Elon Musk’s SpaceX Rocket Fueling Policy Under Review
NASA has announced that Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s fueling policy could cause future rockets to explode, after one blew up in September.
The agency’s Space Station Advisory Committee has suggested that the company review its policies due to serious concerns about its safety standards, but SpaceX has rejected that.
NASA has also released a letter sent by committee chairman Thomas Stafford last year which expressed concern about SpaceX’s plans to have astronauts get on its crewed Dragon spacecraft before fueling the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch it, Space News reported.
“There is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board the Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally,” the letter stated.
Stafford pointed out that it has been the policy on all previous NASA crewed missions to fuel the rocket when there are no personnel on the pad, writing , “Only after the booster is fully fueled and stabilized are the few essential people allowed near it.”
SpaceX suspects that the explosion in September, which destroyed a $60-M SpaceX rocket and the $200-M Israeli Amos satellite, was caused by a problem with the rocket’s helium loading system, but is not sure of the root cause,.
Industry experts suspect a fuel leak, unknown contaminants in the liquid oxygen propellant, or a problem with rocket staging.
SpaceX rockets have previously blown up several times during landing attempts.