Published: Fri, May 03, 2019
Science | By

SpaceX confirms Dragon crew capsule destroyed in ground test

SpaceX confirms Dragon crew capsule destroyed in ground test

The Crew Dragon spacecraft was launched on a successful unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station in March and was being prepared for an in-flight test of its emergency abort system, created to quickly fire and propel the craft away from a malfunctioning booster, when something went terribly wrong.

The April 20 test was meant to see the Crew Dragon capsule fire its SuperDraco engines.

It's still 'too early to determine any cause, ' he added, but said the investigation so far 'indicates that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the Super Draco system'. "It's certainly not great news for the schedule overall, but I hope we can recover". The cargo Dragon does not have the SuperDraco thrusters that are embedded into the side of the crew Dragon. "Depending on the investigation, we can make changes to its hardware as we continue to build", he said.

Koenigsmann said the company is now focused on the investigation into the mishap, and declined to estimate how much of an impact it will have on the schedule of upcoming test flights. And all of them have been accounted for. The planned tests for human passengers in Crew Dragon, however, look nearly certain to be delayed. He noted SpaceX has "multiple spacecraft" in various stages of production, which he said should mitigate any effect the loss of this capsule will have on the test flight schedule. The company is striving to launch a Starliner without astronauts to the space station in August. "We were able to get our arms around the common areas that we had to look at, that they had to look at", he said. "I nearly feel like they're encouraging us right now, and they are helping us in keeping our motivation and not fall into a hole, basically, and get worked up over this, but rather stay focused".

While the space station and its six astronauts were never in any danger, NASA wanted the outpost at full electrical capability before launching the SpaceX Dragon supply ship. "We are looking at all possible issues, and the investigation is ongoing".

SpaceX was supposed to perform an in-flight abort test next with the vehicle that was destroyed, followed by a test with crew to the ISS as early as July with an updated version of Crew Dragon. The design of a COPV used on the Falcon 9's second stage was blamed for an explosion during preparations for a static-fire test of the rocket in September 2016, leading to a redesign of that pressure vessel. The cargo spacecraft doesn't have the same SuperDraco thrusters. Kenny Todd, NASA's space station operations and integration manager, said the faulty unit was swapped out by controllers using the station's robotic arm, clearing the way for the launch to proceed.

The weather forecast is not ideal, with a 40% chance of conditions meeting launch rules during the instantaneous window, according to the Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

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