Data, not debris, takes spotlight in Falcon 9 failure investigation

October 29, 2016 – 01:57 am

19235379022_40bc1f3d1e_zAlthough recovery teams in the Atlantic Ocean have retrieved wreckage from Sunday’s Falcon 9 launch failure, the best clues to the cause of the crash lie in raw data transmitted from the rocket as it disintegrated, SpaceX officials said Wednesday.

Officials with the California-based rocket company said there is no breakthrough in the investigation into the failure, the first mishap in 19 launches by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

“The process for determining the root cause of Sunday’s mishap is complex, and there is no one theory yet that is consistent with the data, ” said John Taylor, a SpaceX spokesperson. “Our engineering teams are heads down reviewing every available piece of flight data as we work through a thorough fault tree analysis in order to identify a root cause.”

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said Sunday that the Falcon 9 rocket had an “overpressure event” in the launcher’s second stage liquid oxygen tank.

The failure occurred about 139 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, when the Falcon 9’s nine first stage engines were still firing at an altitude of approximately 45 kilometers — 28 miles — while traveling around 5, 000 kilometers per hour, or 3, 100 mph, SpaceX officials said.

The Falcon 9’s first stage continued firing for a few seconds as the upper stage broke apart, spilling a cloud of propellant vapors around the launcher. The U.S. Air Force, which is in charge of public safety at the Cape Canaveral launch range, said safety officers issued destruct commands after the rocket’s mid-air break-up.

The crash destroyed a SpaceX-owned Dragon supply ship bound for the International Space Station.

Within hours, the U.S. Coast Guard and SpaceX mounted a survey for debris in the Atlantic Ocean about 150 miles offshore Florida. Coast Guard officials said the service’s search team dropped a buoy to measure ocean currents to help track the movement of debris.

The Coast Guard released a video, seen below, showing air crews dropping flares in the search zone.

The fragments found so far offer little insight into what happened, and SpaceX officials said engineers are focusing on information radioed to the ground in real-time as the rocket malfunctioned.

SpaceX said the flight data is the “best resource” available to the failure investigation team, which is led by Hans Koenigsmann, the company’s vice president of mission assurance and launch chief engineer.


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  • avatar How can you clean and check auto choke on 3.9 falcon motor?
    • start car then spray carby cleaner around the top of the carby and down into the jets while holding the throttle to about 3000 rpm the revs will die a bit when u do this so keep holding the throttle open until revs pick back up if the choke is working properly it should be fully open at operating temp