The explosion of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is a setback, but the incident need not have a long-term effect on the pioneering commercial aerospace company, experts say.
SpaceX is continuing its investigation into why the rocket, which had been a bright spot in the privately funded space race, broke apart more than two minutes after liftoff Sunday at Cape Canaveral.
Before Sunday's failure, the Falcon 9 had flown 18 successful launches including seven flights to the International Space Station. The failed flight is the first of the SpaceX's planned trips to the ISS to be unsuccessful.
"One launch failure doesn't make or break a company, " said Marco Caceres, a senior space analyst at the Teal Group, a Fairfax, Va., consulting firm. "It is a successful vehicle and I think everybody in industry knows that these launch failures happen occasionally. The key is that they not become a pattern."
SpaceX officials on Monday promised a quick investigation and said it's unknown what impact the incident could have on future launches, which include two more supply missions to the ISS. The company "will review every available piece of data to identify root cause, resolve it and return to flight, " it said in a statement.
The initial focus on a buildup in tank pressure suggests "something relatively simple like a clogged fuel line, " Caceres said.
With spaceflight, it's not a question of whether accidents will happen, but when, said Henry Hertzfeld, a research professor of space policy and international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
"Space is not easy, it's risky. These are very complex machines, " Hertzfeld said. "I think we can be confident that whatever the technical problem is here, once it's fixed, that that won't happen again. They will continue on and presumably have a good record."
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