The first manned flight of the Crew Dragon capsule could be delayed: two independent incidents have indeed concerned the Falcon 9 launcher and the manned vehicle in recent days.The company should however be laundered quickly.
An engine goes out
Of course it is a matter of circumstances: the first stage of the Falcon 9 launcher realized his fifth flight on March 18, when one of its engines stopped several seconds too early. Gold for takeoff future capsules Dragon Crew, NASA asked (at least initially) floors of new rocket. In this case, thanks to the action of the eight neighbors engines and second stage, the final trajectory of Starlink 60 satellites was that intended.
Nevertheless, this type of incident is extremely rare, must be clarified to ensure that it will not generate any additional risk to the occupants of the capsule Dragon Crew in the future. SpaceX, which had met only failure of the genre in 2012 (over 500 Merlin engines that have managed their mission), has requested the assistance of NASA and its experts for the survey.
Still the parachutes
Unfortunately for SpaceX, a second anomaly disturbed the calm of the Crew Dragon program this week. To qualify the parachutes of the Crew Dragon capsule, the latter is taken under a sling by a helicopter to a given altitude, then released. These tests have already taken place more than ten times.
But during one of the last three tests, the helicopter clearly encountered special conditions. The test article simulating the Crew Dragon capsule became unstable, and the helicopter pilot had no choice but to drop his load to protect his machine and crew while avoiding drama. However, the parachute system was not in the “armed” position and could not be activated at too low an altitude, the test article therefore crashed in the desert.
Again, an investigation has been opened, and if the parachute system (heavily challenged last year in a previous version) is not targeted, SpaceX and Commercial Crew inspectors will try to understand why the helicopter found himself in such a delicate situation. Test procedures, for example, could completely challenge the manufacturer.
Prudence and caution again
If it is likely that SpaceX is not implicated in these investigations because of the particular circumstances of these failures (wear upstairs reused in the first case, unpredictable flight conditions in the second). The firm Hawthorne and NASA will be cautious and attentive to detail. The agency, in particular, is already under the spotlight for being too lax with Boeing competitor and testing of the Starliner capsule last December. When it comes to the safety of astronauts, not about compromise.