A few days ago, Elon Musk held a media news briefing, updating the public about the new design of the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) and revealing the private citizen who is paying for a trip to the moon on the rocket. This brave individual is a billionaire Japanese fashion mogul, Yusaku Maezawa, founded the Japanese retail website Zozo. The briefing took place in Hawthorne, California at their SpaceX headquarters, back dropped against the business end of a Falcon 9 rocket on the factory floor. The briefing was more inspirational that began with Maezawa’s the phrase he uttered: “I choose to go to the Moon” as part of his opening remarks. He also revealed that he will pay for other people to go with him who are artists because people could relate with the experience if the artist came back to Earth and expressed the trip through their art in whatever form it may be.
Musk didn’t mince words by saying that this trip, now slated for no earlier than 2023, would be dangerous and things could go wrong, but SpaceX would do whatever they could to minimize the risk. Musk did say that Yusaku did pay a “significant deposit” for the trip, and that money would go into the further development of the BFR and for the other artists to go along on the trip.
The design of the BFR hasn’t changed all that much, but there are a few changes such as the addition of fin-like structures that will also serve as landing legs and it got a little bigger. Ill write an article when the design has become more fixed and work begins in the assembly of the flight article of the BFS (Big Falcon Ship).
On the commercial crew front, SpaceX just recently installed the swing arm that astronauts will walk and enter their Dragon capsule that sits atop of the Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew Access Arm that SpaceX installed on Launch Pad 39A, that they are leasing from NASA, looks futuristic and almost looks like something you would see at an airport. SpaceX also moved the Shuttle-era slide-wire baskets that the crew and technicians can use in case of an emergency. SpaceX astronauts will break tradition and will be loaded into the capsule, strapped in and the hatch closed before the rocket is loaded with fuel. This process called “Load and Go” has been approved by an oversight panel and NASA. If there is an impending explosion or something anomalous the Dragon Draco thrusters will fire getting the crew to safety. The technicians who help load the astronauts and close the hatch will have already left the pad to their safe area.
The next step will be for SpaceX technicians will install panels around the fixed service tower on Launch Pad 39A that will protect the inner workings of the pad from the corrosion from being exposed from the salt air from the nearby ocean. The uncrewed demo (SpX-DM1) of their crew Dragon capsule is now scheduled for December. This will be a two-week shakedown mission of the systems aboard the Dragon as well as docking with the International Space Station. The first stage Falcon 9 booster will return to Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at Cape Canaveral Florida.
If everything goes as planned, an in-flight abort test of the Dragon’s Draco thrusters is scheduled for March atop a modified Falcon 9 rocket. This test will call for the launch abort system to fire the Draco thrusters during Max Q (the area where the most aerodynamic force is being acted upon the launch vehicle as it climbs through the dense lower atmosphere. The abort will happen around 31,000 feet and will land in the Atlantic Ocean just off shore of Florida. It is not known at this time what the fate of the first stage will be.
A launch scheduled for No Earlier Than (NET) April 2019 will see the first crewed flight aboard an American rocket since the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed in July 2011. The two astronauts that will fly aboard this historic mission will be driven to Launch Pad 39A in Telsas. The crewed mission (SpX-DM2), will mirror the uncrewed flight and will dock with the International Space Station before undocking and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean after a two-week mission. The first stage will return to LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Since this mission is slated to launch before Boeing’s crewed Starliner, so the crew will return the American flag the crew of the last Shuttle mission left on the ISS for the crew of the first private company to launch Americans to the Space Station.
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