Friday, May 7, 2010

SpaceX update: Preparations for the first Falcon 9 Launch

Photo credit: SpaceX/Chris Thompson

"As we continue to progress towards the first Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral, certification of the flight termination system (FTS) and subsequent range availability remain the two primary schedule drivers. Air Force Range safety requires the FTS system, which allows them to safely end the launch should the vehicle stray from its designated flight corridor. The system consists of a command receiver and an ordnance system designed to split the vehicle's fuel and liquid oxygen tanks in the event of an errant flight. SpaceX is working closely with Ensign Bickford to complete testing of the explosive elements of the FTS system, but there are other components, such as the FTS radios, antennas and the transponder that come from other suppliers as well. All of these components must be qualified specifically for our flight environments, so unfortunately, it is not simply a case of buying “off the shelf”. FTS testing is an iterative process where the number of remaining tests depends on the results of previous tests, making it very difficult to predict a completion date. Once testing is complete, final data is submitted to SpaceX and Air Force Range safety officials for review and acceptance. Much of the range calendar for May is already reserved for other activities, so range availability will be a key factor in identifying a launch date. Fortunately the FTS is the last remaining significant milestone--the vehicle is otherwise ready for flight, so once we complete certification, we will be “all systems go” for launch."
SpaceX update: May 6, 2010

No comments: