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CRS-13 Post-Launch Presser

CRS-13 Post-Launch Presser



  • Stephanie Martin, NASA Communications Office


  • Ven Feng, Manager, Transportation Integration Office, ISS Program
  • Jessica Jensen, Director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX

Stephanie Martin: Good afternoon and welcome to our SpaceX CRS-13 post-launch news conference. I'm Stephanie Martin of NASA Communications. I'm joined by NASA Manager of the Transportation Integration Office for the International Space Station Program, Ven Feng. And the SpaceX Director of Dragon Mission Management, Jessica Jensen. We'll begin in the room with opening comments from our presenters, and then we'll take your questions. Ven?

Ven Feng: Let's see, thank you. Let's see. What a spectacular launch. As a matter of fact, a spectacular launch and landing on this great morning here in Florida. I must have had a little sense of Déjà Vu, as we sat here six months ago and watched a launch and landing, very similar, on this very same booster. So it's quite an achievement, it was very nice. Let's see, in order to get here for today on this re-flown booster, we, our launch services team, and the International Space Station Program team did very thorough assessments to get here, so I just wanted to say thank you to our LSP team, based out of here at KSC, as well as the NASA technical team that worked along with SpaceX in order to get us here for today's successful launch. Let's see, on orbit, the space station's in very good shape. The crew's ready to receive Dragon on Sunday morning, about 6AM central time. Mark Vande Hei is the primary robotics operator. Joe Acaba is the support. And we're very much looking forward to 4,800 lbs of critical research, resupply and spares arriving at ISS on Sunday. Thank you.

Stephanie Martin: Jessica?

Jessica Jensen: Good morning. Or it's almost afternoon now. So, yeah, this was just a fantastic way to end the year for SpaceX east coast launches. We started off the year with the tenth cargo resupply mission to the space station. And that was actually the first launch out of the re-activated historic pad 39A. That's the same launch pad that astronauts flew to the moon on, many shuttle missions, and then we re-activated that pad. And CRS-10 was the first mission to launch off of that pad earlier this year. Then, as you all saw today, we had the newly-built pad 40, and it was great to have another CRS mission, our fourth Dragon of this year, launch off that pad for the first time, on the first attempt, just a great day all around. I do want to give a special thanks to NASA. They were very flexible in scheduling us on, with all of their ISS traffic constraints, and all their research and science constraints. So we really want to thank them for everything you guys have done to preserve this opportunity. Yeah, really happy we launched today. It was great. I'd also like to recognize the incredible work by our pad 40 team. Like I said, because it was a challenge, the launch dates in December, after this point would be pretty much extremely challenging, to not be able to launch at all, for a while, to the ISS. So our teams had to work super hard to make sure that we were able to launch today, and they did a great job of that. So I just wanted to thank everyone on the SpaceX team, the cape launch team, and NASA for their guidance along the way. The Air Force. The FAA. Everyone who helped get this pad ready to go. It was a great launch, and the launch site director, John Muratore, has confirmed, literally a few minutes after launch, he confirmed that everything on the pad looked great. The fuel systems were still up. LOX systems. Helium. Everything looked great. The additional blast protection and all the additional work they put into this pad kept it strong, which means we'll be able to have much faster turnarounds in the future. So, as you may remember from the pre-launch conference, this was a previously flown Dragon mission. So this capsule previously flew on CRS-6, and we're very excited to have it in orbit again. So it got placed into a nominal orbit. The solar arrays have deployed, and the next thing that happens is the Guidance, Navigation and Control bay door will open. That's a pretty long period, so that's going to happen next. Then we also had a flight-proven booster this mission. This booster supported the CRS-11 mission in June of this year. So that booster flew to space, came back, landed at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1, refurbished, launched today, and it landed again. I believe we have a video of that.

[video begins]

Video Package Voice 1: And a sonic boom passes across the Florida space coast, as the Falcon 9 first stage [sonic booms] makes a pinpoint landing back at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Video Package Voice 2: LZ-1, the F9 has landed. Landing operators proceed to procedure 11.100 in section three on LZ-1 net.

[video ends]

Jessica Jensen: So I will also encourage anyone who has never been to the cape for a launch or a landing, come out here. The sonic booms are awesome and launches are great. You should come out here. So, yeah, it's been a successful mission so far. Again, I just want to thank NASA, the FAA, and the Air Force for all their support, all their guidance, and their tremendous help in getting us here today.

Stephanie Martin: Thank you, Jessica. We'll now take your questions here in the room. If you have a question, please raise your hand. When I call on you, state your name, affiliation, and to whom you're addressing your question. And we'll also be taking questions on social media, using hashtag #askNASA on twitter. Let's see, for the first question, Ken?

Ken Kremer: Ken Kremer, Universe Today and Space Up Close. Jessica, can you give us a preliminary run-through of, how did these reused Falcon 9 and Dragon perform, and can you talk a little bit about the contamination issue with the second stage that delayed this a few days. Thanks.

Jessica Jensen: Sure. So the performance of both Falcon 9 and Dragon were totally nominal. There's no difference. You literally wouldn't know whether it was a brand new booster and a brand new Dragon versus previously flown. And that's the whole point of it. So, yeah, every parameter that I saw in the launch control room, I think Ven saw, too, was nominal. We didn't see anything odd due to these being previously flown. With regards to the issue we saw the past few days, we did find a small amount of particulate in the second stage fuel tank. We found that out after doing inspections after our static fire testing. The good news is we were able to flush all of that out and verify all of our filters were in place. We checked everything on the ground side as well as checking all the tanks again on Falcon 9. Even though we only saw this in the second stage fuel tank, out of an abundance of caution, we checked the second stage LOX tank as well as the first stage fuel and LOX tanks. And so we did several flushes, we wanted to take a few extra days, just to be safe. We did many extra flushes and insured that basically, our ground systems and our flight systems were all good for flight.

Stephanie Martin: Right over here.

Chris Gebhardt: Chris Gebhardt, with NASASpaceFlight, with one for both of you. What's Dragon's nominal departure date from the ISS in January? And for Jessica, at a recent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel meeting, there was talk about using a cargo Dragon to test out some heat shield defects to validate micrometeoroid impacts for crew Dragon assessments. I was wondering if you could talk about what those potential defects you might put on a cargo Dragon heat shield would be, and what mission or missions those are going to fly on?

Jessica Jensen: Okay. Do you want to answer the first question on return?

Ven Feng: Sure, that'll be a pretty quick one. We're currently nailing down the date, but it should be in the middle of January. We're looking at the on orbit activities. We're looking at vehicle traffic and other activities on orbit, as well as the amount of time for the research on orbit. So it should be right around the middle of January.

Jessica Jensen: Yes. And with regards to demonstration on cargo vehicles. So, the way we currently work is, yeah, it's great that we have this Dragon 1 vehicle as sort of a precursor to the crew missions we're going to fly. So what we do is, we work with NASA on the cargo Dragon 1 missions to say, hey, is there a certain type of hardware we can fly, or is there pieces of either a heat shield or the Thermal Protection System on the side that we should do testing on the cargo Dragon mission to get some additional flight. And so we've done that on a few different experiments with them, and yeah, basically we have to make sure that whatever we're doing to the Dragon 1 capsule is going to be safe and reliable for that flight. That's of the utmost importance. But it's also this great way to learn more about the crew vehicle before people actually fly in it. So we have a really good relationship with NASA in working through those demonstrations.

Chris Gebhardt: Was the discussion at the ASAP meeting, then, about potentially putting some defects in a cargo Dragon heat shield just speculation of things that could be done, or is that an actual plan for a future mission before the crew Dragons start flying?

Jessica Jensen: Yeah, so I can't go into details of any of the experiments, and I apologize, I don't know exactly what was stated at the ASAP panel, but I can tell you that we do perform demonstration missions, or demonstration objectives on Dragon 1.

Stephanie Martin: Is there another question in the room about today's mission?

Emre Kelly: Emre Kelly, with Florida Today. Jessica, this question is for you. Why exactly is particulates in the second stage a bad thing?

Jessica Jensen: Why is it a bad thing? So, launches are crazy things. Basically, a million things have to go right, but any one of them can go wrong. And particulates is one of those things that can go wrong. If they get clogged somewhere you could have some issues with performance. So it's really hard to quantify exactly what would happen. But basically everything dealing with a launch, because once it takes off you don't have commanding capability of the launch vehicle. Dragon we have commanding capability once in orbit, but for Falcon 9, it runs autonomously through its entire flight, once it's in the air. So based on that, you just want to take every precaution possible. Like I said, you want to make sure all those million things go right, and that not one of them goes wrong.

Stephanie Martin: Perfect. We'll now take a question from hashtag #askNASA on twitter.

Social Media: Yeah, so [@ashower?] asks, will NASA be flying more reusable first stages?

Ven Feng: Let's see, so we have agreed, for this one flight. And we're going forward on a case-by-case basis. So there's many different aspects that we look at. We look at what that booster's life may have been in the past. We look at what our history might be with that booster. So at this point we're case-by-case. We decided to do the one which launched today based on the study that took months, really to get to. And we're considering that for the future as well, but no decision has been made yet.

Stephanie Martin: Do we have another question in the room? Just one second.

Roland Keller: Roland Keller, of Swiss Engineering Magazine and Swiss Space Association. I would like to know, what do you like the most? Is it the takeoff or the landing?

Jessica Jensen: Is that for me?

Ven Feng: I like the Dragon arrival. [laughter]

Jessica Jensen: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Uh huh. Liftoff is my favorite. The primary mission is what matters. If you don't have that happen, the landings don't mean anything. So the landing are really cool and really fun to watch, especially from here, because you can see them live, but liftoff is definitely the best part.

Stephanie Martin: Question in the corner.

Tom Cross: Hi, I'm Tom Cross with Teslarati. I have two questions for you Jessica. Can we expect to see the pre-flown boosters unpainted from now on, and also is there a plan to refly a third time on any of them?

Jessica Jensen: So, for whether they're going to be painted or not, going forward I don't know exactly we are with serial numbers, we've actually landed many rockets, and I don't have track of them right now, but I believe most of them in the future, you will see them as not painted, but there still might be some coming in as painted. We actually have to run some tests on them and make sure that the amount of soot on it is allowable. So some of them may be painted, some of them might not be. And yes, in the future, we do plan to reuse boosters at least three times.

Tom Cross: Is there one currently planned to be re-flown?

Jessica Jensen: I don't know of one currently planned. I don't know of one at this state.

Tom Cross: Okay. Thank you.

Stephanie Martin: I believe we have another question from hashtag #askNASA on twitter.

Social Media: Yes, [Jason Lindt?] asks, is the first stage the only part of the rocket that gets reused.

Jessica Jensen: Yes. It's very difficult to bring the second stage back from orbit.

Stephanie Martin: Right here in the room.

Chris Gebhardt: Chris Gebhardt again with NASASpaceFlight. I don't know if you know this Jessica, but, status of the landing pads for the Falcon Heavy demonstration? Are they ready for that?

Jessica Jensen: Yes. So we only need to build one more landing pad. So Falcon Heavy is three cores, so for the demonstration mission we are going to have LZ-2 ready to support that mission. It's right next to LZ-1, and then the other booster will go to a drone-ship landing.

Ken Kremer: Can you talk about... First, congratulations on a great success, I forgot to say before, sorry.

Jessica Jensen: Thanks.

Ken Kremer: Why are they unpainted, these boosters today, and potentially in the future? And why were the stripes there? Thanks.

Jessica Jensen: Yeah. So basically, there's no reason to paint them. If we do conductivity checks, we verify thermal properties, and everything is good to go, there's basically no reason to repaint it. You're just basically adding mass and spending resources that are not needed. So there's just not a requirement for it if we can verify that like I said, the thermal properties are acceptable for flight. And the reason you see some marks on it is, when every booster comes back, there is a certain amount of inspections we have to do. They're called non-destructive inspections. And a lot of times those happen particularly at welded joints, or certain other joints. So that's just where we've had to clean off the area to do an inspection to make sure it's good for the next flight.

Stephanie Martin: I believe we have another question from social media.

Social Media: Yeah, so [Chris Cormeir?] was wondering how many times is a Falcon 9 rocket likely to be reused?

Jessica Jensen: How many times... So, in the future, we are going to reuse them a lot. I won't give an exact number today, but it's going to be a lot. We're certifying for at least ten flights, and hoping for a lot more.

Stephanie Miller: Question from the back of the room.

Bill Jelen: Bill Jelen from We Report Space. As far as fairing recovery, how many times have you got a piece of a fairing back, and will you be attempting that again for the Zuma launch?

Jessica Jensen: So my expertise is Dragon, I don't know which missions we do fairing recoveries for. So I can't speak on that, but I do know we have been getting... We have been working fairing recovery. So that's about all I know. If I speak on that, I'll probably say something wrong.

Stephanie Martin: Do we have any more questions in the room about today's mission? Well, I believe that will conclude our post-launch news conference for today. You can always follow more on the SpaceX CRS by visiting, and you can keep up with the exciting research on the International Space Station at Thank you for joining us.

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