SpaceX released an update on the investigation into the explosion of its Falcon 9 rocket on Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 1st. The company assures the flaw had to do with the loading process of pressurized helium into the craft.
The explosion occurred while the station was loading the fuel tank. On Friday, the company said they were able to replicate the failure of the helium tank through their extensive tests on the company’s MacGregor facilities in Texas.
Since the incident of the AMOS-6 mission, SpaceX, NASA, the US Air Force and the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) formed The Accident Investigation Team (AIT). The AIT believes the problem was with the fueling process rather than design flaws.
SpacaeX’s new focus is improving fuel-loading conditions
The AIT has not identified the cause of the breach, but they have focused their attention to one of three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the fuel tank.
Via the extensive tests in Texas, the investigation team has recreated a COPV failure while loading helium into the rocket’s tank. The failure depends on the pressure and temperature of the helium combustible. Further analysis remains to be done, as SpaceX wants to find the exact cause of the explosion. Besides, the company will focus on improving helium loading conditions for the Falcon 9 space rocket.
The analysis is still going as SpaceX wants to find the exact cause and until the company improves helium loading conditions for the Falcon 9 space rocket.
The company will wait for the results of the investigations to see if they will resume a new flight before the end of the year. Their launch sites at Vandenberg Air Force, California; and Kennedy Space Center, Florida, remain on operational schedule.
SpaceX’s plans for the future
The blast of the Falcon 9 rocket also destroyed the spacecraft’s onboard payload: a satellite Facebook was planning to use to bring free internet access to remote regions of Africa. Founder Elon Musk called the incident an “anomaly.”
Following the costly event, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell announced the company would resume launches in November, although such plan is on hold until the Investigation Team concludes its tests.
Back on June 28, 2015, a Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated as it was ascending to the International Space Station (ISS). It was the first accident of SpaceX since the company started in 2008. Elon Musk said the explosion was because of a broken strut, a steel rod that holds down the helium pressure vessels and helps pressurize the rocket.
Despite the two failures, NASA still holds a contract with SpaceX to make new cargo deliveries to the ISS and one day bring American astronauts too. Also, when the company has healthier rockets, SpaceX wants to take humans and cargo to Mars.