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Explosion at Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX prepares launch

Webcam grab from Nasa
Image caption Images from a Nasa webcam showed clouds of smoke

There has been an explosion on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the aerospace company SpaceX was readying a rocket for launch.

The cause of the blast is not clear and it is not known if anyone was hurt.

Pictures from the scene show a huge plume of smoke rising above the complex.

SpaceX has used its Falcon-9 rocket to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).


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10 minutes ago, Fido said:

Why do they not just say "We don't know"

OK, can you re-write the sentence more succinctly using the phrase "we don't know?"  Remember you cannot use the pronoun "we" without a referent.  Here's your starting sentence: The cause of the blast is not clear and it is not known if anyone was hurt.

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  • 4 months later...

SpaceX returning to flight, January 8, 2017 with Iridium launch



FAA Reviewing SpaceX Results Before Clearing Return to Flight
AW&ST Jan 3, 2017 Frank Morring, Jr. | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

SpaceX hopes to return its Falcon 9 to flight this month after determining the supercold propellant temperatures it uses to boost performance contributed to the costly on-pad explosion during launch preparations Sept. 1, 2016, but must await final FAA action before scheduling a launch.

The Hawthorne, California-based company has targeted Sunday, Jan. 8, for liftoff from Vandenberg AFB, California, with the first 10 Iridium NEXT low Earth orbit communications satellites on board, after delivering its final mishap report to the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Office. The office, which licenses U.S. commercial space launch activities, participated in the mishap investigation and is reviewing the company’s plans to launch again.

“The FAA has received the mishap investigation report from SpaceX and it is under review,” the office stated Tuesday. “The FAA continues to work closely with SpaceX as they conduct the investigation and prepare for future Falcon 9 launches, in compliance with all applicable regulations and license requirements. The FAA has not yet issued a license to SpaceX for a launch in January.”

In a synopsis of the mishap report posted on its website Monday, SpaceX pinpointed one of three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) in the upper-stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank as the source of the Sept. 1 blast, which destroyed an Israeli communications satellite.

The COPV—an aluminum liner with a carbon overwrap—apparently buckled as it was loaded with “cold helium” to pressurize the upper stage LOX tank, igniting the LOX when the COPV failed, according to the synopsis. The company chills its LOX below traditional temperatures for greater density to pack more of it in for higher performance.

“Although buckles were not shown to burst a COPV on their own, investigators concluded that super chilled LOX can pool in these buckles under the overwrap,” the synopsis stated. “When pressurized, oxygen pooled in this buckle can become trapped; in turn, breaking fibers or friction can ignite the oxygen in the overwrap, causing the COPV to fail. In addition, investigators determined that the loading temperature of the helium was cold enough to create solid oxygen (SOX), which exacerbates the possibility of oxygen becoming trapped as well as the likelihood of friction ignition.”

The explosion destroyed the stage and the rocket on its pad at Cape Canaveral AFS, 93 milliseconds after the first sign of trouble was detected via telemetry and umbilical data. The launcher’s nine Merlin engines had not been started when the blast occurred. SpaceX said its investigation, led by company engineers with input from NASA and the U.S. Air Force as well as the FAA, “identified several credible causes for the COPV failure, all of which involve accumulation of super chilled LOX or SOX in buckles under the overwrap,” and proposed changes to prevent a recurrence.

“In the short term, this entails changing the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration based on operations used in over 700 successful COPV loads,” the SpaceX synopsis stated. “In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether, which will allow for faster loading operations.”

SpaceX did not respond Tuesday to a query about the impact of the fixes on Falcon 9 performance. The return-to-flight vehicle has the 10 Iridium NEXT satellites stacked and encapsulated for a launch as early as Jan. 8.

The mission will begin positioning a $3 billion second-generation constellation of 66 cross-linked Iridium LEO satellites designed to deliver data to mobile land, sea and air terminals.

“Iridium is pleased with SpaceX’s announcement on the results of the September 1 anomaly as identified by their accident investigation team, and their plans to target a return to flight on January 8 with the first Iridium NEXT launch,” the satellite company stated.



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