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A NASA advisory committee has expressed concerns about how SpaceX fuels its rockets. In particular, a letter sent by the special advisory group almost a year ago to NASA said SpaceX’s planned fuelling of its Falcon 9 rocket for manned missions to the International Space Station – with astronauts on board – was “contrary to safety”.
The letter was signed by former astronaut Thomas Stafford, chairman of NASA’s International Space Station Advisory Committee. Currently SpaceX is not currently sending astronauts to the Space Station, but has plans to do so aboard its ‘Dragon’ space capsules.
However, SpaceX suffered a catastrophic failure on September 1st when a rocket being fuelled exploded complete with its ‘passenger’, an Amos-6 satellite.
The rationale for a rocket being fuelled with a cargo in position – whether human or a commercial satellite – is down to the fuel. The current fleet of upgraded Falcon 9 rockets use ‘super-cooled’ liquid oxygen which is extremely dense and requires fuelling as close as possible to the actual launch than is usually the case.
SpaceX sources say the company will return to flight in December.