SpaceX Crew Dragon One Step Closer To Flight!

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Yesterday’s Successful Static Fire Test Puts SpaceX Crew Dragon in Position for Crucial Upcoming Flight Tests

Yesterday at around three o’clock Eastern time, engineers fired up the escape-system engine on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule. The capsule’s SuperDraco engines passed with flying colors. The Crew Dragon failed this particular test last time. That was nearly seven months ago. Back then, the failure revealed a critical design flaw that set the project back and dashed any hopes of a controlled propulsion landing. 

It’s no secret that to Elon Musk, fully reusable rocket systems are the ultimate goal. Reusability, he reasons, is absolutely critical to keeping costs low. This laser-focus on reusability could explain why SpaceX made so many headlines with Starship lately instead of Crew Dragon. 

When Crew Dragon failed the static fire test this spring, engineers discovered a faulty valve in the fuel delivery system. Unfortunately, NASA simply can’t wait for a full redesign. The Crew Dragon should have already flown American astronauts to the International Space Station by now. For the past eight years, we’ve been paying enormous sums to Rosmocos for Soyuz rocket rides to the ISS. NASA needs a viable American option now, so Crew Dragon engineers decided to bypass the faulty valve.

Here’s a Local Report on the Test:

 

Parachute Landing

The main drawback of bypassing the valve is the fact that it means there’s no option to burn the SuperDraco engines in a controlled fashion. Obviously controlling the burn is important for a stable propulsion landing. That wasn’t the only purpose of the engines, however. Their more pressing function is as the main escape system for the capsule in the event of a launch emergency. Even without the faulty valve, they fulfill this function.

That’s what yesterday’s test was all about, and the SpaceX Crew Dragon passed. With a functional abort system, the craft will be ready to begin the final phases of testing.

When it finally does fly, though, the Crew Dragon will float back to Earth the same way Apollo capsules did in the 1960s and ’70s—under parachutes.

Given the success of the Falcon 9’s propulsion landing system and the advances SpaceX is making with Starship, it’s very likely that the next version of Crew Dragon will have a fully operational SuperDraco-powered landing system. Besides, Boeing is hot on their tails with the Starliner capsule—another viable option for NASA to get to the ISS.

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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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