Jul 16, 2019

Answers emerge as SpaceX investigates April accident

SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX has pinned down the cause of an explosion that destroyed one of its Crew Dragon capsules on a test stand on April 20.

Why it matters: The stakes are high for SpaceX. NASA has a contract with the company to use its Crew Dragon capsule to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

  • The first crewed SpaceX flight was expected to occur before the end of 2019, but the accident — which didn't cause any injuries — is likely to set those plans back.

Details: A SpaceX and NASA investigation team found that a leaky valve in the Crew Dragon's propulsion system was to blame for the explosion, which took place about 100 milliseconds before the company lit up the capsule's SuperDraco thrusters for a test firing.

  • SpaceX says they've finished about 80% of the investigation and are switching out the problematic valves, among other fixes.

What to watch: NASA has yet to put out an updated expected timeframe for SpaceX's first crewed flight to the station.

  • "I hope it's this year, but we're going to fly when it's the right time and when we know that we're going to be flying our crew safely." NASA Commercial Crew program manager Kathy Lueders said during a press call.
  • Boeing is also working toward building its Starliner spacecraft under a contract with NASA to fly astronauts to the space station as well.

Go deeper

SpaceX rocket launches experiments, supplies to the ISS for NASA

A Falcon 9 rocket launching in December 2018. Photo: SpaceX

An uncrewed SpaceX Dragon capsule is on its way to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The Dragon is carrying thousands of pounds of supplies, experiments and hardware for NASA. Those supplies include a new docking adaptor, spacesuit parts and Nickelodeon slime.

Read moreArrowJul 25, 2019

SpaceX is betting on rocket rideshares

A Falcon 9 rocket launch in 2018. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX is offering up its Falcon 9 rockets for regular rideshares to orbit for small payloads, the company announced Monday.

Why it matters: Usually small satellites are forced to hitch rides on a Falcon 9 with a larger payload bound for orbit, but these rideshares won't need to wait on a primary mission for launch.

Go deeperArrowAug 6, 2019

NASA's long trip back to the Moon

Earth seen from above the Moon during Apollo 11. Photo: NASA

Fifty years after NASA first landed people on the Moon with its Apollo program, it's now aiming to do it again, but the storied space agency has a long way to go before it can get there.

Driving the news: Last week, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine reassigned Bill Gerstenmaier, a beloved figure at the agency, from his role as the head of human exploration and operations.

Go deeperArrowJul 16, 2019