Dragon 2 static fire tests scheduled for November


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Dragon 2 static fire tests scheduled for November

SpaceX is one of two companies creating new manned spacecraft to deliver astronauts to the ISS. NASA has not launched people into space on its own since 2011, when the last space shuttle flight took place. At that time, it was assumed that new manned ships would appear by the end of 2015. However, when contracts for their development with SpaceX and Boeing were signed in 2013, the date of the first flight has already moved to 2017. In the early years, the program was underfunded, and, in addition, along its entire length, it was accompanied by technical difficulties. As a result, SpaceX's Dragon 2 completed its first unmanned flight in March 2019. Boeing planned a similar test flight for its Starliner in December. Flights of new ships with astronauts on board should begin in 2020.

Before the first launch of people into space SpaceX, two problems must be solved.

The first of these is in-flight emergency rescue system (CAC) tests. The Dragon 2 test model will be installed on the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which starts from the launch site at Cape Canaveral. Passing the stage of maximum aerodynamic drag, the rocket will transmit an alarm signal. The ship will have to separate from it and quickly fly off to a safe distance using the engines of the automatic rescue system, and then land in the ocean.

It was assumed that for this test, the ship returned from space in March will be used. On April 20, static fire tests of the ship's propulsion system, which consists of eight SuperDraco engines combined in pairs, were to be held, but they did not go according to plan. The ship exploded even before the inclusion of SuperDraco. Further investigation revealed that the accident occurred 100 milliseconds before the engines were ignited. SpaceX believes that a leak has occurred, as a result of which the oxidizing agent has entered the high pressure helium pipelines. The oxidizing agent (nitrogen tetroxide) passed through the non-return valve at high speed during preparation for starting the engines. The interaction of a valve made of titanium with a medium of nitrogen tetraoxide at high pressure provoked ignition.

The design of the fuel system of the ship was amended. Instead of check valves, it was decided to use valves with a bursting safety membrane, which completely exclude the possibility of the penetration of fuel components in the opposite direction.

The need to pass the test program, however, has not gone away. Tonight SpaceX published a video of a test engine start Dragon 2. Static fire tests of the ship are planned in early November at a training ground in Florida. If they are successful, in December we can expect tests of SAS in flight.

In both tests, the ship with serial number C205 will be used. Initially, it was created for the first manned flight. Now for these purposes, the C206 is being created, which should be sent to Florida for final assembly at the end of this year.

The second problem SpaceX needs to solve before manned flights begins is with parachutes. During tests of the second iteration of the parachute system (Mk2), problems arose that caused NASA concern. As a result, SpaceX decided to use a new version of the parachutes on the manned ship – Mk3. It uses slings made of zeylon, a more durable analogue of nylon.

The minimum test campaign for new parachutes will include 10 helicopter discharges, which must be completed before the end of the year. SpaceX and NASA reckon that these flights, along with the data accumulated during previous tests, will be enough to certify the system. However, if the results of the discharges are mixed, the test program will have to be expanded.

After testing milestones on the ship’s systems, it will take time to certify the manned system at NASA. With optimistic developments, the first manned flight of Dragon 2 will take place in the first quarter of next year. According to the basic plan, it should last two weeks, but NASA is considering using this mission to rotate the ISS crew. In this case, the ship will stay at the station for about six months.

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