Explosion at SpaceX test site part of launchpad investigation


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An explosion yesterday at SpaceX’s Texas test facility appears to have been planned and is part of the company’s investigation into the September 1 Falcon 9 launchpad explosion.

“The sound heard by residents was actually the result of a pressurization test at the McGregor Rocket R&D facility. These tests take place periodically at the site, and this particular test was part of the ongoing testing being conducted by our Accident Investigation Team,” SpaceX spokesman Phil Larson said in an email response to questions. “The volunteer fire department responded as a matter of procedure, but there was no damage to the site or injuries to any personnel.”

I would guess that they are trying to see if they can precisely duplicate the conditions that produced the September 1st explosion, including triggering new explosions in a reliable manner. If so, they would then know precisely what to avoid doing to trigger future tank failures.

Meanwhile, this story notes the successful first pressure tests of the carbon fiber tank that SpaceX is developing for its interplanetary spaceship. Not much information, though SpaceX has released some cool images of the tank being prepped for the test.

4 comments

  • BSJ

    Or they were testing to see if they had figured out a solution, and it didn’t work…

  • PeterF

    “they would then know precisely what to avoid doing to trigger future tank failures.”

    or even better they would have an idea what needs to be redesigned for future boosters.

  • Edward

    BSJ,
    Since this was the investigation team’s work, Robert’s interpretation is likely correct.

    The investigation team’s job is only to find out what went wrong, not to find out what works better. Suggestions for improvement may not be outside the scope of the investigation, but it is up to others (and possibly some investigation team members) to perform tests of improved hardware or improved procedures and to make final decisions as to how to avoid future problems.

    Being able to repeat the failure, with appropriate sensors, adds confidence that the conclusions of the investigation are correct.

    Whether a different design is desirable or if only a different loading procedure is suitable is another good question, and we should keep our eyes open to see if they change the design, too. I would presume that any change in design would likely result in added weight, which is not so desirable.

    I am a bit surprised that the article’s wording suggests that the neighbors and fire department were not previously informed of the possible/likely/desired fiery test result. It seems to me that the fire department would want to be prepositioned in case of unexpected results, and that SpaceX would want that, too.

  • BSJ

    Sort of like they weren’t expecting something to go bang? Which is why I’m guessing it was a “negative” result.

    But then, each of our guesses are as good as the other’s…

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