SpaceX is struggling to figure out what exactly happened to the CRS-7 rocket last week, after the planned resupply mission to the ISS exploded after takeoff. “The data does seem to be quite difficult to interpret,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk conceded, speaking at the ISS R&D Conference in Boston today. “Whatever happened is not a simple straightforward thing.” Nobody was injured in the explosion, but SpaceX’s resupply missions to the International Space Station are on hold until the incident is understood.
So far, the only theory SpaceX has shared has been the hours just after the failed launch, with Musk blaming an issue in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank which led to over-pressure.
“We want to see if we can get to what the most likely root cause is, look at both what we think most likely happened, and then anything that’s a close call and try to address all of those things and maximize probability of success for future missions,” Musk said during his appearance at the conference today.
To do that, SpaceX plans to take its current findings to the Federal Aviation Administration and see if the trained eyes there can spot anything the private space flight firm itself missed.
“The exact cause and the sequence of events, there is still no clear theory that fits with all the data,” Musk said.
CRS-7 was to be SpaceX’s seventh resupply mission to the orbiting research platform, an unmanned Dragon capsule atop a Falcon rocket. Two minutes and thirty-nine seconds after taking off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, however, and just before second-stage separation, the rocket exploded.
Without a clear answer, SpaceX’s backlog of missions faces even further delays, while leaving NASA reliant on Russia to keep the astronauts in space supplied with food, water, and new science experiments.
Expect to reach preliminary conclusions regarding last flight by end of week. Will brief key customers & FAA, then post on our website.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 6, 2015