More good news from SpaceX: successful long-duration firing and restart of Draco thruster

Thursday, December 11, 2008

After the first successful launch of its Falcon 1 rocket, SpaceX has attained a number of other less newsworthy but certainly not unimportant successes, such as the mission-length test firing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 a bit over a week ago, and of the Draco thruster today. Spaceref gives the following information:

"Draco performed perfectly during the entire test, with expected temperatures and excellent performance," said David Giger, Propulsion Manager, SpaceX. "We also broke the SpaceX record for longest continuous burn previously held by Kestrel, the Falcon 1 second stage engine." SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft uses a total of 18 Draco thrusters for maneuvering, attitude control, and to initiate the capsule's return to Earth.

"The Draco engines are as important to Dragon as the large Merlin engines are to Falcon 9," said Tom Mueller, VP Propulsion, SpaceX. "They will perform essential maneuvers as the SpaceX Dragon approaches and berths with the International Space Station (ISS) to provide delivery of cargo, and eventually crew transport to and from Station."

The SpaceX-developed Draco thruster generates up to 90 pounds (400 Newtons) of force using monomethyl hydrazine as a fuel and nitrogen tetroxide as an oxidizer - the same orbital maneuvering propellants used by the Space Shuttle. These storable propellants have very long on-orbit lifetimes, providing the option for the Dragon spacecraft to remain berthed at the ISS for a year or more, ready to serve as an emergency "lifeboat" if necessary.

The first Dragon spacecraft is scheduled for flight in 2009 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the SpaceX launch site at Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

As well as the following video of the test firing:

Nice to see things continuing to go smoothly on the private space front after the disappointing news this week that the next Mars rover has been delayed by two years, to 2011. Luckily Russia and China will be launching a mission to Mars in 2009 (arrival in 2010), so at least something is being sent out from Earth during that launch window.


  © Blogger templates Newspaper by 2008

Back to TOP