What should’ve been a routine SpaceX flight turned into an overwhelming catastrophe after one of the company’s legendary rockets malfunctioned.
The Falcon 9 exploded two minutes and 19 seconds after an error-free liftoff. NASA confirmed that the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services 7 (CRS-7) mission was headed to the International Space Station (ISS). Inside the Dragon vessel was over 5,000 pounds of food, essential supplies and science experiments.
“We are disappointed in the loss of the latest SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. However, the astronauts are safe aboard the station and have sufficient supplies for the next several months,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
The cause of the explosion is still unknown. In a recent tweet, Musk drew attention to the spacecraft’s upper stage liquid oxygen tank, suggesting there were pressure-related issues inside the compartment.
This marks the third time NASA lost vital cargo due to a failed ISS mission in the past months. The first incident included an unmanned Orbital Sciences Antares rocket that also exploded immediately after taking off from the launching pad. Roughly 5,000 pounds of supplies ignited in mid-air, including a Radiometer Atmospheric CubeSat Experiment (RACE) and 26 Flock 1d satellites from Planet Labs. No one was harmed during the devastating event.
In May, a Russian Progress cargo vessel that was carrying 6,000 pounds of goods (food, clothes and equipment) ended up in the wrong orbit. As a result, the crew lost control of the ship. The Russian space agency had no choice but to wait for Progress 59 to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. A glitch in the control system caused the Soyuz rocket engine to behave wildly and spin erratically.
Future Scheduled Flights in Jeopardy
SpaceX has several flights lined up for 2015. But due to the unfortunate disaster, some missions are likely to be postponed until the company uncovers the cause of the Falcon 9 explosion.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was one of the first organizations to move its flight arrangements with the aeronautics technology company. According to the launch schedule, the Falcon 9 was supposed to ferry NOAA’s Jason-3 Earth observation satellite to space.
Once in orbit, the weather organization was planning to use the machine to oversee ocean levels and cyclones. NOAA’s announcement was released less than 24 hours after the mishap.
“Given the early stage of the investigation, we don’t yet know the specific impact Sunday’s mishap will have on future launches. We are working with our partners to prepare for potential delays on the order of a few months,” highlighted Phil Larson, SpaceX spokesperson. “Once the root cause is identified, we will be able to better determine any changes to future launch dates, including Jason-3.”
The highly anticipated Falcon Heavy demonstration will also be affected, as most of the company’s focus will be on the investigation. Despite the massive roadblock, businesses closely linked with the establishment remain unfazed and confident that Musk and his team can continue to deliver space missions safely.
Prior to the incident, SpaceX completed an impressive 18 consecutive missions with the Falcon 9 rocket.