Demo-2 passes FRR milestone ahead of historic Crew Dragon launch

The path to regaining US domestic crew launch capability passed another major milestone on Friday, with the Demo-2 mission approved at the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) level during a two-day meeting at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Approval at the FRR provided the mission with NASA’s Certification Of Flight Readiness (CoFR).

With Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon currently sat on Pad 39A in preparation for a Static Fire test later on Friday, officials worked on the final paperwork requirements to approve the path to next Wednesday’s launch date.

The data from the Static Fire test of the integrated Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon stack will feed into the final review of the flow, known as the Launch Readiness Review (LRR) – which will ultimately confirm the launch date.

The FRR, however, has historically been the most important meeting on the path toward the launch of a crewed mission. Such reviews were a major element of approving the Space Shuttle for upcoming missions.

The DM-1 FRR process followed a similar path, with numerous reviews taking place ahead of the main FRR. This path would have been followed this week with the Demo-2 (DM-2) FRR, albeit with the additional pressure of two humans on board.

During the Shuttle Program, departmental FRRs would take place around a month ahead of a mission, allowing key elements such as “Orbiter” and “MOD” (Mission Operations Directorate) to review the specifics of their roles in a mission and cover any issues from the previous flight.

A slide from STS-132’s Agency FRR (via L2).

Each presentation went into great depth for every element of the mission relating to that department, with some presentations being several hundred pages long. *L2 members can download hundreds of Shuttle FRR presentations here*

Those FRRs would then combine in a large-scale Space Shuttle Program (SSP) FRR, which brought together all of the previous departments into a Program-level review at the Johnson Space Center (JSC).

Once that review was passed, the final hurdle was the Agency-Level FRR, which took all the findings of the previous FRRs, most notably the Shuttle FRR, and reviewed them with NASA HQ and the ISS partners.

This would lead to final polling at the end of the meeting to provide the mission a “go” to proceed to the launch date.

A rare view inside an SSP FRR – via NASA

Normally, “Action Items” found during the previous FRRs would have been cleared by the time of the Agency FRR. However, if one of the FRRs suffered from a “no go” during polling, the option to reconvene was provided by the Delta FRR.

For Demo-2, the start and finish of the process saw a “sign off” via two pieces of documentation. The first, signed by Commercial Crew Program (CCP) manager Kathy Lueders was SpaceX’s “Human Rating Certification Package” which became part of the FRR.

The review began on Thursday, with teams from SpaceX, NASA and the International Space Station Program all present.

Steve Jurczyk, NASA Associate Administrator, led the review, with Hans Koenigsmann, vice president for Build and Flight Reliability, as SpaceX’s lead representation.

The Demo-2 FRR being conducted at KSC – via NASA

The key item reviews were presented by Ms. Lueders for the CCP, Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program at NASA.

On the SpaceX side, Mr. Koenigsmann was supported by Joe Petrzelka, the Senior Director of Dragon Engineering at SpaceX, Bala Ramamurthy, the Demo-2 Launch Chief Engineer at SpaceX, and Benji Reed, Director of Crew Mission Management at SpaceX.

The review focused on the readiness of SpaceX’s crew transportation system; the readiness of the station program and its international partners to support the flight; and the certification of flight readiness.

The review moved into a second session on Friday, which was not entirely unexpected given the gravity of the mission, allowing for all the documentation to be reviewed and signed.

The final document to be signed was the Certification Of Flight Readiness (CoFR), which ultimately concludes the FRR and approves the mission to proceed towards the Launch Readiness Review (LRR).

Reviewing the FRR, officials noted there were some “conversations”, but no significant open items, allowing the review to pass without needing to re-review any specific elements.

Most of the open items were satisfied ahead of moving to the FRR phase.

In a testament to the work that had been completed to this to this stage, Ms. Lueders added the SpaceX and NASA teams had “always performed miracles for her”, before adding she was “very proud of them right now”.

The remaining items of interest related to a smooth flow through the Static Fire test, the Dry Dress rehearsal – set for Saturday – and the final review, which will be the Launch Readiness Review (LRR) on Monday.

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