Metal Brace Likely Cause of SpaceX Rocket Explosion


The last attempt to resupply the International Space Station ended when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which was supposed to deliver the materials, exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere. This was the third failed resupply attempt within eight months, following an Orbital ATK explosion which destroyed a Cygnus cargo ship, and after a Russian Progress freighter failed to reach orbit.

Since the explosion on June 28, SpaceX has been investigating what might have gone wrong, and according to the company’s founder and Chief Executive, Elon Musk, they seem to have found a likely culprit. That culprit was probably a faulty metal brace within the rocket. The brace in question was designed to hold a bottle of helium, which is used to pressurize the upper-stage engine’s liquid oxygen tank.

The brace, which was provided by an outside vendor, is supposed to withstand up to 10,000 pounds of force, but seems to have failed at around 2,000 pounds. Extensive testing by SpaceX has shown that a small number of the braces they currently own have this defect, and that it most likely caused the explosion. The investigation continues, in order to determine exactly what happened, and what other factors may have been involved.

SpaceX will most likely be purchasing braces from a new vendor in the future, and is planning on testing each brace in house as well. They won’t be launching anything else until at least September, and have delayed the debut flight of their new, heavy-lift Falcon engine until sometime in 2016. SpaceX currently has about 50 launches backlogged, for NASA and other agencies, which are worth about $5 billion in total.

According to Musk, this is the first failure for the company in seven years. They have launched the Falcon 9 rocket 18 times since it debuted in 2010, and this was the first failure of that model.


About DevonJ140
I am currently an Accounting Director living in New York City. I love reading and learning more about business, finance, tech, and current events.

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