Roundup of SpaceX Accident and Commercial Crew News

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)
Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

SpaceX Falcon 9 Failures

SpaceX suffered two failures of its Falcon 9 booster within 14 months. Both failures apparently occurred in the second stage of the rocket.

SpaceX has had problems with helium since at least 2014 when two flights were scrubbed due to leaks. In the 2015 accident, a helium bottle broke free inside the liquid oxygen tank leading to over pressurization. SpaceX has preliminarily identified a large breach in the second stage cryogenic helium system as the cause of the failure earlier this month.

Below are some key stories about the accidents and the investigations into them.

SpaceXplosion Update: Preliminary Review Suggests “Large Breach in Cryogenic Helium System” — Sept. 23, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/23/spacexplosion-update-preliminary-review-suggests-large-breach-cryogenic-helium-system/

SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus — Sept. 12, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/19/video-analysis-spacex-falcon-9-firexplanomaly/

A Video Analysis of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly — Sept. 19, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/19/video-analysis-spacex-falcon-9-firexplanomaly/

Video of SpaceX Falcon 9 Explosion — Sept. 1, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/01/video-spacex-falcon-9-explosion/

Falcon 9 Pad Failure Throws SpaceX Schedule into Doubt — Sept. 1, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/01/falcon-9-pad-failure-throws-spacex-schedule-doubt/

NASA Still Hasn’t Released Report on SpaceX’s Last Accident — Sept 16, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/16/nasa-hasnt-released-report-spacexs-accident/

NASA Investigation into SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Explosion Questions Single Strut Theory — June 28, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/06/28/nasa-investigation-spacexs-falcon-explosion-questions-single-strut-theory/

Musk: Failed Strut Suspected in Falcon 9 Failure — July 20, 2015
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/07/20/musk-failed-strut-suspected-falcon-9-failure/

SpaceX Postpones AsiaSat6 Launch — Aug. 26, 2014
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/08/26/spacex-postpones-asiasat6-launch/

SpaceX Scrubs Falcon 9 Launch — April 14, 2014
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/04/14/spacex-scrubs-falcon-9-launch/

Commercial Crew Updates

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)
SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

On the same day as the Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded on the launch pad, the NASA Inspector General released a report that concluded that neither SpaceX nor Boeing were likely to fly crews to the International Space Station on a commercial basis until the end of 2018.

It’s unclear whether the Falcon 9 failure will further delay SpaceX’s Crew Dragon program. One issue is that SpaceX wants to use super cold densified fuels in the rocket that must be loaded close to the launch time to keep them from warming. That would require putting the crews on board before fuel loading, something that has never been done before.

NASA was not that comfortable with densified fuels or loading the crew first before the failure earlier this month. It remains to be seen whether the space agency will ever allow it now.

Below are three stories looking at SpaceX’s commercial crew challenges.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Challenges: Welds, Cracks & Water Seepage — Sept. 4, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/04/spacex-crew-dragon-challenges-welds-cracks-water-seepage/

SpaceX Commercial Crew Milestone Status — Sept. 3, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/03/spacex-commercial-crew-milestone-status/

NASA OIG Report: Further Delays in Commercial Crew, More Payments to Russians — Sept. 1, 2016
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/09/01/nasa-oig-report-delays-commercial-crews-payments-russians/