SpaceX operational astronaut returns to launch track after “nail polish” delay

In a new briefing from NASA, Hans Koenigsman, vice president of reliability of SpaceX’s Build and Flight, further explained in a second statement why the recent Falcon 9 launch was canceled and how it delayed the launch of the company’s first operational astronaut.

Now with no further departures scheduled for Saturday, November 14 East (00:49 UTC) (Net), SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Crew-1 mission was originally launched on September, October 23, and October 31. On October 2, a new Falcon 9 booster, sister to Crew-1’s own new booster, automatically canceled its attempt to launch its GPS III SV04 satellite just two seconds before the lift. The rarest second-hand resort by CEO Elon Musk was blamed for the rapid “unexpected increase in pressure on turbomachinary gas generators”.

Possibly built side by side with the faulty GPS III SV04 Falcon 9 Booster B1062 at SpaceX’s factory in Hawthorne, California, the Crew-1 Falcon 9 Booster B1061 was often immediately searched for a generalization once the cause of the miscarriage was better understood.

SpaceX COO and President Guinness Shotwell is standing in front of the Falcon 9 booster that will soon take four astronauts to the ISS. (Time / SpaceX)

Just a week before the latest briefing, NASA’s Human Spaceflight program administrator and former commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lloyders, said in a statement on Twitter that SpaceX was still analyzing the cause of the abortion but had already determined that at least one crew-1 booster engine was needed. As well as an engine on the Falcon 9 Booster B1063.

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The Crew-1 Falcon 9 Booster B1061 arrived in Florida on July 14th. (SpaceX)
The Falcon 9 Booster B1063 went west on its way to McGregor, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Texas, California in August. (De Stamos)

Now, during NASA’s Crew-1 briefing on October 26, SpaceX’s Koenigsman revealed that the company had finally decided to replace the Crew-1 booster B1061’s nine Merlin 1D engines, not two. Thanks to the Falcon 9’s nine-engine booster design and SpaceX’s rich rocket factory, the process was remarkably fast, only requiring redirection of already qualified Merlin 1D engines from a large enough pool based on the Koenigsman’s freshening. Has done.

What, however, canceled the introduction of GPS III SV04 and how was it affected in Crew-1?

Rocket Engine vs. “Polish Polish”

According to Koenigsmann, during the rapid and complex mechanical and electrical ballet before the first phase of the Falcon 9 combustion, the rocket’s autonomous flight computer observed that the nine Merlin 1D engines of the GPS III SV04 booster were found to be running ahead of schedule. The computer immediately shuts off the ignition process to avoid a “hard” (such as stressful or harmful) start. SpaceX quickly began testing the rocket within 24 hours, but was unable to detect any physical or electrical fault with the Falcon 9’s Marlin 1D engine and engine section.

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The Marilyn 1D engine was inspected and tested at McGregor, Texas. (SpaceX)

Out of sheer caution, SpaceX removed two abusive engines and sent them to McGregor, Texas to develop and test facilities where – somewhat miraculously – the same premature early behavior was replicated at the test stand. After increasing granular inspections, SpaceX finally narrowed down the probable cause of a small plumbing line to feed the engine’s gas generator relief valve. In the seemingly random subset of the relatively new Merlin 1D engines, SpaceX finally discovered that the relief valve line supplied by the supplier was occasionally stuck by a protective varnish Koenigsman “red nail polish”.

A Merlin 1D has been manufactured at SpaceX’s Hawthorne factory. The small cylindrical tube on the side is the engine’s gas generator. (SpaceX)

During the process of surface finishing known as anodization, parts of the engine tubing were used to be selectively removed, the varnish was unsuccessfully removed in a random selection of engine parts, or accidentally blocked by excessive vigorous cleaning. In the end, whatever it was, the reason for the miniscule blockage was enough for the Marlin 1D engine to try to ignite a tiny fraction of a second in a row.

Seriously, when SpaceX discovered the probable cause and cleared the blocked plumbing, before each affected Merlin 1D engine performed perfectly, both the cause of the October 2 abortion of Falls 9 and the cure were confirmed as direct causes.

Engine section and heat solder of a Falcon 9 Block 5 booster. (SpaceX / Discovery)

The astronauts entered the separation

In anticipation of the SpaceX seemingly simple solution to the gas generator problem, Steve Steich, director of NASA’s commercial crew program, revealed that astronauts from SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission – Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, and Jaxa (Japanese) astronauts – started Sochi. Routine prelude quarantine procedures in anticipation of the introduction on 14 November

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NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins and Jaxa (Japanese) astronaut Sochi Noguchi are about to fly in Crew-1. (SpaceX)
Crew-1 will follow the new steps of the flawless Demo-2 Crew Dragon launch and landing debut near NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. (NASA / Bill Ingles)

Stitch also offered a specific Crew-1 schedule, starting with the Integrated Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon Static Fire Test NET on November 9th and a completely dry clothing rehearsal on November 10th before attempting the first launch on November 14th. Significantly, thanks to coincidental orbital dynamics, a successful launch on November 14 will enable the crew to extend its orbit and present with the International Space Station eight and a half hours after the lift – three times faster than the usual 2.5.5 hour transit.

Contact us for updates as the mission start date approaches.

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