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SpaceX’s Falcon 9, a dragon design praised by NASA administrators as unique and creative

Officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) held a press briefing today, in which officials provided the press with updates on its progress on the Artemis program. NASA’s Artemis missions aim to strengthen American leadership in deep space exploration by providing the country with a solid foundation for conducting experiments at the lunar South Pole. The briefing was conducted by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein, who is preparing to provide much-needed funding for the Artemis program from the US Congress.

He was joined by Katie Luders, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Directorate of Human Research and Operations, James Reuters, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Directorate, and Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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During the event, administrator Bridenstine shared how collaboration with the space exploration industry has helped his agency develop creative technologies, and in particular said that Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) generates solutions that its agency may not have been able to find its own.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 design, a dragon launch interruption system demonstrates the power of the commercial business model trusts NASA administrator

The NASA official’s comments covered several key areas of the design of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and its Crew Dragon spacecraft. Crew Dragon became the first spacecraft to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this year under NASA’s commercial crew program, which intends to expand the commercial sector’s involvement in the agency’s missions. The CCP program requires design proposals from NASA-compliant corporations, and it differs significantly from the agency’s earlier approach, which involved finalizing the design before involving the private sector.

Mr Bridenstine emphasized these facts in response to a question from Keith Cowing of NASA Watch, who asked about his definition of resilience and NASA’s timelines for Lunar Gateway, the agency’s planned lunar space station. In response, the administrator stated:

“Yes, so you know again that this is an important distinction between how we do it now and how we’ve done it in the past. In the past, NASA basically wrote the requirements and outlined the possibilities, and then we turned to contractors to build what we We were designing with the requirements, so what we’re doing now is turning to the industry and allowing them to offer a lot of innovative creative solutions that are unique, and since we’ve done that, they already have three very different lunar landing systems on contract. which are very different in their approach [laughs] and some will consider using a gateway, while others may not.

What we are trying to do is try to learn the business model that will work, and we did it with commercial supply and already commercial crew, and we think about the success we achieved with the Dragon crew, for example, on the Falcon 9 rocket. let me say some of these things before, but it’s important to note that you know that the idea of ​​having a composite pressure vessel wrapped in a liquid oxygen tank is not something NASA would do on its own. The idea that we would have supercooled liquid oxygen to get a more specific momentum from a rocket is not something NASA would do on its own. The idea that we will have nine rocket engines on a Falcon 9-sized rocket is not something NASA would probably do on its own. The idea that you would integrate the interrupt launch system into a normal propulsion system is not something NASA would do on its own. “

The composite pressure vessels (COPVs) mentioned by Mr. Bridenstine are a key feature of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. They work in tandem with the company’s choice to use chilled liquid oxygen for its rockets, allowing them to increase their range and be reused, leaving the tanks in the first stage to store more fuel.

These ships have also caused SpaceX headaches in the past, when the Falcon 9 had a refueling failure and exploded in 2016. Four months after the investigation, SpaceX confirmed that gaps between the COPV composite shell and the aluminum lining lead to liquid oxygen flowing inside them, where it approached dangerously to the helium inside them. The result was a devastating fireball that took months to investigate and destroy the cargo perched on the launch vehicle.

The Crew Dragon’s launch interruption system is designed to ensure that astronauts can safely distance themselves while in the spacecraft, as it is on top of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle during pre-launch tests and preparation. This system uses the same propellant that Dragon’s Super Draco engines use for orbital maneuvering and produces about 16,000 lbf of thrust for this purpose.

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