Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, takes spaceflight to an entirely new level by launching satellites on board reusable Falcon 9 rockets. In the future, the company is planning to also launch astronauts that would travel to the International Space Station, while developing plans that would take humans to Mars using the BFR spaceship. However, NASA’s advisers say that Space X’s Powerful Technology could risk people’s lives.
SpaceX is also supplying the International Space Station using the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. Meanwhile, the company is working on a project that would carry crew to the ISS. Nevertheless, for the last few years there were concerns focusing on the safety of astronauts. As per the report in The Washington Post, experts believe that there are risks that are connected with Space X’s powerful technology, meaning the “load-and-go” fueling method.
The method the company uses, putting in cooled propellant, shrinks the propellant, making room for more fuel to go in the tank, which results in more power. However, that method is slightly flawed. To maintain the proper level of temperature the tank needs to get filled at the last moment. That means that if the mission has a crew, the spacefarers would already be on board the spacecraft. If the slightest mistake were to occur during the loading procedure, there could be huge consequences.
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According to The Washington Post, NASA’s advisory board stresses that Space X’s powerful technology could carry risks and it’s against the booster safety criteria.
John Mulholland, Boeing’s vice president and program manager for commercial programs in space exploration believes the same as NASA’s advisory board. “When you’re loading densified propellants, it is not an inherently stable situation,” he was quoted by the Post.
Nevertheless, SpaceX considers its powerful technology to be safer as opposed to the one NASA uses. At the Congressional hearing in January, Hans Koenigsmann, VP of build and flight reusability at SpaceX said, “What we tried to do here is we tried to minimize the time we expose personnel, not just astronauts, but also crew to the hazard of fueling,”
“Our procedure is actually that we put the astronauts, we strap them in, we make sure they’re comfortable, and then the ground crew retreats and we arm the pad abort system that we’ve already tested,” he added. “Then we start fueling the main propellants basically within what amounts to half an hour or something like that. So, it’s a relatively quick procedure and we believe that this exposure time is the shortest possible and therefore the safest approach.”
“NASA is supposed to be a risk-taking organization,” Greg Autry, a business professor who served on Trump’s NASA transition team, told The Washington Post. “But every time we would mention accepting risk in human spaceflight, the NASA people would say, ‘But, oh, you have to remember the scar tissue’— and they were talking about the two shuttle disasters. They seemed to have become victims of the past and unwilling to try anything new, because of that scar tissue.”
The space agency stresses that SpaceX and Boeing must make sure that the chance of death on their space vehicles shouldn’t go above 1 in 270 flights. Both companies are working to ensure the target as they approach toward crewed missions.