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NASA’s optimistic problem with SpaceX Falcon 9 solved, clearing the way for the crew to start

“Fine” engine problem that caused last second break of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was resolved earlier this month, engineers say, and if ongoing tests go well, NASA plans to move forward with launch of four astronauts on top of another Falcon 9 on Nov. 14, officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, SpaceX “Crew-1” commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi went through initial quarantine last weekend, taking further steps beyond those already in place due to the coronavirus to ensure all four are viral. -free to start.

The release from historic site 39A at the Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 7:49 p.m. EST on Saturday, November 1

4th. If all goes well, Crew Dragon will perform an automated rendezvous, mooring at the front port of the space station eight-and-a-half an hour later, around 4:04 the next day.

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts during a visit to the Hawthorne spacecraft manufacturing facility, California.


If bad weather or other problems delay the launch in time, the crew has the option of a backup launch at 7:27 p.m. On Sunday, November 15, setting up docking the next day. If he hasn’t come off the ground by then, the crew will probably have to wait until Russia’s space launch on November 18.

“The crew is doing well,” said Steve Stitch, manager of NASA’s Merchant Crew Program. “As we started working through the (engine) anomaly and started seeing a trail to get to flight on the 14th, we put the crew in soft quarantine last weekend.

“They’ve been on a lot of telephones and listened to what’s going on with the vehicles. We still have a little work to do on this engine anomaly, but I think we see a pretty good way to (start). We’ll fly when we’re ready.”

NASA executives initially hoped to launch the SpaceX Crew-1 mission earlier this month. But the flight was delayed, first to allow more time between the launch of Rubins on October 14 and the return to Earth of another Soyuz crew of three on October 21, and then because of the last second launch of Falcon 9. interrupted on October 3.

The Falcon 9, carrying the US space force’s global positioning navigation satellite, was not damaged, but the flight was delayed while engineers worked to determine what went wrong and what might be needed to prevent further problems.

During a teleconference Wednesday, Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of flight construction and reliability, said the rocket’s flight computer was in command of the outage after detecting abnormal pressure readings in a turbopump machine used by two of the nine engines. the first stage of the rocket.

The suspected engines were removed and sent to SpaceX’s flight test facility in Texas, where engineers were able to repeat the pressure readings.

Koenigsmann said a detailed inspection revealed a small amount of red nail polish, similar to nail polish, used to clean components after anodizing treatments that had not been thoroughly cleaned and clogged a 1/16-inch-wide vent.

As a result, the “ignition fluid” used to turn the turbopumps reached the machine too early, discarding the engine starting sequence. If the flight computer did not interrupt the launch, Koenigsman said the engines in question could be damaged during what he called a “hard start”.

“It doesn’t have to be bad, but in most cases, you know, it shakes the engine,” he said, “and it can cause a little damage to the engine. In extreme cases, it can cause more damage. So in general, you don’t want that , you want a good start. “

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center, transporting two NASA astronauts on a test flight to the International Space Station. Crew Dragon’s first operational flight, that of four astronauts, is scheduled for launch on November 14.


After finding blocked ventilation lines in the two engines responsible for the outage, SpaceX reviewed engine data from its entire fleet of Falcon 9 rockets and found three more with similar problems: one designed to be used on November 10 to launch a science satellite to Earth. from California and two in Crew-1 Falcon 9.

In all five cases, blocked ventilation lines were found in new Merlin engines that had not yet flown into space.

Koenigsman said SpaceX is working with its suppliers to make sure the hardware is better cleaned and tested in the future before new engines are built. The company is reviewing other components that may be susceptible to similar issues.

In any case, all five engines are replaced with thoroughly tested Merlins, which are known to have no such blockages.

SpaceX plans to make another attempt to launch the satellite for a global positioning system next Thursday, sources said, followed by the launch of the Earth observation satellite 6-Michael Freilich on November 10.

Stich said Crew-1’s launch date will depend in part on next week’s GPS launch results to make sure other, unspecified changes work as intended during the manned flight.

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