SpaceX is gearing up to launch NASA astronauts with its Falcon 9 rockets to space. However, the agency is still deciding whether to fuel its spacecraft before or after the astronauts board. SpaceX usually fuels its rockets just before the launch in order to prevent its cooled propellant from heating up too much. According to reports, NASA has now decided that it will move ahead with the SpaceX plan to fuel rockets after astronauts have already boarded.
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"To make this decision, our teams conducted an extensive review of the SpaceX ground operations, launch vehicle design, escape systems and operational history," Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement. "Safety for our personnel was the driver for this analysis, and the team's assessment was that this plan presents the least risk," he said.
SpaceX will have to prove its system is safe. SpaceX will have to pass the fueling procedure test five times prior to its first crewed flight takes off. NASA will minutely assess risks before confirming SpaceX's system.
Earlier, a SpaceX rocket exploded on the launch pad while NASA was reviewing the fueling process. Later, SpaceX said that the explosion occurred while the Falcon 9 rocket was being loaded with propellant.
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SpaceX's certification processes were then delayed. However, nearly after two years of examination, NASA has finally approved SpaceX’s plans to load propellant onto its rockets with people on board — a move that has been considered risky by some space experts. NASA in July 2018 confirmed that SpaceX's first crewed test flight is expected to take off in April 2019.
(With inputs from agencies)