SpaceX believes helium system breach caused recent Falcon 9 explosion

Adam Westlake - Sep 24, 2016
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SpaceX believes helium system breach caused recent Falcon 9 explosion

When one of SpaceX‘s Falcon 9 rockets abruptly exploded without warning earlier this month, the space agency and founder Elon Musk were left confused and in the dark about what happened, resulting in a big mystery. The rocket, which was to deliver a Facebook satellite into space, was undergoing a routine filling operation, but its engines were inactive. Now SpaceX believes it’s found the cause: a breach in the helium system located in the craft’s liquid oxygen tank.

In the most recent update to their investigation, SpaceX writes that it has been reviewing all the footage of the fire it’s received, along with collecting every piece of debris they could find in order to identify the source of the explosion. “All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated,” the agency says.

While it believes to have tracked the source of the explosion to the helium system, it has yet to identify how it was breached. While this may not seem like much of an answer, it’s important in that SpaceX has determined this event has nothing in common with the Falcon 9 rocket that exploded in 2015 on its way to the International Space Station.

There’s also good news about Launch Complex 40, the launch pad in Cape Canaveral where the recent explosion took place. While “substantial areas of the pad” took the most damage, its control systems were left in good condition, and the rocket support building was unaffected, as were the liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel tanks.

SpaceX also notes that it hopes resume launches soon, with one already scheduled to take place in November. This will be possible thanks to the use of two additional launch pads, one in California and a second in Cape Canaveral.

SOURCE SpaceX


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