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CRS-16 Post-Launch Presser

CRS-16 Post-Launch Presser



  • Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs


  • Joel Montalbano, ISS Program Deputy Manager

  • Hans Koenigsmann, Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Good afternoon and thank you for being with us this afternoon. I am Joshua Santora with NASA Public Affairs. A big congratulations to SpaceX on another successful launch and deployment of the Dragon in orbit on its way to the International Space Station. Their Commercial Resupply Services 16 mission launch at 1:16:16 Eastern this afternoon and is on its way there now with a scheduled rendezvous of Saturday morning at 6:00AM. Today I am joined by Joel Montalbano, Deputy International Space Station Program Manager from NASA's Johnson Space Center and Hans Koenigsmann, Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability at SpaceX. We will begin today by taking statements from Joel and Hans, so let me go ahead and pass it over to you, Joel.

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: Okay. Well welcome again to the SpaceX-16 post-launch press briefing. Had an incredible launch. And so this vehicle, delivering over 5,600 lbs of science, research, and maintenance hardware to the International Space Station, it's a huge amount of work across the NASA centers, as well as with the SpaceX team. We talked at the pre-launch about some work we were doing with some cargo handling late Monday evening. We requested, NASA requested a 24-hour delay to the SpaceX team for us to go ahead and replace some mice hardware that had been contaminated that we talked about earlier with some mold. We went ahead and brought the hardware in from the Ames Research Center. Arrived around 1:00AM Tuesday morning. The teams worked through the night and the morning. And then they handed over the hardware to the SpaceX team around noon Tuesday, and since then was a flawless countdown to the launch you saw earlier today. Just incredible, this was the fourth launch in three weeks to the International Space Station, keeping up the busy pace of 2018. Looking forward, we have a capture of the Dragon spacecraft on Saturday morning, approximately 6:00AM Eastern time. And all indications from the Dragon vehicle is it's performing nominally, and we have a 100% clean spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station and the six crew members on board. Looking forward, we also have a Russian EVA scheduled for December 11th, and then a Soyuz landing scheduled for December 20th. And that'll round out those activities for vehicles coming up and down as well as EVAs for this year. With that, I'll hand it back over to you, Josh.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Thank you, Joel. And I'll just pass it back over to you, Hans.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: Yeah, thank you. Great launch. Beautiful ascent and successful payload separation a minute after shutdown on the second stage. Dragon is on the way. It deployed the solar arrays. Looks very healthy. It's going to deploy the GNC bay door I guess right around that time frame, maybe in the next 10 minutes or something like that. And then continue to phase the orbit and get closer to the ISS. And then, as you heard, dock on Saturday morning for another successful Dragon mission. Now, you probably wonder about the first stage. We had a landing anomaly on the first stage. And I do have the video for you that I can comment over so we can see what happened. [video at begins playing] Thank you. So this is the video from the vehicle. You see the grid fins here, basically, and they appear not to move anymore. They actually roll over to the side and the vehicle starts rolling pretty rapidly there. It actually targets a landing point in the water if it loses control. So in other words, it's still trying to stay away from land, it's trying to stay safe. And you see the landing burn there, it's really amazing how it actually stops rotating at the very end, almost, and deploys the legs. And then just lands on the water. Give it a second here. Still rotating, and then, there. And lands. And then it does sink in, and fall over, and continues to work. [laughter] In fact it went through the entire safing sequence. The vehicle performed a sequence that basically vents the tanks and makes it safe so people can approach it. It went through the safing sequence, the flight computer continued to run. When I left mission control, sorry, launch control, earlier, it was still functioning and we still got data. Intermittently, because it is so low to the ground. But nevertheless, we got data. And we were preparing a tow, so we can get it safely into the harbor. And then recover it. So it looks like what happened is some malfunction with the grid fins, like I said earlier. The important part is we have a safety function on board that makes sure that the vehicle does not go on land before everything's okay. And that worked perfectly. It stayed off the land, basically. It avoids both the land, and even if it is on land, it avoids buildings. It knows where buildings are. So it is pretty smart in that aspect. And I would say, in terms of public safety, the vehicle kept well away from anything that could pose even the slightest risk to population or property. So public safety was well-protected here. And as much as we are disappointed in this missed landing, or landing in the water, rather, instead of land, it shows the system overall knows how to recover from certain malfunctions.

Now, we also had quite a success trend here. We had 11 out of 11 landing boosters on land that worked, here, and that's pretty good. We had a couple early missed landings, but it was part of our development. So in total, we recovered 32 first stage boosters. And actually, we will recover this one too, so it's going to be 33 at that point in time. [laughter] And then, not to forget, this is actually a great day, in the sense that we did deliver Dragon, it's on the way to the Station, and we will continue the mission and hopefully berth at the Station on Saturday morning, then. I want to say a thanks, actually, again, to the SpaceX team, the customer NASA, Air Force, FAA, for their support. And yeah, thank you.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Thank you, Hans. At this time we will take questions. I'll be calling on you. When you have a question, please raise your hand. Please wait for the microphone, and when you do begin to speak, please identify yourself and your affiliation, and then to whom you're asking the question. We'll start up here in the front row.

Chris Gebhardt, NASASpaceflight: Chris Gebhardt with NASASpaceflight. So I know it's a two day later than planned rendezvous with the Station, for the slip. Does that at all affect the come home date for Dragon in January? And any holiday items on board for the crew that you can talk about, since it is December?

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: So as far as the end of mission, we're still keeping the planned end of mission date. You know, we always look at the progress of mission, and based on the science and research going on board we may adjust one way or another. But today, the launch delay in itself doesn't result in a change in landing. We did fly some extra food. Some Christmas-type food for the crew. You know, standard things. Candied yams. Turkey. Corn. Green bean casserole. Some Christmas cookies. You know, standard stuff like that. But other than that, that's what we have on board.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We'll come up here to the front.

Ken Kremer, SpaceUpClose: Hi, Ken Kremer, SpaceUpClose. For Hans. I had a question, was this landing sequence was totally autonomous? Was there any chance for human intervention? Did you consider it? And what changes are you going to make in this booster and in your abort scenarios? Thanks.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: So the landing sequence is autonomous, but it does have certain branches. "If things don't work, do this" kind of situation. So it is a little bit more complex than just doing the same thing over and over again. It has decision points, and if things don't work out, then it doesn't go for the land landing, like in this particular case, for example.

Ken Kremer, SpaceUpClose: And any changes that have to [inaudible]?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: Oh, from now on? We have to actually look into this and figure out what went wrong. I think it's too early to say "Just switch this part out, or that part out." But I'm pretty sure it's going to result in potentially adding a backup to supply the grid fins with hydraulic power, for example, and stuff like that. Certain areas are single string at this point in time. It was in development, initially. And we might add redundancy to it, for example. That would be a simple solution. But I think we need to actually investigate that first, and figure out what actually was wrong, and what is the smartest solution and corrective action going forward.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We'll take back here in the second row.

Bill Harwood, CBS News: Hi, Bill Harwood, CBS News, for Hans. Can you refresh our memories on how the targeting works for this? In other words, at what point during the descent do you target the landing on the pad versus where you're targeting to go offshore? Where that decision point comes in.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: So the decision point is after the entry burn, but I'm not quite sure how much after that. Basically what happens is just based on physics, we keep the landing point, what's called the impact point, basically, it's where you would land if you do nothing. You keep it off of land for a while, and then as the landing burn goes on, we move that burn. And if it actually is nominal, then you would move that impact point further over to the landing zone.

Bill Harwood, CBS News: But that, moving the impact point to the landing [zone], that's happening during the landing burn, is that correct?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: Yes.

Bill Harwood, CBS News: Okay, thanks.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Yeah, up here in the second row.

Brendan Byrne, WMFE (NPR): Hi. Brendan Byrne with WMFE. This is for Joel. Can you walk us through with the unpacking process when it gets there? Are there certain things that have a priority? Are the mice coming off first? Can you walk us through with how long it's going to take to get that unloaded?

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: So the mice will be priority, and we have some other high priority science that has some temperature constraints. We'll get all that high priority science out. There's all some fresh fruit for the crew. I expect we'll get that out fairly quickly. But the science is going to be the priority, getting that out fairly quickly, right after, you know, soon as we can get it berthed. And depending on the timeline of the day. But the mice are going to be the priority there.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Alright, we'll go front row over here.

Unknown speaker: This is for Hans. Can you elaborate, where will the booster go from here, and could it potentially be reused in the future?

Hans Koenigsmann: So I know that Elon tweeted something to that effect. I think we've got to look at the booster and see how it holds up after some time in the water. We will tow it and find a way to get it back on land. But I don't think I have any details when that happens, how that happens. Yeah.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We do have a phone bridge set up, and we're going to go to the phones now. Irene Klotz.

Irene Klotz, Aviation Week: Thanks so much. Hans, I was wondering if the investigation into the landing issue will impact preparations for the GPS III or the last Iridium flight, and could you just give us an update on where those stand? Thanks.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: Yeah, so I don't think this has any impact on GPS III, although, of course, we need to make sure that there is nothing that has overlap, but I believe there's none. And this is based primarily on the fact that GPS is not a landing booster. It doesn't have the landing hardware, or the majority of the landing hardware. And so it should not affect that particular launch. From what I can tell that launch is on time. I looked at the booster yesterday. It's in great shape and getting integrated in the hangar.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We're going to go to the phone once more for Stephen Clark.

Stephen Clark, Spaceflight Now: Hi, Stephen Clark, Spaceflight Now. A couple questions for Hans. Can you refresh my memory on whether the first stage coming back to land carries an Autonomous Flight Termination System, or is the range standing by to intervene if necessary, if these multiple layers of contingency capabilities don't put the rocket on a trajectory away from something important? And you mentioned the next launch will not have a landing, and I was curious, why is that? Thanks.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: So, first question, FTS system. There's an FTS system, or, sorry, an Autonomous Flight Termination System on this booster. Both on the booster and the second stage. That makes sure that we don't exceed the limits of the range. And yeah, so in addition to that, like I said, we have this algorithm on board that steers the vehicle away from land. So there was no necessity of the FTS system to respond to this, at this point in time. On the last flight. And regarding GPS not landing, I think this is a customer requirement to have all the performance for the mission. It's a challenging mission.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We're going to go once more to the phone to James Dean.

James Dean, Florida Today: Hi. Thanks so much. I think you just answered a couple of questions that I had, so I'll veer away from the landing stuff for a moment. Hans, you had mentioned pre-launch that you didn't expect to slow your launch pace at all next year. Can you tell us, just looking ahead into next year, about how many launches are you expecting to perform next year in total? And can you speak at all just to the significance of potentially launching those astronauts for the first time?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: Good question. I mean, obviously, the launch rate itself, I don't think it changes significantly. We are now at, I think we are now at 20, another record, yeah. So we're now at 20, we have targeted 18 for the next year, but one more, one less, over the year, that can easily happen. So I think it's roughly the same launch rate. And then of course, as you pointed out, astronauts are a big deal. SpaceX is still on schedule with the Demo 1 mission, and in-flight abort, and the Demo 2 missions. So that's going to be a major effort on our side, total focus on our side on astronaut safety and getting those missions right. And I'm really looking forward to that.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Moving back up to the front row.

Bill Jelen, WeReportSpace: Bill Jelen with WeReportSpace. For the Crew Dragon, you mentioned the other day that it's possible to get the Dragon there in two days, three days, four days. But Soyuz got there in six hours. With the Crew Dragon, how long will it take? Will you alter the trajectory to be able to get there quicker than like, today, where it's taking three days to catch up to the ISS?

Hans Koenigsmann: So you can actually have shorter phasing times. I think that's basically a function of how high you insert and how much of a burn you want to have. And it takes some time between the burns. I don't think we're going to go as short as Soyuz. But I have to admit I don't know the exact timing, and I asked myself that question yesterday, too. I didn't follow up because I was busy with this launch. [laughs] So I will look into this now, how much time we have. I have in my head that we have a day, or something like that. Like a normal short phasing for Dragon. But this is totally unconfirmed, it's just what I have in my head.

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: And when you have the shorter phasing, you limit your launch days. And so the longer phasing gives you multiple launch opportunities. If you have a real short phasing, like the Soyuz spacecraft which launched Monday morning, if they were to scrub, they could not go the next day and still do a six orbit rendezvous. They'd have to defer to the 34 orbit rendezvous. And it'd be similar in this case, too. It's physics related, so regardless of where the vehicle launches.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: I do want to make sure we try and keep questions to this mission and today's mission. But we'll go back here to the second row.

Steven Young, Spaceflight Now: Steven Young with Spaceflight Now. Just to follow up on Stephen's question about the Flight Termination System, Hans. Was it active during the landing?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: The Flight Termination System is shut down at one point in time, when the impact point, or when the vehicle is basically in an area that it can't get out of anymore. So it can't get out to the public anymore. And that happens I want to say shortly after the entry burn.

Steven Young, Spaceflight Now: And one quick follow up. Do you know how far offshore the booster landed?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: I've heard about two miles.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Any more questions in the room? Alright, we're going to go to the phone. Tim, forgive me, I missed your last name, Tim.

Tim Fernholz, Quartz: Hello, this is Tim Fernholz from Quartz. I just wanted to follow up on the rocket today. I wanted to check in and see if it had the new configuration of COPVs that SpaceX needs to demo ahead of launching astronauts for NASA.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: It does, on the second stage.

Tim Fernholz, Quartz: And will that count towards the seven demonstrations that SpaceX needs to do to be certified to fly astronauts next year?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: I think it does.

Tim Fernholz, Quartz: Great, thank you.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We'll go back to the phone with Irene Klotz.

Irene Klotz, Aviation Week: Thanks. I just wanted to follow up my other question. If, Hans, you can give us an update on the Iridium flight preparations, too, and any impacts from this landing issue. Thanks.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: So the Iridium flight is I think just early next year at this point in time, and I do not anticipate any impacts on the schedule here. We have enough time between now and then to bring in corrective actions and to make sure that we land that booster safely. I believe on a droneship, in this case. I'm not totally sure it's a droneship landing, but I think it is. So just off the top of my head, I don't anticipate any issues based on the landing issue we had today impacting the schedule and the flight of the Iridium booster.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We're going to go back to the phones. James Dean?

James Dean, Florida Today: Hi, thanks again. Hans, I'm wondering if you could just tell us approximately what was the peak altitude and speed that the booster reached, and do you know about how high up it was when the grid fin anomaly and spinning started to occur?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: I can answer your first question there. The apogee is typically at 135km. And that's based on shutdown, that's right around 1,800 m/s. The beginning of the anomaly is traceable back to shortly after the entry burn, I believe? Honestly, I think that's a little bit premature to answer. So I would probably say, let us look into this and figure out when exactly it started, because sometimes things lead to other things on these systems, and so I don't want to give you the wrong information now. It might have started earlier. But it shows in the video, I want to say after the entry burn, but I'm not sure how much it is, actually. Sorry, it's just happened two hours ago. [laughter]

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We'll go back to the second row here.

Bill Harwood, CBS News: Bill Harwood, CBS, again, for Hans. I'm sorry, can you clarify, I didn't understand what you were saying about COPVs and being certified to fly astronauts. Can you give us a better breakdown of where you stand on that?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: So on the COPV front, we basically had a modification of the COPV for crew. And these COPV are phased in, slowly. And all I said in the earlier answer was that the second stage contained the new upgraded COPV, and it does count toward a demonstration of seven flights prior to demo.

Bill Harwood, CBS News: And was this the first flight? Or how many flights have you done with--

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: No, it flew already on Es'Hail, the last launch from here.

Bill Harwood, CBS News: Okay.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: I'm not sure it flew from Vandenberg. I don't remember that.

Bill Harwood, CBS News: So at least two, at this point?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: Yeah.

Bill Harwood, CBS News: Thanks.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Come up here to the front row.

Matt Haskell, The Aerospace Geek: Matt Haskell, for The Aerospace Geek. And my question is for Hans. You mentioned the implementation of corrections for Iridium. With that launch being farther away, is it a possibility that the implementation of corrections for DM-1 could cause a slip to the right?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: So I'm not sure I understand. Iridium comes still before Demo 1. Or pretty close, let's say it this way. But, regardless, whatever will be corrected on Iridium will also be corrected on Demo 1. Yeah.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Up here on the front row, on the corner.

Bill Jelen, WeReportSpace So that was a great video, watching the roll. Basically one roll a second, and you were able to correct that. What flight algorithms were trying to anticipate a roll? Like, we've never seen a roll before. Was that built in, that that might possibility happen and you'd try and correct it? What systems were still working to stop that roll before landing?

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX: Honestly, I'm a little bit puzzled by that myself. [laughter] So one thing is that when you put the legs down, obviously, you change the moment of inertia. So you slow the roll down. And I think it could be just that. It's a single engine burning at that time, ja? So you can't do a lot in roll. But you can stabilize the other two axes. And that's what I see there. I see a stabilization in pitch and yaw, so it doesn't gyrate as wildly as it did before. So, just looking at the video, the perspective narrows to a more focused area. So I think that's one effect. And then the other effect could be that the landing legs just, you know, like when you put the arms out and rotate on a chair. But like I said, I think I need to look at data, or we need to investigate that in detail and make sure we cover everything and perform corrective action if necessary and get it done.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: We're going to go back to the phone for Stephen Clark.

Stephen Clark, Spaceflight Now: Hi, my questions have been asked and answered, thank you.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Thanks, Stephen. Any more questions here in the room? One more?

Brendan Byrne, WMFE (NPR): Hi, Brendan Byrne with WMFE again. This one again for Joel. With utilizing SpaceX's Dragon to return samples from the International Space Station, can you talk about how that changes the scope of the science that can be done on the International Space Station and kind of how you plan to put these experiments up there?

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: So the ability of SpaceX to bring home science is incredible. Scientists have their experiments, they fly, they work, they talk to the astronauts as they do these experiments on board, but they want the results back in their labs. They want to go ahead and look and do some additional analysis, some additional work so that we can expand what we've done on Space Station and add to that science. And so bringing those samples back to the scientists is a clear enhancement that the SpaceX vehicle brings us. You know, the vehicle lands off the Pacific coast. A lot of times, we hand over the experiments directly to the Principle Investigators at the port. And they can go right to their labs that day, within a few hours, and go ahead and continue that science. So it's a huge capability that we look forward to every SpaceX launch and landing.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Up here in the front.

Ken Kremer, SpaceUpClose: Hi, Ken Kremer, SpaceUpClose. First, congratulations again, to both of you. For Joel. The contamination of the food bars. I wonder, first of all, it sounds like they came later than you initially expected from the pre-launch briefing. Is that true? And did you consider whether some other food items, maybe even for the astronauts, might be contaminated? Because you found this contamination. Was there a chance of a wider contamination? Thanks.

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: So to answer your first question, we flew this hardware back from the Ames Research Center in California. So it just took some time to coordinate all the logistics. We were hoping that we were going to be able to meet the December 4th launch date. But when you laid everything out on the timeline, we didn't want to rush and go do something that was going to cause an additional problem once we got on orbit. So it just made sense to go ahead and take that extra time. It was a little later. We were hoping to get a flight out of California a little earlier. But when you put all the timelines together and get everybody here, we were also asking people to work in the middle of the night, so you don't want to rush that, you know. People are off their normal sleep schedule. So just taking the time was the right thing. As far as the other food, this was processed differently. And so it's different facility, different food. There's no issue with the current astronaut food that's on board or that was delivered by the SpaceX.

Ken Kremer, SpaceUpClose: Good, thank you.

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: Sure!

Bill Harwood, CBS News: I'll throw in one more for Joel. It's my understanding that with the launch coming now, you won't be able to do the battery EVAs before the MS-09 crew comes down. Do you know when approximately you might be able to pull those off? Those two solar array battery installs?

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: Yeah. Early next year? I want to say February or March. It'll be some time. We had a contingency plan. If we didn't get a SpaceX launch to go ahead and do these this December. But with this crew up there and the science priorities we had, when you lay all the mission priorities out, it made sense to go ahead and push those. But I believe it's March, but it might be as early as February. Sure.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: Any more questions here? One in the back?

Adam Byerly, Florida Coast Magazine: My name's Adam Byerly with Florida Coast Magazine. I just had one additional question with the food contamination. In light of that, is it compartmentalized or isolated in the sense that once you fix that issue, that was all that had to be done? Or is there a whole checklist of things that have to take place after that to check all the other experiments and cargo after that, since you have to go back in the capsule of the spacecraft?

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: Again, since this was processed in a separate facility, we'll go ahead and look at the facility there that we process it in. It doesn't affect other hardware that was being planned on board. But as far as why did it happen, how did it happen, we're going back to, did we do something different? We're looking at all the processes that prepared it for this mission and seeing what we did different than we've done in the past. So we just haven't had a chance to go through all that yet.

Adam Byerly, Florida Coast Magazine: Nothing else has to be checked once that was fixed? That was it? Seal it back up and it's ready to go?

Joel Montalbano, ISS Deputy Manager: That's correct.

Adam Byerly, Florida Coast Magazine: Alright, thank you.

Joshua Santora, NASA Public Affairs: That's all we have time for today. Joel, I want to thank you. We watch [inaudible] closely for Expeditions 57 and 58, for the science that gets to happen, and obviously the astronauts getting their delivery. Hans, appreciate your candor today in joining us. Thank you for delivering our payloads. So go Dragon and go Space Station. That's going to be all. Thank you all for being here. Please be sure to tune in Saturday morning. We are planning to begin coverage for capture and berthing at 4:30AM Eastern with capture scheduled for 6:00AM Eastern on Saturday morning. You can do that live online at and for updates on this mission, please visit as well as and for more on today's mission. For all things Space Station, again, and you can follow us online on social media @nasa and @spacex. And that's all, we'll see you next time.

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