Highlights From SpaceX FISO Presentation

SpaceX lead astronaut Garrett Reisman gave a presentation to NASA’s Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group on Wednesday. The presentation, entitled “Commercial Spaceflight” is available here in PDF on the FISO archives. The audio is here.

While the talk does not reveal any significant new developments, it did shed a little more light on a number of issues, as well as just how important Commercial Crew is to SpaceX’s long term goals.

Presentation Highlights:

Business: SpaceX has been profitable for the last 4 years. Although government revenue constitutes more than 50% of its overall revenues, in terms of the launches themselves, 65% of the manifest is commercial.

Dragon V2:  The crew carrying  Dragon which was formally unveiled in May, is indeed comprised of operational components, and not a display as some had suggested. The primary structure is currently undergoing structural tests as part of the Dragon Primary Structural Qualification, which is milestone #14 under CCiCap.

The outer shell will be included on the pad abort test vehicle.  As for that shell, the black areas, as most people are aware, are the PICA-X heat resistant tiles currently making up the heat shield of the cargo Dragon. The white components are another homegrown product; SPAM, or SpaceX Proprietary Ablative Material.

Any Dragon V2 under NASA contract will a new vehicle, and will descend by parachute to dry land, with a brief deceleration burn immediately before touchdown. Shock attenuating legs will provide the final cushion. Targeted landing for abort are off Halifax Nova Scotia, and Shannon, Ireland.

All abort modes presume an ocean landing,  In the event of an abort, and exhaustion of SuperDraco fuel supply, the landing will be quite a bit rougher, on par with that of the Soyuz on a good day.

Dragon heat shield is fully capable for lunar missions. (No newsflash here, but definitely worth reiterating)

Falcon F9R-Dev 9 Test accident in Texas:  The accident was precipitated by a single sensor failure, and an indication that the vehicle would exceed the “lateral boundaries of its safety zone.”  Auto self-destruct was accomplished not with a charge, but by thrust termination and “some valves that are opened.” The latter are presumably fuel and oxidizer valves intended to spark just the sort of “explosion” on the video.

Raptor: Not a lot specific to say other than component testing of injectors is underway at NASA Stennis.

Falcon Heavy: Design is complete and component fabrication is underway. Reisman stated the intention is to fly it within a year.

Pad Abort Test: On track for November.  Will take off from a truss structure erected at SLC-40, and will include an instrumented crash test dummy.

Docking adapter: SpaceX is building their own docking adapter, and will not use NASA’s NDS.

If you listen to the audio, be sure note the number of questions at the end about about Falcon Heavy. Garrett preferred to talk about his own area of work, the Commercial Crew Dragon, but almost all the NASA audience wanted to discuss was Falcon Heavy. Considering the NASA press conference announcing a significant slip in schedule for SLS which took place only a few minutes after Reisman concluded,  it almost reminds you of Sheryl Crow’s lines from the duet Picture, with Kid Rock.

“I called you last night at the hotel, Everyone knows but they won’t tell, But their half hearted smiles tell me somethin’ just ain’t right”



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