NASA has suggested that provided the investigation into the incident at Cape Canaveral is completed, it is possible that a crewed mission aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft could be launched before the end of this year.
While taking questions at a NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee meeting on May 28, Kathy Lueders, the manager of the commercial crew program at NASA, suggested a launch in 2019 was possible. She did, however, stress that the launch would very much be conditional on the results of the anomaly investigation.
“SpaceX is getting the vehicle ready by the end of the year,” said Lueders. “But [we] need to close out the anomaly investigation first and make any changes. Other testing is in progress too; at this point, there are no non-critical tests.”
In addition to answering questions from the media, Lueders also gave a short update on the scope of the anomaly investigation. It was revealed that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco thrusters. Prior to the test, all 12 Draco thrusters were test-fired successfully.
Following the explosion that resulted in the destruction of the spacecraft, both SpaceX and NASA immediately executed mishap procedures. SpaceX is leading the investigation with NASA contributing where and when they are needed. Lueders commended SpaceX on their approach to the investigation thus far. “The team followed the mishap plan beautifully,” she said. “All the notifications were made. The SpaceX folks did a tremendous job.”
No details on the progress or possible outcome of the investigation were shared.
The capsule destroyed during the test had initially been earmarked for an inflight abort test later this year. However, SpaceX is currently working on several Crew Dragon capsules and have confirmed that the capsule previously slated for the Demo-2 mission will be utilised for the test.