NASA announced earlier this week through its Commercial Crew Blog that SpaceX has completed testing of SuperDraco propulsion system.
“The propulsion system SpaceX would use to power its Crew Dragon out of danger has been test-fired 27 times as the company refines the design for the demands of operational missions carrying astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX evaluated the system utilizing various thrust cycles on a test stand at its McGregor, Texas, rocket development facility.”
In other SpaceX news, Elon Musk remains confident that his company will achieve a first stage landing within the coming year. Speaking to the Motley Fool, Musk predicted:
“We haven’t yet achieved it. I think what we’ve done thus far is evolutionary — not revolutionary,”…”I think we’re within, sort of, shooting distance of this. I think within the next year, we’ll be able to land the rocket intact.”
For the moment, taking off in the first place is the main concern, as the company is seeking to move beyond the June 28th Falcon 9 second stage explosion that doomed the NASA/CRS-7 resupply mission. A return to flight with the upgraded Falcon 9 V1.2 is still expected sometime before the end of the year. On October 16th, Orbcomm announced that the launch of its OG2 mission, which will be the full-power Falcon’s debut, would occur within the next “six to eight weeks.”
It will be quite a bit longer however, until the SuperDrago gets to show its real power as part of a one of its kind in-flight abort test. NASA announced on July 1st that SpaceX was delaying the test until after the company flies an uncrewed Commercial Crew Dragon on an orbital mission in late 2016. SpaceX will then re-use that Dragon for the in-flight abort test.