NASA Safety Panel says that “SpaceX’s ‘Load-and-Go’ Rocket Fueling Approach” is a viable approach


On May 17 members of NASA safety panel said that they believed that a SpaceX approach for fueling its Falcon 9 rockets which is also known as "load-and-go" is going to help in future commercial crew missions.

Panel member Brent Jett said at the meeting of Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) at the Kennedy Space Center, that he was expecting that commercial crew program may soon take a decision on the sequence of loading propellants and crew for SpaceX commercial crew missions.

That sequence has become a topic of controversy. The reason for it of becoming a controversy is that SpaceX preference is to use an approach called “load and go”. In this approach first astronauts will board the Crew Dragon spacecraft  and then rocket will be loaded with the RP-1 and liquid oxygen propellants, and this needed to be loaded on the vehicle very shortly before its launch.

Though this approach is quite contradictory to what NASA human spaceflight practiced previously, in which they use to fuel rockets prior they allow the astronauts to board the vehicle. Stafford wrote to NASA released after the pad explosion in December 2015 that, “ There is a strong feeling by committee that allowing astronauts to board the Dragon spacecraft prior to fueling rocket is quite contrary to safety criteria which has been set for more than 50 years.

Jett said that ASAP has recently received a report from NASA Engineering and Safety Center, in which they have examined the issues related with Load and Go configuration. This report has been proved very valuable for the commercial crew program. He added that “ My senses is that, there must be ample , verifiable controls which are identified and implemented for the credible hazard causes, and therefore it appears that load-and-go is a viable option for the program and can be considered . Along with him other ASAP members have quite similar views. “It appears that if all the steps are taken appropriately , and it is capable of addressing potential hazard, then the risk of launching crew with load-and-go configuration could be acceptable," said Patricia Saunders, chair of the panel.

Another ASAP member, George Nield and and former associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration, recommended that NASA will definitely look at overall safety and safety of not only crew spacecraft but also safety of ground crew safety. He said about: What are the risks, how they can mitigated and what can be the best overall sequence for safety of the whole .