Fueling issue has become the cause of discord between the safety-obsessed space agency NASA and the daring company SpaceX led by Elon Musk, the eccentric tech entrepreneur.
NASA advisers have warned SpaceX that its rocket propellant technology can put lives at risk. According to The Washington Post, Musk’s rocket company was looking for a way to make their Falcon 9 rockets even more powerful. That’s when their engineers came up with an idea of keeping the propellant at super-cold temperatures to reduce its size which would allow them to pack in more fuel.
But there is a catch: to keep the propellant at such extreme temperatures, it would have to be loaded just before takeoff with the astronauts onboard.
This, according to safety advisers at NASA, is quite dangerous as it puts the lives of astronauts at risk. They disapprove of this “load-and-go” method as such a daring maneuver could cause premature ignition and set off an explosion.
But according to Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president for build and flight reliability, fueling takes only about 30 minutes which is a “relatively quick procedure, and we believe that this exposure time is the shortest and therefore the safest approach.”
The company also noted that its Dragon rocket is equipped with a ‘launch abort system’ that can thrust the crew capsule away in the event if an emergency.
It seems that the September 2016 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket that occurred during fueling could be a reason behind NASA’s fears.
However, SpaceX supporters believe that the government space agency is living in the past where two shuttle disasters killed 14 astronauts, and its fears are obstructing the path to innovation.