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SpaceX held a press conference on Monday to discuss the results of a months-long investigation conducted by itself and NASA into an anomaly that took place during a static fire test in April. The investigation found that the “anomaly” which occurred during the test was the result of oxidizer mixing at very high pressure with the helium component of the SuperDraco rocket engine propellant system.
On April 20, SpaceX held an abort engine test for a prototype of its Crew Dragon vehicle (which had been flow previously for the uncrewed ISS mission). Crew Dragon designed to be the first crew-carrying SpaceX spacecraft, and is underling a number of test to prove its flight-readiness to NASA. The test encountered a failure that was instantly visible after the first few tests proved successful, with an unexpected explosion that produced a plume of fire visible for miles around the testing site at its Landing Zone 1 facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX - BP - Build - Flight - Reliability
SpaceX BP of Build & Flight Reliability Hans Koenigsmann and NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders took members of the media through the results of their joint investigation into the cause of this anomaly. Koenigsmann explained that thanks to identifying burn marks around a check valve in the system that’s meant to separate the oxidizer and fuel components under pressure. These check valves contain a spring which can be opened and allow flow in the direction you want the propellant components to go, but in this case a ‘leaky’ check valve resulted in a ‘slug’ composed of high pressure oxidizer striking a titanium component that resulted in a very violent reaction, hence the explosion.
Both Lueders and Koenigsmann noted that it was in many ways “a gift” that this happened during a ground test, because it mean that there were many high-speed cameras that...
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