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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday January 14 2018, @06:53PM   Printer-friendly
from the space-is-risky dept.

Safety panel raises concerns about Falcon 9 pressure vessel for commercial crew missions

An independent safety panel recommended NASA not certify SpaceX's commercial crew system until the agency better understands the behavior of pressure vessels linked to a Falcon 9 failure in 2016. That recommendation was one of the stronger items in the annual report of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) released by NASA Jan. 11, which found that NASA was generally managing risk well on its various programs.

The report devoted a section to the composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) used to store helium in the second stage propellant tanks of the Falcon 9. The investigation into the September 2016 pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 while being prepared for a static-fire test concluded that liquid oxygen in the tank got trapped between the COPV overwrap and liner and then ignited through friction or other mechanisms.

SpaceX has since changed its loading processes to avoid exposing the COPVs to similar conditions, but also agreed with NASA to redesign the COPV to reduce the risk for crewed launches. NASA has since started a "rigorous test program" to understand how the redesigned COPV behaves when exposed to liquid oxygen, the report stated. ASAP argued that completing those tests is essential before NASA can allow its astronauts to launch on the Falcon 9. "In our opinion, adequate understanding of the COPV behavior in cryogenic oxygen is an absolutely essential precursor to potential certification for human space flight," the report stated, a sentence italicized for emphasis in the report.

[...] The report raised issues in general about the commercial crew program, including concerns that neither Boeing nor SpaceX, the two companies developing vehicles to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, will meet a requirement of no greater than a 1-in-270 "loss of crew" (LOC) risk of an accident that causes death or serious injury to a crewmember. That includes, the report stated, a risk of no more than 1 in 500 for launch and reentry.

Both programs are likely to be delayed:

Boeing, SpaceX have razor-thin margins to fly crew missions in 2018

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by tftp on Sunday January 14 2018, @09:22PM (1 child)

    by tftp (806) on Sunday January 14 2018, @09:22PM (#622273) Homepage

    Abandonment of chemical rockets altogether in some EmDrive/stolen UFO scenario?

    Something like that. Chemical rockets are a dead end anyway because they are too inefficient and too expensive. They are dangerous because we have to work with huge energies that are contained in materials that are unsafe even on their own. Spaceflight on chemical rockets cannot become a path to somewhere for the people. It can be only a narrow, dangerous road for researchers who don't mind sitting atop a flying bomb.

    Would be nice to have an elevator to orbit, but chances are that we won't be capable of producing and installing it until we don't need it.

    If we do not invent the technologies to, say, fly within the gravity field of the planet, we have little chance of conquering other planets. Other worlds are large planets, and there will be only few teams on them. They will need a flying vehicle that can fly half the planet on single tank of fuel, hover and land anywhere (VTOL) and be very reliable. No service for tens of flights! Of course, it should not depend on atmosphere - even in our system we have quite a variety of those. People say that the martian colony starts with a base, and then sends crawlers with scientists up to several thousand miles away. Aside from lack of such efficient machines, those crews are playing with death. There are no comm or gps sats around Mars and no plans to deploy them. There is no (?) ionosphere that supports SW hops. UHF goes straight through. How will they call for help? How soon they will be saved? This is why flying vehicles are essential for study of a planet. They also cover huge distances that no crawler can.

    As it stands, all current plans of manned presence in space resemble ill equipped individuals, alone attacking Everest. This rarely works. Sensible space exploration requires many technologies (robots, engines, controlled fusion) that we do not have yet. It only makes sense to go back to the drawing board and invent what we need rather than to pave the planets with dead bodies of pioneers. There is no emergency, Moon and Mars aren't going anywhere in nearest 100 years. There is no benefit trying to set up there right now.

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  • (Score: 1, Troll) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday January 14 2018, @10:54PM

    by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday January 14 2018, @10:54PM (#622307) Homepage

    The problem was that these are California hipsters we're dealing with and they think that carbon fiber is the solution to all of their problems just because their yuppie bicycles and twice-used stand-up paddleboards have the carbon fiber wrap.