A senior SpaceX official said this week that “heat damage” led to the failure of a Falcon 9 booster during a landing attempt Feb. 15, but the company will press on with more launches and will likely surpass the 10-flight threshold on one of its reusable rockets soon. The next Falcon 9 launch, using a booster flying on its eighth mission, is scheduled for liftoff from Florida with 60 more Starlink internet satellites Sunday night.
SpaceX is replacing two engines on the Falcon 9 booster set to launch four astronauts next month on the company’s first operational Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station, following an investigation that revealed a subcontractor failed to adequately clean out narrow vent ports on multiple engines across the company’s fleet, officials said Wednesday.
Investigators believe a leak of propellant inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s propulsion system led to the capsule’s explosion April 20 during a ground test at Cape Canaveral, and a senior SpaceX official said Monday that delays are making it “increasingly difficult” to fly astronauts on the commercial spaceship before the end of the year.
While recovery teams continue combing through the test site at Cape Canaveral where SpaceX’s first space-worthy Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed in an explosive accident last month, engineers a few miles away are pressing ahead with the company’s 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station set for launch early Friday.
SpaceX teams at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California are preparing to launch a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit Monday, powered by a reused first stage booster flying on its third mission, a first for the company as engineers continue chasing a long-term goal of re-flying the same rocket on back-to-back days.