Science

SpaceX, NASA tight-lipped on cause of crew capsule incident

SpaceX, NASA tight-lipped on cause of crew capsule incident”

If something goes wrong in the middle of a launch, these engines can ignite and carry the Crew Dragon away from a malfunctioning rocket.

The engine test was conducted ahead of a future in-flight abort test to prove the capsule could be pulled to safety should an issue happen during the first few minutes of launch. During these tests, known as static fires, the capsule is held down while the engines ignite; this allows the company to test out the hardware while preventing the vehicle from actually going anywhere.

"Firing of 12 service section Dracos were successfully performed, firing of eight SuperDracos resulted in an anomaly", Sanders said. However, eye witnesses say that huge clouds of smoke were seen rising from the test site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The capsule, which had a successful first launch to the International Space Station early this year, is equipped with eight small thrusters known as SuperDraco engines, which are meant to play an important role in case of glitches during space flights. But NASA warned that both dates are tentative, and that it would extend astronauts' mission on the space station from several days to as long as several months in order to ensure an American presence on the station. The flight will nearly certainly not happen by this summer now.

ASAP noted that all safety procedures were followed after the accident, and no injuries have been reported.

"SpaceX is leading the investigation with active NASA participation", she added, noting that the initial focus was on collecting data and securing the site. "We know that there's a lot of interest regarding the recent SpaceX mishap. The investigation will take time before the root cause analysis is completed", Patricia Sanders, ASAP chair, said during a meeting.

A cargo version of the capsule is still on-track to launch supplies to the ISS Tuesday. According to the report, the Crew Dragon blew up while SpaceX was firing up engines embedded within the spacecraft. It has provided the details of the SpaceX Static Fire Test, along with the anomaly that was a effect of the final test, to NASA partners. Its first human-crewed test flight is chalked down for a launch in July this year with US astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. NASA expressed "full confidence" in SpaceX as it continues the investigation. The company has only acknowledged that an "anomaly" occurred.

"It's still too early to speculate on how that body of work will alter based on recent events", Magnus said. Being one of the two companies working under a NASA contract to ferry astronauts crews to space, the other company is Boeing which is developing its own crewed spacecraft called CST-100 Starliner capsule. So there is still some time remaining to get the Commercial Crew vehicles ready for crewed missions.



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