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Home / Science / The new helium tank for SpaceX crew launches is still waiting for the flight – Spaceflight Now

The new helium tank for SpaceX crew launches is still waiting for the flight – Spaceflight Now

CreditX: SpaceX

SpaceX is still working on a new, safer helium tank design needed for astronaut launches, and the debut of the enhanced Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket earlier this month was considered one of seven successful missions "Crew Configuration" NASA says it requires astronauts to put on board the vehicle, officials said Thursday.

The update on the development of the Falcon 9 new helium tank, which is scheduled to fly for the first time later this year, came One week after members of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said they would be using SpaceXs plan, the rocket loaded with super-cooled, compressed fuel, feel more comfortable with astronauts strapped into their Crew Dragon spaceship on the vehicle.

The First Launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket On May 11, the Bangladesh communications satellite Bangabandhu 1 was successfully launched into orbit and the launcher enhanced ts heat shield enhancement, higher thrust engines and new landing legs , Upgrades that aim to reuse the first stage of the Falcon 9 easier.

But it did not carry a new helium tank design under development to solve the problem of booster explode during a soil test in 2016, according to a report by Quartz, which was confirmed by Spaceflight Now. NASA says SpaceX must introduce this change to the Falcon 9 rocket before it counts the seven successful launches before a mission with astronauts.

The new helium cylinders, known as Composite Owrapped Pressure Vessels (COPVs), store cold helium at high pressures for injection into rocket fuel tanks and maintain pressure, while Falcon 9 engines consume kerosene and liquid oxygen in flight.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk told reporters before May 11 that he believed the Falcon 9 block 5 configuration, which was to debut with the launch of Bangabandhu 1, was the same version that will fly with NASA astronauts added but adding that he "might be wrong"

NASA and SpaceX confirmed Thursday that the modified COPVs will not be on the launch on May 11, however, for the first time on a test mission the company's Crew Dragon capsule called Demo -1 flown, which is currently scheduled to take off at the end of August 1965 with all the astronauts on board

Only then with the counter to log the seven flights of the Falcon 9 in a "frozen" configuration, before a second crew Dragon demo flight, which is scheduled for December at the earliest, is needed, with two astronauts flying to the space station.

"Space exploration is testing as we fly – a longtime renter for safe working and understanding of critical systems," said Cheryl Warner, a NASA spokeswoman. in response to a request from Spaceflight Now. "We expect this configuration to be ready for Demonstration Mission 1.

" NASA will work with SpaceX to inspect data and components, systems and resources after each launch of Falcon 9 Block 5 Evaluate operations rocket heritage, "Warner said in a written statement." Early Falcon 9 Block 5 flights will provide vital insights into the rocket and contribute to the certification efforts for the Falcon 9 Block 5 configuration for the crew. "

SpaceX and Boeing won multi-billion dollar contracts in 2014 to develop, build and fly commercial capsules to transport astronauts between Earth and the International Space Station, and once vehicles are certified by NASA, they will move station teams up and down several times a year which removes US dependence on Soviet spacecraft Soyuz for astronaut transports.

NASA Mita Workers were wary of the Boeing and SpaceX schedules. further delays are likely in both vehicles, with the first crew test flights possibly falling into 2019.

File photo from a camera view in the second stage liquid dust tank during a rocket launch of the Falcon 9 in 2015. Helium COPVs are mounted around the perimeter of the tank. Credit: SpaceX

Issues with the COPVs of the Falcon 9 or its associated hardware were blamed for two rocket failures in June 2015 and September 2016.

In 2015, a strut connecting one of the helium vessels in the Falcon 9 second The tank for liquid oxygen broke a few minutes after takeoff, broke the fuel tank of the upper stage and led to the destruction of the rocket and a supply ship the Dragon on the way to International Space Station.

SpaceX ceased to use the type of strut that failed in 2015, when flights were resumed later this year with an upgraded version of the Falcon 9 with "full-scale" mishap in September 2016 as a booster a launch pad test exploded destroying a $ 200 million Israeli telecommunications satellite, was also pointed to a top-level error. s

SpaceX engineers believe that failure most likely began when liquid oxygen propellant froze in a camber or gap between the aluminum liner and the carbon sheath of one of the COPVs. While the investigators were unable to determine a "cause," the engineers concluded that the solid oxygen was likely to be ignited by friction or by tearing fibers on the outside of the helium tank, resulting in the Falcon 9's top step burst in a flame ball.

SpaceX modified its post-accident refueling and helium loading procedures in September 2016 to prevent solid oxygen from forming, and a new COPV design incorporates changes that the company says will completely remove the buckles.

The company has development, significant qualification tests and production of the modified helium bottles that will fly in the Falcon 9 rocket on the Demo 1 mission with the Crew Dragon spaceship.

"The First Flight of Falcon 9 Block 5 is an important milestone towards flight crew to the International Space Station, Said a SpaceX spokesman in a statement." Beginning with our first launch of Block 5 and in close collaboration with NASA, SpaceX will become the Evaluate components, systems and operations of each Falcon 9 Block 5 mission to document the vehicle's heritage and to ensure our development of the most advanced, reliable and safe human spacecraft built.

SpaceX has completed 28 consecutive successful rocket launches since resuming Falcon 9 in January 2017.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft for SpaceX's first commercial crew demonstration flight, which will launch without an astronaut crew in a reverberant room for EMOTIONAL INTERFERENCE TESTS Credit: SpaceX / Elon Musk

"The amount of testing and research that has gone into COPV safety is gigantic," Musk told reporters May 10. "This is by far the most advanced pressure vessel ever from developed by humanity. It's crazy. "

" I personally went over this design, I did not count how many times, "Musk said." The top engineers at SpaceX have been tormented by it. We tried the living daylights, and we had in-depth discussions about NASA. I think we are in a good situation.

Musk said SpaceX has an emergency plan to replace the redesigned carbon fiber / aluminum COPVs for Inconel bullets.

"I think that's unlikely," Musk said:

NASA Security Advisers Say Last-and-Go Operation Is Suitable For Crews

The redesigned helium bottles are one of the top technical themes of NASA executives and a group of Safety advisors entrusted with overseeing human space flight programs.

Some engineers and external experts have also expressed concerns about SpaceX's proposal for astronauts to board the Crew Dragon spacecraft before fuel is supplied to the Falcon 9 rocket These fears were compounded after the explosion in 2016 during a countdown to a static fire test in Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX loads typis In the final hour of the countdown, extremely chilled propellants into the Falcon 9 rocket, a timeline that the company's executives have suggested for crewed launches. In contrast, the United Launch Atlas 5 rocket, which will bring Boeing CST-100 Starliner crew ships into orbit, will be refueled several hours before launch, before astronauts board the vehicle.

The space shuttle's external fuel tank filling started nine hours before takeoff, but like the Atlas 5, cryogenic propellants were pumped slowly into the shuttle to replace the liquids cooled during the countdown.

NASA is still thinking about the refueling plan proposed by SpaceX. Load-and-go, but agency managers will soon decide if they approve it.

SpaceX officials said the risk to astronauts would be mitigated by an accident during refueling by the crew kite's launch abortion system, which could be activated to push the capsule off an explosion on the launch pad. Ground personnel should also be evacuated before refueling to reduce the risk of a countdown.

Brent Jett, a former Space Shuttle commander and member of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, said on May 17 that a recent report by NASA Engineering and The Security Center offered the Safety Committee and NASA managers "a thorough analysis of the dangers and load-and-go controls.

"This report, which identified a number of previously unrecognized threats, proved to be very valuable for a commercial crew program," Jett said at the Safety Panel meeting on May 17 May at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"My feeling is that reasonable, verifiable controls on credible causes of danger are being identified and implemented, and those that could potentially lead to an emergency situation or, worse, to the loss of Crew and vehicle. It seems that load-and-go is a viable option for the program being considered, "Jett said.

Ot their members of the panel agreed with Jett's assessment.

" It seems That, if all the appropriate steps are taken to address the potential dangers, the risk of launching the crew in the load-and-route configuration could be acceptable, "said Patricia Sanders, chairwoman of ASAP

" The other important one Factor that NASA is considering on this issue, in my view, is to look at it from the system's point of view, "said George Nield, former director of FAA's commercial space agency and now an ASAP member the safety of the crew, but also the safety of ground personnel is an important factor. "

Musk said on May 10, he believes that the question of whether the cargo is charged and heated is" exaggerated. "

Propellant , and then h The astronauts board Dragon, "said Musk. "We can definitely do that, but I do not think it will be as necessary as the passengers on an airplane waiting to get their plane full before boarding."

"Obviously, our competitors will take it seriously, but I do not consider this as a risk that represents any materiality, and in the worst case we have already shown that Dragon is able to safely break from zero speed and zero altitude and dodge the fireball on the pad a worst-case situation, "said Musk.

" I really do not think this is a problem for astronauts, but if NASA feels different for some reason, then we can adapt our operating procedures to fuel the astronauts

In his presentation to the ASAP on May 17, Jett emphasized the importance of the redesigned COPV.

"The panel has consistently darau f passed to understand the behavior of the COPV in the compressed cryogenic environment and to identify all of the pot inflammation scenarios that was critical to controlling these potential hazards, "Jett said. "Despite the challenges, and there are still some, NASA and SpaceX are laser focused on this task, and the panel seems to be using their approach of defining limits through testing, and then establishing reasonable safety margins for operation." 19659003] "If you charge the crew first and then the fuel or fuel, then the COPV issue needs to be resolved," Jett said. "You have to be happy with the COPV situation, and while some people like to combine these two issues, I think you just have to familiarize yourself with the COPV and then look at the dangers of temporarily shutting down the crew during the COPV And if you can adequately control these dangers, there are some very positive aspects of loading the crew first. "

Email to the author [19659003] Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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