The SpaceX rocket launched last Friday did not “nearly mistake” a piece of space junk, as it was thought.
The astronauts on board the plane received instructions from Earth, about seven hours after their flight to the International Space Station, that there was a possibility that the spacecraft could collide with a floating piece of scrap metal.
Information that Sarah Gill passed on to the four members of the Dragon capsule indicated that they were on their way to a “potential coupling” in about 20 minutes and recommended wearing their spacesuits and fastening their seat belts.
But a statement issued on Monday by a spokeswoman for the US Space Command revealed that the false alarm was caused by a “media error.”
Live photos of the SpaceX launch were taken the moment astronauts were asked to fasten their seat belts. The Dragon capsule cameras were off and there were no footage from inside the cockpit.
However, six hours before – just 12 minutes after take off – another disturbing moment occurred and captured by the cameras.
When the Dragon capsule separated from the second stage of the Falcon 9 missile, a small circular portion appeared on the screen, floating between the newly separated sections of the ship.
Whether a piece of debris or a shrapnel from the spacecraft itself is unknown, but it did not pose any threat to the mission. The most likely explanation is that it was a mechanical part of the mission fired by the tremendous forces resulting from separating the parts.
Confusion about this latest development is being investigated by the US Space Command.
And on the false alarm, Lt. Col. Irene Dick said that the engineers “quickly realized” that there was no real risk of collision and that it was “an information error,” according to the Daily Mail.
“In accordance with standard safety procedures, NASA and SpaceX have notified the crew to take appropriate action – wearing suits and reducing masks beyond the expected time of the closest approach,” Dick told British media.
“After further analysis, it was determined that the possible coupling between the Crew-2 capsule and the body was an inaccurate report. There was no collision risk for the Crew-Dragon,” he added.
He concluded that “appropriate notifications were issued within minutes and the astronauts continued their mission safely.”
It remains unclear how and why SpaceX incorrectly concluded a possible collision and told the astronauts to prepare for the worst.