(ORDO NEWS) — NASA and SpaceX have delayed the launch of the Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station after discovering a fuel leak in the spacecraft’s propulsion systems.
In a June 6 statement, NASA said the launch of the CRS-25 mission, which was scheduled for June 10, will be delayed following the discovery of “elevated fumes” of monomethylhydrazine (MMH) in part of the spacecraft’s Draco propulsion system. The reason for the increased performance is under investigation.
The Dragon spacecraft uses Draco thrusters for orbital maneuvers, including approaching and departing from the space station, and deorbiting at the end of a mission.
Propulsion systems use MMH fuel and nitrogen tetroxide, a stable hypergolic combination. The Dragon cargo version lacks the more powerful SuperDraco thrusters that SpaceX developed for the flight cancellation system on the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA said the increased readings were detected while loading fuel into the spacecraft, but did not specify when this happened, other than that the problem was “identified over the weekend.” Representatives from NASA and SpaceX said they met on June 6 to discuss the problem “and the best way to solve it.”
The agency said MMH fuel and nitrogen tetroxide were offloaded from Dragon so engineers could study the problem. “Once the exact source of the elevated readings is identified and the cause determined, the joint NASA and SpaceX teams will determine and announce a new target launch date,” the statement said.
The Dragon ship will deliver more than two tons of supplies and equipment to the ISS. Among the mission’s scientific payloads, which were revealed at a NASA briefing on June 2, are an Earth-study instrument that will examine mineral dust in the atmosphere, experiments to study wound healing in microgravity and immune aging, and a student-designed experiment on the use of biopolymers to create bricks from materials similar to those found in the lunar and Martian regolith.
The engine issue is the second issue related to the Dragon spacecraft in recent weeks. On May 24, NASA announced that SpaceX is replacing the heat shield design for the next Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will launch in September as part of the Crew-5 mission. This heat shield failed acceptance testing earlier in May.
NASA disclosed the thermal shielding issue in a statement rebutting a published report that the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which flew with private Ax-1 astronauts in April, leaked hypergolic fuel during re-entry, damaging the heat shield. .
“Parameters associated with the recent returns of the Dragon crew were normal – the system worked as designed without comment,” the agency said last month. “There was no hypergole leak during the return of the crewed Dragon mission, nor was the heat shield fouled causing excessive wear.”
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