SpaceX Rocket Breaks Apart En Route to International Space Station

December 10, 2010 – 09:52 am

Topics:Private spaceflight, International Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean today during the company's seventh paid cargo run to the International Space Station. Following a successful 10:21 a.m. EDT (14:21 UTC) liftoff, Falcon flew flawlessly for more than two minutes. But 139 seconds into the flight, a white cloud appeared near the rocket's second stage, and the vehicle disintegrated shortly thereafter.


SpaceX CRS-7 liftoff video (NASA TV)

"What I can tell you at this point is that first stage flight remained nominal, " said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer. "We saw some pressurization indications in the second stage which we'll be tracking down. We did receive telemetry from Dragon after the event as well." Data readouts on the SpaceX web feed froze with the vehicle at an altitude of about 45 kilometers, traveling at more than 4, 700 kilometers per hour.

SpaceX CRS-7There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Data suggests counterintuitive cause.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)

The vehicle experienced an anomaly on ascent. Team is investigating. Updates to come.

— SpaceX (@SpaceX)

The ISS-bound Dragon capsule was laden with 1.8 metric tons of crew supplies. William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for the agency's human exploration division, said a spacesuit was among the items lost. Additionally, Dragon was carrying a new docking adapter in its unpressurized trunk, designed to allow future commercial crew vehicles to dock with the station.

"This is not really where I wanted to be on a Sunday afternoon, " Gerstenmaier said, speaking to reporters during a post-launch press conference. "But spaceflight's not easy, as we've described to you before."

The loss of Dragon marks the third ISS resupply mission failure in just eight months. In October 2014, an Orbital ATK Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff. Six months later in April, a Russian Progress vehicle was left spinning out of control in orbit, doomed to an atmospheric reentry on May 7. "There's really no commonality across these three events, " Gerstenmaier said, "other than the fact that it's space and it's difficult to go fly."


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  • avatar What is the Falcon 9 rocket?
    • On May 19th 2012 the SpaceX company will launch their Falcon 9 rocket with their Dragon cargo capsule into space on a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. As the first private-sector space exploration company, they are hoping to prove their design will work.

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