SpaceX
Industryweek 35456 Falcon 9 Spacex 1

SpaceX's First Flight With Astronauts On Board May Slip to 2020

July 16, 2019
The April 20 incident at Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida destroyed a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

A leaky valve within SpaceX’s launch-abort system caused an explosion during testing three months ago and requires design changes, making it tougher for the company to fly astronauts this year as planned.

The April 20 incident at Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida destroyed a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and was a setback for the Elon Musk-led company, which has a contract to fly NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. It’s also a blow to the U.S. government’s public-private effort to ferry Americans back into space without having to rely on Russian rockets.

During a call with reporters Monday, SpaceX said investigators traced the cause of the blast to a high-pressure valve within the thruster system of its rocket engine, which the company calls SuperDraco. The thruster system is designed to rapidly fire the crew module away from the rocket in cases of emergency.

But a leaky component allowed liquid oxidizer to enter high-pressure tubes, then escape through a titanium check valve at high speed, leading to the explosion, said Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice president.

The test incident was a stumbling block for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, in which SpaceX and Boeing Co. are vying to be the first companies to ferry astronauts. Both had been expected to fly two test missions to the ISS -- with and without astronauts -- by year’s end. That schedule now appears to be slipping into 2020.

“I don’t think it’s impossible but it’s getting increasingly difficult” for a SpaceX flight with astronauts this year, Koenigsmann said.

SpaceX completed its first test flight to and from the space station in March. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner has to complete a pad abort test this summer and then its first test flight. The latter flight to the ISS is tentatively scheduled for August.

Popular Sponsored Recommendations

Simulation can accelerate the ROI of digital transformation - Ebook

July 12, 2023
Using simulation in conjunction with your design software can help your business reach its productivity goals.

Why DataOps may be the key to unlocking the full potential of digital transformation

Nov. 3, 2023
Read the 2023 market survey conducted by IndustryWeek

Gain a competitive edge with real-world lessons on private 5G networks

Nov. 16, 2023
The use of private networks in manufacturing applications is rapidly growing. In this paper, we present valuable insights and lessons learned from the field with the goal of enhancing...

Process Mining For Dummies

Nov. 19, 2023
Here it is. Everything you need to know about process mining in a single book, written in the easy-to-understand, hard-to-forget style that ‘For Dummies’ manages so effortlessly...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!