SpaceX pinpoints likely cause of Falcon 9 failure


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The investigation into the failure of the Falcon 9 launch June 28 now thinks the cause was a failed strut in the upper stage.

The struts are 2 feet long and about an inch thick at its thickest. SpaceX does not make the struts, a supplier does. From now on, each one will be individually checked, Musk said, and the design and material may be altered for added strength. The struts are designed to handle 10,000 pounds of force at liftoff; at the time of the accident, they would have been seeing only 2,000 pounds of force. A failure at such a low threshold is “pretty crazy,” Musk said. The strut most likely failed at its attachment point, he added.

Another change: Beginning with its next launch, each Dragon cargo carrier will be equipped with software for deploying its parachutes. The Dragon destroyed last month, along with an estimated $110 million worth of NASA equipment and supplies, would have survived if the parachutes normally used for descent at mission’s end could have been activated, Musk said.

The investigation is still not finalized, but is likely close to completion.

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5 comments

  • mpthompson

    Very happy to hear that a definitive cause has likely been found – at least to the satisfaction of SpaceX. It will be interesting to see if NASA and the Air Force will concur. I’ll be relieved when launches resume.

  • t-dub

    “The Dragon destroyed last month, along with an estimated $110 million worth of NASA equipment and supplies, would have survived if the parachutes normally used for descent at mission’s end could have been activated, Musk said.”

    I knew it!!! Now I’m positive that what I saw on the slo motion video was the Dragon capsule moving away from the rocket still intact. The still picture I grabbed shows it clearly.

    http://s6.postimg.org/npbes8obl/screenshot_2015_06_28_at_10_30_56.jpg

  • Edward

    Looks like you called it. :-)

    It is interesting to note that a new paradigm is possible. It used to be that a payload was lost when a launch rocket failed; if the rocket got a couple of inches off the pad, the payload wasn’t coming back in one piece (except, of course, those designed for reentry and recovery). Although the docking port would have been lost anyway, as it was external to the Dragon capsule, much of the payload inside the Dragon could have survived to go another day.

    However, I doubt that large satellites will be launched in safe Dragon cocoons anytime soon. We probably should work on reliability rather than recovery after an accident.

  • David M. Cook

    Is anyone else disturbed by the fact that a small amount of equipment cost the US taxpayers $110 Million FREAKING Dollars?

    This kind of “featherbedding” will only stop when there is competition for these flights.

    Go Mr. Musk!!!

  • Edward

    The International Docking Adapter probably cost a pretty penny.

    In addition, there were several experiments and radiation-hardened electronics that were lost. Very little that goes to the ISS is off the shelf stuff that you can get at Ace Hardware or WalMart.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_CRS-7#Detailed_payload_manifest

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