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The SpaceX spacecraft is almost ready for the next launch of NASA astronauts



The chief space director shares a photograph of another Crew Dragon spacecraft, which was designed to launch NASA astronauts, and confirmed that the vehicle is almost ready for transport to Florida.

Deep inside the SpaceX rocket factory in Hawthorne, California, the Crew Dragon capsule – considered the C207 – is intended for the company’s (Crew-1) debut with an operational astronaut in the late stages of final integration. The photo provided with the reports confirms that the Dragon crew is almost complete. In addition to the installation of body panels and several other tasks that will be completed after the ship arrives in Florida, the C207 capsule is already fully equipped with a heat shield, windows, Draco controllable nozzles, SuperDraco suppressors, parachute deployment hardware and much more.

According to Benji Reed, director of Crew Mission Management at SpaceX, the debut launch of SpaceX̵

7;s Crew-1 space shuttle will remain on the road to be launched in late September at the earliest. The C207 capsule and its upgraded trunk are reportedly well on their way from California to Florida Florida launch facilities on time to support this schedule, and from now on, they could only head east in about two weeks.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is considered a C207 capsule here, is displayed in May 2020 and is assigned to the Crew-1 crew. (SpaceX)

The only significant (known) difference between the latest SpaceX crew and the spacecraft (C206), which is currently in orbit, is the inclusion of improved solar panels in part of the ship’s trunk.

The tribe section in this photo is the cylindrical right half of the Dragon crew. (NASA)

The aerodynamic cover and mounting adapter for the capsules also have a radiator for thermal control on the rear fuselage and a unique conformal solar field, which supplies the spacecraft with energy in orbit. It is unlikely that the Dragon crew would ever use it, but the suitcase also serves as a pressureless cargo safety device. This will allow Cargo Dragon 2 (based on the dragon’s crew) to carry a much larger external payload to the International Space Station (ISS) when it launches later this year. Prior to retirement in April 2020, the original Cargo Dragon used a similar piece of suitcase to deliver cargo without pressure to the ISS more than ten times.

Cargo Dragon (Dragon 1) is similar in its overall construction, but when inspected in more detail, it is clearly different. (NASA)

According to several NASA and SpaceX comments in the last few months, the only known limit for the first private spacecraft in history to launch astronauts into orbit (the Dragon C201 crew) is the solar cells of its tribe. The current version of the strain, discovered in orbit during a combination of ground testing and Crew Dragon’s debut Demo-1 debut, seems to suffer from gradual degradation of solar cells while slowly reducing the amount of energy that a solar field can produce. Eventually, performance could deteriorate to the point that the Dragon crew would no longer be able to charge their battery efficiently – a catastrophic failure if the astronauts got on board and the spaceship could fly freely.

The time that SpaceX’s Demo-2 Crew Dragon can orbit was actually limited to ~ 120 days by this degradation of solar cells. At the nominal launch of the space flight, the Dragon crew will have to spend at least half a year (~ 180 days) in the ISS docks. Demo-2 was expected to last a few days or weeks at most, so the shortage is minimal, but it necessarily means that a more robust solar field was necessary and just around the corner.

The Falcon 9 B1061 completed a static acceptance test in Texas in April 2020 and arrived in Florida on July 14 for another launch of NASA astronauts. (SpaceX)
The Crew-1’s Merlin Vacuum (MVac) engine – but not the integrated upper stage – completed its own acceptance test at about the same time. (SpaceX)

Once the Crew Dragon C207 capsule arrives in Florida, it attaches to the B1061 Falcon 9 booster and is likely to be joined by a previously digestible top and trunk. Above all, however, SpaceX must safely return the crews of Crew Dragon C206 and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth before it can launch Crew-1. From now on, the spacecraft is scheduled to depart from the ISS on August 1 at 7:34 PM EDT (12:34 UTC), followed by a reentry and crash approximately 18 hours later.

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