NASA Provides Update on SpaceX Crew Dragon Static Fire Investigation

NASA continues to work closely with SpaceX as they lead the accident investigation into the April 20 Crew Dragon static fire anomaly at Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Teams have completed work to ensure the site is safe and are focusing on the root cause analysis, which will determine the impact to commercial crew flights tests. SpaceX had several Crew Dragon vehicles in production, and plans to shift the spacecraft assignments forward. The spacecraft originally assigned to Demo-2, the first flight test with a crew onboard, now will be used for the company’s in-flight abort test and the first operational mission spacecraft will be used for Demo-2.

The Crew Dragon static fire was designed as a health check of the spacecraft’s Draco systems and to demonstrate integrated system SuperDraco performance. During the static fire, SpaceX successfully completed a firing of 12 service section Dracos with the anomaly occurring during the activation of the SuperDraco system. Over the course of development, SpaceX has tested the SuperDraco thrusters hundreds of times.

Following the test, NASA and SpaceX immediately executed mishap plans established by the agency and company. SpaceX fully cleared the test site and followed all safety protocols. Early efforts focused on making the site safe, collecting data and developing a timeline of the anomaly, which did not result in any injuries. NASA assisted with the site inspection including the operation of drones and onsite vehicles.

NASA and SpaceX remain committed to the safety of our astronaut and ground crews and will proceed with flight tests when ready.

Boeing Completes Starliner Hot Fire Test

Starliner Hot Fire Test
Boeing teams ran multiple tests on Starliner’s in-space maneuvering system and the spacecraft’s launch abort system on Thursday at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. Photo credit: Boeing

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner propulsion system was put to the test on Thursday at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico in support of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Teams ran multiple tests on Starliner’s in-space maneuvering system and the spacecraft’s launch abort system, which are key elements on the path to restore America’s capability to fly astronauts to the International Space Station on American rockets and spacecraft from U.S. soil.

The test used a flight-like Starliner service module with a full propulsion system comprising of fuel and helium tanks, reaction control system and orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters, launch abort engines and all necessary fuel lines and avionics.

During the test:

  • 19 thrusters fired to simulate in-space maneuvers.
  • 12 thrusters fired to simulate a high-altitude abort.
  • 22 propulsion elements, including the launch abort engines, fired to simulate a low-altitude abort.

Boeing’s Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company will complete a Starliner pad abort test and uncrewed flight test, called Orbital Flight Test, to the station ahead of the first flight test with a crew onboard. As commercial crew providers, Boeing and SpaceX, begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

The Atlas V to Lift Starliner with Astronauts Departs Factory for Launch Site

From the manufacturing facility in Decatur, Alabama, the Atlas V booster stage and Dual Engine Centaur upper stage were rolled into a giant cargo ship for transport to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Emmett Given

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program emerged on Thursday from the production factory in Decatur, Alabama for transport in a giant cargo ship to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Once at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will begin integrated operations and processing for the Crew Flight Test mission. Photo credit: NASA/Emmett Given

The rocket, known as AV-082, will launch Starliner and its crew of NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson to the station following the spacecraft’s maiden voyage, the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test targeted for August.

From the manufacturing facility in Decatur, Alabama, the Atlas V booster stage and Dual Engine Centaur upper stage were moved down the road for loading into the Mariner vessel docked nearby. The 312-foot-long ship is purpose-built to navigate both shallow waters of rivers and ocean travel to reach ULA’s launch sites. It has been making the trek from Decatur to Cape Canaveral since 2001.

Once at Cape Canaveral, the Atlas V will begin integrated operations and processing for the CFT launch.

NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to transport crew to the space station from the United States, returning the nation’s human spaceflight launch capability. These integrated spacecraft, rockets and associated systems will carry up to four astronauts on NASA missions.

Regular commercial transportation using Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to and from the station will enable expanded station use and additional research time aboard the orbiting laboratory. Research on the space station helps address the challenges of moving humanity forward to the Moon and Mars as we learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.

Crew Safety A Top Priority

NASA and the Department of Defense Human Space Flight Support (HSFS) Office Rescue Division conducted a crew rescue training event April 25 and 27, 2019, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida in support of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

For our commercial crew flights, we plan for any scenario that may arise, including unlikely emergencies, such as a spacecraft abort and subsequent splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. Recently, two NASA astronauts as well as a team from the Department of Defense Human Space Flight Support Office Rescue Division practiced what they will do in that very scenario. The DoD team is responsible for quickly and safely rescuing astronauts in the unlikely event of an emergency during ascent, free flight or landing. To learn more about both team’s practices, check out our crew rescue feature.