After one of its Falcon 9 orbital class rockets erupted in a fireball on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida earlier this month, SpaceX immediately went into autopsy mode to figure out what went wrong with the vehicle. Now, according to a new “anomaly update” by those investigating the rocket failure—considered by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to be the most difficult to understand in the company’s history—it’s been determined that the initial catastrophe occurred because of “a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank…”
Still working on the Falcon fireball investigation. Turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 9, 2016
The anomaly update, which comes via Gizmodo, acknowledges that the private space company has still yet to determine exactly what caused the breach of the cryogenic helium system. SpaceX is still “scouring through approximately 3,000 channels of engineering data along with video, audio and imagery,” although they have determined that there is no connection between this RUD (Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly), and the one that occurred during last year’s CRS-7 “mishap,” when another one of its Falcon 9 rockets failed in midair before it could deliver its payload to orbit. Musk has noted several times that the initial catastrophe of this most recent event was not an explosion, but was in fact a very fast fireball. This is a critical distinction because although this latest Falcon 9 failure did contain a payload (a satellite co-leased by Facebook), in the future SpaceX will be ferrying astronauts to the ISS and perhaps beyond. Musk pointed out in a tweet that “Dragon,” the capsule that will contain astronauts in the future, “would have been fine.”
@scrappydog yes. This seems instant from a human perspective, but it really a fast fire, not an explosion. Dragon would have been fine. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2016
Musk nor SpaceX appear to be slowing down their plans for more space travel or space innovation due to the recent incident. SpaceX noted in the anomaly update that it is still working on future missions, including those that will be a part of the Commercial Crew Program with NASA (the missions that will take astronauts into space). Musk will also be delivering his ideas on what a colony on Mars could look like plus his ideas for making that happen at the International Astronautical Conference (IAC) in Mexico on September 26th. So far all we know about that is that the rocket Musk wants to use to take people to Mars will actually be able to travel to other planets as well, and will most likely be named the “Interplanetary Transportation System.” It was introduced by Musk with this clip:
Preview of the @SpaceX interplanetary transport system at @IAC2016 https://t.co/Rz4XmeAoRw
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 18, 2016
What do you think about the recent Falcon 9 failure and the price of progress? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Images: Launch Report