SpaceX targets December for launch abort test, early 2020 for 1st manned Dragon mission

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According to SpaceX officials, the company is aiming to perform its Dragon launch abort test before the end of this month, and then follow-up with the first manned Dragon mission to ISS in early 2020.

“We’re targeting December,” said [Jessica Jensen, director of Dragon Mission Management at SpaceX] today (Dec. 3) during a news conference discussing tomorrow’s (Dec. 4) planned launch of a robotic Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS). “We’ll see if we can get there.”

SpaceX holds a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS using Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9. The capsule has already visited the orbiting lab once, on the landmark uncrewed Demo-1 mission this past March. If everything goes well with the [launch abort test], the company will be cleared for the first crewed mission — a test flight known as Demo-2 that will carry NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

Demo-2 is targeted for early 2020, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said. Contracted, operational ISS flights would follow shortly thereafter.

NASA officials have repeatedly said that early 2020 is too soon because of the paperwork that SpaceX has to complete prior to launch. It could be that Musk is gently applying pressure on them here to speed up this make-work so that the real business of spaceflight can proceed.



  • David M. Cook

    Paperwork!?!? Are you kidding me? Imagine Apollo managers failing to make the deadline due to lack of paperwork! When Dragon gets people into orbit, my response will be ”It‘s about time!“.

  • Mike Borgelt

    ”It‘s about time!“

    Good name to paint on the first manned flight capsule.

  • Edward

    David M. Cook asked: “Paperwork!?!? Are you kidding me?

    No kidding. Having the paperwork covers the buttocks of those in charge and those doing the work. Released paperwork shows that the vehicle is ready for a safe launch and why they think it is safe. It is necessary before a launch readiness review, a meeting that generates more paper that assures everyone that the system and operators are ready for the mission to begin, and that everything is in place to assure a safe and successful mission.

    Imagine what would have happened if Apollo 13, Challenger, or Columbia had launched without a readiness review or the fatal Apollo 1 test had taken place without a readiness review. The outcry that NASA was being careless would have been deafening.

    So NASA leaves a paper trail that covers everyone’s bottom. When things go wrong — and they do — there is documentation as to what they had expected and why they expected it, and it is a good starting point for improving the problems for the next time. Otherwise they are just winging it.

    Should the paperwork take a long time to complete? Probably not, but NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (established the year after Apollo 1) has raised a number of concerns that need to be addressed, and they had not been satisfied with previous attempts to address some of them, and this may take some time. SpaceX and NASA (and Boeing) are trying to document that the commercial manned spacecraft and their missions are safe and why they believe them to be safe. Thus, paperwork.

  • Michael

    ”It‘s about time!“ Excellent name for the first manned Dragon. Second the motion. Someone should to get this to Elon…I’m sure it would appeal to his sense of humor.

    We used to fly into JSC for Shuttle flight readiness reviews. While I certainly accept the need for such it always amused me that I was pretty sure the plane that got me there would not pass a similar review.

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