The collision of a Falcon 9 missile with a bridge was responsible for the damage that delayed the next human launch of SpaceX.
A SpaceX representative told reporters during a press briefing today (August 4) that the first stage of the Falcon 9 was damaged during transportation. The subject of the briefing was SpaceX’s delayed Crew-5 mission, which is now scheduled to transport four people to the International Space Station in late September in the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Enhanced damage to NASA Crew-5 was revealed in mid-July, but it appears that the bridge collision has not been officially confirmed outside of media reports, such as This one is from NASASpaceflight (Opens in a new tab)Even today.
Pictures: Stunning launch images of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission
“The boost phase was in contact with a bridge on the road,” Benjamin Reed, SpaceX’s senior program manager for human spaceflight, said in a NASA briefing broadcast live.
As is typical of Falcon 9 boosters, the rocket stage on a tractor trailer was moving between a SpaceX manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, California, and a test facility in McGregor, Texas, when the accident occurred, he said.
“We assessed this damage,” Reed continued. “It was a fairly minor incursion, but it did some damage.” “We decided to replace the intercompound and some of the other components in that first phase.”
Read added that SpaceX went through “a very aggressive analysis and testing process” on the Falcon 9, and at some point during this period the problem was notified to Crew 5 astronauts.
The crew includes 5 NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Casada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina.
“We had some very transparent conversations with them,” Mann told reporters in a separate briefing broadcast live by NASA today that included the four crew members. She said the SpaceX leadership spoke frequently to the crew about the “adjustments and challenges” associated with the collision.
“Everyone is definitely on the same page that hardware needs to be reliable and it has to be secure,” Mann continued. “We have complete confidence that NASA, SpaceX and international partners will not put us on a rocket or spacecraft that they feel is not ready to launch.”
Reed echoed this focus on safety in his comments, saying that SpaceX has carried out an operation “to make sure that stage would be ready for launch, and just as safe to transport the crew as we do on every mission.”
He added, “We want to make sure it’s the safest one. We’ve all seen it so [that way]We are confident that the crew will be able to fly.”
NASA is framing the Crew-5 as an unprecedented opportunity in international space cooperation, citing evidence of a Kikina aboard a US commercial spacecraft — a first for any Russian federal cosmonaut. (The Kekina site has been booked by seat swap negotiations that will continue to put NASA astronauts on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, on which they have flown for years.)
However, preparations for Crew-5 are underway amid further turmoil in the relationship between the two major partners of the International Space Station: NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
After months of threats by Roscosmos officials, new chief Yuri Borisov said in July that his agency would leave the ISS partnership “after 2024,” the year the current agreement expires.
Borisov later clarified the statement, saying that the Russian space agency Roscosmos will begin the “exit process” in 2024 or so as it prepares to build and operate a Russian space station in the late decade. NASA and international partners confirmed in today’s briefings that discussions are underway to negotiate the separation in the coming years.
The ISS coalition met Friday (July 29) at its regular Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) meeting to discuss plans, NASA Chief of Human Spaceflight Kathy Luders told reporters.
“Our end gives us direction to continue the space station until 2030,” Luders said, referring to legislation awaiting US President Joe Biden’s signature to extend NASA’s involvement until that date. (Media reports indicate that Biden will sign the legislation next week.)
Luders added that partners willing to continue the relationship beyond 2024 are also “working on their plans and increasingly looking to support.”
Regarding what’s coming with Russia, she said, “We have to wait and see what the government wants each of us to do.” “To be fair, they are still in the process of getting approval. The goal is to talk about their progress at the next MCB, which will be planned in the next six or seven months.”
Echoing previous Roscosmos comments about components of the Russian International Space Station, which are rated for 15 years of service and in some cases close to 25 years in orbit, the agency’s executive director for human spaceflight programs said it was time to prepare for a replacement station. But that will not be an instant process.
“We are looking at projects for the new station, but at the moment we are working on extending the operation, and we don’t know for how long yet,” Sergey Krikalev said in the Russian-language briefing. His comments on the site have been translated into English.
“When there is a technical reason for termination … we will of course coordinate with our partners regarding our interface procedures, to make that as smooth as possible for all program participants,” he added.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which supplies the Kibo science and robotic technology module to the International Space Station, “continues to work closely with international partners to ensure the stability of this process,” said Hiroshi Sasaki, the agency’s vice president and director general for human spaceflight. Technology Director, at the same briefing.
“We don’t have any issues with the extension, so we want to continue to support the program,” Sasaki continued, but added that technical evaluations are underway.
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