SpaceX studying changes to de-orbit procedures for Dragon service module

Because it appears the trunk section of the service module of SpaceX’s Dragon capsules actually survives re-entry, the company is now studying changes to its de-orbit procedures so that it can guarantee that trunk will not crash on land, as has happened now three times in the past two years.

The solution [a NASA official] said NASA and SpaceX are looking at involves changing deorbiting procedures. Currently, the trunk is released before the capsule performs its orbit burn. That means the trunk can remain in orbit for months before making an uncontrolled reentry.

Instead, [that NASA official] said engineers are examining doing the deorbit burn and then releasing the trunk. That would provide more control of where the trunk reenters, ensuring that any debris that survives reentry lands in unpopulated regions.

To make this new procedure work they need to recalculate the fuel requirements for doing the de-orbit burn. It also requires them to figure out when to detach the trunk after the burn. I expect SpaceX to successfully implement these changes before the next Dragon launch, whether manned or unmanned.