SpaceX Says Nitrogen Tetroxide Leak Resulted in Destruction of Crew Dragon Vehicle

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 18:13 UTC, SpaceX conducted a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort test vehicle on a test stand at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Boeing, SpaceX Continue to Work Through Technical Challenges on Commercial Crew

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing and SpaceX are continuing to work through a number of technical challenges on their commercial crew spacecraft as NASA struggles to process data needed to certify the vehicles, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

There is sufficient schedule uncertainty, in fact, that GAO recommended the space agency continue planning for additional delays in providing crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS).

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Falcon 9 Launches Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission

Falcon 9 first stage descends toward a landing as the second stage orbits Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) on Wednesday, orbiting three satellites that will improve the nation’s ability to conduct maritime surveillance, monitor its ecosystem and climate change, and undertake disaster relief efforts.

The booster lifted off on time at 7:17 a.m. PDT, piercing a thick layer of fog at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Deployment of the three RADARSAT spacecraft was completed just over one hour after liftoff.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Set to Lift off Wednesday with 3 Canadian Radarsats

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, June 12 for launch of RADARSAT Constellation Mission from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The primary launch window opens at 7:17a.m. PDT, or 14:17UTC, and closes at 7:30 a.m. PDT, or 14:30 UTC. The satellites will begin deployment approximately 54 minutes after launch. A backup launch window opens on Thursday, June13 at 7:17a.m. PDT, or 14:17 UTC,and closes at 7:30 a.m. PDT, or 14:30 UTC.

Falcon 9’s first stage for launch of RADARSAT Constellation Mission previously supported Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission in March 2019. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage will return to land on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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Bigelow Space Operations Reserves up to Four Dedicated SpaceX Launches to Space Station

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (BSO PR) — On Friday, June 7, 2019, Bigelow Space Operations (BSO) announced that last September of 2018 BSO paid substantial sums as deposits and reservation fees to secure up to four SpaceX launches to the International Space Station (ISS). These launches are dedicated flights each carrying up to four people for a duration of one to possibly two months on the ISS.

BSO is excited about NASA’s announcements last Friday. BSO has demonstrated its sincerity and commitment to moving forward on NASA’s commercialization plans for the ISS through the execution of last September’s launch contracts. BSO intends to thoroughly digest all of the information that was dispersed last week so that all opportunities and obligations to properly conduct the flights and activities of new astronauts to the ISS can be responsibly performed.

In these early times, the seat cost will be targeted at approximately $52,000,000per person.

The next big question is when is this all going to happen? Once the SpaceX rocket and capsule are certified by NASA to fly people to the ISS, then this program can begin.

As you might imagine, as they say “the devil is in the details”, and there are many. But we are excited and optimistic that all of this can come together successfully, and BSO has skin in the game.

— Robert T. Bigelow President, Bigelow Space Operations











NASA Opens Up International Space Station to Private Astronauts

Space tourist Guy Laliberte (front, far right) aboard the International Space Station.
Guy Laliberte (first row, far right) aboard the International Space Station.

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — As part of NASA’s mission to stimulate a low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy, NASA is enabling up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year to the International Space Station beginning as early as 2020.

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Lueders: SpaceX Aiming for Dragon Crewed Flight Test by End of Year

On Tuesday, Program Manager Kathy Lueders gave an update on the status of the Commercial Crew Program to the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

She said that SpaceX is working to launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts aboard to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of the year.

This would be the second flight test of the vehicle following a successful flight test to the station without a crew in March.

Lueders cautioned the schedule is dependent upon SpaceX and NASA closing out an investigation into the April 20 explosion of the Crew Dragon that visited the station.

That capsule exploded as it was being prepared for a test of the crew escape system.

In addition to understanding why the explosion took place, SpaceX must complete an in-flight abort flight and parachute tests. Both are crucial to the safety of the Crew Dragon vehicle.

SpaceX is making progress on its operations status in preparation for crewed flights to the station.











Investigation into Crew Dragon Explosion Continues

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA continues to work closely with SpaceX as they lead the accident investigation into the April 20 Crew Dragon static fire anomaly at Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Teams have completed work to ensure the site is safe and are focusing on the root cause analysis, which will determine the impact to commercial crew flights tests.

SpaceX had several Crew Dragon vehicles in production, and plans to shift the spacecraft assignments forward. The spacecraft originally assigned to Demo-2, the first flight test with a crew onboard, now will be used for the company’s in-flight abort test and the first operational mission spacecraft will be used for Demo-2.

The Crew Dragon static fire was designed as a health check of the spacecraft’s Draco systems and to demonstrate integrated system SuperDraco performance. During the static fire, SpaceX successfully completed a firing of 12 service section Dracos with the anomaly occurring during the activation of the SuperDraco system. Over the course of development, SpaceX has tested the SuperDraco thrusters hundreds of times.

Following the test, NASA and SpaceX immediately executed mishap plans established by the agency and company. SpaceX fully cleared the test site and followed all safety protocols. Early efforts focused on making the site safe, collecting data and developing a timeline of the anomaly, which did not result in any injuries. NASA assisted with the site inspection including the operation of drones and onsite vehicles.

NASA and SpaceX remain committed to the safety of our astronaut and ground crews and will proceed with flight tests when ready.











SpaceX: Crew Dragon Explosion Occurred Prior to SuperDraco Firing

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX provided more information today about the explosion that destroyed a Crew Dragon capsule on the test on April 20 as Elon Musk’s company prepares to launch a Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday.

During a pre-flight conference on Thursday, Vice President of Mission Assurance Hans Koenigsmann said the Crew Dragon capsule powered up as expected for the test. Engineers then fired the small Draco maneuvering thrusters successfully.

The explosion occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco abort system but prior to the firing of the engines. Koenigsmann said the problem was not with the thrusters themselves, which have been tested about 600 times.

Koenigsmann said investigators are still trying to piece together precisely what happened. The investigation is being led by SpaceX with the assistance of NASA.

The destroyed Crew Dragon capsule flew a flight test to the ISS in March. SpaceX planned to use it in an in-flight abort test that had been scheduled for June.

The abort test is one of the last major milestones prior to a crewed flight test to the space station. That was nominally scheduled for July, but unofficial account indicate it was going to slip several months.

Koenigsmann said he did not know what the impact of the accident on the schedule. He noted that SpaceX has a number of Crew Dragon spacecraft in various stages of production.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is preparing to launch a cargo Dragon resupply mission to the space station on Friday. Liftoff is set for 3:11 a.m. EDT (0711 GMT ) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The launch was delayed for two days due to a power problem on the station that was corrected over night.

The weather forecast is not looking very good for the Friday morning launch.











Leaked Memo Confirms Obvious: Crew Dragon Capsule Blew Up

The Orlando Sentinel reports that a leaked memo from a NASA contractor confirms that a leaked video showing SpaceX’s Crew Dragon exploding on the test stand on April 20 is authentic.

Contractors employed under the Test and Operations Support Contract, which NASA awarded to aerospace company Jacobs for ground systems capabilities, flight hardware processing and launch operations, were notified Monday of the new rules in light of the SpaceX video.

“As most of you are aware, SpaceX conducted a test fire of their crew capsule abort engines at [Cape Canaveral Air Force Station], and they experienced an anomaly,” the email obtained by the Orlando Sentinel read. “Subsequently, video of the failed test — which was not released by SpaceX or NASA — appeared on the internet.”

[….]

TOSC employees were told in the email Monday that they were “prohibited from photographing or videotaping operational activities that take place on KSC CCAFS property unless officially authorized,” as well as releasing any imagery whatsoever regardless of its origin to the public.

“It is up to NASA and other companies onsite to make the determination about what information related to their activities is released to the public,” the email read. It also cited the human resources guidelines in the TOSC contract on confidential disclosure, noting that employees could be fired if they are caught sharing the images.

The story further reports that part of the crackdown is a result of complaints from professional photographers about employees who work at Cape Canaveral and NASA Kennedy Space Center publishing photographs of launches.

None of this is much of a revelation. SpaceX and NASA would have immediately denounced the video as fake if that had been the case. A reliable source told me the vehicle had exploded and been destroyed. Photos showing a toxic cloud of smoke risking from the test site surfaced.

A Crew Dragon exploded. But, everyone involved still insists on using the word anomaly (and, in Jacobs’ case, failed test). An anomaly occurred that caused the vehicle to explode.

It’s mystifying why no one involved will describe the event accurately. I fear the Trump Administration’s penchant for “alternative facts” is beginning to affect NASA. The fact that President Donald Trump has just surpassed 10,000 false or misleading statements since taking office is not a good sign.











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.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Anomaly Occurred During Super Drago Static Fire

NASA has released the following statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:

The NASA and SpaceX teams are assessing the anomaly that occurred today during a part of the Dragon Super Drago Static Fire Test at SpaceX Landing Zone 1 in Florida. This is why we test. We will learn, make the necessary adjustments, and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.

SpaceX has been scheduled to conduct an in-flight abort test using the Super Drago engines in June. That test would use the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that successfully flew to the International Space Station last month.

A flight test to the space station with crew would follow in July. Both those flights could be delayed depending upon the outcome of the investigation into today’s anomaly.

UPDATE NO. 1, 5:53 pm PDT: Source at the Cape says the Crew Dragon that flew to ISS last month was destroyed in an explosion. In-flight abort and flight test to ISS scheduled for June and July, respectively, have been postponed indefinitely.

UDPATE NO. 2, 6:08 pm PDT: Some uncertainty about which spacecraft was involved. Will update.

UPDATE NO. 3, 8:35 am PDT: Yeah, looks like the initial report was accurate. Appears to be the DM-1 spacecraft that flew to station.











SpaceX Crew Dragon Suffers Problem During Test Firing

SpaceX issued the following statement:

“Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand. Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners.”

Editor’s Note: My guess is they were running tests of the SuperDraco engines that will be used on the escape system. There is an in-flight abort test scheduled using the Crew Dragon capsule that just visited the space station. That is set to take place prior to the Crew Dragon flight with astronauts aboard scheduled for sometime in July.

It’s not clear what vehicle they were using today for the test.











NASA to Update Schedule for Crew Dragon Test Soon

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)

A Crew Dragon with two astronauts aboard will then conduct a flight test to the space station. The planning date for that flight is July.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is working with SpaceX to return human spaceflight launches to American soil. The company completed an uncrewed flight test, known as Demo-1, to the space station in March.

SpaceX now is processing the same Crew Dragon spacececraft for an in-flight abort test. The company then will fly a test flight with a crew, known as Demo-2, to the station.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX are expected to reevaluate its target test dates in the next couple weeks.

Editor’s Note: Current target test dates are June for the in-flight abort test and July for the crew test to the space station.











Video: Jim Bridenstine Talks With SpaceX Founder Elon Musk

Video Caption: On the latest Watch this Space, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine chats with SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk during a tour of Launch Complex 39A just before the Demo-1 launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The historic Demo-1 mission launched at 2:49 a.m. EDT on Saturday, March 2 and was the first launch of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and space system designed for humans as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Learn more about the Commercial Crew program: https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/.