[FPSPACE] SpaceX in-flight component failures highlighted; next mission delayed to March 2013
pjp961 at svol.net
Sat Nov 17 14:50:01 EST 2012
Via Yahoo "Contributor Network"
NASA, SpaceX Work to Fix Anomalies from Last Dragon Cargo Flight
ml> Whittington | Yahoo! Contributor Network - Thu, Nov 15, 2012
Though the first operational cargo mission for the SpaceX Dragon to the
International Space Station was ultimately successful, a number of problems
cropped up during the flight have both NASA and SpaceX concerned.
Marcia Smith has written a piece
SpacePolicyOnline.com about some of the problems being worked on.
Engine failure most prominent problem during Dragon's flight
<http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/08/us/spacex-engine-failure/index.html> to CNN,
the Falcon 9 launch vehicle that boosted the Dragon into low Earth orbit
lost one of the nine Merlin engines that power the first stage. The Falcon
9, though, was able to adjust, due to a cross feed design, and achieve orbit
using the other eight engines. This was the same capability that the Saturn
V had, which was of use when it suffered an engine failure during two of its
launches, including the one that launched Apollo 13.
Computer and other anomalies noted
Smith's article noted that one of the three computers on the Dragon failed
when it "de-synched" with the other two. The Dragon is able to operate on
two computers, so the decision was made not to try to fix the malfunctioning
computer on orbit. Engineers suspect that the computer was taken down by a
burst of radiation. They may mean that using radiation hardened parts will
be necessary for computers on future flights, which will be more expensive
and will slow down processing.
Smith also notes that one of the Draco thrusters, which help the Dragon to
maneuver, failed and that all three coolant pumps failed after the Dragon
splashed down. Also the freezer unit used to return experiment samples from
the ISS was at minus-65 degrees than at the required minus-95 degrees. What
the 30-degree difference has done to the samples if anything has yet to be
NASA and SpaceX reviewing the anomalies
to Space Flight Now, NASA officials discussed the various anomalies on Nov.
14. Thus far the root cause of the engine failure has not been found.
Engineers suspect that sea water may have leaked into the Dragon, causing
the freezer and the coolant pumps to lose power. Cold stowage may be limited
on subsequent flights of the Dragon.
Partly due to the problems being worked on the Dragon and partly due to a
software upgrade on the International Space Station, the next cargo flight
has been delayed from January 2013 to March. NASA, as the customer, must
sign off before a Dragon embarks on another mission to the ISS.
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