NASA Expresses “Full Confidence” in SpaceX as Investigation into Explosion Continues

Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast. (Credits: NASA Television)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

We got a smidgen of additional information today about the “anomaly” (explosion) that destroyed a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft during a test at Cape Canaveral on Saturday.

Patricia Sanders, chairwoman of the NASA Aviation and Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), told the group during its regularly scheduled meeting that the incident occurred during an operation to test the spacecraft’s Draco maneuvering thrusters and larger SuperDraco emergency escape motors.

“The event occurred during a static fire test conducted prior to the in-flight abort test,” Sanders said. “The firing was intended to demonstrate integrated systems SuperDraco performance in two times vehicle level vibro-acoustic-like for abort environments.

“Firing of 12 service section Dracos were successfully performed. Firing of eight SuperDracos resulted in an anomaly,” she added.

SpaceX is leading the investigation into the accident with the active participation of NASA, Sanders added.

Meanwhile, NASA issued a statement of support for Elon Musk’s rocket company on Wednesday.

“SpaceX and NASA are just beginning the mishap investigation process. We don’t yet know what impact this will have to our target schedules. We have full confidence in SpaceX. Additional information will be released as it is available,” the agency said.

The Crew Dragon capsule was the same one that flew a flight test without a crew to the International Space Station in March. It was being prepared for an in-flight abort test that would have evaluated the SuperDraco escape motors.

The abort test is one of the last major milestones before a crewed flight to the space station later this year. SpaceX had hoped to conduct the abort test in June and the crewed mission in July. However, that schedule is up in the air.

It’s not clear how far along SpaceX is on additional Crew Dragon spacecraft to fly those missions.

  • duheagle

    For certain values of “reputable,” perhaps you are correct. In that case, Orbital (now NGIS) seems to have somehow managed to deal with a non-reputable supplier.

  • duheagle

    According to you, Musk’s money dried up a long time ago.

    As to making D2 work, it will shortly join the long list of other things SpaceX has made work in the face of occasional bumps along the way.

  • Robert G. Oler

    it has been getting harder for him to get…with Tesla not making money and this latest bang…its going to get still harder

  • Robert G. Oler

    dark times men

  • duheagle

    Tesla is a separate enterprise and publicly traded. Even if Tesla was making money hand over fist, it wouldn’t be legal for Musk to dip into its coffers to fund a SpaceX project.

    As to SpaceX, it isn’t trying to raise any money for D2. Making short work of D2’s current difficulties will be good for fund-raising anyway.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Nice how you left the helium system (which is well sealed and inert) off your list of candidates. Always can tell you are not playing with a full deck.

  • patb2009

    technically the Centaur is Lockheeds. ULA owns the gear, Lockheed acquired GD which had acquired Convair. The Boeing stuff in ULA came from Delta IV and the DCSS which came from McDac.

  • Robert G. Oler

    the one horse pony in all Musk world is Musk…if people start losing confidence in his judgment then the entire game starts fading

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    How do you know it was before?

  • publiusr

    Buy cheap–get cheap.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    This!!!! The anti-musk crowd have botched so many calls, cried so much wolf they are a laughing stock. And like the idiot media playing into Trumps hand all the time.

    Here you have upthread someone, presumed to be intelligent, making a prediction based on zero information. I can make a 100 guesses that might go the other way on the delay time. For instance, a specific modal interaction with the vibe test stand and D2 capsule once integrated with propellent loaded. Certainly such an unfortunate and hard to model coupling event, if found to be the case, would not cause the D2 to be “re-designed” or grounded for years. But hell it could go the other way too, need to wait for the RCA not be a reckless dope because…you know Musk and SpaceX….Tesla blah blah blah.