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Cause of SpaceX Crew Dragon Explosion Revealed

On April 20, a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, designed to take humans to the ISS, exploded during a routine test fire at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The cause has now been identified as a leaky valve in a propellant pressurization system. Thelasko shares a report from CBS News: Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX vice president of build and reliability said: “We believe that we had a liquid slug of the (NTO) in the pressurization system. When we opened the valves and pressurized the propellant system, we think that this slug was driven back into the check valve. That basically destroyed the check valve and caused an explosion.”
He said no one expected that “NTO driven into a titanium component would cause such a violent reaction. We then performed tests … with the help of NASA, and we found out when the pressure is high, the temperature is high and you drive a slug with a lot of energy into a titanium component that you can have these rather violent reactions.” Additional work is needed to rule out other less likely culprits but SpaceX is pressing ahead with plans to replace the valves in question with pressure-activated “burst discs” that have no moving parts and cannot leak.


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