Categories: world

SpaceX exploded Dragon spacecraft in test failure – Quartz

A SpaceX vehicle designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station was destroyed during an engine test on April 20 in Cape Canaveral. Thick, red-free smoke from the explosion was visible from nearby beaches, but no one was reported hurt in the accident or its aftermath. Discovering deviations like this is just how engineers ensure spacecraft and its future passengers. Still, the destruction of the vehicle is likely to cause more delays for NASA's $ 6.5 billion commercial crew program, which has Boeing and SpaceX racing to return human space flights to the United States. The Space Agency still evaluated the results of the test on April 22 and declined to comment immediately. SpaceX engineers were preparing for an important demonstration, called "pad abortion test", which would show that their Dragon spacecraft could use its own rocket engines to fly to safety if the large booster rocket it is in orbit is in danger. A video allegedly leaked from SpaceX and briefly circulated on the internet before being pulled down showed the spacecraft mounted on a test stand and then burst into flames. That test was among the last milestones that would allow the company to fly a manned mission perhaps as soon as in the summer. The critical mission will be delayed, probably for months, because NASA and SpaceX are trying to discover what went wrong with the rocket engine and led to its explosive failure. Like many similar designs, the traction motors rely on volatile chemicals called…

A SpaceX vehicle designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station was destroyed during an engine test on April 20 in Cape Canaveral.

Thick, red-free smoke from the explosion was visible from nearby beaches, but no one was reported hurt in the accident or its aftermath. Discovering deviations like this is just how engineers ensure spacecraft and its future passengers.

Still, the destruction of the vehicle is likely to cause more delays for NASA’s $ 6.5 billion commercial crew program, which has Boeing and SpaceX racing to return human space flights to the United States. The Space Agency still evaluated the results of the test on April 22 and declined to comment immediately.

SpaceX engineers were preparing for an important demonstration, called “pad abortion test”, which would show that their Dragon spacecraft could use its own rocket engines to fly to safety if the large booster rocket it is in orbit is in danger. A video allegedly leaked from SpaceX and briefly circulated on the internet before being pulled down showed the spacecraft mounted on a test stand and then burst into flames.

That test was among the last milestones that would allow the company to fly a manned mission perhaps as soon as in the summer. The critical mission will be delayed, probably for months, because NASA and SpaceX are trying to discover what went wrong with the rocket engine and led to its explosive failure.

Like many similar designs, the traction motors rely on volatile chemicals called hypergolics, which are burned when combined. Although this enables easier and more reliable engines, handling of the propellants can be a problem. Boeing learned a similar lesson last year when he prepares his Starliner spacecraft for a stop interrupt test and discovered that the toxic fuel leaked.

The same Dragon Spacecraft destroyed in the test in April 20 had been used in a successful test flight in March, when it was launched from Cape Canaveral, flew to the space station with a small load before returning to splash in the Atlantic. It is not clear how the destruction of the vehicle will affect the test plan, although SpaceX had at least three dragons under construction when reporters visited their headquarters in Los Angeles in June 2018.

SpaceX seemed to have taken the lead in the informal race with Boeing to be the first of the private contractor to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. Now Boeing can have a chance to catch up, with an out-of-the-box test flight by itself scheduled for August 2019 and hopes to bring people into space before the end of the year.

NASA’s boss Jim Bridenstine has been a proponent of commercial partnership as a way to do more with the agency’s budget. His ambitious plans to get the astronauts back to the moon before 2024 are partly due to the success of the commercial crew program, both to free up funding and to attest such partnerships as a viable way to get people off the Earth.

Share
Published by
Faela