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Astronaut capsule devoured by flames



SpaceX finally confirmed on Thursday that its crew capsule had been ground-tested two weeks ago and admitted the accident was "not good news" for the company's efforts to launch astronauts this year.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of the company, told reporters that it's too early to know what went wrong during the test on April 20, or whether the crew's dragon capsule test flight in March – with the exception of astronauts – went to Failure contributed.

Flames devoured the capsule half a second before the launch aborted Thruster should fire.

For security reasons, SpaceX still can not access the test site in Cape Canaveral, Koenigsmann says. The company does not want to disturb any evidence that could provide clues to the failure.

The company has come to the conclusion that the smaller, simpler cargo version of the Dragon capsule can fly safely to the International Space Station ISS. SpaceX was on its way to launch a Falcon rocket with station equipment in the United States early Friday morning, despite threats of impending storms. Earlier this week, the flight was postponed due to a heavy power outage at the space station.

An old network switching unit failed on Monday, with the space station's performance dropping by 25 percent and all deliveries being ruled out. By Thursday, air traffic controllers had exchanged the box and the orbiting outpost again fully powered.

Since the accident occurred on April 20 near SpaceX's Cape Canaveral air base, the booster can not return to launch the cargo. Instead, the first-stage booster aimed at a barge about 1

2 miles offshore, much closer than usual.

The cargo and crew versions of the Dragon capsule differ considerably. The Cargo Dragon does not have the SuperDraco engines embedded in the Crew Dragon side. These engines would be used to push a capsule from a rocket just fired in an emergency. They were not used during the spaceflight test flight in March.

Koenigsmann does not believe that the engines themselves caused the accident. The system had been activated – the opening and closing of valves and pressure systems – as the flames erupted.

SpaceX wanted to launch the newly-returned Crew Dragon in another test this summer, to see how the SuperDraco engines operate on a crash flight. According to Koenigsmann further crew Dragons are built, which can be used for this test.

Koenigsmann remains hopeful SpaceX can bring two NASA astronauts to the space station this year. The impact on the timetable would depend on the results of the accident investigation, he said.

NASA has signed a contract with SpaceX and Boeing to bring astronauts to and from the space station instead of making them expensive with Russian rockets.

Prior to the accident SpaceX had shot for the start of a summer crew. "I do not want to completely rule out the current schedule," he said.

"It's certainly not good news for the overall schedule, but I hope we can recover," Koenigsmann said the company had contact with astronaut Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken – who will be on board the next test flight Crew Dragon to the space station – and that the two have offered courage and motivation. Boeing has also recently been in default with its Starliner Crew Capsules.

The company aims to bring a starliner without astronauts to the space station in August.

This story originally appeared in news.com.au. [19659017]
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