The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk’s confident NASA experts worried?

Both the United States and NASA will usher in a new era of aviation as SpaceX’s manned Dragon spacecraft is ready. The manned Dragon spacecraft will not only give the U.S. the ability to deliver astronauts on its own, but will also allow NASA to significantly reduce aviation costs. While Musk is confident about the manned test flight, an expert from the space shuttle era has expressed concern.

According to NASA’s plan, American astronauts Robert Bainken and Douglas Hurley were scheduled to enter orbit on May 27 aboard a SpaceX-built Dragon spacecraft. They will fly in orbit for 24 hours before docking with the International Space Station. It is NASA’s first attempt to put astronauts into orbit from the U.S. mainland since the space shuttle retired in 2011.

The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk's confident NASA experts worried?

In April 1981, columbia was launched.

Good thing, Dragon ship launch delayed due to weather

Due to the weather, NASA eventually canceled the Dragon spacecraft’s launch plan and adjusted the launch time to Sunday (30) afternoon. If SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is successfully launched at the Kennedy Space Center, it will allow the United States to regain its manned space capabilities.

For nine years, NASA has been buying tickets for astronauts aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of up to $90 million per seat. Although the Dragon spacecraft is also leased for NASA, unlike in the past, it is owned by a Native American company, and NASA paid $3 billion for research and development. NASA paid about $55 million per astronaut for the mission.

The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk's confident NASA experts worried?

The Dragon spacecraft could save NASA the cost of transporting astronauts.

Musk: It’s your stake, it’s me.

Musk, the chief engineer on the mission before the mission, spoke to the media. “I’m the project chief engineer, and if this launch goes well, it’s all for the SpaceX and NASA team, but if something goes wrong, it’s my fault,” Musk said. “

Musk claims to be responsible for the astronauts in the Dragon spacecraft, and it’s especially strong to see the astronauts’ families. Before the launch, he had told the families of the two astronauts that SpaceX had done everything in its power to ensure their loved ones returned safely. Musk even choked when he said so.

The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk's confident NASA experts worried?

Musk with astronaut Benken.

Musk is confident about the manned flight.

In an interview with CBS News, Musk said the safety of astronauts is the SpaceX team’s “only priority” during the mission. He also said that while some aspects of the task kept him up all night, he was confident in the company’s technology and the safety of the mission. “The Dragon has been tested and evaluated thousands of times, and the Falcon 9 is a fully validated rocket,” he said. “

The manned Dragon spacecraft is designed to be self-driving, but also equipped with a manual control system that allows astronauts to adjust manually to the actual situation. Instead of an escape tower, the Dragon spacecraft mounted eight push-back rockets outside the ship, which could generate 56 tons of thrust and use the thrust to take the spacecraft away from the rocket in the event of a danger.

SpaceX’s spacesuits are entirely tailor-made, not only sci-fi but also lightweight, and of course there is no problem with safety. Musk said the spacesuit took nearly four years, and he was personally involved in the design of the spacesuit, and SpaceX hired Jose Fernandez, a costume designer for films such as Fantastic Four and The Avengers.

The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk's confident NASA experts worried?

The spacesuits on Which Benken and Hurley are tailored.

The spacesuit’s helmet and joint transition sections are specially designed to be well-sealed and inflatable when the cabin is out of pressure, reflecting Musk’s commitment to “keeping astronauts safe.” Musk also hopes the spacesuit will inspire children’s space dreams.

The risk of failure is 4.5 times that of death

NASA told Business Insider that it estimated that the chance of a manned flight being fatal is fatal, and that there is a 1/60 chance that a mission will fail because of a problem, but not the crew to die. As a result, the risk of mission failure is considered to be 4.5 times the risk of crew casualties.

This stems in part from SpaceX’s advanced emergency escape system. A demonstration in January proved that the system allowed the Dragon spacecraft to fly away from the falcon rocket in time. SpaceX is also trying to reduce the risk to space junk, asteroid and comet dust and other debris that could pose to the mission.

Mr. Bainken and Mr. Hurley also accepted the risks that NASA and SpaceX had estimated. “We are satisfied with the level of risk, ” says Mr Bainken. “He and Hurley have worked with SpaceX on the Dragon spacecraft project for about five years, and they know more about how the mission might fail, an advantage that no astronaut has ever had before.”

The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk's confident NASA experts worried?

Mr. Bainken and Mr. Hurley said they accepted the launch risk.

Estimates of the probability of mission failure are computer simulations based on real flight data. For the Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has launched dozens of times, and SpaceX has completed unmanned flight tests for the new manned Dragon spacecraft and about 20 unmanned flight tests of cargo Dragon spacecraft. So the data generated by the test can be entered into the simulation system.

Take a look at the “dark history” of the Dragon Ship.

As early as 2014, SpaceX had already won a contract with NASA, and the company initially said it would deliver a functioning manned spacecraft by 2017, but the ship was delayed. Last March, SpaceX completed an unmanned mission to the International Space Station using a manned Dragon spacecraft, and SpaceX plans to launch a manned mission in July last year.

But in April, SpaceX and NASA had to postpone their first manned mission after the Dragon spacecraft exploded during engine testing. SpaceX conducted a parachute-opening test of the spacecraft’s return to Earth in a lake in Nevada last April, but the results were unsatisfactory, sources said. If the parachute accident, the Dragon spacecraft and internal astronauts will not be able to safely return to the ground.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine hit out at Musk and SpaceX, saying the SpaceX explosion was sure to delay manned flights. The director said that while SpaceX insisted that the Dragon spacecraft could conduct a manned test flight by the end of 19 years, there was no doubt that the timetable would change. Sure enough, manned flights have once again been postponed until 2020.

The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk's confident NASA experts worried?

The test flight of the manned Dragon spacecraft was delayed several times.

Space Shuttle Age Mission Controller: Disaster Simulation Required Before Test Flight

James Oberg, NASA’s mission controller during the space shuttle era, is closely watching the development of the Dragon spacecraft. He is concerned that NASA and the SpaceX team are inexperienced in developing, building and testing Dragon spacecraft.

“The last time a manned spacecraft was launched from U.S. soil was in 2011, and the nine-year gap will have a big impact on it,” Oberg said. In addition, nearly 40 years have passed since the first U.S. manned spacecraft launch, an interval that may be more important for an upcoming launch, and the first attempt always requires special preparation. “

“Before the shuttle launch, my team and I were nervously preparing in front of the console,” Oberg recalls. In addition to being a systems specialist in space shuttle auxiliary propulsion systems, the experience of a technical writer led me to be selected as the records secretary for a special team whose job is to consider all potential flight failures that require an emergency response in advance. Each discussion is fully documented for all team members to think about. “

“We have to anticipate as many possible emergencies as possible, and we have to find ways to detect them and develop and validate specialized instruments,” Oberg said. We must also specify and verify the allowed decision time in computer simulations. Both the flight crew and the ground rescuers need to be trained and then tested in a simulated disaster. So we’re always imagining disasters, and then learning and practicing. “

The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk's confident NASA experts worried?

Space shuttle console.

Oberg: NASA and SpaceX are inexperienced

“There is no guarantee of success, ” Mr Oberg stressed. For the 1981 space shuttle, the leap from theory to practice was amazing, because the shuttle was never designed to be unmanned. When it first enters orbit, it must have astronauts on it. This is an unprecedented leap forward. “

Early manned spacecraft, such as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the lunar module, all carried out unmanned test flights, Oberg said. SpaceX’s manned Dragon and Falcon 9 rockets have undergone similar test flights. Boeing’s Interstellar spacecraft has also undergone such scrutiny, but two major system failures during a recent orbital test flight have required retesting.

“Of all the manned spacecraft, only the space shuttle is different and more dangerous, ” Oberg said. In hindsight, we hardly had enough technology to escape many times in near-catastrophic circumstances, some of which we didn’t know even after landing. “

The first flight of a manned Dragon spacecraft is on the horizon: Why are Musk's confident NASA experts worried?

The manned Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket stand on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.

“These preparations still don’t reduce the challenges of the Dragon spacecraft’s test flight,” Oberg said. The shuttle was developed by a team of NASA contractors who had extensive experience in previous projects, but the Falcon did not have the help of these experienced experts. “

“An experienced team, such as NASA’s space shuttle team in 1981, the 1950s liquid-fuel rocket technology and aerospace engineer Werner von Braun, or the 1960s Soviet rocket designer Sergey Kololev, have learned from failure and success and can make informed judgments about problems,” Oberg said. “

“Experience is a factor that is more critical than knowledge definitions and formulas, ” Says Oberg. Experience can create an intuition that not only shows what’s wrong, but also imagines what it should be like. What they are good at is not creating answers, they are asking questions. SpaceX’s team should absorb this insight and learn to use it. While their positive state and correct response to frustration struck encouraging, the manned flight of the Dragon spacecraft would still worry me. “