July 19, 2024

Solid State Lighting Design

Find latest world news and headlines today based on politics, crime, entertainment, sports, lifestyle, technology and many more

NASA and SpaceX Study Ways to Mitigate Dragon Debris

NASA and SpaceX Study Ways to Mitigate Dragon Debris

WASHINGTON — NASA and SpaceX are studying how to change the Dragon spacecraft’s reentry process to limit the amount of debris from the spacecraft’s trunk section that reaches Earth.

On several occasions, debris from the Dragon spacecraft’s torso sections, which had been jettisoned from the capsule before the capsule burned it out of orbit, was found on Earth. These include debris from the trunk of the Crew-1 Crew Dragon, which was found in Australia in 2022; the trunk of the Crew-3 Crew Dragon, which crashed in Saskatchewan in February; and the trunk of the Crew-7, parts of which were found in May in North Carolina.

In August 2022, shortly after Crew-1 spacecraft debris was found in Australia, a SpaceX official downplayed the incident as an isolated case. “This was all within the projected analyzed space of what could happen,” Benji Reed, SpaceX’s senior director of human spaceflight programs, said in a NASA briefing. “However, just as we do with launches and any return, we are looking closely at Data, we learn everything we can and are always looking for ways to make things better.”

After recently spotting the debris, NASA and SpaceX now acknowledge the need to make improvements. The agency recently reported that preliminary studies predicted the torso would be completely burned upon reentry. “NASA and SpaceX will continue to explore additional solutions as we learn from the discovered debris,” NASA stated.

“We did an analysis before Demo-2 and it’s clear that the models don’t handle the box very well,” Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, said in an interview after the Starliner briefing ahead of that mission’s June 6 launch. He said that’s likely due to the composite materials used in the box. “It’s almost like a thermal protection system.”

See also  Scientists have uncovered further evidence of salt water on the surface of Mars

The solution NASA and SpaceX are exploring involves changing the procedure for deorbiting the capsule, he said. Currently, the stump is released before the capsule burns its orbit. That means the stump can remain in orbit for months before re-entering uncontrolled.

Instead, Stitch said, engineers are considering performing an orbital burn and then releasing the trunk. That would provide more control over where the trunk re-enters, ensuring that any debris that survives re-entry lands in unpopulated areas.

“We’re in the process of doing this work now. I would love to have something ready next year if we can, but we have to do all the right analyses. We have to make sure it’s safe for the crew,” he said.

The challenges of this alternative approach include using extra fuel to burn the box during deorbit while the box is still attached and then figuring out the best way to detach the box after the burn. Stitch said engineers are looking at two ways to do this that would separate the box from the capsule upon reentry, so that any debris would land in the ocean.

Concerns have been growing about the risk of falling debris not only from Dragon’s boxes, but also from a piece of the International Space Station’s battery carrier that made an uncontrolled reentry on March 8. A piece of this holder, weighing approximately three-quarters of a kilogram, survived re-entry and hit a home in Naples, Florida. The debris fell on the roof of the house without causing any injuries.

On June 21, law firm Cranfill Sumner LLP announced that it had filed a lawsuit with NASA seeking an estimated $80,000 in damages from the debris. The request, which some media outlets mistakenly reported as a lawsuit, is instead a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which gives NASA six months to respond to the claim.

See also  Watch SpaceX launch a Dragon cargo ship to a space station on March 14

Micah Nguyen Worthy, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the family whose home was damaged, noted that under a space treaty known as the Liability Convention, the United States would be “strictly liable” for damages if debris struck another country. But that same strict liability doesn’t apply here because the damage occurred in the United States.

“Here, the U.S. government, through NASA, has an opportunity to set the standard or ‘precedent’ for what responsible, safe, and sustainable space operations should look like,” she said in the statement. “Passing the claim would send a strong signal to both other governments and private industry that such victims should receive compensation regardless of fault,” she concluded.

Others see opportunity in falling debris. Debris from the Crew-7 box fell on a luxury camping site called The Glamping Collective, showing photos of it. “We invite you to come experience this for yourself!” This was stated on its websiteHe pointed out that the wreckage will be on display at the beginning of the hiking trail.