Autor Wątek: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February  (Przeczytany 1501 razy)

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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #15 dnia: Kwiecień 21, 2019, 12:47 »
SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft suffers anomaly during ground tests
by Jeff Foust — April 20, 2019. Updated 8:15 p.m. Eastern.[SN]

A mosaic of images of a test of a SuperDraco thruster. An anomly took place during a test of those thrusters on a Crew Dragon spacecraft April 20 at Cape Canaveral, a potential setback to the company's commercial crew efforts. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft suffered what the company said was an “anomaly” during static fire tests of its abort engines April 20, dealing a setback to the company’s plans to fly a crewed test flight later this year.

In a statement, a SpaceX spokesperson confirmed there was a problem of some kind during tests of the spacecraft at Landing Zone 1, the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but provided few details about the what happened.

“Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida,” the spokesperson said in a statement to SpaceNews. “The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand.”

“Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test,” the spokesperson added. “Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners.”

“The NASA and SpaceX teams are assessing the anomaly that occurred today during a part of the Dragon Super Draco Static Fire Test at SpaceX Landing Zone 1 in Florida,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement posted to Twitter. “This is why we test. We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.”

Eyewitnesses on beaches near Cape Canaveral reported seeing a dark cloud mid-afternoon from somewhere in the vicinity of the Air Force facility. The U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, which operates Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, confirmed there was an incident during a Crew Dragon test, which resulted in no injuries.

The anomaly apparently took place during testing of the SuperDraco thrusters used as part of the launch abort system for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Those thrusters use nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine propellants, a hypergolic combination that ignites on contact. Each SuperDraco thruster is capable of producing about 16,000 pounds-force of thrust.

SpaceX did not disclose what Crew Dragon vehicle was being used for this test. Sources, though, say it was mostly likely the spacecraft that flew the successful Demo-1 mission in March, docking with the International Space Station and staying there for five days before undocking and splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.

SpaceX planned to fly that spacecraft again in an in-flight abort test, where the spacecraft ignites its SuperDraco thrusters around the time of peak aerodynamic pressure after launch, pulling it away from its Falcon 9 booster. That test was expected to take place some time this summer prior to this anomaly.

Any delay in that test would push back the Demo-2 flight, a test of another Crew Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board. That mission was scheduled for as soon as July, but not expected to take place before this fall.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] NASA delays SpaceX commercial crew test flight to February
« Odpowiedź #16 dnia: Kwiecień 26, 2019, 19:09 »
Safety panel urges patience in SpaceX Crew Dragon investigation
by Jeff Foust — April 25, 2019 [SN]

A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft testing its SuperDraco thrusters. A NASA safety panel said it will take some time to get to the root cause of an anomaly during an April 20 test of the thrusters. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — Members of an independent safety panel said April 25 it will take time to determine what happened during a SpaceX Crew Dragon testing incident several days ago, and that its impact to the overall commercial crew program remains uncertain.

At a meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, members offered few new details about the anomaly during an April 20 test of the SuperDraco thrusters on the Crew Dragon spacecraft at a test site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. That incident enveloped the vehicle in a fireball and created a smoke plume visible far from the site.

Patricia Sanders, chair of the panel, confirmed that the anomaly took place during a static-fire test of the SuperDraco thrusters used in the spacecraft’s launch abort system. Those thrusters were being tested prior to an in-flight abort test that had been planned for this summer.

The April 20 test, she said, was intended to demonstrate the integrated systems performance of the SuperDraco system, after testing of 12 smaller Draco thrusters were successfully completed. “Firing of eight SuperDracos resulted in an anomaly,” she said.

Both NASA and SpaceX started carrying out mishap plans after the incident, and she noted the anomaly did not cause any injuries. SpaceX is leading the investigation with what she termed as “active NASA participation.” The initial work is focused on collecting all the evidence from the test site and creating a timeline of the incident.

“The investigation will take time before the root cause analysis is completed, and will determine the impact to Demo-2 and the in-flight abort test,” she said. Demo-2 is a crewed test flight, with two NASA astronauts on board, that had been scheduled for no sooner than July.

Panel members offered few other details about the incident and its effect on the overall commercial crew program. “We know that there’s a lot of interest regarding the recent SpaceX mishap. We are patient, and allow the teams to investigate,” said Sandra Magnus, an ASAP member.

The test took place about six weeks after the Demo-1 capsule returned from a successful uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station. While that test flight went well, Magnus said it was clear that even before the flight that SpaceX had a lot of work to do before it could move ahead with Demo-2, which she linked to an iterative or “spiral” development approach the company had adopted.

“Prior to the Demo-1 launch, because of this spiral development approach undertaken by the company, NASA and SpaceX identified configuration changes and subsequent qualification work that would be required to be completed before Demo-2 was possible,” she said.

“Notwithstanding the recent incident, there is a large body of work yet to be completed between Demo-1 and a crewed flight,” she continued. “It’s still too early to speculate on how that body of work will alter based on recent events.”

Boeing has taken a different, more traditional development approach that works to get the design of its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle more mature prior to any test flights. An uncrewed test flight of the spacecraft is now scheduled for early August and a crewed test flight before the end of the year.

The company, she said, has made progress on a number of technical issues, but there is still work to complete. “Both NASA and the Boeing team are facing the submission and analysis of the required data from the final certification and verification processes,” she said.

Magnus warned about schedule pressure on the program, and said that NASA had acted appropriately by securing alternative plans to maintain access to the ISS through late 2020. The panel, she said, supported the position of NASA’s commercial crew program “that crewed missions will not happen until the program has received the data that they require” to ensure the vehicles operate with adequate safety margins. “We will continue to emphasize that as the work goes forward on both programs.”


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SpaceX offers new details on Crew Dragon test anomaly
by Jeff Foust — May 2, 2019 [SN]

A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft testing its SuperDraco thrusters. A SpaceX executive said May 3 said it was too early to identify a cause of an anomaly that destroyed a Crew Dragon spacecraft during an April 20 test. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX executive May 2 provided new details about, but no cause of, an incident that destroyed a Crew Dragon spacecraft during a ground test last month.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said at a NASA briefing about the upcoming launch of a cargo Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station that the anomaly took place just before the ignition of the SuperDraco thrusters on the spacecraft during an April 20 test at the company’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Koenigsmann said that the spacecraft had, earlier in the day, completed other tests on the stand, including of its smaller Draco thrusters. “Just before we wanted to fire the SuperDracos, there was an anomaly and the vehicle was destroyed,” he said.

He declined to speculate on the cause of the accident. “It is too early to confirm any cause, whether probable or root,” he said. “The initial data indicates that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco system.” The activation of the thrusters takes place about a half a second before ignition. He added, though, that he didn’t think the problem was with the SuperDraco thrusters themselves, citing “about 600 tests” of the thrusters over the course of its development.

He later said it was unlikely that the incident had anything to do with composite-overwrapped pressure vessels, or COPVs, that are part of the propulsion system. The design of a COPV used on the Falcon 9’s second stage was blamed for an explosion during preparations for a static-fire test of the rocket in September 2016, leading to a redesign of that pressure vessel.

“The COPVs are different from Falcon 9. These are different in material, they have a different form,” he said. “I’m fairly confident that the COPVs are going to be fine.”

Koenigsmann said the company is currently focused on the investigation into the mishap, and declined to estimate how much of an impact it will have on the schedule of upcoming test flights. SpaceX had planned to perform an in-flight abort test using the Crew Dragon spacecraft destroyed in the anomaly as soon as June, followed by a crewed test flight no earlier than July.

“Finishing the investigation and resolving this anomaly is actually our prime focus, certainly for me, right now,” he said. “I hope this is a relatively swift investigation at the end of the day, and I don’t want to completely preclude the current schedule.”

He didn’t say how the capsule lost in the test mishap, which flew on the Demo-1 mission to the station, would be replaced for the in-flight abort test. He noted SpaceX has “multiple spacecraft” in various stages of production, which he said should mitigate any effect the loss of this capsule will have on the test flight schedule.

Koenigsmann spoke at a briefing NASA held prior to the scheduled May 3 launch of a cargo Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station. The launch was previously scheduled for May 1 but postponed because of a problem with a switching unit that routes power on the station. Kenny Todd, NASA’s space station operations and integration manager, said the faulty unit was swapped out by controllers using the station’s robotic arm, clearing the way for the launch to proceed.

Todd also said that NASA worked closely with SpaceX to confirm that there was no commonality between the systems involved in the Crew Dragon anomaly and those on the cargo Dragon. “We were able to get our arms around the common areas that we had to look at, that they had to look at,” he said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t see any change in our overall measurable risk in going into the mission.”

This cargo Dragon, flying a mission designed CRS-17, previously flew to the station on the CRS-12 mission in August 2017. The spacecraft will carry 2,482 kilograms of cargo, of which about 1,700 kilograms is in the form of science payloads, including those to be mounted on the station’s exterior.

Liftoff of the CRS-17 mission is scheduled for 3:11 a.m. Eastern May 3, but forecasts predict only a 40 percent change of acceptable weather because of an approaching system. Forecasts improve to 70 percent for a backup launch date May 4 at 2:48 a.m. Eastern. Todd said that, should the launch not take place in either instantaneous launch window, NASA and SpaceX would have to wait a week before the next attempt because of scheduled downtime on the Eastern Range.


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Commercial crew capsules still beset by parachute problems
May 9, 2019 Stephen Clark [SFN]

SpaceX performs a parachute test for their Dragon capsule over the Delamar Dry Lake in this file photo from 2016. Credit: SpaceX

A malfunction during a drop test over Nevada last month for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon program has engineers re-examining the crew capsule’s parachutes, and Boeing has also encountered parachute failures during testing for its commercial crew capsule, a senior NASA official confirmed Wednesday.

The SpaceX parachute test failure occurred the same month as the explosion of a Crew Dragon spacecraft during a ground test at Cape Canaveral. The parachute drop test over Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada last month did not involve a Crew Dragon capsule, but used a simple metal test sled.

“It failed,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s human exploration and operations directorate. “The parachutes did not work as designed.”

The parachutes did not fully open, sources said, and the test sled impacted the ground at a higher-than-expected velocity. Gerstenmaier said the sled was damaged upon impact. The advanced development test was intended to measure loads within each parachute canopy, according to an industry source.

No one was hurt in the test accident.

“It was one single-out test for this parachute,” Gerstenmaier said Wednesday in a hearing before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s subcommittee on space and aeronautics. “So typically, that test would involve four parachutes, one was proactively failed ahead of time and the three remaining chutes did not operate properly.”

Gerstenmaier was asked about the outcome of the SpaceX parachute test by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, whose district includes Huntsville and Decatur, home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the rocket factory for United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and a chief rival of SpaceX.

The parachute test failure was not publicized by NASA or SpaceX before Wednesday’s congressional hearing.

“The good thing on the test was we had instrumented lines going up to the parachutes, so we know exactly what the loads were in the system,” Gerstenmaier said. “But we still need to understand whether it was a test set up configuration coming out of the aircraft or if there was something associated with the packing of the parachutes, the rigging, all of that. This is part of the learning process. By these failures, we’re going to learn the data and information to end up with a safe design for our crews. So I don’t see this as a negative, this is why we test, this is why we want to push things.”

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft descends under its four main parachutes March 8 after a test flight to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Engineers are investigating whether the parachute malfunction was caused by a problem with the chutes themselves, or as a consequence from the way the test was conducted.

“The test was not satisfactory, we did not get the results we wanted,” Gerstenmaier said. “But we learned some information that’s going to affect potentially future parachute designs. The other thing we need to understand (are the) test-unique circumstances. Was it driven by an actual design problem in the hardware, or was it driven by the set-up of the test or the particular equipment that was used during the test?”

SpaceX has completed 19 tests of the Crew Dragon’s parachute system to date, with a number of additional tests planned before astronauts fly on the spaceship. SpaceX had successfully performed five “parachute-out” tests, in which one of the chutes was deliberately disabled, before last month’s test accident, according to an industry source.

NASA officials have long identified parachutes as a concern for SpaceX and Boeing crew capsules, which are in the final stages of development before they carry astronauts into orbit for the first time. After completing their test programs, the SpaceX and Boeing capsules will begin ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station, ending NASA’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crew transportation.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule suffered a parachute anomaly during a return from the International Space Station last year, but recovery crews retrieved the supply ship from the Pacific Ocean as intended.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship uses the same main parachutes as the Crew Dragon, also known as Dragon 2. But the heavier Crew Dragon, which is a significantly different spacecraft than the cargo Dragon variant, requires four main parachutes for to slow down for splashdown in the ocean, not the three main chutes used on the currently-flying cargo freighter, sometimes known as Dragon 1.

The Crew Dragon’s first test flight in space in early March was successful, and the capsule’s parachutes functioned as designed after a six-day unpiloted mission to the space station. The spacecraft that flew to the station in March was destroyed April 20 during an accident at Cape Canaveral, which occurred as the capsule’s SuperDraco abort engines were activated for a hold-down firing on a test stand.

Before the April 20 accident, SpaceX aimed to re-fly the Crew Dragon spacecraft on an in-flight abort test in July. Officials hoped to launch a two-man team of NASA astronauts — Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — on the next Crew Dragon spacecraft to the space station in late September or early October.

SpaceX and NASA officials have not indicated how last month’s hotfire test mishap, or the parachute failure, might impact the schedule for the Crew Dragon’s first flight with astronauts on-board.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, which will parachute to ground landings in the Western United States, is set for its first unpiloted test flight to the space station in August, followed by a demonstration mission with three astronauts on-board as soon as November. The Starliner missions will launch on ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket, while SpaceX uses its own Falcon 9 launcher for Crew Dragon missions.

Patricia Sanders, chair of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, told members of Congress on Wednesday that parachutes are one of the largest risks faced by SpaceX and Boeing engineers working on NASA’s commercial crew program.

“There have been a number of very positive tests, results confirming what we would expect, or desire, in terms of re-entry performance of the parachutes,” Sanders said. “There have been a few less satisfactory results, and some tests that are indicating there may need to be some redesign or some adjustments made to the design.

“Those are important to get right before you launch humans,” she said.

Lawmakers did not ask Gerstenmaier about Boeing’s recent parachute test results. But in response to a question from Spaceflight Now after the hearing, he confirmed that Starliner parachute drop tests have also encountered anomalies.

“We’ve gotten data that is unique, that will help us understand if this is something that needs to be fixed or if it’s something that’s just a nuance of the test and the configuration,” Gerstenmaier said of last month’s SpaceX parachute test failure.

“Boeing and SpaceX are making tremendous progress for their respective parachute design and test campaigns,” a NASA spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “Each company is extremely engaged, and we learn new things with each test that informs how we move forward in the design of the parachutes and execute each test series.

“Although Boeing and SpaceX have faced obstacles, each company’s testing is unique, and each has experienced different challenges and results during their test campaigns.”


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Investigation into Crew Dragon incident continues
by Jeff Foust — May 28, 2019 [SN]

The Demo-1 Crew Dragon spacecraft on a test stand shortly before the April 20 anomaly that destroyed it. Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON — More than a month after a Crew Dragon spacecraft was destroyed in a test of its propulsion system, NASA and SpaceX investigators are still working to determine the cause of the accident and its implications for upcoming test flights.

In a May 28 presentation to the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee, Kathy Lueders, manager of the commercial crew program at NASA, offered few updates on the progress of the investigation into the April 20 incident at a SpaceX pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In that incident, SpaceX was testing both the Draco thrusters and larger SuperDraco abort thrusters in preparation for an in-flight abort test of the capsule that, at the time, was scheduled for the end of June. “An anomaly occurred during activation of the SuperDraco system,” she said, but offered no details on what caused that anomaly.

Lueders did praise SpaceX for how it dealt with the accident and the ongoing investigation. “I will tell you that the team did a great job,” she said of the response. “The team followed the mishap plan beautifully. All the notifications were made. The SpaceX folks did a tremendous job.”

She also indicated that NASA has been kept in the loop about the accident and investigation, including NASA personnel who were at the SpaceX control room at the time the accident took place. A NASA team, she added, is embedded within SpaceX to help with the investigation, such as collecting all the data from the incident. SpaceX, though, is leading the investigation.

The capsule destroyed in the test was the one that flew to the International Space Station on the Demo-1 test flight in March. SpaceX planned to use that capsule on the in-flight abort test this summer.

With that capsule destroyed, Lueders said that SpaceX will use the Crew Dragon spacecraft originally intended for the Demo-2 crewed flight test for the in-flight abort test. The Demo-2 mission will instead use the spacecraft SpaceX was building for the first operational mission, dubbed Crew-1.

With the investigation ongoing, Lueders said the dates of both the in-flight abort test and the Demo-2 mission are under review. Assembly of the Demo-2 capsule continues, she said, although she said workers are keeping open the vehicle’s propulsion system in case they need to make modifications as a result of the investigation. “They’re making progress in a lot of the other areas while trying to keep, most particularly in the prop area, access to the systems that may need to be modified,” she said.

She didn’t give an indication of when that investigation will be completed. “You don’t push your anomaly investigation team too quick,” she said, stressing the importance for them to be “methodical” while working through all parts of the fault tree of potential causes.

Later in the meeting, a committee member asked Lueders if Demo-2 could still fly this year. “They’re getting their vehicle ready by the end of year,” she said of SpaceX. “We need to close out the anomaly investigation. That’s the big thing.”

The accident, she said, was something of a “gift” to the program, since it took place on a test stand, giving them an opportunity to understand what may need to be modified. “We’re learning a lot. Sometimes you learn more from a failure like this,” she said.

“It’s pretty sad not to have that vehicle,” she added. “I was hoping that vehicle would be in a museum one day. But, I think this is a vehicle that continues to serve her purpose to make human spaceflight safer and safer. We will learn from this test, and that learning will be applied to the next vehicle.”