SpaceX: Sept. 1 Falcon 9 Explosion At Cape Canaveral Likely Caused By Faulty Helium System

By  //  September 23, 2016

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ROCKET WAS SET TO LAUNCH SEPT. 3

ABOVE VIDEO: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the pad during a static test firing on Sept. 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Sation. According to SpaceX, the pad was clear and there were no injuries. The rocket was scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral on September 3 at 3 a.m. (USLaunchReport video)

BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION – Three weeks ago, SpaceX experienced an anomaly at our Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This resulted in the loss of one of our Falcon 9 rockets and its payload.

The Accident Investigation Team (AIT), composed of SpaceX, the FAA, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and industry experts, are currently scouring through approximately 3,000 channels of engineering data along with video, audio and imagery.

The timeline of the event is extremely short – from first signs of an anomaly to loss of data is about 93 milliseconds or less than 1/10th of a second. The majority of debris from the incident has been recovered, photographed, labeled and catalogued, and is now in a hangar for inspection and use during the investigation.

At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place.

All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated. Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection with last year’s CRS-7 mishap.

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The teams have continued inspections of LC-40 and the surrounding facilities. While substantial areas of the pad systems were affected, the Falcon Support Building adjacent to the pad was unaffected, and per standard procedure was unoccupied at the time of the anomaly.

The new liquid oxygen farm – e.g. the tanks and plumbing that hold our super-chilled liquid oxygen – was unaffected and remains in good working order. The RP-1 (kerosene) fuel farm was also largely unaffected. The pad’s control systems are also in relatively good condition.

SpaceX’s other facilities, from the Payload Processing Facility at the Cape, to the pad and hangar at LC-39A, are located several miles from LC-40 and were unaffected as well.

Work continues at Pad 39A in preparation for bringing it online in November. The teams have been in contact with our Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center partners and neighbors and have found no evidence of debris leaving the immediate area of LC-40.

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At SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, our manufacturing and production is continuing in a methodical manner, with teams continuing to build engines, tanks, and other systems as they are exonerated from the investigation.

We will work to resume our manifest as quickly as responsible once the cause of the anomaly has been identified by the Accident Investigation Team. Pending the results of the investigation, we anticipate returning to flight as early as the November timeframe.

Other efforts, including the Commercial Crew Program with NASA, are continuing to progress. Getting back to flight safely and reliably is our top priority, and the data gathered from the present investigation will result in an even safer and more reliable vehicle for our customers and partners.

STAY TUNED TO SPACE COAST DAILY FOR UPDATES

The general public in Brevard County is not in any danger, and no evacuations have been recommended, as a result of an anomaly involving the Falcon 9 rocket at approximately 9:07 a.m. at Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to the Brevard County Emergency Management Office. (NASA image)

The general public in Brevard County was not in any danger, and no evacuations were recommended, as a result of an anomaly involving the Falcon 9 rocket at approximately 9:07 a.m. on Sept. 1 at Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to the Brevard County Emergency Management Office. (NASA image)


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