This weekend SpaceX launched the Falcon9 with the Dragon capsule with a payload bound for the International Space Station. The mission is called #CRS-7 for the seventh cargo resupply mission to the ISS. SpaceX, ROSCOSMOS (Russian space agency) and Orbital Sciences are the only contractors conducting cargo missions to the space station.
There are many experiments and tests conducted as part of these missions. One is quite the challenge and becoming the chatter of space enthusiasts the world over. SpaceX has been attempting to land the Falcon9 ‘first stage’ on to a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean in hopes that they can routinely land boosters and the core stage back on land. The re-usability is critical to achieving a desired return on investment, one of SpaceX’s advantages.
Additional cargo manifest items include the IDA1 or International Docking Adapter, student experiments and supplies for the crew on-board the ISS.
NASA and SpaceX provide an incredible service at KSC to media and other representatives and space fans by allowing access to the launch pad for setting up remote camera’s and taking snapshots and video. Additional access includes but is not limited to touring other facilities, meeting dignatiaries and seeing development and production of many other systems and missions. The final process will include viewing the launch from inside the space center and attending the post-launch press conference.
The following agenda where Media and NASA Social attendees were granted access to Kennedy Space Center to witness Testing, Development, Manufacturing.
Friday: Thermal Protection Systems Facility (TPSF) Operated by Jacobs/NASA, this facility essentially manufactures coatings, materials and insulation tiles to protect spacecraft and aviation systems and components from extreme heat and radiation.
This day included attending a press conference at the Press Site with representatives of development partners including, NASA, CASIS (who will be managing over 30 student experiments in the U.S. National Laboratory. The panel for the ISS Science and Technology Press Conference included;
- Dr. Julie Robinson, chief program scientist, International Space Station, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
- Dr. Michael B. Stenger, principal investigator, Fluid Shifts, Wyle Science Technology and Engineering Group, Houston
- Dr. Alessandro Grattoni, principal investigator, Microchannel Diffusion, Houston Methodist Research Institute, for the Center for the Advancement for Science in Space (CASIS)
- Alex Kipman, technical fellow, Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft
- Jeff Norris, Sidekick Project lead, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The day concluded with a Pre-Launch Press Conference. Kathy Winters of the 45th Weather Squadron said there isn’t a change from the 90% favorable conditions and the seas at the barge landing area are cooperating at 5-7 feet. Mike Suffredini, International Space Station Manager, insured the Media that The International Space Station is ready to accept the Dragon capsule. According to Hans Koenigsmann, VP of Mission Assurance, SpaceX, the Static Fire test was a success today and all systems are go. WeAreGo!
On Saturday attendees visited the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF). An amazing facility where the NORS (Nitrogen and Oxygen Recharge System and the International Docking Adapter.
Sunday: SLC-40 Remote setup and photo shoot at 1am! The mosquito’s were in full force this morning. The media group was ushered in, set up their cameras and took photographs, then were quickly moved out so that processing of the mission could continue.
The morning of the launch, Sunday June 28, started off in a routine way. Media and NASASocial attendees arrived at the press site, as many had spent the night after the 3am wrap-up. Beginning at 9am, the buses started loading up and everyone was off to their destinations – NASA Causeway and the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)- to position their cameras and videography equipment to capture the moment.
My position was atop the VAB provided a broad panoramic view of Kennedy space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The view was astounding and breathtaking. Thirty media representatives set up their equipment and readied for the launch. Many took pictures of each other to capture their moment of excitement for being up 500+ feet.
Everything look good, ignition and liftoff were flawless…..then about 90+ minutes something went wrong and the spacecraft disintegrated. Lost in space! SpaceX will figure out what went wrong and continue on! Let’s not get marred in the details…..leave that to the professionals. We will be ready for the next launch/mission and in position to capture it with our gear.
The mood was somber, the chatter over the photo’s each had on the incident filled the media center. Who had the best shot, what happened, etc.? The Post-Launch press conference was packed full. The only usual panelist not there, and not expected to be, was Hans Koenigsmann of SpaceX. Hans is heading up the investigation. In Hans place via telephone was Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX. By video feed, Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations for NASA. By phone was Pam Underwood, Deputy Division Manager, FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Moderating was Stephanie Schierholz, NASA and along side Stephanie was Mike Suffredini, Manager, Space Station Program Office.
“Up until 139 seconds into to that flight we experienced an anomaly which led to a failure of the mission…… the first stage flight was nominal….. we saw some pressurization indications in the 2nd stage” said Shotwell.
Bill Gerstenmaier said that space travel is a very demanding environment. The ISS is in good shape with food and water. Later Mike Suffredini said the station is good through October and that this weeks Progress mission on July 3rd will probably add another month to that. Lost in the explosion were the international docking adapter, one of two completed, and a space walking suite (EVA Suit). The ISS crew is in no danger, said Gerstenmaier. The loss of this flight will not impact manned flights, we will get stronger from these events, we will learn and move forward. It’s not easy and it’s not routine. The ISS crew has done a tremendous job managing consumables. We have to watch the water filtration bed, a replacement was on this mission. There is a Japanese and Orbital flight later this year.
“We’ve always assumed we would lose a vehicle every so often, spaceflight is very hard. Getting to Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) is extremely challenging. Having three this close together is not what we had hoped for”. Suffredini.
According to Pam Underwood the FAA will not lead or be involved in the investigation, she said the FAA will have oversight and assist where and when needed.
Updated: July 20, 2015 Elon Musk Teleconference.
Elon Musk @SpaceX – A strut holding down a composite helium bottle used to pressurize the second stage broke free inside the tank causing a lot of Helium into the Liquid Oxygen tank. This is the most likely cause of the#CRS7 anamoly. More data being reviewed and more conclusions forthcoming.
Had SpaceX had a software program to deploy Dragons parachutes the capsule would have been saved. The next launch will contain this programming.
The full press report will be posted to SpaceX’s web site.