial crew systems, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon or Boeing’s Starliner, will be ready to ferry crews to and from ISS this year, but that appears less and less likely.  Boeing’s schedule recently slipped again.

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