A Leaky Component Caused the SpaceX Crew Dragon Explosion

WIRED | 7/15/2019 | Daniel Oberhaus
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Click For Photo: https://media.wired.com/photos/5d2cd0db40c5460008180265/191:100/pass/Science_CrewDragon_SS120675.jpg

Ever since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, American astronauts bound for the International Space Station have had to hitch a ride with the Russians. It’s a costly arrangement—$75 million per seat—and depends on cordial relations between Moscow and Washington. That’s why the US space program has made it a priority to return crewed launches to American soil. NASA has tapped SpaceX and Boeing to lead the effort, and both companies hope to attempt crewed missions to the ISS by the end of the year.

But SpaceX’s ambitions appeared to suffer a major setback in April when its Crew Dragon spacecraft exploded during testing. NASA and SpaceX have spent the past three months investigating the “anomaly”; although the inquiry is ongoing, the company announced earlier today that it has identified the cause of the disaster.

Hans - Koenigsmann - SpaceX - Vice - President

According to Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, the explosion was likely the result of a leaky component. During the test, some of the oxidizer that helps the rocket fuel burn leaked into a pressurized tube at high speed, which resulted in an explosion. To prevent this from happening in the future, SpaceX has isolated these systems and changed the types of valves that control the flow of the oxidizer. This, the company says, “will mitigate the risk entirely.”

Prior to today, SpaceX and NASA had kept a tight lid on the investigation. In fact, the only reason the explosion came to light as soon as it did was that Craig Bailey, a photographer for Florida Today, happened to be shooting a surf competition near the SpaceX testing facility. Bailey captured a large plume of bright orange smoke erupting from the facility, and a video later leaked by an employee confirmed a catastrophic explosion.

Koenigsmann - Explosion - Test

According to Koenigsmann, the explosion occurred during a test of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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