Did something hit SpaceX's rocket before it exploded? 'Large breach' in Falcon 9's helium system may have led to blast on the launch pad
- SpaceX has been studying data and video footage of the rocket explosion
- The company says it detected a large breach in the rocket's helium system
- It appeared one tenth of a second before a fireball engulfed the rocket
- The cause of the breach is still a mystery and SpaceX is still investigating
The devastating explosion that destroyed a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the satellite it was carrying on the launch pad may have been due to large breach in its helium cooling system.
A preliminary investigation by SpaceX has found the hole in the cryogenic system, which cools the upper oxygen tank of the rocket, occurred just moments before the explosion and appears to have triggered a catastrophic chain of events.
Exactly what caused the breach is still a mystery, the company has said.
There has been intense speculation that an object had hit the rocket during fuelling.
Scroll down for video
SpaceX has said an initial investigation has indicated a large breach in the helium cryogenic system of the upper oxygen tank of its Falcon 9 rocket triggered a catastrophic chain of events that led to the explosion that destroyed the rocket on the launch pad earlier this month
The company said it is not ruling anything out and it is still investigating the possibility.
SATELLITE FIRM CLAIMING DAMAGES FROM SPACEX
The Israeli owners of the destroyed AMOS-6 satellite have reportedly been hit hard by the loss.
In a press conference on Sunday, Spacecom said it could seek $50m from SpaceX following the explosion on the launch pad last week.
AMOS-6 was supposed to provide home internet for Africa and the Middle East.
In addition, Facebook had signed a deal with Eutelsat to lease broadband capacity from the satellite as part of its efforts to increase internet connectivity across the African continent.
The Falcon 9 rocket exploded on 1 September as it was being fuelled for a routine pre-launch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The fireball rattled windows several miles away, but it has also shaken the faith of customers of the firm.
The Israeli company that built the $200 million satellite destroyed in the fire has already said it will want to see 'several' safe flights from SpaceX before it uses it for launches again.
SpaceX has suspended its Falcon 9 flights while it investigates the cause of the accident.
But Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, told a satellite industry conference in Paris, that they expected to resume flights in the next three months at a new launch pad at Nasa's Kennedy Space Station.
Launch specialists at SpaceX have been pouring over video footage and data from the explosion to find out what may have happened.
The explosion destroyed the rocket and the satellite it was carrying (pictured). SpaceX said is was still investigating what had caused the breach in the helium system
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (illustrated) is the company's main launch vehicle but it has now suspended all flights while the investigation into the explosion is ongoing
Their initial investigation has shown that a large breach in the helium system occurred immediately before the fireball – a timeline that covers less than one tenth of a second.
A statement on the company's website said: 'At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place.
'At this time, the cause of the potential breach remains unknown. All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated.'
SpaceX's launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida was destroyed (pictured) by the explosion at the start of September. The company is nearing completion of a new launch pad at the nearby Kennedy Space Centre
The rocket had been due to launch a satellite built for social media firm Facebook, which would have formed part of its plans to bring internet access to remote parts of Africa.
While the launch pad was damaged, nearby support buildings and fuel tanks were unscathed, according to the company.
Investigators are now pouring over the huge volume of debris collected from the explosion, which have been placed in a hangar for inspection.
Shortly after the explosion, SpaceX chief executive said on Twitter: 'Particularly trying to understand the quieter bang sound a few seconds before the fireball goes off. May come from rocket or something else.'
SPACEX'S CHEQUERED AND EXPLOSIVE HISTORY
Founded in 2002 by PayPal founder Elon Musk, SpaceX has been one of the driving forces behind the efforts by commercial companies to venture into space.
Previously the domain of government-sponsored national agencies like Nasa and Russia's Roscosmos, launching spacecraft into orbit was seen as being prohibitively expensive.
SpaceX, however, became the first privately funded company to launch a rocket powered by liquid-propellant into orbit in 2008 with its Falcon 1.
It later became the first to launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft.
With the end of the Nasa's Space Shuttle program, SpaceX has also stepped in to allow the US to continue to send supplies to the International Space Station.
In 2012 the company was the first private firm to send a spacecraft packed with cargo to resupply the space station.
This year alone it has achieved eight launches carrying supplies to the ISS and a number of satellites into orbit.
But SpaceX's journey has been hit with setbacks and problems.
Perhaps its worst accident prior to this month's explosion occurred on June 28 2015 one of its Falcon 9 rockets carrying an unmanned Dragon capsule filled with cargo for the ISS exploded just minutes after launch.
An investigation into the explosion revealed a failed strut on the helium pressure vessels broke as it accelerated out of the atmosphere, allowing a catastrophic escape of gas.
Part of SpaceX's model for reducing the cost of space travel is to reuse its rockets.
But this has been beset with a series of accidents that saw the rockets topple over and explode during these landing attempts.
It lost two rockets after they failed to land safely before it managed to successfully land the first stage booster at Kennedy Space Center on 21 December 2015.
Freezing fog that caused a landing leg to fail to lock caused another rocket to topple over on a barge in January 2016 on landing.
Since then the company has managed to land four of its Falcon 9 launch rockets on floating barges at sea.
But on 15 June this year another of its rockets toppled over and was destroyed after managing to touch down on a barge.
The company has also had problems while in orbit.
In March 1 2013 a Dragon spacecraft suffered thruster issues due to a blacked fuel valve leaving it unable to properly control itself before docking with the ISS.
On this occasion engineers were able to remotely clear the blockages and the craft docked with the ISS one day later than scheduled.
The firm did state, however, the explosion does not appear to have been caused by the same issue that led to a Falcon 9 rocket exploding enroute to the International Space Station last year.
The unmanned flight, which was carrying vital resupply cargo for the space station and was designated CRS-7, disintegrated into a fireball just a few minutes into the flight.
On that occasion a support strut for a helium bottle – part of the pressurisation system - snapped in the second state oxygen tank.
SpaceX said: 'We have exonerated any connection with last year's CRS-7 mishap.'
There has been some speculation that something hit the rocket (pictured) while it was being fuelled on the launch pad and SpaceX has said it is not going to rule anything out
The Falcon 9 rocket was carrying an $200 million AMOS-6 satellite to provide home internet for Africa and the Middle East as part of a project by Facebook when it exploded (pictured)
The initial results of the investigation into this month's explosion, which destroyed the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, come just a week after SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said he hoped to be able to send humans to Mars and even beyond to other areas of the solar system.
The company also tested a new 'interplanetary' engine for its rockets.
It is also due to finish building a new launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in November.
SpaceX's first flight from Kennedy Space Center is expected to be a Falcon 9 rocket, not the debut flight of Falcon Heavy, as previously scheduled.
Most watched News videos
- CCTV captures final tragic moments of Mirna Salihin's life
- Mother shaves daughters hair after she 'bullies cancer girl'
- GRAPHIC CONTENT: 'Ghost' rises from body after fatal crash
- Bulls head butt each other then die instantly from brutal blow
- Shocking moment girl gets viciously beaten after starting fight
- Mother releases devastating footage of son's final moments
- Lorry smashes into car leaving driver with severe injuries
- Is this the creepy moment the corpse of a girl OPENS her eyes?
- 'Big fat gypsy wedding' in Romania goes on for FOUR days
- Groom ALREADY tired of marriage life just after 15 minutes
- 'Pascal's a G!' Kim Kardashian speaks well of her bodyguard
- GoPro captures the moment a croc swims amongst swimmers
The comments below have not been moderated.
The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.
We are no longer accepting comments on this article.