Elon Musk still mystified by Falcon 9 rocket accident

Elon Musk, founder, CEO and CTO of the California-based aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company SpaceX, is still mystified by the Falcon 9 rocket accident, the company’s second in fifteen months.

SpaceX explained in a press release that a careful and deliberate process is underway to understand the causes and fixes for the ‘incident’ on 1st September, when a huge fireball erupted during a pre-launch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the company’s main launch pad.

The explosion destroyed the Falcon rocket and a satellite – the launch pad was also damaged. The accident occurred while ground crews were fueling the rockets for a brief test-firing of its engines, two days before the official liftoff date.

Elon Musk tweets re rocket explosionMr. Musk is asking for help from anybody who has a sound/visual recording or photographs of the anomaly. The team cannot explain where a strange sound came from. (Image: twitter.com/elonmusk)

Musk mystified by quiet ‘bang’

Mr. Musk said he and his investigation team were still trying to understand what a relatively quiet bang was – it was detected a few seconds before the fireball. He wonders whether the sound came from the rocket or something else.

In a Twitter message, Mr. Musk is asking people who have videos, photos or audio of the anomally last week to send whatever they can to [email protected]. He believes their material could be useful for the investigation.

SpaceX’ overview of the incident

– An anomaly occurred approximately eight minutes before a scheduled test firing of a Falcon 9 rocket, on 1st September, at SpaceX’ Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

– The explosion resulted in the loss of the rocket.

– This formed part of a standard pre-launch static firing of engines to demonstrate the health of the rocket prior to the launch that had been scheduled for 3rd September.

– The rocket was in a vertical position when the explosion occurred. It was in the process of being fueled for the test.

According to the data that has been analyzed so far, the anomaly originated in the vicinity of the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. All the personnel were clear of the pad – there were no injuries.

SpaceX wrote:

“To identify the root cause of the anomaly, SpaceX began its investigation immediately after the loss, consistent with accident investigation plans prepared for such a contingency.”

“These plans include the preservation of all possible evidence and the assembly of an Accident Investigation Team, with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration and participation by NASA, the United States Air Force and other industry experts.”

“We are currently in the early process of reviewing approximately 3000 channels of telemetry and video data covering a time period of just 35-55 milliseconds.”

Teams are currently investigating the status of SLC-40 – the launch pad. There was clearly some damage, the company said, but the extent has yet to be fully determined.

SpaceX operates two launch pads in Florida and one in California at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Only one of its three launch pads was affected by the explosion.

Falcon 9 explosionElon Musk tweeted on Friday morning that the SpaceX rocket explosion was turning out to be the company’s ‘most difficult and complex failure‘ in its 14-year history. (Image: financetwitter.com)

SpaceX added:

“Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base is in the final stages of an operational upgrade and Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center remains on schedule to be operational in November. Both pads are capable of supporting Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches.”

“We are confident the two launch pads can support our return to flight and fulfill our upcoming manifest needs.”

mark-zuckerberg-comment-on-rocket-explosionFacebook chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder – Mark Zuckerberg – expresses his deep disappointment regarding the explosion. The AMOS-6 satellite would have provided internet connectivity to many people and businesses across Sub-Saharan Africa. (Image: facebook.com/zuck)

Amos-6 satellite destroyed

The destroyed satellite, Amos-6, was a 5.5 tonne Earth communications satellite that was built by Israel Aerospace Industries. Amos stands for ‘Affordable Modular Optimized Satellite’.

SpaceX President and COO, Gwynne Shotwell issued the following official statement:

“We deeply regret the loss of Amos-6. Our number one priority is to safely and reliably return to flight for our customers, and we will carefully investigate and address this issue. We are grateful for the continued support that our customers have expressed to us.”

Regarding the loss of its satellite, Israel Aerospace Industries said in a press release:

“The Amos 6, manufactured for Spacecom by IAI is the largest and most advanced communications satellite ever built in Israel.”

“Obviously, we are disappointed about this incident in the launch vehicle and are ready and willing to assist Spacecom in any manner.”

Video – Explosion destroys Falcon 9 rocket

In this CBS Los Angeles video, you can see the huge fireball that destroyed the Falcon 9 rocket and AMOS-6 satellite earlier this month. Apparently, the blast was felt for miles and smoke filled the sky.