Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2007
SpaceX has successfully completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) for its first Falcon 9 / Dragon mission as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program. During a three day period, SpaceX hosted a group of over forty top level NASA representatives and key SpaceX customers for a review of the design of the Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon spacecraft and associated ground systems for the first COTS demonstration mission.
Three weeks prior to the review, SpaceX submitted more than 480 design documents to NASA for detailed review by its experts. At the review, twenty six speakers gave thirty two presentations on over two dozen different topics including aerodynamics, propulsion, communication, ground processing, flight operations, recovery and more. The event was held in the 60 ft tall high bay at SpaceX's new 550,000 square foot (51,000 sq. m.) headquarters in Hawthorne, California, a facility formerly used to build Boeing 747 fuselage sections. On display were several pieces of Falcon 9 hardware and tooling, a full sized engineering model of the Dragon spacecraft, and the new Merlin 1C engine developed by SpaceX. During the event, all comments and questions raised by NASA's experts were satisfactorily addressed by the SpaceX design team, which resulted in official NASA approval. With this, SpaceX continues its track record of meeting all COTS milestones on schedule.
"In terms of overall design maturity of the Falcon 9 project, we are well ahead of the curve for a program of this size," said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. "Few CDRs feature multiple hardware items in fabrication, assembly, integration and test phases."
The Dragon spacecraft is designed to transport up to seven astronauts, as well as both pressurized and unpressurized cargo, to Earth orbit and back. The architecture allows for berthing/docking with the International Space Station, as well as private space stations that may come into being. As part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 with a cargo carrying Dragon spacecraft on a series of three demonstration missions to the International Space Station, culminating with the delivery of supplies to the $100 billion dollar orbiting laboratory. SpaceX intends to demonstrate its launch, maneuvering, berthing and return abilities by 2009 -- a year before NASA has scheduled the conclusion of Space Shuttle operations.
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of both manned and unmanned space transportation ultimately by a factor of ten or more. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, SpaceX is able to offer light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any inclination and altitude, from low Earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions.
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