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SpaceX’s plans for the Dragon reusable spacecraft fleet, described in detail by Gwyn Shotwell

President and Chief Operating Officer Gwyn Shotwell says SpaceX is simultaneously building a fleet of reusable orbital spacecraft designed to support a number of NASA launches and commercial astronauts and cargo for the next 5-10 years.

Speaking shortly after SpaceX’s successful debut to operate the astronauts on November 15, also known as Crew-1, Shotwell revealed that the company is already in the process of building several more crews and a modernized Cargo Dragon spacecraft on top of the vehicles that are already in the late stages of preparing for their first or second flight.

The comments ultimately confirm the surprising reality of the new Dragon 2 spacecraft: thanks to reuse, SpaceX intends to achieve more than ever with far fewer vehicles, which is likely to save a lot of time and resources over the next 5-1

0 years.

Jim Bridenstein, Katie Luders, Hiroshi Sasaki, Steve Dixon and Gwyn Shotwell spoke at a Crew-1 press conference after the launch on November 15. (NASA)

In particular, Shotwell revealed that SpaceX intends to build three reusable Cargo Dragon 2 capsules, one of which has already been completed and is preparing for its CRS-21 debut in Florida on December 2. On the crew side, SpaceX will build “three more” Crew Dragon capsules on the field-proven Demo-2 and currently orbital Crew-1 capsules. It is unclear whether this means that the new Crew Dragon capsule, flown in the January 2020 SpaceX Interruption Test (IFA), will be repaired for additional flights.

With the exception of the IFA Crew Dragon C205 capsule, SpaceX intends to operate a fleet of at least three Cargo Dragon 2 and five Crew Dragon capsules, representing eight reusable spacecraft, each of which can perform at least five orbital missions.

The Crew-1 Dragon C207 capsule arrived safely on the ISS on November 16 and is expected to return to Earth sometime in April or May 2021. (Sergey Kud-Sverchkov)

Repeated by both Shotwell and director Benji Reed, the company has plans for eight or more Dragon missions – including Crew-1, launched on November 15 – between now and February 2022.

“Over the next 15 months, we will complete seven Crew and Cargo Dragon missions for NASA. This means that starting with Crew-1, there will be a constant presence of SpaceX Dragons in orbit. Starting with the CRS-21 cargo mission, every time we launch a Dragon, there will be two Dragons in space – simultaneously – for extended periods of time. Indeed, we are restoring the ability of the United States to provide full launch services, and we are very, very honored to be a part of that.

Benji Reed, SpaceX – November 10, 2020

After covering Reid’s seven-flight forecast for next year, Shotwell added that she had hedged herself by adding a fully private Crew Dragon mission recently announced by Axiom Space and scheduled to launch no earlier than (NET) at the end of 2021 hinted at the possibility of “some other fun missions, which I’ll talk about later.” Overall, SpaceX seems to be gearing up for an incredibly busy year and a half of three NASA Crew Dragon missions, four launched Cargo Dragon launches and even one private astronaut launch.

In fact, official NASA planning documents confirm plans for eight launches of Crew and Cargo Dragon – including Crew-1 – between November 2020 and March 2022. In other words, even excluding the possibility of the first private launch of Axiom Dragon in November or December 2021, SpaceX is already tracking an average of one Dragon launch every two months (or less) for the next 16 months.

Crew Dragon Demo-2 capsule C206 was restored on August 2, 2020. (NASA)

To complete this extremely ambitious manifesto, SpaceX and NASA will have to rely more heavily than ever on the reusable Falcon 9 and Dragon, testing whether the upgraded Dragon 2 capsules are drastically more reusable than their Dragon 1 predecessors. , SpaceX’s Dragon 1 capsule record was only shy of 15 months between orbital launches. To complete five CRS2 launches and three or four Crew Dragon shots in 16 months, SpaceX will have to break its orbital spacecraft record at least twice, if not three or four times.

The soot amplifier at the top of this photo is probably the B1058, which is preparing to release the CRS-21 from the Pad 39A just 17 days after the Crew-1 (downtown) comes out. (SpaceX)

The next launch of NASA astronauts (Crew-2) on SpaceX is already planned to crush this record for Dragon reuse by five months (~ 33%) when it launches in March 2021 – marking the second orbital mission of the Demo capsule -2 C206. Meanwhile, Cargo Dragon 2’s CRS-21 debut is expected to fly on the Falcon 9 B1058 booster, making it NASA’s first double-flight launch. and three-time flight booster.

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