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NASA Experts Suggest That The SpaceX’s Rocket Technology Could Put Astronauts at Risk

As NASA and SpaceX prepare to launch humans into orbit as early as this year, one watchdog group labelled load-and-go a "potential safety risk," the Post reported.

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NASA image.
Just 11 years after Eisenhower authorized NASA, American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Pixabay

An approach used by SpaceX to make its Falcon 9 rocket more powerful could put the lives of astronauts at risk, NASA’s safety experts have warned.

To make the Falcon 9 rocket even more powerful, SpaceX came up with the idea of keeping the propellant at super-cold temperatures to shrink its size, allowing them to pack more of it into the tanks. But the approach comes with a major risk, The Washington Post reported on Saturday citing the experts.

The new approach requires the propellant to be loaded just before takeoff, while astronauts are aboard, but an accident during this manoeuvre, known as “load-and-go,” could set off an explosion.

An approach used by SpaceX to make its Falcon 9 rocket more powerful could put the lives of astronauts at risk, NASA's safety experts have warned.
A space shuttle, Pixabay

As NASA and SpaceX prepare to launch humans into orbit as early as this year, one watchdog group labelled load-and-go a “potential safety risk,” the Post reported.

In a letter, a NASA advisory group warned that the method was “contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years.”

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SpaceX suffered a setback in September 2016 when a Falcon 9 rocket blew up while it was being fuelled ahead of an engine test.

As a result of the explosion, a multi-million dollar satellite was lost. Although no one was hurt in the incident, it raised safety concerns in the minds of the people at NASA.

The report quoted NASA’s William Gerstenmaier as saying that the agency had not decided whether it would allow SpaceX to load crews before loading the fuel. (IANS)

 

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NASA Probe Makes New Discoveries on Asteroid Bennu

As a result, Bennu's rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained

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Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx has observed particle plumes erupting from the surface of Bennu, an asteroid the size of the pyramid at Giza.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft, which began orbiting Bennu on December 31, first discovered the particle plumes on January 6, followed by additional particle plumes over the last two months.

While some of the particles were slow-moving, the others were found orbiting Bennu, like small satellites.

Bennu’s entire surface was also found to be rough and dense with boulders, contrary to the Earth-based observations, which showed a smooth surface with a few large boulders.

This means that the sample collection part of the mission will have to be adjusted to make sure that OSIRIS-REx can touch down and collect a sample, said NASA while presenting the discoveries at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Conference in Houston.

“The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

NASA
This artist’s rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. VOA

“And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started,” Lauretta added.

Further, the team observed a change in the spin rate of Bennu as a result of what is known as the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect.

The uneven heating and cooling of Bennu as it rotates in sunlight is causing the asteroid to increase its rotation speed.

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As a result, Bennu’s rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained.

OSIRIS-REx launched in 2016 to explore Bennu, the smallest body ever orbited by spacecraft, is expected to return a sample of the asteroid to Earth in 2023.

The findings will allow researchers to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the sources of water and organic molecules on Earth, the resources in near-Earth space, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. (IANS)