SpaceX is set for a barrage of happenings in the coming months, alternating from re-supply runs to the International Space Station, to aborted test goals for its Dragon 2 platform. The company envisions two launches of its Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket in April, followed by a pad abort test in early May – all conducted from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40.
In 2015, three successful launches were conducted by the SpaceX team, started by the CRS-5/SpX-5 Dragon mission in January to the ISS.
The finale of the Dragon mission concluded with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean the following month, a few days preceding SpaceX’s next launch, with the successful launching of the DSCOVR spacecraft.
Less than three weeks have gone by before SpaceX completed loads of launches in 2015, as another Falcon 9 v1.1 propelled the rocket’s 1st dual passenger mission, hurling the ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B satellites into orbit.
A fourth Falcon 9 mission was penciled in for late March, with SpaceX tasked with launching Turkmenistan’s TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSat 1 (TurkmenSat 1) communications satellite.
However, a planned manifest was changed due to an issue spotted ahead of the Static Fire test, explicit to the helium pressurization system’s bottles (COPVs).
SpaceX currently launches commercial satellites and NASA cargo re-supply missions, however considerations are obviously favored towards the latter.
This chiefly relates to the Visiting Vehicle busy schedule of the International Space Station, with numerous limitations resulting in shortfall of windows of opportunity when a Dragon can depart for the orbital outpost.
SpaceX, in agreement with NASA, opted to warrant the CRS-6 Dragon would be able launch to the ISS within an available niche in April.
Although, the return of the core to the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) is not a principal mission objective, a successful landing on deck will provide a major advancement in SpaceX’s reusability aspirations.
The first stage Merlin 1D engines, aided by the experiences of return attempts previously, control thrusters, grid fins and landing legs will all be working hand in hand to foster towards a goal of a smooth ASDS landing and also a life extension prospect.
A success will result in both a triumphant return to port and a trip to Spaceport America in New Mexico for additional testing.