Social Media Sidebar

Announcement

Please sign up, comment on articles and bring your friends!

Current poll

PlanetTech is asking:

What do you think about our new web site?

Love it, indeed
Really good solution
Same as old one
The old one was better
This is a new option

Quote of the day

We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.

 

Stephen Hawking

 

Should we be worried about SpaceX's plan to fuel the falcon 9 with astronauts on board?

RATE THIS! +31
Posted in Science on 13th Nov, 2016 11:31 PM by AlexMuller

On September 1, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded while it was being fueled up for a test fire. The disaster has raised concerns about the company's plan to have travelers to the ISS climb aboard the rocket before it's fueled and wait while its tanks are being filled.

 

Thomas Stafford, a former astronaut and current chairman of NASA's International Space Station Advisory Committee, originally expressed concerns over the boarding procedure last December.
 
“There is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board the Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that have been in place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally,” he wrote.
 
So why would SpaceX want to board astronauts it this way, what are the risks, and is there any way to mitigate those risks?
 
SpaceX has identified super-cooled oxygen as the culprit behind the September 1 explosion. The Falcon 9 relies on extremely cold liquid oxygen to burn its kerosene fuel. The oxygen's coldness makes the gas condense into a liquid so that more oxygen can fit into the fuel tanks.
 
Chilling it even further increases the density still more, and SpaceX's super-chilling is one of the factors that gives the current Falcon 9 version 30 percent more thrust than its predecessor. That extra thrust means the rocket can carry bigger payloads into space or save some of its fuel for landing safely afterward.
 
However, the super-chilled oxygen is also causing some problems. The September 1 explosion appears to have been caused by a chunk of oxygen so cold that it actually froze into a solid, then combusted with a carbon fiber tank inside the rocket.
 
Super-chilled oxygen is also the reason SpaceX wants to load astronauts into the Dragon capsule before fueling up the rocket. To keep the oxygen as cold as possible, the company wants to minimize the time it's sitting there inside the rocket's tanks. This means putting the payload (or, in late 2017 or 2018, astronauts) on first, and filling up the tanks as close to launch time as possible.
 
SpaceX's first crewed missions aren't scheduled for takeoff until late 2017 or 2018, and the company says it is working with NASA to refine its plans for the boarding procedure. So it's possible SpaceX will change its plans and board the astronauts after fueling has completed.
 
The outcome may depend, at least in part, on what fixes the company makes to prevent the oxygen solidification that caused the September explosion, those plans haven't been revealed to the public yet.
 
Ideally, the company would use the same procedure for loading both crewed capsules and uncrewed payloads, consistency is important in rocket science. So if they change the boarding procedure for crewed missions, they would want to change it for all missions.
 
Had the rocket that exploded been crewed, the crew capsule's pad abort system might have kicked in to rescue the astronauts on board. The system is designed to jettison the crew capsule away from a rocket that explodes during or just after launch. It seems more likely that, instead of changing its boarding procedures, the company will instead rely on this backup system that's specifically designed to avoid launch pad tragedies.

Tags: spaceSpaceXhardwarerocketFalcon 9ISS

Read original article » Back to category

Comments



 

Recent headlines

  • Posted in Science on 2017-07-23 15:50:46
    UK wants continued EU Copernicus participation..read more
    Posted in Science on 2017-07-23 15:41:21
    Scientists find virtual reality can reduce the pain.....read more
    Posted in Science on 2017-07-23 15:36:02
    Depression changes brain structure..read more
    Posted in Science on 2017-07-22 19:37:47
    Moon dust bag sold for $1.8m at New York auction..read more
    Posted in Business on 2017-07-22 19:05:15
    China Plans to Use AI to Gain Global Economic Dominance.....read more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-10 01:33
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in about.....read more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-20 07:17
Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial.....read more
Posted in Software on 2013-10-20 06:43
Pirate Bay Browser Clocks 1,000,000 Downloads..read more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-10 02:10
Google reportedly investing hundreds of millions into new.....read more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-14 03:13
Endothelial Cells Can Repair and Regenerate Organs,.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Staring at Your Phone Could Be Making You Short Sighted..read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Oculus Rift virtual reality headset coming to mobile, but.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in about.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Delivering drugs via nanoparticles to target mitochondria..read more

Recent Blog Posts

  • Posted by AlexMuller
    Nanoparticle vaccine shows potential as immunotherapy to fight.....read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Obesity is top cause of preventable life-years lost, study shows..read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Light can be utilized to control gene function..read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Brain stimulation restores memory during lapses, research shows..read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Wax worm caterpillar will eat plastic shopping bags: New.....read more

Login to your Account

Login to your PlanetTech Account here

Username:
Password:
Remember me
or

Create a New Account

You just need username and password

The following errors occured:
Username:
Email:
Password:
Verify password:
Remember me