SpaceX delays manned launch of Dragon capsule over safety concerns

14 Dec 2016


Elon Musk's SpaceX has delayed the first manned launch of its Dragon capsule, which was set to carry astronauts into orbit, by one year.

SpaceX planned to send astronauts to the International Space Station via the capsule, which had already made a number of deliveries to the station.

The first launch was first set for 2017, but was now due for Spring 2018. It comes after the explosion of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket that blew up even as it refuelled at the company's Cape Canaveral launch pad in Florida (See: SpaceX rocket explodes during test firing; Musk, Facebook hurt). According to Musk, the explosion which destroyed the $200-million satellite, was caused by a snag during fuelling.

Until SpaceX identified the exact cause, it would not receive clearance for further flights from NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration.

In an email to The Wall Street Journal a SpaceX spokesman said, ''We are carefully assessing our designs, systems and processes'' to incorporate lessons learned and take corrective actions in the wake of the September explosion.

He added that the scheduled change''reflected the additional time needed for this assessment and implementation.'' 

The spokesman added that some prospective fueling changes were likely in response to the panel's specific safety concerns. ''As needed, additional controls will be put in place to ensure crew safety,'' he said.

The planned launch had been delayed to 2018, however, which represented a delay of around half a year, according to a NASA schedule published today.

It comes even as the firm was rethinking its fueling procedures for Falcon 9 rockets after an explosion at its launchpad this September.

According to SpaceX, it needed more time for  'assessment and implementations' regarding its 'designs, systems and processes' following the explosion earlier this year, hence schedule changes. 

It noted that it was 'finalizing the investigation' into the 'anomaly' responsible for the 1 September accident.

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