Being an astronaut is quite risky. You’re launched into space with a rocket, and you must be prepared for things to go wrong. And to make things more dangerous, SpaceX wants to fuel the rockets while the crew is in the pod.
So far, NASA has had strict rules on preparations on the launch day. Rockets would first be topped off with fuel, and then astronauts would enter the pod. This precaution prevents any issue that could happen while they fuel the rocket. For the first time, NASA might allow SpaceX to change this rule.
In their blog post, NASA stated that they would allow SpaceX to fuel the rockets with a crew on board.
Why doesn’t the agency worry about this move? That’s because SpaceX has done this previously for a long time, fueling their rockets within less than an hour before the launch. Kathy Lueders who is the manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program stated that they had teams conducting “an extensive review of the SpaceX ground operations, launch vehicle design, escape systems and operational history.”
Lueders added that the “team’s assessment was that this plan presents the least risk” for their personnel.
Here are some of the statements from NASA’s blog post on this matter:
“If all goes according to plan, on launch day, the Falcon 9 composite overwrap pressure vessels, known as COPVs, will be loaded with helium and verified to be in a stable configuration prior to astronaut arrival at the launch pad. The astronauts then will board the spacecraft about two hours before launch, when the launch system is in a quiescent state.”
SpaceX Must Pass Five Tests
Then, they explain that as the crew departs the launch pad, they will have launch escape systems with 38 minutes before liftoff, right before they start fueling the rocket:
“SpaceX launch controllers then will begin loading rocket grade kerosene and densified liquid oxygen approximately 35 minutes before launch.”
But before NASA goes with the new approach, SpaceX will have to prove that the method is safe. Only after five test runs, NASA will allow its astronauts to be on board while fueling the rocket.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.