Fri. Mar 24th, 2023
Screen grab of SpaceX static fire anomaly from YouTube video.
Enlarge / Screen grab of SpaceX static fire anomaly from YouTube video.

On Friday, SpaceX released an update on its investigation into the recent loss of its Falcon 9 rocket (the rocket was lost on Sept. 1 in a rapid fire at its Florida launch pad, taking its Israeli satellite payload with it). After a preliminary investigation, the company has preliminarily determined that there has been a “major rupture in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank”. The breakthrough occurred during propellant loading prior to a static fire test, in which the vehicle’s engines are fired prior to launch to ensure readiness.

While this is a step forward, SpaceX has still not identified the cause of the accident. However, the company has concluded that the issue is not related to the June 2015 loss of another Falcon 9 missile in flight, which also failed due to an upper stage incident. “All plausible causes are traced in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated,” the company said in its update. “Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection to last year’s CRS-7 accident.”

According to SpaceX, the biggest challenge in investigating the Sept. 1 accident is that the failure happened in a very short time. Only 93 milliseconds passed between the first sign of an anomaly and the loss of data. An accident investigation team, including officials from SpaceX, the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, the US Air Force and industry, continues to look at 3,000 channels of data from this short period of time, as well as debris and photos that have been collected.

In its statement, SpaceX stressed that it is committed to returning to flight quickly in a reliable and safe manner — perhaps as early as November. As several components of the Falcon 9 rocket have been cleared of causing this month’s accident, SpaceX teams are continuing to build engines, tanks and other systems for future Falcon 9 launches. The missile can be launched from another pad in Florida or one in California.

The latest information from SpaceX, its first update in three weeks, comes just days before company founder Elon Musk is expected to deliver a major speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico on Tuesday. During his speech, Musk is expected to focus on how he believes the company and its partners in government and industry could colonize Mars. It’s not clear how far Musk will respond to the static fire accident, which has interrupted a string of successes for the company, including unprecedented orbital missile landings and an accelerated launch schedule.

By akfire1

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