This closer look at the circumstances behind the September 1 Falcon 9 launchpad explosion outlines why sabotage by a sniper is almost certainly not the cause of the explosion.
The rocket was destroyed about eight minutes before it could start its engines for the static test fire. The supposed sniper could have waited until first-stage engine ignition, which would have covered the sound of a shot. Even a suppressed rifle can be quite loud, and the passage of the bullet through the air would have generated a distinctive sound. As Elon Musk wrote on Twitter a while ago, his team did not come to that conclusion. “Particularly trying to understand the quieter bang sound a few seconds before the fireball goes off,” Musk tweeted. “May come from rocket or something else.”
The .50-caliber Barrett rifle has a maximum effective range of little over a mile. It would be extraordinarily difficult (albeit not impossible) for a trained sniper to get within rifle range of the launch pad, given the tight security at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The article also notes that fuel tanks simply don’lt explode when you fire a bullet into them. Moreover, the problem came from the rocket’s second stage helium tank, and it would have been easier for a sniper to fire at the rocket’s first stage.
It was necessary for the investigation to look into this possibility, but it is also necessary to put the suspicion aside when it is found to be invalid. SpaceX had a rocket failure of significant importance on September 1st, and they need to uncover its actual cause in order to prevent it from happening again. Getting distracted by theories that don’t work will prevent them from doing that.