SpaceX Falcon rocket explodes after launch
The explosion of an unmanned SpaceX rocket shortly after liftoff is a "blow" to NASA says a top official at the space agency.PT1M24S 620 349
Elon Musk has said an initial investigation into the failure of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket last month points to a 60 centimetre long, inch-think strut in a liquid oxygen tank that snapped. Musk, the company's founder and chief executive officer, also said that SpaceX has become "a little bit complacent" as it has grown in size, since the vast majority of current employees have only known successful launches.
"The part that failed was from a supplier. It was not made at SpaceX, " said Musk, who declined to name the supplier. "The strut failed five times below its normal strength, which is crazy."
Musk, who spoke on a conference call on Monday, stressed that the analysis is preliminary and may evolve over time. Space Exploration Technologies will switch to a different kind of strut or support rod for the oxygen tank, will individually test each one going forward and long term will switch to a different part design from a different supplier.
'A passing grade is 100 per cent every time': Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors. Photo: AP
SpaceX had about 500 people when it last experienced a failure, he said, referring to Falcon 1 rocket launches in 2008 and disregarding a test that resulted in an explosion over Texas in August. The California-based company has grown to 4000 employees.
"To some degree the company became a little bit complacent in the course of 20 successes in a row, " said Musk. "This is certainly an important lesson and something we will take with us into the future."
Musk said he regularly encourages SpaceX employees to be vigilant against any possible flaws but that over time some may have come to think he was being unnecessarily "paranoid, " he said.
The doomed SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches on June 28. Photo: Reuters
"It's just the fundamental nature of rocketry: A passing grade is 100 per cent every time, " said Musk. "It's not possible to issue a recall or a patch. From the moment of liftoff its 100 per cent or nothing."
Marco Caceres, director of space studies for Teal Group, said that one of the keys to SpaceX's achievements has been the fact that its main systems, including the rocket's engines, are made in-house.
"There is not a fundamental flaw in the design of the rocket itself. A strut is a specific part, " said Caceres in an interview on Monday. "Going forward, they will be much more careful about testing everything that goes on the vehicle. One of the biggest threats to SpaceX is their own success: You can become so successful that you start taking things for granted."
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, topped with a Dragon cargo spacecraft with supplies for the International Space Station, broke apart two minutes and 19 seconds into the June 28 mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the third fiery demise of a vehicle ferrying supplies to the orbiting lab since October.
Denis Masi: Angela Flowers Gallery, 11 Tottenham Mews, London W1, May 5-May 30 1981 : Spacex Gallery, 45 Preston Street, Exeter, October 9-Novemeber 7 ... Liverpool L1 3BX January 9-February 5 1982
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