SpaceX updates on Falcon 9 rocket, Facebook satellite loss


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that exploded on the launch pad earlier this month and destroyed a valuable satellite may have resulted from a leak in its cryogenic helium system, the company said Friday.

The company released an extensive update on the failure at Cape Canaveral, which occurred as it was preparing a "static launch test" of the rocket.

SpaceX said Friday an Accident Investigation Team, made up of company engineers, and representatives of the FAA, NASA and the Air Force, is "currently scouring through approximately 3,000 channels of engineering data along with video, audio and imagery".

SpaceX said it has recovered and catalogued most of the debris from the explosion in a hangar for inspection. The company hopes to return to flight in November. That mishap involved a component inside the second-stage oxygen tank, but today the company said it's ruled out a connection between the two blasts.

SpaceX test fires the nine Merlin 1D engines for several seconds before every launch to make sure propulsion and other critical launch systems are operating properly before committing a booster to flight.

The tank over-pressurized and ruptured as the helium spilled from its composite container, according to SpaceX, which said it would no longer use the same type of strut - provided by an external suppler - in future launches.

SpaceX said it had learned enough to conclude that whatever triggered the fireball was not related to an accident previous year that occurred about 2 minutes after lift-off.

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The explosion was heard 30 miles (48 km) from the SpaceX's launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The damage during the Sept.1 incident has affected "substantial areas" of SpaceX primary launch site.

The new liquid oxygen farm - e.g. the tanks and plumbing that hold our super-chilled liquid oxygen - was unaffected and remains in good working order. But-with the facilities intact and the company saying that it wants to start launching rockets as soon as November -we should seeing the company's Falcons back in the sky again soon.

"Other efforts, including the Commercial Crew Program with NASA, are continuing to progress", the company adds.

A video stream from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida shows smoke rising from the SpaceX launch pad blast on September 1.

Virginia-based Iridium Communications has been hampered by SpaceX's stalled launch schedule.