SpaceX zeroes in on cause of Falcon 9 explosion

spacex explosion
U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing

Remember what happened with a SpaceX rocket two months ago?

I know -- it can be hard to recall something that happened last week, but this was kind of a big deal. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload exploded on the launch pad. Now SpaceX is close to pinpointing the root cause of the explosion, and of resuming business as usual. Which for the company, is launching rockets into space. 

In IT Blogwatch, we get ready for liftoff. 

So what exactly happened? Well, that is what we are trying to figure out. Trevor Mogg has the background:

SpaceX suffered a serious setback at the start of September when one of its Falcon 9 rockets...exploded on a Cape Canaveral launchpad, taking with it an Israeli communications satellite.
... company revealed on Friday that it’s close to understanding...what went wrong, adding that it hopes to resume missions before the end of the year.

And what does SpaceX think happened? Irene Klotz fills us in:

SpaceX said...a fueling system problem is the most likely cause of a Sept. 1 launch pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 not confirmed the cause of a failure...However...testing at a facility in Texas had shown that a helium canister inside the rocket could burst depending on how it was filled.
Helium is used to pressurize the liquid oxygen system...investigators suspect that a canister of helium inside the liquid oxygen tank burst.

Are there any more known than that? Of course there is. Let's let the team at SpaceX explain it themselves:

Investigators from SpaceX, the FAA, NASA, the U.S. Air Force and industry experts have been working investigate all plausible causes.
Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause...has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank. Through extensive testing...SpaceX has shown that it can re-create a COPV failure entirely through helium loading conditions. These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded.

Got that? Great. Now, remind us again what exactly happened on September 1? Ken Kremer takes us back two months:

The explosion...caused extensive damage to launch pad 40 as well as to the rockets transporter erector...that holds the rocket in place...and ground support equipment around the pad.
The explosion took place without warning at SpaceX’s Space Launch Complex-40 launch facility at...9:07 a.m. EDT...on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station...during a routine fueling test and engine firing test as liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants were being loaded into the 229-foot-tall...Falcon 9. Launch...was scheduled two days later.

So how is SpaceX building confidence in its brand again? Mudit Mohilay is in the know:

SpaceX appears to be progressing with extreme caution, double and triple testing every step...And you cannot really blame it. The stakes are...high as SpaceX competes with the likes of Blue Origin and a handful of other private competitors, over the emerging business opportunities in space. And exploding rockets are really not the best recommendation.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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