Crew Dragon Safety Test Delayed One Week

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SpaceX and NASA Are Taking Some Extra Time for “Spacecraft Processing” Before the Next Crew Dragon Safety Test.

It’s speculation, of course, but one has to imagine that SpaceX engineers working on Crew Dragon have had a rough go these past six months. When a critical failure last summer exposed a major design flaw, they scrapped the capsule’s propulsion landing system. That system was a major selling point for Crew Dragon, but its loss wasn’t a death nail. Within a few days, Space X announced a new plan that would have the capsule returning to Earth under parachutes. Since then, they’ve been preparing for a new in-flight Crew Dragon safety test. However, officials recently pushed that date back by a week.

The original Crew Dragon safety test was originally scheduled for this Saturday. However, in an update from NASA, officials announced the test will now happen no earlier than next Saturday, January 18th.

The Trouble This Summer

As mentioned above, last summer a fiery explosion exposed a major design flaw in the capsule’s propulsion landing system. Additionally, that system is also tied to the in-flight abort system for Crew Dragon. The failure revolved around a faulty valve in the propellent delivery system for the capsule’s Raptor engines. That valve was supposed to help guide the capsules Raptor engines toward a precision propulsion-based landing. Unfortunately, the fault with the valve means that idea is scrapped. However, the valve can still be used for a “one and done” fuel dump, allowing the capsule’s in-flight abort system to remain intact. 

The Last Big Test

SpaceX Crew Dragon with Concept Space Suit

SpaceX Crew Dragon with Concept Space Suit

Next Saturday’s in-flight Crew Dragon safety test marks the last major test the capsule must pass before it can start flying crewed missions. Last March, the capsule flew to the ISS and back without a crew. That flight put Crew Dragon slightly ahead of Boeing’s Starliner counterpart craft. Boeing attempted to dock with the ISS a few weeks ago but failed. 

Both spacecraft have been beset by delays and setbacks. However, when it comes to crew safety, NASA won’t cut corners. NASA’s eagerly waited for one company or the other to provide a viable craft for years now. That’s because since 2011, we’ve ridden to space on Russian rockets. NASA pays Rosmocos roughly $82 million per seat to ferry our astronauts to the ISS on Soyuz rockets. 

Crew Dragon will fly aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and will cost significantly less to carry its precious human cargo to the ISS. It’s expected to begin operations early this year.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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