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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 may have exploded due to cryogenic helium system breach

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SpaceX’s weeks of investigating the Falcon 9 explosion seems to have finally yielded some results. The company has recently made an update, where it said that the explosion appears to have been caused by a breach in the “cryogenic helium system” of the oxygen tank.

On September the 1st, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and its payload were both destroyed  bu a sudden explosion. The rocket was being prepared for launch at  Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Along with the loss of the payload, the launch site was also damaged in the explosion. No immediate information was available as to the causes of the explosion.


Meanwhile, the explosion embroiled the company in a whole lot of trouble. First, the Israeli firm which had provided the payload started demanding another free flight and later, claims about third party interference leading to the explosion surfaced. The investigation wasn’t making particular headway either, leading to Elon musk terming the two week period immediately following the explosion, as the toughest in SpaceX’s history.

Well, the investigation appears to have made some concrete progress at long last. After sifting through almost 3,000 channels of engineering data along with video, audio and imagery,  the Accident Investigation Team (AIT) — which has experts from SpaceX, the FAA, NASA, the U.S. Air Force etc. — has finally arrived at a plausible explanation. The explosion it appears, may have occurred due to a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank.

According to SpaceX, the investigation 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.

The rest of the post is pretty vague on the explosion itself and does not offer much more information. It then goes on to state that the explosion did not affect any other infrastructure or facilities besides the pad the Falcon 9 was actually supposed to launch from.

Work continues at Pad 39A in preparation for bringing it online in November.

The company has promised to make more data available as soon as the AIT is able to root out gurther details regarding the accident. Meanwhile, SpaceX said that it was committed to getting back to flight safely and reliably as soon as possible.


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