Nov 07, 2016 12:01 PM EST
SpaceX: Falcon 9 Rocket Explosion Cause, Identified [Video]
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk clued in on what might have caused the Sept. 1 Falcon 9 rockets to explode during a fueling operation.
During an interview with CNBC's Squawk Box program, Musk said that they have gotten to the bottom of the problem, a problem which they have never encountered before involving "a combination of liquid helium, advanced carbon fiber composites, and solid oxygen." Apparently, he said that the oxygen used in the fuel system got so cold that it entered solid phase.
In a statement released by SpaceX, it said the company replicated the cause of the mishap by coming close as possible to the circumstances that led to the explosion. Their initial findings pointed to a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank, as helium was being loaded onto the Falcon 9 rocket that is mainly affected by pressure and temperature. However, Musk made no mention how solidified oxygen could have caused the rupture in the carbon fiber tanks.
The Falcon 9 design uses super-cooled oxygen that is 40 degrees colder and denser than what is normally used for rocket propulsion. Even colder helium in its liquid state might have added a layer of a cooling effect as it was being loaded, solidifying part the oxygen.
The accident would put a dampener on SpaceX proposal reported in The Wall Street Journal last week to have astronauts already strapped in prior to fuel loading, the same procedure used in Falcon 9 that ultimately led to the launch pad blast.
On Dec. 9, 2015, a space station advisory committee headed by retired Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford of the Air Force, sent a letter to Mr. William Gerstenmaier of NASA stating the committee is opposed to SpaceX's idea stated the proposal was contrary to booster safety criteria that have been in place for over 50 years. The letter was only released to the public on Nov. 4.
Despite the setback, SpaceX is still optimistic that it will be able to resume Falcon 9 Launches before the year ends. The explosion also caused the loss of the AMOS-6 Satellite, owned by Spacecom, which Facebook planned to employ in beaming internet service to remote parts of the world.
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