SpaceX finds surprising cause behind Crew Dragon explosion

CNET | 7/15/2019 | Eric Mack
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The SpaceX Crew Dragon will head to the ISS on its first test flight.

On April 20, a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule unexpectedly exploded during a ground test at Cape Canaveral in Florida. After an investigation, NASA and SpaceX now say a leak led to a surprising chemical reaction that destroyed the spacecraft.

Accident - Investigation - Team - SpaceX - NASA

An accident investigation team involving SpaceX, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, US Air Force and National Transportation Safety Board collected debris from the explosion and the Dragon's SuperDraco thrusters and transported it to the company's development facility in McGregor, Texas, for testing.

On Monday, SpaceX released a statement outlining how a leak in the spacecraft's pressurization system allowed a liquid oxidizer -- nitrogen tetroxide, or NTO -- to make contact with a titanium valve.

Reaction - Substances - Subject - Video - Dragon

The resulting explosive reaction between the two substances was the subject of a leaked video of the Dragon's final fiery moments that made headlines in late April.

"It is worth noting that the reaction between titanium and NTO at high pressure was not expected," reads the company's statement. "Titanium has been used safely over many decades and on many spacecraft from all around the world."

SpaceX - Watch - Crew - Dragon - Capsule

Watch this: SpaceX: Watch Crew Dragon capsule dock at ISS for the...

On a call with reporters, Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of mission assurance, emphasized that the problem was entirely within the pressurization system and not tied to any flaws in Crew Dragon's engines. He said the company will be replacing the valves with burst disks that seal more completely to mitigate the risk.

Glen - Meyerowitz - SpaceX - Engineer

Glen Meyerowitz, a former SpaceX engineer noted...
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