As SpaceX nears completion of its investigation into the AMOS-6 pad conflagration on 1 September 2016, the company is firmly looking toward Return To Flight (RTF) of its Falcon 9 workhorse and realigning its contracted resupply missions to the International Space Station with NASA. With those flights looking to resume in January 2017, SpaceX’s external cargo manifest for its next eleven resupply flights is being finalized by the ISS Program.
SpX-10 through SpX-20 – eleven resupplies in three years:
In what is understood to be the opening realignment negotiations of the resupply schedule for NASA, SpaceX has laid out not only its 11-flight plan over the next three years, but has also updated the external payloads their Dragons will carry in their trunks to the Station.
In all, SpX-10, -11, -12, and -13 are all slated to launch in 2017 – with notional dates of January, March, June, and September, respectively.
SpX-14, -15, -16, -17, and -18 are then set to follow in February, April, August, October, and December 2018. SpX-19 and -20 will then set up for 2019, in May and a yet-to-be-defined date later that year, per information gained in NASA’s latest long-term ISS FPIP manifest (available in L2).
Specifically, many of these missions will carry deliveries for the European Space Agency’s Columbus module and the Japan Aerospace and eXploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) Japanese Experiment Module – Exposed Facility (JEM-EF) via the Dragon’s trunk payload capability.
Columbus was launched on 7 February 2008 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis as the principal part of the STS-122 mission.
JEM-EF was launched a year and a half later on 15 July 2009 by Space Shuttle Endeavour on the STS-127 mission.
For the upcoming resupply flights, SpX-10 – the first mission to the ISS since 8 July 2011 scheduled from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center – is slated to loft three external payloads, the Space Technology Program H5 (STP-H5) with Raven lidar, the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment – Instrument Payload (SAGE-IP), and the SAGE Nadir Viewing Platform (SAGE-NVP).
STP-H5 will be installed on the ExPRESS Logistic Carrier-1 (ELC-1), with SAGE-IP and SAGE-NVP destined for ELC-4.
ELC-1 was launched to the Station in November 2009 by Atlantis during her STS-129 mission.
ELC-4 was transported to the ISS in February 2011 during the final flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-133.
Two months later, SpaceX will follow with SpX-11, which will bring the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER), and Multi-User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES) to the Station.
ROSA will be installed on ELC-1, NICER on ELC-3, and MUSES on ELC-4.
ELC-3 was transported to the Station in May 2011 by Space Shuttle Endeavour during her 25th and final flight, STS-134.
ELC-3 was launched after ELC-4 as STS-134 was originally set to fly before STS-133 in the original manifest order but was moved because of issues with STS-134’s primary payload – the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
SpX-11 will be followed in June with SpX-12, which is scheduled to launch the CREAM (Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass) experiment for installation on the JEM-EF.
The next SpaceX flight, number 13, will see attention shift from the JEM-EF to Columbus, with Dragon delivering the ASIM (Atmospheric Space Interactions Monitoring) instrument to the European module.
SpX-13 will also deliver MISSE-FF (Materials on International Space Station Experiment – Flight Facility) to ELC-2, and TSIS (Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor) for ELC-3.
ELC-2, as with ELC-1, was delivered to ISS by Shuttle Atlantis on STS-129.
After SpX-13, there are two payload options for SpX-14.
The first option would see Dragon deliver International Docking Adaptor 3 (IDA-3) to the Station.
If so, this would be Dragon’s only external payload on this mission.
However, flight designers and NASA are discussing a backup option for SpX-14 in case IDA-3 isn’t ready in time.
In this case, SpX-14 would instead launch the RRM3 (Robotic Refueling Mission 3), SDS (Space Debris Sensor – DRAGONS), and PFCS (Pump and Flow Control System).
RRM3 would be attached to ELC-1, with SDS and PFCS going to the Columbus EPF/SOX location.
Part of the uncertainty whether IDA-3 will be ready for launch on SpX-14 in its notional February 2018 launch slot is that it is a late-game replacement for IDA-1, which was lost on the SpX-7 resupply mission.
IDA-3 is being built primarily from spare parts to speed up its construction – by eliminating the need to build some of its components from scratch – without interfering with safety margins and strict construction parameters.
If IDA-3 is not ready for SpX-14, it will move to SpX-16 in August 2018.
Thus, the backup payload for SpX-14 of RRM3, SDS, and PFCS will either launch on SpX-14 if IDA-3 isn’t ready, or will themselves take up primary payload residence on SpX-16.
However, there appears to be another option for RRM3’s launch on the SpX-15 flight in April 2018.
NASA’s Robotic Refuelling Mission (RRM) tests marked the first ever attempt at satellite servicing demo tasks to be performed at the ISS.
The RRM is an ISS payload developed by the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), launched with Shuttle Atlantis during STS-135.
Numerous operations were carried out, marked by the successful conclusion of the initial test series in 2013.
Current payload schedules also show RRM3 manifested on that flight, too – along with a second MISSE-FF and ECOSTRESS (ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station) experiment.
SpX-17 would then take the OCO-3 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3) and STP-H6 external experiments to the JEM-EF and ELC-3, respectively.
SpX-18 is then tasked with taking GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (Lidar)) to the JEM-EF, with SpX-19 following with the Bartolomeo – CEPHFISS (Bartolomeo – Commercial External Payload Hosting Facility On ISS) experiment.
Bartolomeo – CEPHFISS is set to be installed outside Columbus.
SpX-20 would then see a Columbus experiment, GEROS (GNSS reflectometry, Radio Occultation and Scatterometry), brought to the Station.
(Images: SpaceX, NASA and L2’s latest FPIP Manifest document. Click here: //www.nasaspaceflight.com/l2/ to join L2).