SpaceX to Discuss Recent Falcon 9 Rocket Failure


Space Exploration Technologies Corp. plans to release preliminary results of the investigation into the recent failure of the Falcon 9 rocket on a mission to resupply the International Space Station.

Elon Musk, the billionaire head of SpaceX, plans to hold a 30-minute conference call with reporters on Monday, according to a press advisory from the company.

The explosion of the company’s Falcon 9 on June 28 over Cape Canaveral, Florida — more than two minutes into flight — came just a month after it was certified by the U.S. Air Force to carry military satellites.

In the immediate aftermath, Musk was somewhat cryptic in explaining what went wrong. “There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank,” he tweeted. “Data suggests counterintuitive cause.”

Several hours later, he tweeted, “Cause still unknown after several thousand engineering-hours of review. Now parsing data with a hex editor to recover final milliseconds.”

SpaceX wants to compete in the military launch market currently dominated by United Launch Alliance LLC, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., which is currently the sole supplier in the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, program.

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Brendan McGarry
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    • guest

      I agree something inside the truck ignited

    • mhpr262

      "Believing" something "is possible" is worth exactly jack shit.

    • racerxxxx


  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Rockets are difficult. I do hope that SpaceX is successful in disrupting the all-too-cozy monopoly that the ULA has enjoyed, for the taxpayer's sake, if nothing else.

    • Guest

      Rockets are difficult – – only since we chose to out-source.

      Our publically financed effort crossed the infant mortality stage of learning decades ago.

      We're starting over – which is swell – but also, terribly expensive.

      • Curt

        Yes, like there was never a space shuttle accident, …Oh wait.

      • XXX

        Yes – shuttle failed out of over 133 flights. SpaceX had three failures out of …. how many flights?

      • Curt

        The Shuttle failed twice in 133 flights, roughly every 50 launches or so. The Falcon 9 has failed once in 19 launches. It will be interesting to see where they are in 50 launches. The United Launch Alliance has one partial failure in over 50 launches. From a statistical standpoint, not much to choose from.

  • DaveH

    I believe that Elon Musk and his team of engineers will define the problem that resulted in the devastation of this rocket. I also believe, knowing the results, will provide for a more robust and reliable rocket to compete with ULA. Keep looking to the stars Elon Musk!!

    • Guest

      We used to have "robust and reliable rockets" –

      Then we out-sourced.

      To people who are finding rockets "difficult".

      • Fred

        I believe that the rockets only became reliable after outsourcing to some Germans? Fellow called Von Braun was involved somewhere. Lots of the manufacturing was done by the same people then as now (although several have changed their names a few times)

      • Dfens

        The Apollo program that took American astronauts to the moon was designed by American citizen and NASA employee Werner Von Braun. Since NASA started outsourcing rocket design to defense contractors (starting with the shuttle) we haven't been able to get past low earth orbit, and today NASA can't blast an astronaut's ass out of his chair without renting a ride on a Soviet Union designed rocket built in Russia.

    • lee

      You are just a hopeless romantic, Dave.
      Go down to the NASA Space museum and look at the complexity of the Saturn Rocket. They did 17 successful launces in a row and that is one complex beast. It was designed and built without the benefits we have today in science and technology. Musk is a shaman who skims the federal subsidies to support his faux business'. Once the subsidies subside, the business' will go away. I do like that 762 hp tesla though; 0-60 in 2.8 sec.
      BTW, the plume exhibited some periodicity that implies a trace of pogo effect that plagued early rockets. I agree, it is baffling, but that is what corrected the problem 45 years ago. (baffles in the tanks)
      We also know that if you are hauling freight, solids are the only way to go. Liquids are so last century.

  • B. William

    Almost looked like an anti-missle directed energy(laser) strike. That could certainly cause an over pressure event.

    • Morskoj Volk

      Um, yeah…either that or they passed through a chemtrail or the Moon hologram laser….

  • Jim Harris

    It was an O2 pressure vale failure that was pressurizing the O2 tank prior to ignition of the second stage. The over pressure blew out the side wall of the O2 tank at 2:19 minutes into the flight. Air Force range safety blew up the stack 20 seconds later just at or immediately after staging. Blowing up the stack stack wasn't necessary. No life or property was in danger. That most likely destroyed any physical evidence of what went wrong.

    SpaceX makes most of their parts in house. This is at least the third in house manufactured part that I know of that has malfunctioned. Time to give a good look at in house manufacturing. Looks like this may be SpaceX's Achilles tendon.

    • Bill Duglass

      Agree with both your premises Jim.

  • don

    If SpaceX were to follow procedure, they may have a chance in resolving not only this, but future issues. I believe they're trying to get somewhere too fast and shortcutting themselves.

  • Dfens

    Now that all the experts have spoken, it turns out it was a failed strut. Personally, I think putting the helium tank inside the O2 tank is stupid. If they'd put it outside the O2 tank and it ruptures the failure at that point in the flight is nothing to the mission. Since it failed inside the tank it resulted in a spectacular explosion. Clearly the whole approach needs to be rethought.

    • ilkarnal

      Why is the failure irrelevant at that point? It happened on the second stage, before the first stage finished burning. I'd imagine that the 5500 PSI helium tank going flying inside the second stage results in mission failure whether it happens inside the O2 tank or right next to it.

      • Dfens

        It happened in the 2nd stage O2 tank? I missed that. I thought it happened in the first stage tank. I guess that's why there was such a big boom. I still don't think it was a good idea. It doesn't provide a graceful failure. If the pressure leaks out of the He tank it over pressurizes the O2 tank and leakage is the primary failure mode of any pressurized tank. Hell, even nominally there is some leakage.