A Falcon 9 was set to launch this Saturday to take an AMOS-6 communications satellite into space intended to support a joint effort between Facebook and Eutelsat to provide Internet to 14 African countries.
As a standard procedure, SpaceX did their pre-launch test this morning, which was sitting on a launchpad in Cap Canaveral, Florida. According to SpaceX, they were static firing the engines, and an anomaly occurred, causing the explosion. Thankfully, there were no casualties, as it was standard protocol to clear staff from the launchpad area. Here’s the direct statement from their Twitter account:
Update on this morning’s anomaly pic.twitter.com/1ogCMPCY44
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 1, 2016
According to CEO Elon Musk, he confirmed it originated from the upper stage oxygen tanks, but the cause is still unknown.
Loss of Falcon vehicle today during propellant fill operation. Originated around upper stage oxygen tank. Cause still unknown. More soon.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2016
You can watch the video here:
[UPDATE] SpaceX released their statement yesterday regarding the issue:
SpaceX has begun the careful and deliberate process of understanding the causes and fixes for yesterday’s incident. We will continue to provide regular updates on our progress and findings, to the fullest extent we can share publicly.
We deeply regret the loss of AMOS-6, and safely and reliably returning to flight to meet the demands of our customers is our chief priority. SpaceX’s business is robust, with approximately 70 missions on our manifest worth over $10 billion. In the aftermath of yesterday’s events, we are grateful for the continued support and unwavering confidence that our commercial customers as well as NASA and the United States Air Force have placed in us.
Overview of the incident:
– Yesterday, at SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, an anomaly took place about eight minutes in advance of a scheduled test firing of a Falcon 9 rocket.
– The anomaly on the pad resulted in the loss of the vehicle.
– This was part of a standard pre-launch static fire to demonstrate the health of the vehicle prior to an eventual launch.
– At the time of the loss, the launch vehicle was vertical and in the process of being fueled for the test. At this time, the data indicates the anomaly originated around the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad. There were no injuries.
To identify the root cause of the anomaly, SpaceX began its investigation immediately after the loss, consistent with accident investigation plans prepared for such a contingency. These plans include the preservation of all possible evidence and the assembly of an Accident Investigation Team, with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration and participation by NASA, the United States Air Force and other industry experts. We are currently in the early process of reviewing approximately 3000 channels of telemetry and video data covering a time period of just 35-55 milliseconds.
As for the Launch Pad itself, our teams are now investigating the status of SLC-40. The pad clearly incurred damage, but the scope has yet to be fully determined. We will share more data as it becomes available. SpaceX currently operates 3 launch pads – 2 in Florida and 1 in California at Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX’s other launch sites were not affected by yesterday’s events. Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base is in the final stages of an operational upgrade and Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center remains on schedule to be operational in November. Both pads are capable of supporting Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. We are confident the two launch pads can support our return to flight and fulfill our upcoming manifest needs.
Again, our number one priority is to safely and reliably return to flight for our customers, as well as to take all the necessary steps to ensure the highest possible levels of safety for future crewed missions with the Falcon 9. We will carefully and thoroughly investigate and address this issue.