We may be on the brink of a new era of spaceflight, but premature departure would be a costly mistake – which is why the delays and failures of SpaceX's Crew Dragon, the new spacecraft, are likely to bring humans into space, are cause for concern, but do not worry. In space you can expect the unexpected.
The sudden explosion of a Crew Dragon test capsule is scary and genuinely embarrassing for a company so focused on a picture of future and reliability. And a failed use of a parachute also creates no confidence. But any astronautics historian will tell you that it's rare that something with rockets exploded sometime during the development .
The Commercial Crew program was launched back in 201
While the first flights with crew estimated to take place in 2018, this year passed without a first test flight from one of the contracted spacecraft providers, Boeing and SpaceX. This changed in March with the successful first test flight of the crew Dragon (loaded with cargo, not with humans). And the Starliner from Boeing is scheduled to fly this year. Due to delays, the companies' years of hard work seemed finally to pay off.
Then there was this disaster on the test field: not just an overturned Starship grenade or a booster lost through heavy seas, but a full-on explosion of a vehicle intended for manned missions Event that is by no means over, has been instantly deadly to anyone.
Of course, nobody was inside. Because this was a test of systems that were not finalized or brought up to date. It has failed spectacularly, but so rockets fail – with spectacle.
We only saw this because somebody unwisely picked it up and spread the video online. If they were not, we would have heard that an anomaly has occurred during the test and that capsule has become unusable. This phrase, which has been in the industry many decades ago, can mean many things, and its ambiguity is intentional – it is intended to protect the public from the harsh reality of space travel, the danger of blasting faster than bombing in a place that trying to kill you.
Missiles, capsules, and spacecraft have failed from the beginning, and they will continue to do so because no one is content to refine a design from the 1960s forever. Making progress in space means constructing at the very edge of the possible – in fact, this often means expanding that boundary and doing what others thought was impossible. since such a failure could conceivably be just as catastrophic – but as the representatives of SpaceX have repeatedly said: "That's why we test." four chutes, one of which failed on purpose, while the others were not used in the recent test. Just as pumping up a pressure vessel far above the specified PSI to check its performance under load, this is about causing controlled failures in carefully observed environments. They invite a failure in their home today, so they do not open the door on the day they take off.
It must also be said that these device failures occur in a wider context to make space travel far, far safer than ever before. No one should entertain the illusion that spaceflight will ever be completely safe – least of all, if it flies at a speed of thousands of miles per hour through a deadly vacuum or returns to the atmosphere that is within range of temperatures that are hot enough to melt steel. But companies like SpaceX and Boeing (though their reputation for security has recently been tarnished more sustainably) make damn sure they're doing their utmost to reduce that risk.
The change from Russia is amazingly reliable, but getting old Soyuz capsules for new spacecraft with completely new capabilities are not easy or lightweight. These new vehicles have been designed from the ground up with systems that ultimately make them safer and more reliable than any other in history. However, both companies are currently in the egg breaking phase.
However, this does not mean that these accidents will have no effect. Trust is relaxed; Missions are delayed; Costs arise; Competitors are encouraged. And, pragmatically speaking, SpaceX is unlikely to send a crew into space this year as these events are more severe and control of the capsule and its tests will increase. But that's all part of the process.
Delays are inherent in the space industry. It can be made fast but it must be done correctly . It's disappointing to see the dream of a US-built spacecraft delivering astronauts to the ISS put on ice, but the reward for patience will be enormous. It's done when it's done. You would not want it a day before – especially if you were the one who rides in it.