27 thoughts on “Dragon’s Heat Shield”

  1. This reads like a hit piece. None of the info is wholly new to me, though this makes more of it than earlier. The author certainly has nice blonde hair! No idea who he is.

    1. Ditto on the hit piece. At FAA, we looked at every heat shield potential issue, and I was well aware of the Demo 2 problem. It wasn’t much of a problem, btw, and SpaceX handled it just fine.

      I don’t have any idea how either the NTO or MMH could leak “into” the heat shield, or even which heat shield they’re talking about. Sounds more like the backshell was exposed to leaks from the thrusters, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

      Dragon’s TPS was designed for entry from lunar distances, which imposes twice the heat load of entry from LEO. It has some room to accommodate flaws. Hell, one of the early unmanned Soyuz test flights made it down intact with a hole in the heat shield that vented the cabin atmosphere! The inside temperature never rose above tolerable limits (though the cosmonauts would have been killed by the cabin depressurization, since Soyuz crews initially didn’t have suits).

      1. Add me to the skeptical list. When the author spends three paragraphs telling me what the heatshield is, despite the headline grabbing attention without that need, and the actual problem is barely a sentence.

        If not a hit piece, then bad click bait.

      2. Whatever you do, instruct the crew to not jettison the retro pack. Oh, and don’t explain your reasons for this to the crew.

        Easy, peasy!

    2. “Space Explored was made aware of these issues with the Crew Dragon spacecraft multiple days before a CNBC report noted that the company was looking to raise another $1.7 billion. It’s unclear what risks have been disclosed to investors.”


      Who would have access to NASA and SEC proprietary information? It’s a real mystery.

    3. Some choice quotes from the article:
      1) This has some at NASA who spoke with Space Explored worried
      2) If that means spending the extra expense and time between missions to replace the entire heat shield rather than relying on a potentially sub-par inspection, it is always worth it.

      #1 Unattributed sources are strictly that. Essentially no better than a rumor. About the equivalent of me saying, “This has some at the US Mint who spoke with me, worried that there may be a fifth 1943 Copper Penny out there…”

      #2 This goes so against Rand’s book as to be laughable. Doesn’t define sub-par, and the proceeds to make a baseless generalization.

      Rand, if you want to reference unreliable source material on your blog you are free to do so. I suppose it’s a service to those of us who follow you to be aware of the propaganda floating out there. If you keep it to a respectable minimum.

      1. …and the[n] proceeds….

        WHEN is WordPress going to make comments author editable? Cripes, I get sick of finding these typos post-published…

        1. I get the feeling you were the kid who laughed at the kid who skinned his knee on the playground… Note -> 🙂

          1. BTW the rumor is true. I checked on the US Mint website. There were supposedly somewhere between 30-40 of these accidentally put into circulation. Supposedly happened when copper blanks were left in press for first strikes.

  2. “There are also other heat shield types, such as active cooling, which SpaceX had planned to use on its Starship rocket at one point.”

    Sounds interesting.
    I wonder if still a point.

    1. I thought SpaceX decided their hex tiles on StarShip don’t need it? That the steel inner skin can handle whatever the tiles conduct/radiate their way.

      1. Musk has said that they might reintroduce film cooling at some hot spots, depending on what happens when they start flying. I think getting rid of the aft Elonerons will probably handle most of the that, and they’ve already decided to make the forward ones smaller. There’s really no reason you couldn’t make it the shape of a tallboy beer can, with thrusters, nosecone, and hex tiles. Which would describe the lunar starship, with just the added tiles…

  3. SpaceExplored is notoriously anti-SpaceX. There is often some kernel of truth in his reporting, but he invariably finds the worst possible interpretation and then treats that like the only possible explanation. And, like it seems is the case with this one, he reports on some little thing that is ancient and well resolved as a new and critical problem.

  4. This seems, pretty obviously, part of the organized campaign of anti-Musk mudslinging that has accompanied Elon’s open defiance of the regnant Woke Reich in social and “news” media and his public declaration of having been red-pilled. It’s hardly an accident that this suddenly appears days after the alleged sexual harassment story broke. The establishment political class, especially the Left, is going after Elon hammer and tongs. And no wonder. He’s an existential threat to their continued hegemony over American life.

    On a strictly technical basis, the entire story seems far-fetched. If any significant quantity of either type of hypergolic propellant got onto a Crew Dragon’s heat shield while on-orbit, it would either boil away before re-entry or upon re-entry. If there was any sort of continuous slow leak, say, it would be detected by the “sniffer” instruments that are always used to check freshly-returned capsules before they are hoisted aboard the recovery ships. I recall no such traces being found on any of the recent returns.

    The one thing of which we can be certain is that there have been no instances of both types of hypergolics leaking out together as that would result in an instant conflagration that absolutely would “cause talk.”

    There doesn’t appear to be any way to get a list of pending or ongoing investigations being conducted by NASA’s NESC. Engineering reports about completed investigations are available on-line. Searching these on the terms “SpaceX,” “heat shield” and “Crew Dragon 2” yielded no hits. Anyone with NASA connections is cordially invited to see if they can determine whether there is an NESC investigation of the type alleged in the linked article actually going on.

    1. “On a strictly technical basis, the entire story seems far-fetched. If any significant quantity of either type of hypergolic propellant got onto a Crew Dragon’s heat shield while on-orbit, it would either boil away before re-entry or upon re-entry. ”

      And with the update, we can see that NASA specifically denied the hypergolic leak claim.

  5. Looks like mud slinging with nothing to back it up, when I read:

    “…….Space Explored has been made aware of a cascade of issues.”

    but the “cascade” is not enumerated.

    An article more to make Space-X LOOK bad rather than show that is is bad.

    Much like Harry Reid’s saying he “heard” that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes.

  6. I have to, begrudgingly, give the publication credit for posting the update from NASA at the top (an update that largely negates the entire article). Much easier to just ignore it, or put it in fine print at the bottom.
    And that’s the only good thing I have to say about this.

    I did especially note one line of the original article;
    “The additional wear appeared around locations where bolts connected to the capsule’s trunk.”

    Really? So, how, exactly, would bolts “connected” to the trunk survive reentry at all (or be affected by reentry at all), seeing as the trunk is jettisoned pre-reentry? Also, what they clearly don’t mean is bolts connecting the trunk to the capsule, because there are none (it’s not done with bolts).

    Of course, NASA itself is almost no better, because I recall seeing this on its website; “the flight computer jettison’s the trunk in order to reduce mass and save propellant.”

    That’s true, sort of, though it leaves out a minor detail: trunk jettison pre reentry is required in order to avoid LOV/LOC (because if the trunk were still attached, Dragon would end up reentering nose first).

      1. Thank you for the correction, Michael.

        I got it wrong because I assumed that just because one attachment point (the “Dragon claw”) is not like that, the rest of the attach points were similar. Oops.

  7. Is some random website protected by the same laws that sort of protect traditional reporters from being forced to reveal their sources? If spaceexplored made this shit up, they’re fodder for Musk’s new blood-seeking legal team. Otherwise, I’d like to see DoJ force him to disgorge the identities of his secret sources, and have them prosecuted. Fat chance. But it’d be more fun for us’ns than Depp v. Heard (which also, sadly, involved Musk).

    1. IANAL, but aren’t any laws like that state by state? And also I imagine they have exemption for content that could be considered libelous.

  8. So the Babylon Bee has some competition eh? Only wish we’d been let in on the joke.

  9. There’s no Federal shield law, so it’s an open question whether a news website like this one is protected by any state law. Beyond that, all there are are weak constititutional protections. The defense against libel is truth. Period. Similarly, whisle-blower protections are eliminated by a proven lie. Especially if the lie was told by a Federal employee with regulatory authority, or by an employee of a competitor. Someone like Bill Gates, for example, whose taken a short position against Musk, while spreading public FUD, is walking out onto very thin ice indeed. But Bill Gates can defend himself. SpaceExplored? Probably not.

    I’ve spoken against internet anonymity many times. It causes more problems than it solves by many orders of magnitude.

  10. Funny thing: Now we see there’s a heat shield problem and a fuel leak probem, just not connected. I wonder if Space Explored’s secret informants tricked him by making it sound like they were connected?

Comments are closed.