Monday, August 29, 2011

Catch-22 for Crew Transport to LEO

During his press conference this morning, ISS Program Manager Mike Suffredini said that if the Russians are unable to resume manned launches by mid-November, they will be forced to de-man the station no later than November 19th.

And while they are capable and ready to autonomously operate the ISS indefinitely, he made it clear that the absence of any crew would make it impossible for the SpaceX Dragon to dock with the station following its scheduled launch on November 30, 2011.

The interruption of LEO crew transport via Soyuz magnifies the need for alternatives (such as the Dragon), yet the test flights necessary to prove that the Dragon and its competition can successfully deliver supplies and people to the ISS cannot happen without a crew aboard the station.

On the other hand, if the problems that caused the loss of a Progress spacecraft last week are discovered and fixed such that human flights can continue to the ISS before she is de-manned, it will be more important than ever that SpaceX can successfully demonstrate the capabilities of the Dragon on November 30th.

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