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/.

What Lies Ahead for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

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

The splashdown of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft this morning after a successful automated flight to the International Space Station (ISS) kicks off a busy period for NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

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Rogozin Has Nice Things to Say About Crew Dragon, Musk

Editor’s Note: Rogozin’s Twitter account is limited to approved followers, not the general public. The Kremlin has appointed a minder over at Roscosmos to tamp down on the general director’s public comments.

My guess is that after the dust up over Roscosmos’ tweet after Crew Dragon docked, someone (Putin?) talked to (yelled at?) Rogozin and made sure he (his political minder?) made sure something nice was tweeted for the landing.

Videos of Crew Dragon Reentry, Splashdown and Recovery

Video Caption: SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon performed the 15-minute, 25-second deorbit burn on 8 March 2019, at 12:52 UTC (07:52 EST). The spacecraft splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean occurred at 13:45 UTC (08:45 EST). SpaceX’s recovery ship GO Searcher will recover it and return it to Port Canaveral, Florida to conclude its mission. Demo-1 was SpaceX’s first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the ISS.

Crew Dragon Splashes Down After Successful Flight

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)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA passed a major milestone Friday in its goal to restore America’s human spaceflight capability when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon returned to Earth after a five-day mission docked to the International Space Station.

About 6 hours after departing the space station, Crew Dragon splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST approximately 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX retrieved the spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and is transporting it back to port on the company’s recovery ship.

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Hatch Closed on Crew Dragon, Return to Earth Set for Friday

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The SpaceX Crew Dragon’s hatch is closed and the stage is set for the Commercial Crew Program’s first undocking and return to Earth Friday. As NASA and SpaceX get ready for Friday’s splashdown, the Expedition 58 crew continued exploring a variety of space physics phenomena aboard the International Space Station.

The uncrewed SpaceX DM-1 mission has one final milestone and that is the safe return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean around 8:45 a.m. EST Friday. The Crew Dragon will undock Friday at 2:31 a.m. from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. NASA TV will broadcast the departure and return activities live.

The first commercial crew vehicle from SpaceX will be bringing back over 330 pounds of science gear, crew supplies and station hardware. It delivered almost 450 pounds of materials to resupply the station crew on March 3.

Friday, March 8

  • 2:00 a.m. – NASA TV nndocking coverage begins
  • 7:30 a.m. – Deorbit and landing coverage
  • TBD – Post-landing briefing on NASA TV, location TBD, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, deputy manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • International Space Station Program representative
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

For more information on event coverage, got to:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-spacex-demo-1-briefings-events-and-broadcasts

Crew Dragon Retires Big Risks, More Challenges Lie Ahead

The first Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

“Hope comes in many forms.”
— Dr. Jennifer Melfi, The Sopranos

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

So far, so good.

Crew Dragon automatically docked at the International Space Station (ISS) this morning. Although it lacked astronauts, it is was a milestone in NASA’s Commercial Crew program that has funded SpaceX and Boeing to produce vehicle to replace the space shuttle the agency retired in 2011.

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Videos of Crew Dragon Docking & Welcome Ceremony

Video Caption: SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon autonomously docked to the International Space Station’s Harmony module forward International Docking Adapter (IDA) on 3 March 2019, at 10:51 UTC (05:51 EST).

Demo-1 is SpaceX’s first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the ISS and was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket (Block 5 B1051) from the Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 2 March 2019, at 07:49 UTC (02:49 EST). The Crew Dragon transports roughly 180 kg (400 pounds) of crew supplies and equipment, as well as an anthropomorphic test device (ATD) fitted with sensors and nicknamed Ripley.

Video Caption: NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko welcomed SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon on 3 March 2019. The spacecraft autonomously docked to the International Space Station’s Harmony module forward International Docking Adapter (IDA) on 3 March 2019, at 10:51 UTC (05:51 EST) and the hatch was opened at 13:07 UTC (08:07 EST).