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In the heat of competition: Doug Messier has written an excellent essay today raising some serious questions about SpaceX and its methods of operation.
The issues he raises go the heart of the company’s future. Moreover, he notes the unusual nature of the September 1 launchpad explosion that, unless explained, threatens the company business model.
The rarity of a satellite launch vehicle exploding during fueling had people racking their brains and scouring the Internet to find out the last time something like this happened. At least in the United States, that turned out to be more than 50 years ago when rocketry was in its infancy and accidents were much more frequent.
The lack of any modern precedents and the speed of the accident — Musk tweeted that engineers were reviewing around 3,000 channels of telemetry and video data that cover only 35-55 milliseconds — are making the investigation challenging. Musk has said it is the most difficult of the six failure investigations the company has conducted since it was founded in 2002.
Messier also takes a close look at SpaceX’s overall approach to innovation and development, and notes its unusual and somewhat risky nature.
Read it all. It provides valuable information for anyone who wants to understand honestly the state of the American launch industry.