May 9, 2012
SpaceX Crew Accommodations System Receives NASA Approval
Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Dragon capsule has received NASA approval for their crew accommodations system, bringing the private-sector firm's spacecraft one step closer to a commercial test flight, the US space agency announced Tuesday.
According to NASA, the primary purpose of the test was to find out whether or not the layout of the capsule would permit crew members to effectively maneuver around the vehicle. The aeronautics administration called it a "key milestone" in the SpaceX project, noting that a team of veteran space shuttle astronauts and NASA engineers conducted the evaluation as part of a pair of two-day-long reviews.
"I am very pleased with the progress SpaceX and our other commercial partners are making during the CCDev2 effort," NASA Commercial Spaceflight Director Philip McAlister said in a May 8 statement. "Together with NASA's development of beyond low-Earth orbit systems, commercial crew and cargo transportation is an integral part of our overall human spaceflight program."
"This milestone demonstrated the layout of the crew cabin supports critical tasks," added SpaceX Commercial Crew Development Manager Garrett Reisman. "It also demonstrated the Dragon interior has been designed to maximize the ability of the seven-member crew to do their job as effectively as possible."
NASA said that the Dragon prototype was equipped with seats, lights, an environmental control system, a life-support system, conceptual controls and display systems, cargo racks, and additional interior equipment.
During the review, former space shuttle crew members Rex Walheim, Tony Antonelli, Eric Boe and Tim Kopra conducted such evaluations as entering and exiting the vehicle under both normal and emergency scenarios, as well as visibility and reach evaluations, the space organization added.
"As an anchor customer for commercial transportation services, we are happy to provide SpaceX with knowledge and lessons learned from our 50 years of human spaceflight," said Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango. "We appreciate the opportunity SpaceX gave us to provide feedback on these critical interior systems while the company maintains its flexibility to appeal to other customers."
"This is the seventh of 10 milestones SpaceX must meet under the CCDev2 agreement, which continues through July 31," NASA officials said in their press release. "This includes the development of a launch abort system for crew escape during launch or ascent. All of NASA's industry partners continue to meet their established milestones in developing safe, reliable and affordable commercial crew transportation capabilities."
Last week, SpaceX announced that a test flight of the Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) was being delayed until at least May 19 due to the need for further review of their flight software systems. That launch would take place at Cape Canaveral, Florida at approximately 4:55am EDT, with May 22 set as a back-up launch date, if necessary.
"After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch," Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, told Alan Boyle of MSNBC.com. "The teamwork provided by these teams is phenomenal. There are a few remaining open items, but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19."
According to a previous NASA statement, the ISS test run, which they are reportedly partially financing, will come in the wake of what was dubbed a "dress rehearsal" by the SpaceX launch team back on April 30. During that test, officials conducted a brief engine firing in order to ensure that the Falcon 9 rocket is ready to launch, while also conducting an examination of some of the Dragon's onboard systems.