A draft of a US Congressional report into NASA’s commercial crew program has found technical problems with both SpaceX’s and Boeing’s efforts to provide transport to the International Space Station. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, the forthcoming report from the US Government Accountability Office focuses most closely on issues with turbopumps in SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Of course it focuses on SpaceX. Boeing is a long-time partner in the Military Industrial Complex, and SpaceX is a bunch of upstart outsiders.
The newspaper says the report has found a “pattern of problems” with the turbine blades within the turbopumps, which deliver rocket fuel into the combustion chamber of the Merlin rocket engine. Some of the components used in the turbopumps are prone to cracks, the government investigators say, and may require a redesign before NASA allows the Falcon 9 booster to be used for crewed flights. NASA has been briefed on the report’s findings, and the agency’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, told the newspaper that he thinks “we know how to fix them.”
Alright, this isn’t entirely unfounded: this was a problem for the Germans during WW2 with the Jumo 004 engines used in the Me262 jet fighter. Even today, with alloys that simply didn’t exist in the 1943-45 timeframe, the turbopumps and blades coming apart is an issue.
However, let me (once again) highlight the difference between a private company and a tax-funded Gummint agency:
A spokesman for SpaceX, John Taylor, said the company already has a plan in place to fix the potential cracking issue. “We have qualified our engines to be robust to turbine wheel cracks,” Taylor said. “However, we are modifying the design to avoid them altogether. This will be part of the final design iteration on Falcon 9.” This final variant of the Falcon 9 booster, named Block 5, is being designed for optimal safety and easier return for potential reuse. According to company founder Elon Musk, it could fly by the end of this year.
Let me remind you that this is the beginning of February. The cited “end of the year” is ten months hence. In plain English, this is microseconds in Government time.
A deeper issue (as always) is Governmental interference:
The new report also cites other problems with the commercial crew development efforts by SpaceX and Boeing. The latter company, for example, may be having difficulty with ensuring the reliability of its parachute systems to bring crews safely back to a land-based landing.
Both companies are also struggling to meet NASA’s mission requirement for a loss-of-crew probability of 1-in-270. NASA has previously acknowledged this issue, citing the challenge of dealing with micrometeoroid and orbital debris. During a NASA Advisory Council meeting late in 2016, the director of the commercial crew program, Kathy Leuders, said the companies were looking at options such as an on-orbit inspection to ensure the spacecraft was safe to fly back through Earth’s atmosphere. “There’s really not anything more from a design perspective that will make it better,” she said. “At some point you have to fly, there’s only so much shielding will accomplish.”
1) 1-in-270? Remember Challenger and Columbia? In both cases 100% of the crew died. That, even for the math challenged amongst you, is a bit more than the 0.37% (Thank You Jeffersonian, for the correction) demanded by NA$A. And do I need to point out under whose auspices both of those accidents occurred? And don’t forget about Apollo I in 1967. 100% again.
2)The Answer Is Always More Government. An “on-orbit inspection”? And just who, do you suppose, will provide the “inspector”? That right there is a good reason that these guys need to make sure there’s an eternal air lock.
Sigh. Look, I know you’re tired of me repeating the same things, but here we go:
Space is dangerous. People are going to die. With new technologies developed Earthside, people died: cars, planes, and motorcycles are just 20th Century examples. You can also add trains if you want to look at the 19th Century.
Space is what’s next. We’re explorers, see? Even without the prompt of crazies and extremists, whatever is Out There is a siren call for at least some of us. We’re going to space, and you might as well get used to it.
Oh, one more thing before I forget:
….and may require a redesign before NASA allows the Falcon 9 booster to be used for crewed flights.
What the effity-eff?!?
F*** YOUR PERMISSION. F*** YOUR LICENSE. You mopes at NA$A don’t realize how good you’ve got it right now, with companies trying to work with you and within your idiotic “rules”. Sumd00d, completely ignorant that John Campbells’ and Robert Heinlein’s era is over, is perusing scavenged parts from the local u-pick-it junkyard to cobble together something right now, and he’s not the least concerned with your rules, guidelines, and regulations. We’re going out there, and there’s nothing you can do to stop us. When this guy, or group of guy/gals, starts sending messages from Luna to announce their success in building a homebrew spacecraft, just what are you going to do? Send a strongly worded message to them? Tell them they can’t come back? Fight through the crowds and arrest them on live TV? And while we’re on that thought, just where are you going to find a jury to convict a group that even the corrupt media will have to call “brave” and “heroic”? (off-topic aside: given the current climate, a “F*** Trump” patch would probably render them indictment proof, but that’s another post for another day)
Burn NA$A to the ground: when they’re not incinerating astronauts a crew at a time, they’re standing athwart progress betting that some idjits with nukes won’t kill millions before the best of us can escape. No thanks, I decline that wager.
Government: making everything worse forever.