SpaceX Crew Dragon Future Looks Bright

Share

Successful Pre-test of Newly-Redesigned Abort System Indicates the SpaceX Crew Dragon May Be Back On Track

Understanding NASA’s frustration with SpaceX doesn’t take a degree in rocket science—if you’ll pardon the pun. Ever since 2011, when the agency retired the Space Shuttle program, our astronauts get to space on Russian rockets. And we paid over $80 million per seat sometimes. However, our current contract with Russia ends next year. And with Russia charging us much more than other countries for rides to the ISS, it’s clear we need an American alternative as soon as possible. The SpaceX Crew Dragon system was supposed to be that option. Unfortunately, it’s seemed like SpaceX’s sole focus has been on Starship and Starlink, while Crew Dragon is way behind. Until now?

The Problem

Back in April Crew Dragon looked to be back on track. That is, until a test of the capsule’s SuperDraco engines proved catastrophic. The failure destroyed the capsule that had made history with its first unmanned flight to the ISS earlier this year. From the flames and ashes of that test, engineers were able to uncover a major design flaw in the capsule.

Musk’s originally envisioned a completely re-usable free-flying Crew Dragon. In fact, one of his major selling points was the SuperDraco engine system, which should have given the capsule the capability to land gently using propulsion technology. 

Unfortunately, that April test revealed a faulty valve, and there simply isn’t enough time for a full-fix that would allow that vision to become reality. Instead, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will return to Earth the way the Apollo capsules did half a century ago—with parachutes. 

A Recent Test

Rather than completely redesigning the capsule, SpaceX engineers have come up with a workaround that will (hopefully) allow them and NASA to reach their launch goals. The faulty valve was part of the system that delivers fuel to the SuperDraco engines in a controlled manner. That capability allows the engines to gently guide the craft to the ground upon re-entry. With the valve not functioning properly, the most practical fix was to bypass it altogether. Unfortunately, this means all eight of the capsule’s SuperDraco engines must be fired at once, and can only be used as an abort system.

In such an abort scenario, the engines fire and separate the capsule from the Falcon 9 rocket. This will, hopefully, help the crew avert disaster and land safely under the parachute system.

SpaceX announced the successful small-scale test last week via Twitter.

Between this and Gwynne Shotwell’s recent bragging streak, one has to wonder if SpaceX is pushing back at NASA just a bit, or if they’re simply trying to show how far they are ahead of the competition. Boeing, after all, still hasn’t even done an unmanned test of its counterpart craft, the Starliner. That first uncrewed test happens December 17th, though, if all goes according to schedule.

In any event, NASA recently purchased another Russian rocket ride and is eagerly awaiting results from its commercial partners.

Read More:


Enjoy Space Porn? Don’t be embarrassed! In fact, why not wear it like a hoodie? You can find that and more on our Marketplace. Better yet, you can support us on Patreon and unlock all kinds of awesome perks!

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.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *