SpaceX Fueling Technique Can Be Made Safe, NASA Says

Falcon 9 2016 explosion 1 photo
A little over a week ago, news surfaced of how NASA specialists seemed to scorn SpaceX’s fueling technique being prepared for the Big Falcon Rocket that would carry humans into space.
At the time, it was considered that the company’s idea to fuel the rocket using propellant kept at ultra-low temperatures might cause an explosion and hurt the astronauts crammed on top of the rocket.

This week, NASA specialists have backed up a bit. While still considering the procedure to be a possibly high-risk one, they may give it a pass should the proper safety precautions be taken. Brent Jett Jr., member of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, said as much during a meeting on Thursday.

"My sense is that, assuming there are adequate, verifiable controls identified and implemented for the credible hazard causes, and those which could potentially result in an emergency situation … it appears load-and-go is a viable option for the program to consider," he said according to LA Times.

SpaceX uses liquid kerosene mixed with oxygen kept at super cold temperatures (-340 degrees Fahrenheit, -171 degrees Celsius) as fuel for its rockets. This allows for the rocket to carry more of the stuff as it occupies less space.

The temperatures at which the propellant is being kept would require the fuel to be loaded right before the launch, with the astronauts onboard. Any spark generated during this process could translate into a deadly explosion.

As per the NASA regulations, all manned rocket launches must be subject to a chance of death that is not greater than one in 270 flights.

An incident occurred in 2016 when an unmanned Falcon rocket blew up while being fueled as the super cold oxygen reacted with the carbon fiber composites within the fuel tank and exploded.

The problem with the carbon fiber composites within the fuel tank has been remedied, and the recently launched Falcon 9 Stage 5 rocket is now much safer.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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