SpaceX Moon Mission

In a stunning announcement yesterday SpaceX explained that two people had paid significant deposits for a Dragon 2 mission around the moon currently scheduled to launch in 2018.

Using a free return trajectory around the moon the mission will launch from KSC LC-39A atop a Falcon Heavy and then fly around the moon taking the crew further from Earth than any humans have ever been before.  The two crew members will spend seven days in space before returning to Earth either landing back in the ocean or potentially using a propulsive landing back on land.

Elon Musk made the announcement during a telecon that was announced on Sunday, he explained that SpaceX plans to launch the first uncrewed Dragon 2 later this year on a test mission to the International Space Station.  This new mission will not launch until SpaceX has completed the certification of Dragon 2 for NASA.

If SpaceX is able to achieve this schedule then they will do something that hasn’t been done since the last Apollo mission to the moon.  This will also leapfrog them over NASA which is currently looking into adding a crew to the EM-1 mission due to launch sometime in 2018, however it is likely to be delayed especially if they need to make changes to accommodate crew, otherwise the first crewed mission isn’t scheduled until No Earlier Than (NET) 2021.

SpaceX completes Dragon 2 pad abort test

SpaceX completed another CCiCap milestone today with the successful Launchpad Abort Test of there Dragon 2 capsule. The capsules 8 SuperDraco engines propelled the vehicle away from the launchpad to a splashdown in the Atlantic ocean.

The purpose of the test was to verify the design of the launch escape system a critical element for manned space flight.  The capsule carried 270 different sensors to allow NASA and SpaceX to determine the loads on the crew members during the test and many other pieces of information.  They also had a test dummy in one of the seats and weights to simulate a fully crewed vehicle. Once the capsule has been retrieved from the ocean it will be inspected and prepared for the next test which is an in-flight abort test at Max-Q to verify they can escape then if needed.

Most current launch abort systems use a tower attached to the top of the capsule which is then ejected during the launch, SpaceX has opted to build the system into the actual capsule allowing them to provide escape scenarios throughout the flight.

The test came the day after the 54th anniversary of the Alan Shepherd’s Freedom 7 Mercury flight, the SuperDraco engines produced more thrust during the test than the engines on the Freedom 7 rocket.

Below are screenshots of the abort test

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