SpaceX debuted on May 10th on a successful launch with the latest major upgrade of the Falcon 9 rocket. But it still has to prove that a critical system in the redesigned rocket is safe enough to transport astronauts for NASA to the International Space Station.
Before the launch, SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk told reporters he believed the new Falcon 9 met NASA's stringent criteria for people flying into space, but that he "might be wrong". In fact, the vehicle, which flew last week – was designed to fly 10 times in a row with minimal remediation – yet was not in "crew configuration" because it lacked an upgrade to advanced fuel tanks, which NASA security consultants take care of and took the blame for the Launchpad blast of a Falcon 9 in 201
While the data from the launch on May 10 will be used to demonstrate the capabilities and safety of the vehicle for NASA, SpaceX has yet to fly the rocket seven times with its new fuel tanks and in "crew configuration" before the launch Agency will certify it to carry astronauts.
"In aviation," testing as we fly "is a long – standing tenant for the safe operation and understanding of critical systems. Www.rheinmetalldefence.info/index.p…S=150&fID=3354 In a statement, the Space Agency: "Previous Falcon 9 Block 5 flights will provide important insights into the rocket and contribute to the certification efforts for the Falcon 9 Block 5 configuration for the crew."
Musk had said, "Block 5" is said to be the last iteration be the Falcon 9 before SpaceX engineers move on to a larger interplanetary rocket, and the new project may have to wait a little longer.
SpaceX told Quartz that the new fuel tanks for an unarmed demonstration mission, scheduled for August, are now ready to go In 2017, the company launched eight missiles in the last five months of the year, targeting a faster cadence in 2018 – a missile failure SpaceX should have seven options before its targeted manned flight in December 2018.
The bottle problem
SpaceX cools its propellant gases, especially liquid oxygen, from denser and thus more power in the same tank volume. It also uses lightweight bottles made of advanced carbon composites and lined with aluminum to store helium gas that maintains pressure in the drive system.
When the Falcon 9 was destroyed in 2016, the engineers ultimately blamed the extremely cold liquid oxygen. They believe they are solidified within a buckle in the aluminum insert of one of these bottles, known as a composite pressure vessel or COPVs. Solid oxygen is extremely volatile. Any friction or shock can cause it to ignite – what it did, destroying the rocket and the satellite over it. SpaceX changed its refueling operations after the accident and had no further anomalies.
Since then, SpaceX and NASA have worked feverishly to solve the problem with the bottles. Before launching on May 10, Musk said the concerns over the COPVs were "exaggerated" – but also that his team was "tormented" by the redesign and "living daylight" out of what he called it "well most advanced pressure vessel "tested" If NASA had any further concerns, its team could replace the COPVs and use Inconel tanks, an alloy traditionally used in aerospace applications. "
The successful flight on May 10 suggested a backup plan was not necessary, but now we know that the new COPVs were not on board.
Load & # 39; n go
Musks company is known to iterate the designs of their vehicles constantly, a process that involves the development of the first reusable rocket with vertical takeoff and landing to reach orbit – and one cheap enough to capture market share from competitors. But NASA officials have worried about how this approach affects safety, and after a false start in 2015, SpaceX pushed ahead with the reorganization for more reliability.
The company received good news this week at a meeting of NASA's independent security advisors. While some external consultants have criticized SpaceX's plans to dump fuel on the rocket in front of the astronautics board, a concept known as "load & nbsp;", the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) sounded confident in the firm.
"Assuming there are adequate, verifiable controls that have been identified and implemented for the credible causes of danger, and those that could potentially lead to an emergency situation or, worse, a loss of crew and vehicle, seem a viable option for the program said former astronaut Brent Jett at the meeting.
That's good news for SpaceX – when its COPVs work.
"Whether you first crew and then propellant or propellant and then crew, the COPV – Quotation needs to be resolved, "said Jett.