What was pitched to be a historic moment for SpaceX took a disastrous turn as the Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated several moments after launch.
This was the nineteenth Falcon 9 launch by the pioneering rocket company. The launch was part of SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, and was the seventh mission to deliver supplies via the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS).
It is not yet known what caused the failure. Considering timing of the failure – some 2min 20secs after launch – it may have involved the first and second stage separation event. However shortly after the explosion Elon Musk (SpaceX Founder and CEO) tweeted that the rocket “experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown”. The rocket was at an altitude of about 45km and travelling at over 4700km/h at the time of the incident.
The Falcon 9 had performed what looked to be a perfect launch from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida and was ferrying the Dragon capsule, carrying over 4000lbs of cargo, to the ISS.
The launch was to provide a third opportunity for SpaceX to attempt to land the first stage rocket on a barge at sea. While the cause of the failure isn’t yet known, it’s unlikely it had anything to do with technologies relating to the landing of the first stage.
While SpaceX’s goal of producing a fully and rapidly reusable rocket system may only be delayed by the disaster seen today; the wider consequences for SpaceX remain to be seen. After all, the company are currently contracted to begin launching astronauts into space, using Dragon version 2, in the coming few years with the Falcon 9 as the launch delivery system.
Updates to come…