SpaceX: Leaky Valve Culprit in April Crew Dragon Explosion

first_img ESA Satellite Avoids Potential Collision With SpaceX Starlink CraftSpaceX’s Starhopper Aces Final Test Flight in Texas SpaceX has identified the cause of its Crew Dragon capsule explosion in April.A leaky valve reportedly allowed propellant to enter high-pressure helium tubes some 100 milliseconds before the spacecraft’s thrusters were due to ignite.A slug of liquid oxidizer—known as nitrogen tetroxide (NTO)—wound up in a high-pressure system, resulting in a structural failure and, ultimately, an explosion, according to SpaceX.In partnership with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the aerospace manufacturer led an investigation into the “anomaly.”It helps that the blast happened on land, leaving behind debris and intact parts that are easier to examine than, say, components lost in outer space or scattered across an ocean.The ruined rocket was a test version of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon—a capsule being built for NASA to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station.This particular module was the first Crew Dragon launched into space: In March, the unoccupied vehicle successfully docked with the ISS, before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean in a flawless test mission.A month and a half later, the spacecraft detonated, sending clouds of orange gas into the Florida sky.“It is worth noting that the reaction between titanium and NTO at high pressure was not expected,” SpaceX said this week, defending the long-established use of titanium on spacecraft “from all around the world.”“Even so, the static fire test and anomaly provided a wealth of data,” the firm continued. “Lessons learned from the test—and other in our comprehensive test campaign—will lead to further improvements in the safety and reliability of SpaceX’s flight vehicles.”The company initially planned to start ferrying astronauts between Earth and the ISS by the end of the summer. It remains unclear whether the April eruption will delay future launches, but SpaceX said it expects its commercial crew program to “stay on track.”More on Allows SpaceX to Fly Starlink Internet Satellites in Lower OrbitSpaceX’s Cute ‘Zero-G Indicator’ Sells Out After Space DebutElon Musk ‘Confident’ SpaceX Ticket to Mars Will Cost Less Than $500K Stay on targetlast_img read more