Crew-8 astronauts flew into space with a crack in the Crew Dragon spacecraft

NASA and SpaceX have sent the next group of astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the Crew-8 mission. The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 3 after a short delay. However, 30 minutes before launch, a crack was discovered in the hatch seal of the spacecraft, which could threaten the life of the crew. Despite the danger, SpaceX engineers assured that the defect would not interfere with the mission and would not harm astronauts during the flight. NASA has given the go-ahead to launch the mission.

The SpaceX Crew-8 mission will launch from the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, March 3, 2024. Photo: NASA

The next day, NASA explained why they allowed the launch, despite the discovered defect. During the final inspection of the hatch with a fixed seal, engineers noticed a 0.02-inch crack in the upper coating of the RTV (a type of silicone). Since the crack was small, it was expected that it would “self-heal” from heating during the flight, so they did not see a threat in the crack, and the flight would be safe. 

It is noted that this crack is not related to the concept of reusable SpaceX rockets, since the coating is applied anew before each launch. The defect probably arose due to a small fault during the RTV application process.

Members of Crew-8. Photo: NASA

Another important factor is that the crack seal is located on the less heated side of the spacecraft, which additionally reduces the risk. A SpaceX representative noted that this defect was not a safety issue, and consultations between NASA and SpaceX continued throughout the launch preparation process.

The Crew-8 astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the ISS on March 5. The broadcast of the spacecraft’s arrival and docking will be available on NASA TV.

The team of Crew-8 on the background of the Falcon 9 rocket is preparing to be sent to the ISS. Photo: SpaceX

Earlier, we reported on how the astronauts of the Crew-8 mission were forcibly quarantined.

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