SpaceX plans Jan 8 launch


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SpaceX today released its final investigation results on the September 1 Falcon 9 launchpad explosion, and announced that they have now scheduled their next launch for January 8 out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.

As expected, the cause is the accumulation of solid oxygen in the wrappings of the helium bottle tank (COPV) inside the oxygen tank of the first stage. The following is their announced solution:

The corrective actions address all credible causes and focus on changes which avoid the conditions that led to these credible causes. In the short term, this entails changing the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration based on operations used in over 700 successful COPV loads. In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether, which will allow for faster loading operations.​

Their vagueness in describing the “prior flight proven configuration” is likely to protect proprietary information, but the overall solution suggests that their fuel loading operations will take longer.

The January 8 launch date was simultaneously announced on twitter.

One comment

  • Edward

    Since SpaceX has been chilling its LOX in order to increase its density and thus the amount contained in the Falcon 9, they tried to find a way to reduce the time for filling the tanks and doing so immediately prior to launch, thus reduce the temperature increase (and reduced density) while on the pad prior to launch. It seems that they will have to keep searching for a different process that allows for a similar outcome.

    For several months prior to this accident, they had been doing this type of O2 densification for their launches to geostationary transfer orbit in order to have the necessary propellant remaining in order to successfully land their first stage on their drone ship (barge) for later reuse. The first time I heard of them using this densification, they had been unable to keep the temperature low enough for long enough to launch, and they tried a couple of times.

    I am a bit surprised that friction from the composite wrap can create enough energy to be an ignition source, but then again, it is like rubbing two sticks in pure oxygen.

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