Upcoming ISS-related events; Dragon up and Progress down

In fairness, Dragon won’t actually be rising very far.  Tomorrow, SpaceX plans to conduct a pad abort test of the Dragon 2.  (They’ve evidently dropped the “V” from “Dragon V2” as the name continues to evolve.)  The vehicle is sitting poised on a Dragon trunk section (no point putting it on a Falcon 9, as it won’t actually *use* the rocket for this test) at Cape Canaveral.  Earlier today, a hotfire test of the SuperDraco engines that power the Dragon in orbit was completed; these are also the engines it will use for the abort test.  The test is scheduled for 7AM EDT (6AM here in Minnesota, or 1100 GMT) and will be over in just a couple of minutes.  The full pre-test press preview briefing from NASA TV is here:

On a less happy note, Progress M-27M’s return is now looking like it will happen probably on Friday.  Spaceflight101 has a page for the reentry, with live prediction updates.  It is still much too early to predict a location, but here are the predicted times as of 9:30PM CDT, when I wrote this post:

USSTRATCOM: May 8, 2015 – 12:17 UTC +/-48 Hours [Issued: May 5 – 12:38]
Spaceflight101: May 8, 2015 – 12:40 UTC +/-24 Hours [Issued: May 5 – 23:30]
Satflare: May 8, 2015 – 06:34 UTC +/-9 Hours [Issued: May 5 – 20:20]
Ted Molczan: May 8, 2015 – 21:03 UTC +/-19 Hours [Issued: May 4 – 23:43]
Aerospace Corp: May 8, 2015 – 21:43 UTC +/-22 Hours [Issued: May 5 – 04:28]
NASA: ‘Around May 7’ [Issued: May 2]
Roscosmos: Initially: May 7-11, Revised: May 5-7 [Issued: April 29]

It’s increasingly looking like there was some sort of collision between the upper stage of the rocket and the Progress capsule, but it could still be a while before they know what component (or components) was to blame, or even which side the primary fault occurred on: rocket or spacecraft.  RussianSpaceWeb, Anatoly Zak’s incomparable resource for all things Russian and spacey, has an excellent webpage discussing the details and what is and isn’t known, including a graphic showing where Soyuz rocket stages typically impact, and an invaluable discussion of the information displayed on the Progress video feed.  One interesting tidbit is that it has apparently blown through nearly all of its propellant.  Since it wasn’t supposed to burn the engine that much (and there’s no evidence it did), the obvious question is: where did all that propellant go?  Was there a leak?  Did the system depressurize?

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