Here’s why the loss of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is a big deal for NASA

September 5, 2015 – 09:32 pm

The International Docking Adapter at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA)The loss of today’s Falcon 9 rocket is a critical one for NASA.

The vehicle carried, from food and water to about 70 scientific experiments to hardware for the space station itself.

Among that hardware was the first of two, designed to make it possible for commercial crew vehicles being developed by SpaceX and Boeing to dock to the space station.

This 1, 000-pound adapter was due to be installed during a future spacewalk to allow SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 to begin docking as early as late 2016 or early 2017. So not only did one of NASA’s commercial crew providers experience a serious problem today, the agency lost a critical piece of commercial crew hardware.


Earlier this week NASA’s program manager for the International Space Station, Mike Suffredini, said the NASA astronauts aboard the station have enough supplies to last until about October.

One of the station’s strengths is its multiple contingency plans and multiple supply lines. However questions will now be asked about the reliability of that supply line after three failures during the last eight months: Orbital’s, Russia’s and now SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Here’s a look at upcoming supply missions to the station:

July 3: Russian Progress vehicle on Soyuz rocket

August 16: Japanese HTV on H-IIB rocket

Nov. 21: Russian Progress on rocket

Dec. 3: Orbital Cygnus on Atlas V rocket

In addition SpaceX had two launches planned for later this year, which now will be subject to review.

Looking at that list all off the rockets and/or spacecraft have had issues within the last eight months but the Japanese vehicle. For NASA, now with the failure of the Falcon 9, there is an awful lot riding on that HTV launch in August.


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