Dragon capsule for first manned mission shipped to Florida

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Capitalism in space: SpaceX yesterday shipped to Florida the Dragon capsule it will use for its first manned mission, now set for sometime between April and June.

No official word yet on any specific launch date, though there are reports that they are targeting May 7.

In that same story at the second link a NASA official admitted that one of the big issues is filling out the paperwork.

“Even though it sounds mundane, there is a load of paper that has to be verified, and signed off, and checked to make sure we’ve got everything closed out,” [said chief of human spaceflight Doug Loverro.] “It is probably one of the longest things in the tent to go ahead and do. It’s underappreciated but critically important. You’ve got to make sure you’ve done everything you need to do along the way.”

Properly documenting what you are doing is always essential, but if you over do it you raise costs unnecessarily while simultaneously delaying things. And isn’t it interesting that both of these issues — budget overruns and scheduling delays — have been systemic on all of NASA’s projects for decades?

Furthermore, while good documentation can help prevent problems and help you figure out what went wrong, when things go wrong, doing more of it will not further reduce problems or failures. If anything, too much paperwork will likely increase mistakes by focusing workers on the wrong things. This seems to be one of NASA’s problems in recent years.

Regardless, it does look like that first privately built launch will happen in mere months. The one decision remaining that could legitimately delay it would be if NASA decides to make it a longer mission, requiring more training for its astronauts.


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  • sippin_bourbon


    Pushed back.
    This was originally in March.
    Now May.
    There was talk about re-aligning the mission to include a rendezvous with ISS.
    No info that I can see that this has been included, and this is why the later date.
    On the flip side, nothing like the Starliner issues indicating that they have problems with Dragon either.

    At the rate they are pushing, Starliner will be ready to launch again before Dragon is launched.

    The cynic in me believes that was the plan originally, to delay Dragon, and give Boeing the first manned launch. However, they tripped over their .. er..um.. feet.

  • sippin_bourbon: That so-called March date was theorized last year, before the launch abort test, and was thus not to be taken very seriously.

    In the press conference after that launch abort test, Musk was very clear, stating that he expected the launch in the second quarter of this year. This new date fits that prediction quite nicely.

  • Probably apocryphal, but I’ve heard that launching a shuttle took a million signatures.

    Pushing an Airbus A320 back from the gate requires (I believe) three signatures.

    The optimum answer for a spacecraft is somewhere in between.

  • V-Man

    The important thing is that no one in particular be blamed if something goes wrong, because the paperwork has been filled correctly, don’t you know?

    Can’t have anyone’s pension at risk.

  • John

    How exactly do they ship this thing?

  • John: I can’t answer your question from direct knowledge. I imagine however the capsule is small enough that they can put it on a flatbed truck and drive it on ordinary roads.

    If someone knows more, please speak up.

  • Brian

    John it is shipped USPS Flat Rate Space Capsule Box. No, but seriously they actually shrink wrap it, to keep it as close to a clean room environment as possible and put it in a special crate and loaded on a flat bed semi truck and shipped with other vehicles escorting it. That’s also how all of the cargo dragons are shipped from Hawthorne CA to the Cape in FL.

  • John

    Thanks for the reply on shipping. I thought they would be too wide for a truck, but I guess they ship prefab houses. I was always curious. Is that how they ship the boosters? I know they are larger, or do they build them on site?

  • Ray Van Dune

    Boosters are shipped via a special carriage that basically cradles the booster as if it were a semi-trailer. Very large but highway legal and escorted by other vehicles. Has rear-wheel steering for maneuvering on secondary roads to and from highway, I believe. Boosters, landing legs, second stage and payload/capsule are horizontally integrated on-site.

  • Ray Van Dune

    By the way, saw latest episode from Scott Manley on Boeing boo-boos. No good news. But also showed a side-by-side graphic of Atlas V + Starliner vs. Falcon 9 + Dragon. First I have seen, and Falcon-Dragon is substantially taller and wider. Assume that is because Atlas can use from one to five solid rocket boosters (uses 1 for Starliner), and Falcon also needs extra propellant capacity for re-landing.

    But Falcon can use 3-wide boosters in Falcon Heavy config, which Scott says can substitute for SLS in Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter. SLS is on life-support IMHO, or should be.

  • wayne

    Great shipping factoids, gentlemen!

    this is very informative—->

    How does SpaceX transport the Falcon 9?
    Primal Space 2018

  • Richard M

    Ray Van Dune,

    “But Falcon can use 3-wide boosters in Falcon Heavy config, which Scott says can substitute for SLS in Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter.”

    It can, though it takes longer, and it would need an Earth gravity assist.

    It takes an SLS Block 1 about 2.5 to 3 years to get a payload to reach Jupiter on a direct trajectory. A Falcon Heavy would take about 6 years, at last check, with a Star 48 solid kick stage. (For the record, BTW, a Delta IV Heavy could get it to Jupiter, too, but it would need two Earth gravity assists and one Venus gravity assist, requiring additional thermal shielding – taking a little over 7 years to reach Jupiter.)

    So the question is, is saving three years of flight time worth an extra $1.5 billion (give or take)? Especially if the Europa Clipper has to sit in a JPL clean room for a couple years waiting for that SLS launcher? Faster travel time certainly reduces risk, but cost matters, too.

    We all know why Europa Clipper was originally slated to fly on SLS, and it wasn’t because of the faster travel time.

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