SpaceX investigation into test explosion ongoing

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A NASA update yesterday into SpaceX’s investigation into the test explosion that destroyed a manned Dragon capsule revealed that while the company is still working to launch humans by the end of the year, this schedule remains tentative until the investigation is completed.

The update included two important details. First, SpaceX is going to use for its launch abort test the Dragon capsule it had previously planned to fly on its first manned demo mission, and for that mission will use the capsule intended for the first operational manned flight. That first operational flight will then use a new capsule from their assembly line.

Second, the update confirmed that the anomaly that caused the explosion occurred as they were activating the SuperDraco thruster system, but prior to the firing of the thrusters. While this suggests once again that the failure might have not have involved the capsule but the test procedures, we will not know for sure until they release their investigation conclusions.



  • Diane Wilson

    That says…. almost nothing. Of course they’re going ahead with production. That leaves an unstated assumption that if a hardware issue is found, that the parts involved can be accessed and replaced on a capsule that has completed assembly.

    The chain of events between activation of the SuperDracos, and firing of the SuperDracos, has to be pretty small. Yes, that leaves test procedures open to question, but also tanks, pressurization, pumps, valves, and all the rest of the plumbing. Also sea water contamination, refurbishment, and reassembly, as well as any testing that was or was not done after refurbishment but before the full systems test.

    So, pretty much a nothingburger. They probably know more, but nothing conclusive, and/or nothing they will say in public.

  • David

    I suspect nothing will be said in public until the investigation is complete. But I’ve heard that they knew the cause of the explosion pretty much instantly, and have been working root cause analysis. The last word I heard is that they believe they have the root cause, but are working to prove it and check some alternate theories, and are close to done on that. I haven’t heard anything at all as to what they believe the proximate or root causes to be though.

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