SpaceX given green light to launch Crew-3 mission to ISS, Crew-2’s return date set

Having completed the Flight Readiness Review for the United States Crew Vehicle 3 (USCV-3) mission,… The post SpaceX given green light to launch Crew-3 mission to ISS, Crew-2’s return date set appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

SpaceX given green light to launch Crew-3 mission to ISS, Crew-2’s return date set

Having completed the Flight Readiness Review for the United States Crew Vehicle 3 (USCV-3) mission, NASA, ESA, JAXA, and SpaceX teams have given the green light for Crew-3 to launch on October 31 at 02:21 EDT (06:21 UTC) and for Crew-2 to return to Earth no earlier than November 4. 

Crew-3 will mark SpaceX’s fifth crewed mission and their third operational crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). If this launch window is met, the crew will dock with the ISS on November 1 at 00:10 EDT (04:10 UTC).

Flight Readiness Review

Crew-3 is the eighth Crew Dragon mission, following the Pad Abort Test, DM-1, In-Flight Abort, DM-2, Crew-1, Crew-2, and Inspiration4 missions. Crew-3 will launch NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Kayla Barron along with ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. The crew will remain on the ISS for roughly six months — when the Crew-4 astronauts will replace them.

Originating with NASA during the Space Shuttle era, the FRR, or Flight Readiness Review, is the most important “go” for launch decision point before the countdown. It has now become an industry standard. For the commercial crew program, NASA mandates that an FRR involving all entities be conducted.

The review started early on Monday morning, October 25, with the Crew-3 astronauts. NASA started the tradition of opening all FRRs with the crew, helping to ensure that no corners will be cut during the process. As Crew-3 is already SpaceX’s fifth crewed mission, NASA and SpaceX have emphasized the culture of learning from flights, going as far as saying “don’t ever assume you know what’s going to happen with the vehicle.” These processes help ensure that teams do not get complacent and that the missions are as safe as possible.

The Crew-3 astronauts during emergency launch pad evacuation training at the Kennedy Space Center in mid-2021. Left to right: Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, Matthias Maurer, and Thomas Marshburn. (Credit: SpaceX)

After the review, teams unanimously polled “go” to launch to the ISS, where the Crew Dragon Endurance will dock to the forward port at IDA-2 on the Harmony module. 

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  • Despite polling “go”, there is one open item that must be closed out before Crew-3 can launch. During the Inspiration4 mission, a urine tube came unglued from the waste tank, which allowed urine to get into the fan system. While this had no impact on the Inspiration4 crew, teams have addressed the problem.

    SpaceX welded the tube to the waste tank so it can no longer disconnect. SpaceX has completed all structural analysis and testing of the new design and has sent the data to NASA, which still has to complete its review; once they deem the fix as safe, they will close out the issue.

    The fact that teams polled “go” even with this open item is a show of confidence in the reviews so far and an indication that this issue will be fully wrapped up at the L-2 day Launch Readiness Review.

    After noticing this problem on Inspiration4, SpaceX and NASA teams decided to check the Crew-2 Dragon, Endeavour. They found that that urine tube had also disconnected on  and had leaked under the floor. However, this problem had not been noticed earlier as Crew-2 only relies on the Waste Management System (WMS) on-board Dragon during free-flight, using the station’s WMS during all other portions of the mission. However, as Inspiration4 used Dragon’s WMS for all three days of its flight, the problem was more apparent.

    To ensure the leaked urine doesn’t endanger the Crew-2 astronauts during reentry, SpaceX conducted a large number of tests and analyses on the ground, including placing Oxone urine (Oxone is placed in urine aboard Dragon to reduce ammonia) next to the aluminum that is used on Dragon in a controlled environment to mimic the conditions aboard the ISS. 

    SpaceX and NASA found that the contamination posed no risk to the crew, in large part due to the corrosion-resistant aluminum used on Dragon.

    Consistent with the culture of “learn from flying,” several other changes have been made to Crew Dragon Endurance for this mission; in the highly unlikely event of all three of Dragon’s flight computers failing during reentry, Dragon now has a fourth fully redundant computer that can control the vehicle. This ensures that landing success and accuracy remain the same under extreme failure scenarios, further increasing Crew Dragon’s safety.

    SpaceX has also made minor changes to the stitching on Dragon’s drogue parachutes. During post-flight inspections of Crew Dragon  after Crew-1, teams noticed localized ribbon damage due to a debris strike on one of the drogue parachutes. The new stitching should further reinforce the parachute lines.

    Additionally, Crew Dragon Endurance will refly Dragon’s nose cone for the first time, debut additional cleaning processes to reduce potential FOD (Foreign Object Debris), return to an earlier propulsion system seal which performed better than a newer design, debut a software change to mitigate radiation interference on communications, and showcase enhanced docking procedures to reduce interference while docking to the ISS.

    With the FRR milestone passed, SpaceX will now conduct a static fire of the Falcon 9 on Wednesday around 23:00 EDT (03:00 UTC on Thursday). The day after, the crew will conduct the dry dress rehearsal.

    Crew-3 Launch

    The Crew-3 mission will launch in a brand new capsule, C210 Endurance, and on a flight-proven Falcon 9 Block 5, B1067-2. B1067 has flown one previous time, on the CRS-22 mission which launched on June 3, 2021.

    Falcon 9 and Dragon were integrated on October 25 inside the packed Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at LC-39A. In addition to the Falcon 9 and Dragon, the HIF contains three Falcon Heavy cores: B1064, B1065, and B1066, which will be used on the upcoming USSF-44 mission.

    The rocket’s static fire, which will take the rocket through an entire countdown, fueling, and pressurization sequence up until the moment of liftoff, will not take place with the crew onboard.

    Final crew practice will instead take place the day after the static fire when SpaceX will conduct the dry dress rehearsal. As the name implies, the dry dress rehearsal is a full run-through of launch-day operations, done without fueling the rocket, to ensure the astronauts and the launch team are ready for the events on launch day.

    The Crew-3 mission is currently set to launch on October 31 at 02:21 EDT (06:21 UTC). The launch has an instantaneous window.

    The Falcon 9 first stage burn will last approximately two and a half minutes. The stages will then separate before the MVacD engine ignites. The second stage will then burn for roughly six minutes and 10 seconds before shutting down.

    Meanwhile, B1067-2 will conduct two burns: a reentry burn and a landing burn. These burns will bring the Falcon 9 first stage to a soft touch down on one of SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships (ASDS) roughly 540 km offshore.

    After second engine cut-off, Dragon will stay attached to the second stage for approximately three minutes to check its attitude and rotation rates and allow the vehicle’s remaining propellants to settle in the second stage tanks.

    If everything is nominal, Dragon will then be deployed to perform several phasing burns to raise its orbital altitude to that of the ISS. Dragon will then dock to the station roughly 22 hours after launch, at 00:10 EDT (04:10 UTC) on Monday, November 1.

    (Lead image: Crew Dragon Endurance arrives in the HIF at LC-39A for integration to the Falcon 9 rocket ahead of the Crew-3 mission. Credit: SpaceX)

    The post SpaceX given green light to launch Crew-3 mission to ISS, Crew-2’s return date set appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

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    Japan launches H-IIA with QZS-1R satellite

    Japan’s H-IIA rocket launched on October 26 at 02:19 UTC from LA-Y1 at the Tanegashima… The post Japan launches H-IIA with QZS-1R satellite appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

    Japan launches H-IIA with QZS-1R satellite

    Japan’s H-IIA rocket launched on October 26 at 02:19 UTC from LA-Y1 at the Tanegashima Space Center, carrying the QZS-1R satellite. This was 44th launch of the H-IIA rocket for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). For the mission, the H-IIA launched in the 202 configuration.

    QZS-1R

    The QZS-1R satellite will join other satellites as a part of the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System, or QZSS, which is a satellite navigation system for Japan. Once QZS-1R becomes operational, it will be known as Michibiki-1R. The payload has a mass of around 4,100 kg.

    The first QZSS satellite to launch to orbit was QZS-1, or Michibiki-1. The satellite launched in September 2010 on an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima. This was an experimental satellite.

    This was followed by QZS-2, QZS-3, and QZ-4. QZ-3 launched using the H-IIA in the 204 configuration, meaning four solid rocket boosters, instead of two. The other three launched on an H-IIA in the same 202 configuration being used for QZS-1R.

    The QZSS constellation is designed to improve the accuracy of the American GPS constellation for Japanese users in urban areas. The QZS-1R satellite will replace the QZS-1 Satellite.

    H-IIA

    H-IIA QZS-1R Updates
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  • The H-IIA rocket is a medium-lift launch vehicle derived from Japan’s earlier H-II launch vehicle. The H-II was developed by both Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and JAXA’s predecessor, NASDA. The launch vehicle first flew in February 1994 and had a total of seven launches. The last two launches ended in a partial failure and a failure.

    After the last launch in 1999, the H-II rocket was canceled due to both failures and high costs from the H-II program. Designs were then modified in order to design a more reliable and cost-effective H-IIA rocket.

    The first stage of the H-IIA consists of a core stage with a single LE-7A engine, which is a staged combustion cycle engine that runs on liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen (LH2). A previous model of the LE-7A called the LE-7 was used on the first stage of the H-II rocket and led to the failure of H-II flight eight, the last flight of the H-II.

    Two SRB-A solid rocket boosters, which burn hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene or HTPB are attached to the core stage. The H-IIA launch vehicle had one failure in 2003 on flight six, which was caused by a separation failure on one of the SRB-A boosters.

    The second stage of the H-IIA is powered by a single LE-5B engine, which runs on LOX and LH2. Previous variants of this engine were used on the H-II and the H-I.

    The H-IIA Flight 44 vehicle in final assembly at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. (Credit: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries)

    The previous launch of the H-IIA occurred in November 2020, lofting the JDRS-1 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. That same year, the H-IIA was used to launch the Al Amal probe to Mars for the United Arab Emirates.

    Tanegashima Space Center

    On August 22, the core stage of the H-IIA rocket arrived at the Tanegashima Space Center for flight 44. The Tanegashima Space Center is located on Tanegashima island and is part of the Osumi Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture, south of the Japanese mainland.

    As launch neared, the launch vehicle was assembled vertically in the vehicle assembly building, located at the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima. The Yoshinobu Launch Complex also consists of two launch pads, LA-Y1 and LA-Y2.

    LA-Y1 is the oldest launch pad at the launch complex, which is used to launch the H-IIA type of rocket. The first launch from this pad was in 1994 on an H-II rocket.

    LA-Y2 is the newest pad at the Yoshinobu Launch Complex and was used to launch the H-IIB until the rocket’s retirement in 2020.

    Final assembly of the H-IIA rocket took place inside the vehicle assembly building. (Credit: Government of Japan)

    Prior to launch, the H-IIA rolled out from the vehicle assembly building and was transported to LA-Y1 on a mobile launch platform.

    Launch

    Just prior to liftoff, the LE-7A engine on the core stage ignited, followed by ignition of the twin SRB-A side boosters. The vehicle then lifted off from LA-Y1.

    The H-IIA rolled to its launch azimuth to take the payload to its proper inclined orbit. Around 91 seconds after launch, both SRB-A boosters burnt out and subsequently separated 17 seconds later.

    The first stage, under the power of its single LE-7A, continued to ascend. Next, the payload fairing, which encapsulated the QZ-1R payload from the aerodynamic stress of launch, separated from the vehicle at around 4 minutes and 10 seconds after liftoff.

    The H-IIA also launched the Al Amal probe to Mars. (Credit: Mack Crawford for NSF/L2)

    At the six-minute and 38-second mark into the flight, the LE-7A main engine shut down at a point in the mission known as main engine cut-off, or MECO. The second stage separated from the first around eight seconds later.

    Six seconds later, the LE-5B engine ignited, beginning its first burn lasting around five minutes. At the conclusion of the first burn, the second stage began a coast phase.

    The LE-5B then reignited for a burn that lasted for around three minutes. This burn inserted the stage and the payload into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. The QZS-1R satellite then separated from the second stage and began maneuvering to join the rest of the QZSS constellation.

    (Lead image: An H-IIA in the vehicle assembly building prior to rolling out to launch Al Amal in 2020. Credit: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries)

    The post Japan launches H-IIA with QZS-1R satellite appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

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