NASA will review an engine malfunction last month that caused the Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket booster to land at sea after the satellite was launched, as the U.S. agency prepares for the next manned flight to the International Space Station in April.
One of the nine engines in the Falcon 9 Merlin engine was shut down on February 15 due to the opening of a hole or “shoes” in the top of each engine during takeoff, SpaceX Human Space Director Benji Reed told a NASA press conference on Monday. Reed says the hole allowed hot gas to enter the engine, which was switched off as planned. But that meant he had insufficient propulsion to catch a drone in the Atlantic Ocean while landing.
The engine malfunction did not prevent the rocket from raising the SpaceX Starlink satellites into orbit. Reed said the boot is one of the oldest components of one of the company’s old Falcon 9 missiles, designed to fly 10 times without major repairs.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to “understand this anomaly” before the April flight with the astronauts. The agency’s chief of commercial staff, Steve Stitch, told reporters as he discussed the mission and busy April at the space station.
“We’re going to go back to the SpaceX investigation to look at it,” Stitch said.
NASA confirmed on Monday that a test flight for Boeing’s Starliner would be postponed to April 2. The agency informs that no new date has been set. The delay was partly due to productivity losses from a severe cold in Texas last month and widespread power outages in Houston, NASA reported.
Boeing’s first test flight with the astronauts is scheduled for September, Stitch said.
NASA also provided an update on several other items at the briefing.
- The release of the SpaceX crew, scheduled for April 20, will probably be postponed for a few days due to the location of the orbital space և space station.
- NASA plans to move the SpaceX Dragon now to another hub at the station so that crew arriving in another Dragon vehicle next month can take their seats.
- NASA wants to return astronauts from SpaceX Crew-1 mission currently in space by May 9
- The next flight of the SpaceX crew will be in the Dragon vehicle, which the company flew in May 2020 during its first test flight with astronauts.
- NASA is close to a new agreement with the Russian space agency to occupy additional space on its Soyuz rocket, which is expected to be announced this month. NASA officials say they are working to allow Russian astronauts to fly in Boeing և SpaceX vehicles while still using Soyuz for NASA astronauts.