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Home / Science / We still know very little about the SpaceX Capsule "Anomaly" and its impact on NASA's crew program

We still know very little about the SpaceX Capsule "Anomaly" and its impact on NASA's crew program



A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will undergo a hover test in 2015.
Image: SpaceX

It's been almost a week since an anomaly has triggered the engine failure of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule during the test. Few details have been revealed, and it is not yet clear how the incident could delay NASA's ability to deliver astronauts to the ISS. Yesterday, a NASA security panel with strained lips stopped and said that an investigation is underway.

Last weekend in Cape Canaveral, SpaceX did a static test with eight SuperDraco engines on crew Dragon Capsule. The test was not good. The capsule went up in flames, and wisps of thick, orange smoke were visible for miles. There were even reports of an explosion. Thankfully, no injuries were reported. The test may have resulted in the loss of the capsule, but we do not know exactly (probably toast). We also do not know if toxic fumes have been released into the environment (seems likely) or if the incident affects (and is likely to) NASA's commercial crew program.

We can be really sure, and in a SpaceX press release released shortly after the April 20 incident, it is said that an "anomaly " occured. Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. NASA has not added much to the story either. The surprising lack of information following the incident and the failure of SpaceX and NASA to excite the public is not well weathered, as a recent article in his editorial by Orlando Sentinel clarifies in its editors who wrote:

Anomaly "is a vague industrial buzz word that tells the public what has happened to a program that the federal government spends billions of dollars to bring astronauts back to space with American hardware instead of riding Russian missiles.

We don & # 39; They know the extent of damage to the capsule or equipment involved in the test. 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.

Elon Musk's ventures are mysterious when he spends his own money (or investor's money) on building electric cars or drilling tunnels through the ground. It is not okay for the public to fund its efforts, as is the case with SpaceX's manned space program.

Ouch.

NASA held a public meeting yesterday to deal with the incident, although only a few details became known, SpaceNews reports. The Marshall Space Flight Center hosted the Space Agency's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), an independent body chaired by former NASA astronaut Patricia Sanders.

During the meeting, Sanders softened much of what we already know. The April 20 exercise was a test of the crew's eight oversized Draco engines – a key component of the capsule's demolition system. In an emergency, these larger boosters, known as SuperDracos, will launch the Crew Dragon away from a failed missile during takeoff (here's a SuperDracos video in action). The capsule is also equipped with a dozen small Draco engines used for altitude control and maneuvering of the orbit. Last weekend's test was conducted to prepare for a scheduled in-flight test scheduled to take place in the summer of this year – a test that seems to be in jeopardy now.

In a speech at the ASAP meeting, and how C | Net reports, Sanders said the smaller Draco test is successful, but she confirmed that the firing of the eight SuperDracos had led to an anomaly. The "Fire" was intended to demonstrate the performance of the integrated SuperDraco system with vibroacoustic life on two demolition vehicle levels, Sanders said, as reported by SpaceflightNow. The test participants did not state at what stage the anomaly occurred during the test or if the Crew Dragon exploded.

SpaceX, Sanders said, is now conducting the investigation. NASA is actively involved, SpaceNews reports. The first phase involves collecting data and reconstructing the timeline. According to NASA's written statement on Thursday, the investigators will deal with high-speed images, spacecraft telemetry data, and the analysis of the damaged Crew Dragon.

The panel was indeterminate in terms of the potential impact of this incident on NASA's commercial crew program.

"We know there is a great deal of interest in SpaceX's recent abuse," said Sandra Magnus, a member of ASAP, at the meeting, according to SpaceNews. "We are patient and allow the teams to investigate."

The recent setback comes at a time when NASA's Commercial Crew Program seemed to be doing well. On March 2, 2019, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket delivered an uncouth crew kite to the ISS. A few days later, she successfully returned to Earth and rippled on March 8 in the Atlantic. The Crew Dragon deployed during the April 10 test was the same model used during this important scout mission (Demo-1). The first crewed capsule test, Demo-2, is scheduled for July 25th. According to reports, the mission is said to have been postponed at the end of September or early October before the failed test last weekend, SpaceNews said.

"Before launching Demo-1, NASA and SpaceX identified configuration changes and subsequent qualification work that needed to be completed before 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.

The failed test and subsequent investigations could further delay the Commercial Crew program, which is working to restore America's ability to independently supply astronauts to the International Space Station and other space locations. The US had not had this capacity since the Space Shuttle program left in 2011 and had to pay Russia to use Soyuz rockets instead.

At yesterday's meeting, Sanders said the findings of the investigation would determine the impact of the failed test on the Demo 2 timeline. It is claimed that no missions will take place until the commercial crew program completes the "required data" according to C | Net receives.

On a positive note, the incident is unlikely to affect ISS cargo missions. Another Crew Dragon model that is not equipped with SuperDraco thrusters is used for supply missions. A SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday, April 30, will be completed as planned.

If you want to know more about this "crew anomaly", we need to hurry up and wait.


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