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SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 Go to Pad 39A for Historic Launch

NASA confirmed that a pre-launch review (LRR) before SpaceX's launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft was concluded on 27 February and that all parties remained "stakeholders" for the historic launch.

The take-off scheduled for 2 March at 2:48 am (0748 UTC) is to allow Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon to launch the launch of Complex 39A ("Pad 39A") and perform last checks before the flight approximately 24 to 48 hours. before the launch. After a lot of hard work over the last few months, SpaceX has also made a number of aesthetic changes to the Pad 39A, giving the historic complex a new set of black and white paintings and a closed tower (FSS).

Falcon 9, Crew Dragon "goes" for launch

After five days of flight readiness review (FRR), the completion of the Readiness Readiness Review effectively means that SpaceX can now proceed to launch operations much like any other mission, launching the rocket and spacecraft to Pad 39A. taking the assembly vertically and ending (relatively) the routine preparations upstream. The engineers and technicians of the SpaceX tablet have already performed a dress rehearsal and a static firing test over the past two months, which means that they've already gained a sizeable experience in the real world working with and using the all-new Crew Dragon spacecraft. its Falcon 9 rocket on a human scale.

This milestone was the best part of the current decade, starting in 2009 or 2010 (according to definitions) with NASA funding dedicated to what would become the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). SpaceX did not start receiving any reward or funding from Crew Dragon until April 2011, when NASA awarded the company $ 75 million to develop the spacecraft's full abandonment system, based on a new Super Draco engine. In August 2012, NASA awarded Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Boeing several hundred million dollars each for further development of their spacecraft and launchers, followed in 2014 by long-term contracts with SpaceX and Boeing aimed at Starliner Vehicles to materialize.

It should be noted that the SpaceX contract was valued at $ 2.6 billion, while Boeing received $ 4.2 billion, an additional 60% to complete the same task. Unfortunately, the US Congress systematically underfunded the CCP during its formative years, largely because of the entrenched political and financial interests of preferentially financing NASA's own SLS rocket and its Orion crew above and beyond. to the detriment of other rocket and spacecraft development initiatives. Insufficient funding likely contributed significantly to the years of subsequent delays by the program and its commercial suppliers, pushing a nominal launch target from 2015 to 2017 before eventually reaching 2018 and finally 2019, largely because of Unsurprising technical challenges faced by each supplier as they entered development phases rich in hardware and testing.

After approximately five to six years of concerted work, SpaceX and NASA are now ready to host the first commercial crew program orbital launch, followed by Boeing's unprepared orbital demonstration of its Starliner. spatialship. For those who have followed the CCP even during part of its saga that has been going on for years, it's more than a little surreal to face the reality that such a milestone is just two days away.

Pad 39A: more than just a fresh layer

At the same time, SpaceX's Pad 39A Leased Launch Complex has undergone significant changes. Originating from NASA's Apollo program, the Pad 39A has supported all but one of the 13 Saturn V launches, and more than 80 space shuttle launches before SpaceX takes over in 2014. In the five years since The company rented the facilities, many changes took place. the apparatus, support facilities and the first metallurgy called service structure, a fixed (FSS) and a rolling (RSS). Aside from a bare skeleton of the RSS hinge, SpaceX has completely removed several hundred tons of Shuttle support material, while the FSS (the rectangular tower resembling a skyscraper) has remained virtually unchanged, except for the Installation of a new level and Crew Dragon's Crew. Access Arm (CAA) on the tower about 110 m (350 ft).

More recently, the company has proceeded with a series of visual modifications distinct from the tower, painting it almost entirely in black with white highlights and installing partially transparent black plexiglass panels along the entire length of at least two or four. three of its four walls. Although the color of the painting is almost certainly motivated by aesthetics (it corresponds to Falcon 9, Crew Dragon and the access arm), the decision to lock all or most of the FSS will probably be very well received by the astronauts and technicians she will end up supporting, especially if SpaceX manages to keep Florida's notorious mosquitoes away.

If the Demonstration of SpaceX's unmanned crew DM-1 Crew Dragon is a success, the company could ensure the first launch with astronauts on board as early as July 2019, officially handing 39A in a spaceflight inhabited and marking the end of more than eight years spent without a national solution for the transport of American astronauts into orbit.

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