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DocM

SpaceX updates (Grasshopper RLV)

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Pre-WDR (wet dress rehearsal) practice today, full WDR and media photo ops on Thursday. During a WDR they erect the F9/Dragon stack, fuel it up, run pre-launch tests, drain the fuel, lower the stack and roll it back to the hangar for examination & further tests.

pre-wdr.jpg

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Better shot I captured off NASA's internal LC-40 video feed

pre-wdr2.jpg

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Thanks for the updates Doc. When is the next launch again? Been out of touch lately. Good to see the hangar coming up so fast, but honestly Dragon doesn't look too cozy or comfy!

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It's hell and gone roomier than Soyuz but can carry as many crewmembers as the Shuttle.

Best guess launch date is mid to late April due to hard/soft-ware checkouts and the ISS schedule getting hammered by the Russian troubles. That and an abunance of caution after same.

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The Falcon 9 first stage was loaded with ~39,000 gallons (147,631 l) of liquid oxygen and ~25,000 gallons (94,635.3 l) of RP-1 fuel. ~7,300 gallons (27,633.5 l) of liquid oxygen and ~4,600 gallons (17,412.9 l) of RP-1 fuel were loaded into the second stage.

After missing its first appointed countdown cutoff due to a technical glitch the clock ticked down to T-5 seconds and stopped just before the main engines would normally ignite, then SpaceX controllers sent the command to drain the propellant.

Friday SpaceX demonstrated placing cargo into the Dragon capsule at the pad, a new feature that shows their ability to load perishable or urgent supplies just before launch. This is also practice for placing crews in Dragon at the pad. Next comes a hot-fire test a few days before launch.

Dragon just after the wet dress rehearsal. Note the plastic cover protecting it from the elements - already being called "the condom."

dragon.jpg

spacex-pad.jpg

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Falcon 9 #4 performed a 10 second test fire at SpaceX's McGregor, Texas test facilty Friday at 7:30 PM local time.

If the current C2/C3 test flight succeeds, Flight #4 would be the first to deliver a full cargo load to ISS.

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Isn't it a waste loading her up with all that fuel just to take it out later? And that thing does look like a condom, very apt observation. Not sure why its even needed. This guy is supposed to go to the moon and stuff, some Earth wind and rain are surely no biggie.

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A wet dress rehersal gives them a practice countsown, fuel and all, on the pad - then they can check all the critical connections for leaks, wiring issues etc. It's a standard part of crossing T's and dotting I's.

As to the cover: an abundance of caution given the stakes of this mission. Maybe Russia should have used a bit more 'eh?

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fh_01.jpg

SpaceFlightNow....

WASHINGTON -- SpaceX and NASA are in advanced discussions for the private space firm to use Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A, one of the spaceport's Apollo and space shuttle launch sites, as the Florida base for its Falcon Heavy rocket, officials said.?

NASA and SpaceX are studying how to assemble and launch Falcon Heavy rockets from pad 39A, including adding a facility to horizontally integrate the launcher's core stage, two strap-on boosters and upper stage, according to William Hill, assistant deputy associate administrator for NASA's exploration systems division. [/b]

With 28 liquid-fueled core, booster and upper stage engines, the Falcon Heavy rocket is a behemoth booster designed to launch human and robotic exploration missions, massive U.S. military satellites, and huge payloads for commercial clients at competitive prices. Its first demonstration launch from California is scheduled for 2013.?

SpaceX plans to piece the rocket together on its side, then roll it to the launch pad and lift it vertical before liftoff. Fully fueled and assembled for launch, the Falcon Heavy will weigh 3.1 million pounds and stand 227 feet tall, according to SpaceX.?

"KSC did an assessment of options for SpaceX to consider relative to their non-exclusive use of pad 39A," said Michael Braukus, a NASA spokesperson, in an email to Spaceflight Now. "KSC is currently in a second round of more detailed discussion; however, no decisions have been made by either NASA or SpaceX at this time."?

The space agency has been looking to turn over some of its mothballed shuttle infrastructure to commercial programs, and one of the space center's three orbiter hangars will be home of final assembly and testing for a Boeing crew capsule bidding to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Part of the Vehicle Assembly Building, the shuttle's mobile launch platforms, and the KSC runway are also available to commercial entities.?

Kirstin Grantham, a SpaceX spokesperson, said pad 39A was one of the launch sites being considered for the Falcon Heavy. Grantham did not say what other sites were being evaluated.?

According to Braukus, NASA is not currently in discussions with any other company regarding the use of launch pad 39A.?

The Falcon Heavy's first launch will be from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. SpaceX is modifying Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg to host missions of the firm's medium-lift Falcon 9 rocket beginning as soon as late 2012.?

SpaceX says the Falcon Heavy's first flight from Vandenberg, a demonstration mission, is set for 2013.?

There are no Falcon Heavy flights on SpaceX's manifest from Florida, but the company will need an East Coast launch site for interplanetary missions. SpaceX has not announced a contract for further Falcon Heavy launches beyond the 2013 test flight. Complex 40, SpaceX's Cape Canaveral pad for its Falcon 9 booster, is not configured today for the Falcon Heavy, which will thunder off the launch pad on the power of 27 kerosene-burning Merlin engines, cumulatively generating 3.8 million pounds of thrust.?

Since the final space shuttle launch from pad 39A in July 2011, NASA has kept the facility in its current configuration to await a decision on its future.?

The fixed and rotating service structures at pad 39B, the space center's other shuttle launch complex, were demolished to make way for NASA's government-run heavy-lifter, which will haul more than 154,000 pounds into low Earth orbit in its basic version.?

The Space Launch System's first test flight from pad 39B is expected by the end of 2017. NASA is developing the monstrous 32-story rocket to launch human expeditions to asteroids, the moon, the vicinity of Mars, and other destinations in deep space.?

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has a payload capacity of 117,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, more than twice the lift capability of any other existing launch vehicle, but still less than NASA's Space Launch System. SpaceX claims each flight of the Falcon Heavy will cost between $80 million and $125 million. There are no NASA cost estimates for a single Space Launch System mission, but officials expect it may be about $1 billion.

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Red Dragon update -

VP Kris Zacny of Honeybee Robotics showing off a large drilling rig for Mars subsurface sample acquisition. They've field-tested it in Antarctica (working with Chris McKay of NASA Ames,) and they have tricky ways of delivering samples from different depths below the surface to instruments inside a lander.

The main focus is working with SpaceX on the Red Dragon mission; a Mars lander based on SpaceX's Dragon that would take not one but two of these beasts to Mars. The rigs would be mounted inside the Red Dragon and pass the drills through its hull and heat shield to get to the Martian soil. After acquiring the samples they'd be delivered to the instruments inside using compressed helium.

honeybeedrill.jpg

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Pending a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) on March 16, SpaceX?s Dragon C2/3 flight to the ISS is targeted for April 30 at 12:22 PM EDT.

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NASA TV schedule

April 30, 2012 - Monday

11 a.m. ? Dragon Launch Coverage Begins (Launch is scheduled at 12:22 p.m. ET) ? KSC (Public, Education and Media Channels)

Flight events

April 30 - Dragon launch

May 3 - Dragon capture and berthing to the Harmony module by the SSRMS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System robotic arm)

May 21 - Dragon un-berthing from the Harmony module, release by the SSRMS, re-entry and landing

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There will be a SpaceX segment on ghe CBS newsmagazine progrem 60 Minutes Sunday March 18, 2012.

CBS News also has a story on their website -

Link....

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Update:

SPACEX COMPLETES IMPORTANT COMMERCIAL CREW MILESTONE | ENTER THE DRAGON--PLEASE TAKE YOUR SEATS

SpaceX continues to prepare for our upcoming test flight in which we will attempt to send the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. At the same time we continue making rapid progress in our efforts to prepare the Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts.

You may have read our update on the initial tests of the SuperDraco engines that will power the launch escape system. Recently, SpaceX completed another important milestone ? the first NASA Crew Trial, one of two crew tests as part of SpaceX?s work to build a prototype Dragon crew cabin.

For this milestone SpaceX demonstrated that our new crew cabin design will work well for astronauts in both nominal and off-nominal scenarios. It also provided our engineers with the opportunity to gain valuable feedback from both NASA astronauts and industry experts.

20120316-dragonrider.jpg

SpaceX and NASA conducted a daylong review of the Dragon crew vehicle layout using the Dragon engineering model equipped with seats and representations of crew systems. Photo: SpaceX

The engineering prototype includes seven seats as well as representations of crew accommodations such as lighting, environmental control and life support systems, displays, cargo racks, and other interior systems. During the daylong test, SpaceX and NASA evaluators including four NASA astronauts, participated in human factors assessments which covered entering and exiting Dragon under both normal and contingency cases, as well as reach and visibility evaluations.

20120316-dragonrider2.jpg

Test crew included (from top left): NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA Astronaut Tony Antonelli, NASA Astronaut Lee Archambault, SpaceX Mission Operations Engineer Laura Crabtree, SpaceX Thermal Engineer Brenda Hernandez, NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, and NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra. Photo: Roger Gilbertson / SpaceX

The seven seats mount to strong, lightweight supporting structures attached to the pressure vessel walls. Each seat can hold an adult up to 6 feet 5 inches tall, 250 lbs, and has a liner that is custom-fit for the crewmember.

20120316-dragonrider3.jpg

With all seven crewmembers in their seats, Dragon has sufficient interior space for three additional people to stand and assist the crew with their launch preparations.

20120316-wmr.jpg

NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk and SpaceX Commercial Crew Development Manager and former NASA Astronaut Garrett Reisman standing inside the Dragon spacecraft during testing activities.

In fact, Dragon has so much interior volume, that we could place an entire three-person Russian Soyuz capsule descent module inside Dragon?s pressure vessel.

Stay tuned for more updates as we work towards making Dragon the most advanced spacecraft ever flown.

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http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2012/01/23/NAC_Science_Meeting_ReportOctober_31-November_1_2011-finalTAGGED.pdf (page 8)

Ames, JSC and KSC are all involved.

NASA ADVISORY COUNCIL (NAC)

Science Committee

NASA Headquarters October 31-November 1, 2011

RED DRAGON

The Feasibility of a Dragon-derived Mars lander for scientific and human-precursor investigation

John Karcz, Ames Research Center

John Karcz said the starting point for his group's work had been the recognition that it might be possible to take advantage of the commercial spacecraft now in development to be able to do more with a Discovery class budget. The SpaceX capsule, he said, would be used to take people to low-earth orbit; SpaceX would have most of the capabilities needed to put material on Mars. He reported that SpaceX developers had been thinking along these lines. He believed that a substantially unmodified version of the crewed capsule intended for the International Space Station (ISS) could be used for payload transport to Mars. Currently, he said, the 'Icebreaker' concept was a drilling mission that would penetrate a meter or more into the Martian regolith. He noted that Dragon was a dense spacecraft; that is, it had a high ballistic coefficient. He believed Dragon could be used to deliver payloads of one ton or more to the Martian surface. He added that drag must slow the capsule sufficiently for the remainder of descent to be within the propulsion system capabilities.

Scott Hubbard said he thought propulsive entry into the Martian atmosphere was very difficult; all Martian missions to date had used a parachute to slow the rate of descent. John Karcz said the primary technical question was whether Dragon could perform all the necessary EDL (Entry Descent and Landing) functions. He believed a retro-propulsive descent would be possible as the basic approach.

Regarding costs, Dr. Karcz said that SpaceX estimates a cost of $150 million to $190 million for a launch vehicle and lander. The Dragon already has most of the necessary capabilities: sufficient lifetime and resources for a Mars transfer trajectory; atmospheric entry systems capable of guided lifting and highly capable retro-propulsion thruster. Falcon Heavy, he noted, could throw Dragon to Mars. He also noted that Dragon offers a large interior volume. He believed the EDL technology was scalable to large cargo and human landers. Assuming launch by Falcon Heavy, he said, the trunk would separate nears Mars; the capsule would decelerate through retro-propulsive action. The version under discussion would land on its legs.

Larry Lemke, Ames Research Center, said what was foreseen was both similar to and different from other landings. Ballistic coefficient and lift-to-drag determine the change in speed during the dissipative portion of entry. Basically, he said, Dragon's entry characteristics were in the middle of the spectrum of 'where we have been and where we wish to go'-between previous landers and future human-scale landers. Dr. Tapley asked what proportion of the deceleration would be performed retro-propulsively. Lemke said that retro-propulsion would start at supersonic speeds. This approach, he stated, should make it possible to land the capsule at much higher Martian elevations than could be done if a parachute was used. Professor Hubbard asked what sites were being considered; Dr. Karcz said all contemplated sites were in the northern hemisphere. He noted that retro-propulsion had been studied by NASA for human landings.

Addressing current results (slide #12), Dr. Karcz said that a few point cases for EDL had been examined and that they had explored various alternatives around the nominal cases, and that the group was very comfortable that it could put down more than a ton of payload on the selected landing site. He reported that the EDL 'looked okay' at least for the missions under consideration. Other work was continuing: for example, on how to integrate the payload to Dragon.

Dr. Huntress said it was a very interesting concept to pursue, particularly as a human precursor and even as a Discovery concept. He asked if any notion had been developed as to how this could address the decadal recommendations for Mars. Karcz said his group had engaged in preliminary discussion, but had not examined the possibilities carefully. A second team member said that if one considered sample return missions, he doubted a Dragon capsule could do everything one would want. Huntress asked if the group had 'pitched this approach to the human side' of the house. Karcz said the approach addressed a number of matters that the human effort would need to address. Conversation returned to the method of descent. Karcz said the angle of attack in landing would not be controllable; however, the length of the flight path could be altered by rolling and banking. Extending the 'flight path' of descent would in effect, compensate for adjustments in speed. Professor Hubbard asked how the payload would be moved from inside to outside the capsule. This drew the comment that the vehicle had 'a big hatch.' It was noted that the presentation had made reference to a 2006 analysis by Braun and Manning; in response to a question, John Karcz said he had not spoken directly to the authors.

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Thanks so much for all these updates Doc. Will be sure to watch the launch on NASA TV, those always make me cry with pride at all that humanity has achieved :cry:

And this open talk of Red Dragon gives much hope. Could we have at least an unmanned mission by the end of the decade?

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The working dates for Red Dragon are the 2018 to 2020 timeframe. Falcon Heavy has to fly first (2013) then DragonRider (crew Dragon: 2015 to (2017) to prove the launcher and spacecraft. After that figure a 3 year mission cycle before launch.

The big thing in that report that may not be apparent is that Red Dragon's re-entry profile essentially usrs aerobraking - a prolonged re-entry to scrub off speed rather than going directly in. During this braking it would use its Draco's (the smaller ones) to adjust its orientation to steer and further scrub off velocity.

This would be a game-changer in Mars landing technology and a step towards what we need for the large landers needed for manned missions. Note the very important comment about the Red Dragon tech being scalable, which means a much bigger Red Dragon derived set of vehicles; a big crew shop, cargo carriers, habitats etc.

Actually landing Red Dragon would by itself justify the mission, and the core samples would be sauce for the goose.

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SpaceX and Boeing team up to launch a series of next-gen, and much lighter, commsats. Boeing builds the sats, and SpaceX does the launch on Falcon 9. Interesting given Boeing also makes the Delta family of launchers, but SpaceX's Falcon 9 is cheaper.

The problem with the article is that it quotes the Falcon 9 as being 18 stories (180 ft) tall. This is correct for the current Falcon 9 - Block 1 design, but by those launch dates (actually late 2012/early 2013) the Falcon 9 - Block 2 will be flying.

Falcon 9 - Block 2 will be 223 feet tall due to fuel & liquid oxygen tank volume increases needed for the much more powerful Merlin 1D engines. This "stretch" Falcon 9 will also serve as the core for the Falcon Heavy. Big and getting bigger :p

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/13/business/la-fi-satellite-contract-20120314

Boeing, SpaceX satellite deals provide boost to Southland

In an estimated $1-billion boost to the Southland aerospace industry, satellite maker Boeing Co. and rocket firm Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, announced plans to build and launch four satellites for telecommunications firms in Mexico and Hong Kong.

The companies' joint satellite order will help preserve high-paying engineering jobs in the South Bay and throws a lifeline to hundreds of smaller aerospace suppliers feeling an economic pinch with Pentagon and NASA budget cuts on the horizon.

In El Segundo, Boeing will build four minivan-size communication satellites in its million-square-foot complex near Los Angeles International Airport. In nearby Hawthorne, SpaceX makes its 18-story Falcon 9 rockets at a sprawling facility that once housed construction on 747 jumbo jet fuselage sections.

The rocket and satellites will be shipped to SpaceX's launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for launch in late 2014 or early 2015, the companies said.

The deals, announced Tuesday, were made in a joint procurement by regional satellite operators Asia Broadcast Satellite of Hong Kong and Sat?lites Mexicanos of Mexico City.

"Winning an international contract like this really speaks to the competitiveness and innovation of Southern California," said Elon Musk, SpaceX's chief executive and chief technology officer. "It means about $1 billion in revenue will come to L.A."

Craig R. Cooning, general manager of Boeing's space and intelligence systems, also recognized the contracts' importance to the region.

"We're two companies that have been adaptive to the changing marketplace," he said.

For Boeing, the deal represents the first sale of its new 702SP satellite. The spacecraft is a smaller version of the 702HP satellite that the company has sold to the Pentagon and communications giants such as DirecTV.

At launch time, the 702SP will weigh just under 4,000 pounds, as opposed to 13,000 pounds for the larger satellite.

>

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Falcon Heavy's hangar is up:

hangar to the left, below it is the old Titan IV tank farm and to the far right the white is a bit of the new launch pad sticking up. The hangar is about 120 feet wide and 260 feet deep (36.6 x 79.25 m)

Bottom is the flame trench that carries the blast away from the launch pad and quenches it with water. These are typically 60 feet wide and 30-40 feet high (18.29 x 9.15 - 12.2 m)

hangar-1.jpg

flametrench.jpg

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nice pics, and 2018-2020 for Red Dragon is ok but a tad off. i mean if we can have Dragon taking people up to orbit byt 2013, then there's no reason to miss the 2015 launch window.

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Dragon's dry mass is about 4,200 kg and FH is expected to be able to send 17,500 kg to Mars. Even with 1,300 kg of fuel and a couple of tonnes of mission hardware (the proposed hardware isn't very heavy) Falcon Heavy could miss the launch window and still get Red Dragon there with an a 1.5x margin.

Just a tad over-powered, it is.- and if they launch FH from Texas its performance will be even greater since it's closer to the equator than Florida is. This causes a bit of a slingshot effect.

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Wired has a good synopsos of what the Dragon C+ mission tests will be like

(NASA changed the mission name from C2/C3 to C+)

Wired....

SpaceX and NASA are moving ahead with the scheduled April 30 launch date of the Dragon spacecraft and its historic docking with the International Space Station after the flight readiness review was approved at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The comprehensive evaluation of the SpaceX mission is one of the last major steps before the company becomes the first commercial carrier to deliver payloads to the ISS. Although SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk was careful to remind everybody that the flight is a test and success is far from guaranteed.

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(EDIT: talking head stuff)

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The mission will take roughly four days until the Dragon will dock with the space station in orbit and combines two separate tests into a single flight. The capsule will then remain attached to the station for 18 days. The first demonstration test will be a flight around the space station to test and verify maneuverability, navigation and communication capabilities.

On flight day three, the Dragon spacecraft will begin a series of maneuvers that will take it on a lap around the ISS beginning with a relatively close 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) pass underneath the station. During this close pass the Dragon and the ISS will communicate with each other for the first time. ?An absolute requirement for proximity operations,? according to NASA flight director Holly Ridings.

The crew on board the space station will send a test command to Dragon to confirm those on the ISS have the ability to control the capsule when necessary. The communication tests are to make sure the crew would be able to command the Dragon to hold or abort if needed when it is in close proximity to the station.

After the 2.5 km pass, the Dragon will move out to 200 km as it continues the lap. It will then again maneuver closer as it passes over the top of the station, this time getting as close as 7 km. The entire lap should take a full day, 22-24 hours according to Ridings.

On flight day four, the Dragon will once again be guided to 2.5 km underneath the station as preparations are made for the final tests before finally docking with the ISS. Once inside this 2.5 km zone, Ridings says the NASA team in Houston has final authority over the mission due to the proximity to the station and the safety of the crew on board.

The next parking spot will be at 1.4 km as the Dragon prepares for the approach initiation. Once everybody agrees for a go, the Dragon will maneuver to a point just 250 meters (820 feet) from the station, which will serve as its hold point for the final tests in very close proximity to the station. According to NASA, the hold point is outside the critical KOS, the acronym-happy agency?s simply named ?Keep Out Sphere.?

The next demonstration objectives include interaction with the crew on orbit. From the 250 m hold point, the Dragon team at SpaceX?s Hawthorne, California headquarters will issue a command to slowly begin approaching the station, after which the ISS crew will issue a retreat command as the first test. The demonstration will be repeated, this time with the ISS crew issuing a hold command at 220 m.

?That will be the last of our go/no go objectives in terms of the demonstration objective,? according to Ridings.

After these demonstrations are complete and everybody at NASA and SpaceX are satisfied, the Dragon will then make the final maneuvers towards the station. With all the functionality of the Dragon checked out, the spacecraft will be commanded by the SpaceX team to cross the KOS boundary for the first time.

The Dragon will then stop at 30 m, where the go/no-go decision will be made by everybody on the ground as well as the crew on the station to make the final approach. Though the Dragon is an automated spacecraft and is capable of performing the entire mission autonomously, Ridings emphasized that the station crew will be heavily involved and is there as a safety net, especially on the first flight.

After maneuvering to just 10 m from the station, the Dragon will park in its final hold position, known as the capture point. Once a final decision is made for capture, the station crew takes over the final steps using the robotic arm to reach out and grab the Dragon and move into its berthing spot on the station.

The final step of the mission from the 2.5 km point to docking is expected to take around seven to eight hours. On the following day, the station crew begins the laborious cargo transfer as 521 kilograms (1,146 pounds) are offloaded from the Dragon, and 660 kilograms (1,452 pounds) of cargo from the station are placed into the capsule to be returned to earth. Thankfully, it?s mostly the motions that are laborious and not heavy lifting.

Representatives from the NASA side of the review meeting also reminded reporters of the test nature of the mission. But all sounded confident based on the preparation, simulations and tests that have been completed. NASA space station program manager Mike Sufferdini told reporters there are still some verifications that need to be done, but everything is looking good.

Sufferdini said the past few years has been a positive learning experience for both organizations and he?s excited to see a new vehicle arrive at the station. One of the differences during the flight readiness review he pointed to compared to past NASA missions is the bottom line. ?There were no requirements for mission success,? he said. The simple comment in many ways marks NASA?s transition from shouldering the responsibility to deliver payloads to orbit, to a consumer of space delivery services. This point is driven home as today marks the last flight of the space shuttle discovery as it was flown to Washington, D.C., where it will be handed over to the Smithsonian.

SpaceX has one more launch simulation to complete before the launch. Sufferdini said there are some verifications that still need to be completed, but nothing that indicates there should be any issues.

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What ever happened to this thread, that was the only reason i signed up for this forum, please provide more interesting and informing posts DocM :-) your amazing knowledge and insight is always appreciated. Or at least give up some of your sources :-P

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This thread hit my self-imposed 15 page limit and so I started SpaceX Updates Thread 2 here -

http://www.neowin.ne...dates-thread-2/

What other stuff did you have in mind? I have other threads on the various other Commercial Crew participants and other space topics going too, so you might want to check the main Science Discussion & News index.

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Sorry I didn't answer your post, I've never really browsed this forum until now, I can see a lot of other interesting discussion is going on as well, I just found this thread through Google once and kept hanging out ;-)

I'm interested in most spaceflight/exploration stuff, though especially SpaceX. I found the new thread, it seems to cover my SpaceX needs ;-), however it would be be cool if you could make a list of your sources, perhaps in the other thread. I hang around other space related sites, but you always seem to have the information first.

And by the way, thanks for all the insight :-).

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