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Home / Science / Few details available at the beginning of the SpaceX accident investigation – Spaceflight Now

Few details available at the beginning of the SpaceX accident investigation – Spaceflight Now

SuperDraco encounters a spacecraft test from SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship during a hover test in 2015. Source: SpaceX

The NASA and SpaceX officials have little to say about the apparent explosion of a Crew Dragon capsule this week on Saturday during a ground test at Cape Canaveral, and Security Advisory Council members said they were patient on Thursday as investigators reviewed high-speed images, telemetry and debris to determine the cause of the accident.

A panel of security advisers discussed the explosion during a previously scheduled public meeting on Thursday. A former astronaut and member of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, Sandra Magnus said it was too early to know how the accident would affect SpaceX's CrewX capsule program.

The probe, which crashed Saturday, recently returned from a six-day test flight back to the International Space Station. The unpiloted mission, called Demo-1, was a scouting flight before NASA put the capsule on the next orbital launch called Demo-2 Astronauts.

"Before the demo-1 launch, NASA and SpaceX identified configuration changes and post-qualification work that needed to be completed before the demo-2 was possible," Magnus said. "Despite the recent incident, there is still a lot of work to be done between the demo 1 and a crew flight. It is too early to speculate on how this work will change as a result of recent events. As always, the panel encourages the team to protect themselves from the dangers of deadline pressure.

Before the Saturday blast, SpaceX was released this year for the Demo 2 mission, perhaps in September. NASA's astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be assigned to Crew Dragon's first piloted mission, which will pave the way for the crew's regular rotation flights to the space station. Thus, NASA relies solely on Russian Soyuz ferries for the transport of astronauts to and from the lowlands Earth orbit.

The engineers prepared the Crew Dragon spaceship, fresh from space after an explosion in the Atlantic Ocean on March 8, for an atmospheric test flight in July to validate the capsule's ability to deliver a rocket-failing rocket to escape. For the crew of the demo-2 crew another capsule is under construction.

"The event occurred during a static fire test conducted prior to the on-flight crash test," said Patricia Sanders, ASAP Chairwoman. "The shot was intended to demonstrate the integrated SuperDraco system with dual vibroacoustic life at vehicle level in demolition environments."

The accident occurred when SpaceX tested the Crew Dragon SuperDraco abortion engines, which were supposed to push the capsule away from its Falcon 9 thrower. Demolition capability is an important safety feature for the crew capsule.

The crew capsule fired 12 smaller Draco maneuver rudders earlier in the day as a test.

Said Sanders. "The firing of eight SuperDracos led to an anomaly. The test site was completely erased and the entire safety protocol was followed. The mishap resulted in no injuries. "

SpaceX's first full-scale Crew Dragon probe is on a Falcon 9 rocket to launch on March 2 for its International Space Station launch. The capsule was involved in an accident on April 20 in Cape Canaveral. Photo credits: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now

The Draco and SuperDraco engines burn the same combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants that ignite on contact. The toxic propellant was released into the air on Saturday after the explosion.

A photo of a Florida Today photographer from a nearby beach showed a red-and-orange cloud flying over Crew Dragon's test field in Cape Canaveral. Such acidic clouds are typically associated with nitrogen tetroxide, the oxidizer used by SuperDraco engines, and a propellant commonly used in rockets and satellites.

SpaceX and NASA released no toxic fumes in their statements after Saturday's accident, but a dispatcher at the Brevard Country Emergency Operations Center, which was reached by Spaceflight Well said Saturday night they were not aware of any threat to the public ,

The Crew Dragon carries fully loaded about 1.5 tons of the corrosive fuel mixture that pose health hazards to humans and animals.

Sanders said NASA and SpaceX responded immediately to the accident by implementing turn-down plans. SpaceX leads the investigation with NASA involvement and support, officials said.

"NASA has complete insight into the results of the mishap investigation, which will review all data collected during the test, including high-speed image data and detailed spacecraft telemetry, and will include the analysis of the recovered hardware from the test," said NASA spokesman Josh Finch on Thursday in a written statement. "We have full faith in the SpaceX and NASA team that conducted the investigation to determine the cause of the mishap and to make any necessary updates to the design.

NASA managers overseeing the space station program are also monitoring the progress of the investigation to determine if the Crew Dragon crash will impact the SpaceX cargo missions, the next of which will be launched on Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, Susan Helms , a former astronaut and ASAP committee member.

Space Station cargo missions use a different version of the Dragon spaceship without the SuperDraco demolition engines, and the authorities have not suggested a delay for next week's launch.

Exploring the Crew Dragon mishap investigation, Sanders said, "Early efforts focus on site conservation, data collection and reduction, and on the development of the anomaly timeline."

"The investigation will take some time before the root cause analysis is completed and will "Determine the impact on the demo 2 and the departure test during the flight," said Sanders.

SpaceX and NASA did not say if the accident occurred Or the SuperDraco engine ignites when the engines have ignited or during their combustion. SpaceX has also not confirmed whether the vehicle exploded, as generally believed, or the condition of the spacecraft and the test area after the accident.

The company confirmed the accident on Saturday night and the SpaceX officials confirmed on Sunday that it was 1 capsule, the last public opinion of the private space company to mishap.

The accident occurred in the Landing Zone 1 of SpaceX, a site leased by the Air Force, on which the company lands Falcon 9 missiles, which return to Earth after launching satellites. The company said on Tuesday that the Falcon 9's next landing would likely be moved from landing zone 1 to an offshore drone ship in the Atlantic.

Wayne Monteith, the steward in charge of the commercial aviation aerospace agency, told reporters Wednesday the Kennedy Space Center, whose rigorous ground tests will make spaceflight safer.

Monteith, a retired Luftwaffe general who commanded the 45th Space Wing of Cape Canaveral until last December, called the Crew Dragon accident a "disastrous" accident, compared to an explosion of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Launch pad in 2016, which destroyed the Israeli-owned communication satellite Amos 6.

"We test equipment, we test systems, we want to do that before we can get people aboard, and frankly, you want to discover these kinds of problems now, not when you're in mortal danger," said Monteith , "In this event, you will find that no one was injured. They had a catastrophic upholstery incident, much like Amos 6 had a problem in 2016, not a single accident, and that's why we're in the public eye for safety.

The slow release of information since Saturday's disaster has raised some observers' concerns about the transparency of SpaceX and NASA. The static SuperDraco fire was conducted by SpaceX, a privately held company that also owns Crew Dragon's hardware and intellectual property, a new paradigm for a NASA-sponsored space program.

An editorial published by Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday Further disclosures after Saturday's accident.

"We do not know how much damage has been done to the capsule or equipment involved in the test," wrote Orlando Sentinel's editors. "We do not know what possible causes SpaceX is investigating. We do not know if SpaceX has another capsule ready to continue the program. We really do not know what happened.

"There was no press conference. No opportunity to ask questions to business leaders. No detailed press releases. No photos or videos of the damage. The public is in the dark.

The newspaper's editorial staff wrote that Musk's companies do not have to make any public statements on private spending.

"It's not okay for the public to fund their efforts, as in SpaceX's Crewed Space Program." in the newsroom.

NASA has provided SpaceX with more than $ 3.1 billion for the development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft since the commercial crew initiative began in 2010. In a similar agreement, the space agency has one Series signed more than $ 4.8 billion worth of commercial crew contracts and contracts with Boeing over the same period.

Boeing has also got into trouble with ground testing of demolition engines on his CST-100 Starliner crew capsule.

The Starliner is scheduled for the first unpiloted demonstration flight to the space station in August, followed by a test flight of three Astronauts on board before the end of the year. The Starliner's first missions were delayed to allow engineers to investigate and remedy the cause of a fuel leak last year during a ground test of the aboard engines of a New Mexico ship.

Boeing did not disclose the fuel leak, which delayed the Starliner's first flights through months, until weeks later the problem was first reported by Ars Technica.

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel was used by Congress in 1968 after the Apollo 1 fire killed three astronauts during a ground test. The panel's charter envisages giving advice to the NASA administrator and making recommendations on security issues.

Magnus said the security panel will be patient with the investigation, but the advisers said that NASA managers in the Commercial Crew program oversee the development of the Crew Dragon. not SpaceX – you have the last word when astronaut flights can start.

"We know that the recent SpaceX mishap is of great interest," Magnus said. "We are patient and allow the teams to investigate. However, at the end of the day, the panel supports the CCP's position that missions will not take place until the program has received the necessary data to ensure that we understand the margins, that we control those margins, and that we operate in the EU Environment that these margins require. We will continue to highlight this issue as work progresses in both programs.

"Safety is a top priority for NASA and our commercial providers," Finch said in a statement. "We will work with our partners to fly our crew members when their systems are ready. We do not yet know what impact that will have on our target plans. Additional information will be published as it becomes available.

Sandra Magnus during the training for a flight with the space shuttle. Credit: NASA

SpaceX intended to reuse the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that had returned from the space station last month during the upcoming flight departure check. Teams will likely need to prepare another vehicle for the crash test, a process that will certainly introduce delays into the Crew Dragon Plan.

Demolition during the flight follows a pad-abort test in 2015 The Crew Dragon SuperDraco engines, each producing up to 16,000 pounds of thrust, were able to divert the capsule from an emergency on the launch pad.

Prior to Saturday's disaster, SpaceX and NASA engineers were investigating unspecified problems with the team kite parachutes. There are also concerns about slipping on the Boeing Starliner capsule.

"Both providers have work ahead of them before crewing," Magnus said. "The CCP program has provided contractors with all data necessary to validate the design's safety, and the provision of this information determines when the missions will begin, not before."

NASA "Converged on a Solution" said concerns about high-pressure helium pressure vessels in the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. An earlier version of the Composite Enclosed Pressure Vessel (COPV) was blamed in 2016 for the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on its launch pad, but last year SpaceX unveiled a new helium-tank design on a satellite launch.

While SpaceX and Boeing prepare their starships for astronauts, NASA and Roscosmos – the Russian Space Agency – have agreed to extend the expeditions of several space stations this year and next year to ensure that US astronauts on the planet Orbita complex are located.

NASA announces last The astronaut Christina Koch, who ascended to the space station with a Soyuz capsule from Kazakhstan on March 14, will stay aboard the outpost until February 2020, months longer than originally planned. Koch will return to Earth with another Soyuz spaceship when she boarded, and her 11-month mission will be the longest single space flight of a woman.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, who plans to launch a Soyuz rocket on July 20, will have extended his space expedition by two months to early April 2020. Like Cook, Morgan will return to Earth with a crew other than the one he starts with.

The US Space Agency also announced last week that Jessica Meir is assigned to a Soyuz crew for launch on September 25. NASA said earlier this year it planned to buy two more Soyuz seats for US astronaut flights to mitigate further delays in the commercial crew – one end of this year, apparently occupied by Meir, and another in early 2020.

NASA has also approved an extended mission for the first Starliner test flight with astronauts. Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann originally planned to stay on the space station for several weeks, but the trio is now expected to live and work at the research outpost for several months as a long-term resident. Meanwhile, NASA has set up a contingency plan to ensure later access of the ISS to the crew late into the future. 2020 provides some time margin as they rise to crew flight.

In the meantime, NASA has established a contingency plan to ensure future ISS access for the crew late into the future. "Magnus.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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