Representatives of NASA and SpaceX said a little this week about the apparent explosion of the Dragon capsule on Saturday during the ground test at Cape Canaveral, and members of the Safety Advisory Panel said they would be patient as investigators are viewing high-speed imaging, telemetry data and remnants to determine the cause of the accident.
A group of safety advisers discussed the explosion during a planned public hearing on Thursday. Sandra Magnus, a former astronaut and member of the NASA Advisory Council for Aerospace, said it was too early to know how the incident would affect the SpaceX crew's capsule program.
The spacecraft involved in the incident on Sunday recently returned from a six-day test flight to the International Space Station. The unplanned mission, designated Demo-1, was a flight before NASA put the astronauts on the capsule at the next orbital launch called Demo-2.
"Before the launch of the Demo-1, NASA and SpaceX identified configuration changes and subsequent qualification work that had to be completed before Demo-2 was possible," Magnus said. – Notwithstanding the recent incident, a lot of work has yet to be completed between Demo-1 and the crew. It is still too early to speculate on how this working group will change based on recent events. As always, the group encourages the team to be alert against the dangers of scheduling. "
Before the explosion on Saturday, SpaceX appeared on the Demo-2 mission track later this year, perhaps in September. NASA astronauts Bob Benken and Doug Hurley are assigned to the first crew's pilot mission to pave the way for regular rotor flight crew to the space station. Earth orbit.
Engineers were preparing a Space Crew spacecraft, fresh from space after the invasion of March 8 in the Atlantic Ocean, to conduct an atmospheric test flight since July to confirm the capability of the capsule to escape from a missile in flight. Another capsule for the Demo-2 crew mission is being built.
"The event happened during a static fire test conducted before the flight disruption test," said Patricia Sanders, ASAP chairman. "The shot is designed to demonstrate an integrated SuperDraco system that is used for twice the vibroacoustic life of the vehicle to interrupt the environment."
The incident happened when SpaceX tested the SuperDraco abort engines of Crew Dragon, which are designed to quickly push the capsule off its Falcon 9 starter. Ability to terminate is a key safety function for the crew capsule.
The crew's capsule ended a test-shot of 12 smaller maneuvering Draco engines earlier in the day.
"The launch of 12 Dragon Service Sections has been successfully completed," Sanders said. "The launch of eight SuperDracos led to an anomaly. The test area is completely clear and the entire safety protocol is complied with. Failure has not resulted in any injuries. "
Draco and Super Draco combs combine the same combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants that ignite on contact. The toxic propellant was released into the air after the Saturday explosion.
A photo taken by a Florida photographer today from a local beach showed a reddish-orange cloud rising above Craig Dragon crew in Cape Canaveral. Such acid clouds are typically associated with nitrogen dioxide, the oxidant used by SuperDraco engines, and propellant commonly used in missiles and satellites.
SpaceX and NASA did not reveal any toxic cash release in their statements after the incident on Saturday, but a dispatcher at the Birdwatch Center at Birdwatch arrived at Spaceflight Now on Saturday night said they did not know about a threat to the public.
Fully charged, the crew of the crew carries about 1.5 tonnes of a caustic mixer that poses a danger to human and animal health.
Sanders said NASA and SpaceX immediately responded to the incident by running accident plans. SpaceX has conducted the investigation with NASA's involvement and support, authorities said.
"NASA has a full picture of the results of the fault investigation that examines all data collected during the test, including high-speed images and detailed spacecraft telemetry data, and will include an analysis of the recovered hardware from the test," Josh Finch, a spokesman for NASA in a written statement on Thursday. "We have full confidence in the SpaceX team and NASA who are working on the investigation to determine the cause of the accident and the update of the design if they are needed. "
NASA executives watching the space station program are also following the progress of the investigation to assess whether the crew crew crash crew crash has any implications for SpaceX cargo shipments, the next one scheduled to begin on Tuesday Cape Canaveral, a former astronaut and member of the ASAP Committee.
Spacecraft cargo missions use a different version of the Dragon spacecraft without the SuperDraco disruption engines, and employees have not offered any delay for the next week's launch.
Discussing the crew's failure investigation, Sanders said that "early efforts are aimed at saving a site, collecting data, and reducing and developing an anomaly schedule."
"The investigation will take time before the root cause analysis finishes and will determine the impact on Demo 2 and the flight disruption test," Sanders said.
SpaceX and NASA have not said whether the accident occurred before the SuperDraco engine burns, as pushers are lit or when burned. SpaceX has also failed to confirm whether the vehicle has exploded, as is widely accepted, or the condition of the spacecraft and post-accident test site.
The company acknowledged the incident on Saturday night, and SpaceX officials confirmed on Sunday that it is related to the Demo-1 capsule, the latest public statement by the private spacecraft company on the accident.
The incident happened in Ground Space 1 at SpaceX, a space hired by the Air Force, where the company sent Sokol 9 rockets, which are back to Earth after launching satellites. The company announced on Tuesday that the next landing of the Falcon 9 rocket would most likely be moved from port area 1 to an offshore unmanned airplane ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Wayne Monthett, an associate administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration for Commercial Space Transport, told reporters at the Kennedy Space Center that rigorous ground tests would eventually make the spacecraft safer for flight.
Monti, an Air Force General who commanded the 45th Space Wing in Cape Canaveral until last December, called the crew crash a "catastrophic event", comparing it with an explosion of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launcher in 2016. The Communications Satellite of Amos 6 of Israel.
"We test equipment, test systems, we want to do it before we put people on board, and honestly, you want to find these kinds of problems now and not when you have a life risk," Monty said. "So what you will discover from this event was that no one was injured, you had a catastrophic event on the site, like when Amos 6 had a problem in 2016, no accident, and that's why we're all safe. "
The slow spread of information from the event on Saturday raised some concerns among some observers about the transparency of SpaceX and NASA. Static Fire SuperDraco was conducted by SpaceX, a private company that also owns the hardware and intellectual property of Crew Dragon, a new paradigm for a human space flight program backed by NASA.
In an article published by Orlando Sentinel, on Wednesday, they called for more revelations after the incident on Saturday.
"We do not know the extent of damage to the capsule or equipment included in the test," Orlando Sentinel's editorial wrote. "We do not know the extent of the possible reasons 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. There is no opportunity to ask questions to business executives. No detailed news. No photos or video of the damage. The audience is in the dark.
The Editorial Board of the newspaper writes that Musk's companies are under no obligation to make public statements when they spend private money.
"It's not good when the public is funded with its efforts, as well as with SpaceX space flight space program," the editorial said.
NASA has allocated more than $ 3.1 billion to fund SpaceX to develop the Crew Dragon spacecraft since the start of the 2010 business initiative. Similarly, the space agency has signed a number of trade agreements and contracts with Boeing worth over $ 4.8. during the same time period.
Boeing has also encountered problems during ground engine tests to interrupt his CST-100 Starliner capsule for the crew.
Starliner is scheduled for its first non-stop demonstration flight to the space station in August, followed by a test flight with three astronauts aboard before the end of the year. Starliner's first missions were delayed to allow engineers to investigate and correct the cause of fuel leakage last year during a field launch of the New Mexico shuttle engines.
Boeing did not reveal the fuel leakage that kept Starliner's first flights for months, weeks later, when the problem was first reported by Ars Technica.
The Air Safety Advisory Board was created by Congress in 1968 after the Apollo 1 fire killed three astronauts during a ground test. The panel charter is to provide advice and recommendations to the NSA Administrator on safety issues.
Magnus said the safety panel would be patient with the investigation, but advisors say NASA managers in the commercial crew program watching the development of the Dragon Crew rather than SpaceX have the final say on when they can start flights astronauts.
"We know he's very interested in the recent SpaceX situation," Magnus said. "We are patient and allow the teams to investigate. But at the end of the day, the panel supports the CCP's position that crew missions will not happen until the program gets the necessary data to make sure we understand the margins that we control these margins and that we work in the environment that these margins require . And we will continue to highlight this subject as work goes forward in both programs. "
"Safety is a top priority for NASA and our commercial suppliers," Finch said in a statement. "We will work with our partners to take off our crew members when their systems are ready. We still do not know what impact this will have on our target schedules. Additional information will be posted when available. "
SpaceX was planning to re-use the same "Crew Drag" spacecraft that had returned from the space station last month to the upcoming flight termination test. The teams will probably have to prepare another means of the interruption test, a process that is almost certain to delay delays in the crew's schedule, industry officials said.
In-flight interruption follows a pad break test in 2015, which has successfully proven that Crew Dragon's SuperDraco engines, which produce up to £ 16,000, can move the capsule away from an emergency on the starting site.
SpaceX engineers and NASA continue to investigate the unsettled Dragon Crew Parachutes. There are concerns about Boeing's Starineer capsules.
"Both suppliers are still working ahead of them before crew operations," says Magnus. "The CCP's program has provided the contractors with all the data necessary to validate the safety of the project, and providing that information is what will determine when crew missions will begin, not before."
Magnus said NASA "united to resolve" the concerns about high-pressure helium vessels contained in SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. An earlier version of the combined over closed pressure vessel, or COPV, was charged with the Falcon 9 rocket explosion at the launch site in 2016, but SpaceX debuted a new helium reservoir satellite design launched last year.
While SpaceX and Boeing are preparing their spaceships for astronauts, NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, have agreed to extend the length of a few space missions this year and next year to ensure that US astronauts remain in the orbital complex.
NASA announced last week that astronaut Christina Koch, who launched the Soyuz capsule station on Kazakhstan on March 14, will remain on board until February 2020, months longer than initially planned. Koch will return to Earth on another Soyuz ship than on board, and her 11-month mission will be the longest space flight from a woman.
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, scheduled to take off the Soyuz rocket on July 20, will continue his expedition to space by two months until the beginning of April 2020. Like Koch, Morgan will return to Earth with a different crew than the one with which launches,
The US space agency also announced last week that Jessica Meir was appointed a Soyuz crew, announced to be released on September 25. this year, apparently filled by Meir, and another in early 2020.
NASA also approved an extended mission for Starliner's first test flight with astronauts. Boeing pilot Ferguson and NASA astronauts Mike Finke and Nicole Mann initially planned to stay at the space station for several weeks, but the trio is now expected to live and work for the research post for several months as a long-term resident.
Magnus said measures to extend the length of missions and to buy more seats for Soyuz give NASA and commercial crews some breathing rooms.
"Meanwhile, NASA has set up an appropriate contingency plan to ensure uninterrupted access by the crew to the ISS by the end of 2020, providing a certain timeframe as they switch to a crew flight," Magnus said.
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