SpaceX: 'Breach' caused rocket explosion

SpaceX Accident points to breach in rocket's helium system
SpaceX: 'Breach' caused rocket explosion
Author

24 September, 2016

SpaceX said in a statement posted on its website September 23 that the cause of the explosion is still uncertain, but early data suggests a breach of the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place.

An accident-investigation team, which includes SpaceX, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and others, has rifled through about 3,000 channels of data, including video and photos.

Most of the debris scattered by the explosion has been recovered, photographed, labeled, catalogued and moved to a hangar for inspection, SpaceX said.

"The timeline of the event is extremely short - from first signs of an anomaly to loss of data is about 93 milliseconds or less than one-tenth of a second", SpaceX said. SpaceX released a statement this afternoon that points to a "large breach" in the second stage cryogenic helium system as the potential cause of the blast.

The company, which tests its rocket motors in McGregor, west of Waco, said launches could resume as early as November. But on Friday it said it has ruled out any connection with that failure. SpaceX test-fires the nine Merlin 1D engines for several seconds before every launch to make sure propulsion and other critical launch systems are operating properly before committing a booster to flight.

Last year, the company lost another Falcon 9 rocket when it blew up a couple minutes into flight. Helium is part of the pressurization system.

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They confirmed there is no connection to SpaceX's prior explosion previous year.

Since the company's primary objective is to launch again in November, the launch pad is being investigated for damages after the explosion.

How much the fire will impact SpaceX's upcoming launches is dependent not just on the rocket itself though but also on how much damage the blaze did to the launchpad when it flared.

SpaceX attempted to launch the locket at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on September 1.

However, the Falcon support building adjacent to the pad, as well as the tanks and plumbing that hold the super-chilled liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel farm were "unaffected".

SpaceX leases another pad on Florida's Space Coast, LC-39A. SpaceX also operates a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which it uses for high-inclination and polar-orbiting missions.


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