Endeavour at Cape, being prepped for next flight

Capitalism in space: Endeavour, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule that was the first to fly two astronauts to ISS, has now arrived at the company’s facility at Cape Canaveral, where it will be inspected, refurbished, and prepped for its next manned flight in the the spring of 2021.

SpaceX teams at Cape Canaveral will remove the exterior panels from the Crew Dragon spacecraft, and begin inspections to assess how the spacecraft weathered its 64-day space mission, according to Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management. “We want to make sure that we kind of dig deep and understand everything that’s gone on with this vehicle, make sure we’re really ready to go, and then do some of the aspects of the refurbishment,” Reed said. “There are some things that we will replace, some things that are standardly replaced, some things that we want to upgrade based on lessons learned, or that were already planned in work.”

SpaceX will still need to build a new trunk for each Crew Dragon mission. The trunk is an unpressurized module mounted to the rear of the Crew Dragon capsule, providing electrical power with solar arrays, and radiators to maintain steady temperatures inside the spaceship.

I guarantee the company will use what it learns in this inspection to improve later Dragon manned capsules. Right now they plan on from 5 to 10 flights per capsule. Since their contract right now only calls for six flights, that likely means the company only needs to build at most three to cover this NASA contract. However, NASA is certain to extend that contract, since six flights will only cover about two to three years, and ISS will be manned longer than that. Moreover, SpaceX has at least two tourist flights booked, so that calls for additional capsules as well.

Either way, we must shift our thinking. These might only be Dragon capsules, but they each get a name because each will fly more than once. It is thus appropriate to use that name instead of just calling them Dragon.

Endeavour safely splashes down

Splashdown of Endeavour

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Endeavour Dragon capsule has successfully splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, returning two humans back to Earth safely after completing the first two month long manned commercial space mission.

If you go to the live stream to watch recovery operations, note that the boats and ships and persons involved are all property and employees of SpaceX. This is entirely an operation of the private company. The government is not involved, other than NASA’s justified monitoring as SpaceX’s customer.

One cool tidbit for the future. Endeavour is scheduled to fly again, in the spring of 2021. On that flight will be Megan McArthur, the wife of astronaut Bob Behnken, and she will likely sit in the same place he did on his flight.

Live stream of Dragon undocking and splashdown

SpaceX is providing full coverage of the undocking of Dragon from ISS through splashdown tomorrow. I have embedded this below the fold if my readers wish to watch.

The undocking window opens at 7:34 pm (Eastern), with spashdown set for 2:41 pm (Eastern) tomorrow.

If the video is not of the live stream for the splashdown, refresh your browser.
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The fabled yacht Endeavour

An evening pause: Endeavour was built in 1934 in England in an attempt to win the America’s Cup from the U.S. It failed, but according to this Wikipedia page came closer than anyone until Australia II finally took the cup from the U.S. in 1983.

Hat tip Cotour, who notes that “the interior was rumored to cost about $1.2 million.”

To get the space shuttle Endeavour to its new home in Los Angeles city officials have decided to cut down about 400 trees along the route.

The future dies to exhibit the past: To get the space shuttle Endeavour to its new home in Los Angeles city officials have decided to cut down about 400 trees along the route.

Several alternatives for the Oct. 12 move were considered but ultimately discarded. Taking the massive shuttle apart would have damaged the delicate tiles that acted as heat sensors. Airlifting the 170,000-pound craft was also ruled out. Not even heavy-duty helicopters could sustain that kind of weight, Rudolph said. A freeway route was considered until engineers realized that the five-story-tall, 78-foot-wide shuttle could not travel under overpasses. “We had to identify a route that had no permanent infrastructures like buildings and bridges,” Rudolph said.

They settled on a final route that will follow Manchester Boulevard to Crenshaw Drive, then onto Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard — wide thoroughfares with few permanent obstacles. To make way for the shuttle, some trees will be pruned, power lines will be raised and traffic signals will be removed. Inglewood will lose 128 trees, and communities in South Los Angeles about 265 trees, though the exact number has not yet been determined.

Normally I wouldn’t sweat over the removal of some trees, but this is quite disgusting. It once again raises questions about the choice of Los Angeles over Houston for a shuttle.

Gouges and dings found on the tiles on Endeavour’s belly

Seven damage sites, mostly small gouges and dings, have been found on the tiles on Endeavour’s belly.

“This is not cause for alarm, it’s not cause for any concern,” said [LeRoy Cain, chairman of NASA’s Mission Management Team]. “We know how to deal with these things in terms of how to assess them. We know that if we get to the point where we need some more data for our assessment, we have a plan for going and doing that.”

If you schedule a launch they will come

We arrived at Space View Park in Titusville at around 9 pm, bringing with us camp chairs, a softside cooler with food, cameras, tripods, and light jackets. I also brought a light fleece sleeping bag for additional warmth. Even though it was still twelve hours before launch, the entire shoreline was occupied by a line of people either sitting or lying on blankets or pads. Back from the water and under the trees there were more than a dozen small tents set up.

We found a spot where the line was only one deep and set up our chairs. In front of us were a group of Floridians who had never seen a launch up close, though they told us how they had often watched shuttle launches from their front door. As one of them said, “There won’t be many more chances to see this, so we decided we better come down.”

Also set up in the park under a tarp was a electronic setup with television feeds and speakers linked to NASA TV, run by the Space Walk of Fame Foundation, a volunteer organization that maintains Space View Park and the monuments to space that are on display there.

Christmas lights and VAB

Looking east out across the Indian River was Merritt Island, with the launchpad lit up like a Christmas tree eleven miles distant. To the right was the VAB.
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The launch

After fifty years of following space, I finally saw a big rocket launch today. Below is one of the pictures I took of Endeavour as it roared into the sky.

The experience was immensely satisfying, to put it mildly. Watching the shuttle rise up on a column of flame and smoke made me feel young again, my heart racing with excitement. Then Endeavour disappeared into the clouds, and we stood waiting for the roar of liftoff to travel the eleven miles to us. The long wait made this experience far different from what one sees on television. Then the rumble arrived, deep and low, but not as loud as I expected. One experienced launch-watcher explained that the low clouds and humidity might have muffled the sound. Bob Rose said that it was what he expected for this location, and that my expectations were based on those who experienced the launch from the press site at three miles. I think Bob is almost certainly right.

Later today I will put up a longer post, describing what it was like to stand among like-minded space nuts who had traveled from far and wide to see a crew of humans leave the Earth’s gravity and help trace a warm line of life across barren space.

Endeavour's launch

At Space View Park

We have now set up at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida. The picture below shows what we found when we went by earlier today to scout out the location. As you can see, several people were already there. There were also people who had put up tents, as well as two food vendors.

The launchpad is the tiny spike visible on the horizon directly at the end of the pier. You can also see the VAB to the right.

Space View Park

On the way to the Cape

As I write this I am sitting in the back seat of Bob & Brenda Rose’s minivan as we drive down to Florida for Monday’s shuttle launch. We plan to arrive at Space View Park in Titusville around 8 pm Sunday to claim a good location for seating, waiting, and watching the launch. We will be about 11 miles away, but this park is considered one of the better locations for the general public, with a clear view of the launchpad.

Stay tuned for more updates!

NASA Endeavour Shuttle Launch Delayed

The Daily Beast reports today that the last flight of the shuttle Endeavour has been delayed due to a schedule conflict with a Russian Progress freighter.

Note that this has not yet been confirmed by NASA.

Update from spaceref: NASA has rescheduled Endeavour’s launch for April 29.

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