Space Stations

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Fails on Launch

By Marc Boucher
June 28, 2015
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SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Fails on Launch
SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Fails on Launch.

Today’s SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) ended in failure when the Falcon 9 rocket appeared to suffer an anomaly shortly before the first stage engines shut down.
It appeared the range safety officer detonated the rocket at the time of the event however at a NASA press conference Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and CFO, said she was unaware if the range safety officer had indeed detonated the rocket. NASA however confirmed that the range safety officer did not self-destruct the rocket. It’s unclear at this time what the anomaly could have been.

This is the first failure of a Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 had previously completed 18 consecutive successful launches. SpaceX last lost a rocket on August 3rd, 2008 when a Falcon 1 failed on launch.

Among the items lost on the resupply mission was one of two International Docking Adapters to enable future commercial crew spacecraft, including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, to dock to the station.

Shotwell said the first stage flight was nominal and the issue, which has yet to be pinned down, occurred with the second stage and appeared to be an overpressurization issue.

While the failure is a setback to the ISS, there is no immediate shortage of supplies for the astronauts according to NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate. A Russian Soyuz Progress cargo resupply mission is scheduled for July 3rd and will go ahead as planned. There is also a Japanese ATV cargo resupply scheduled for August.

SpaceX was to have launched another cargo resupply mission in early September. Shotwell said it’s too early to know when the Falcon 9 would fly again but thinks it could months and not a year from now.

SpaceX will lead the investigation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) overseeing the mishap investigation.

NASA released a statement from Administrator Charles Bolden where he said “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. We will work closely with SpaceX to understand what happened, fix the problem and return to flight. The commercial cargo program was designed to accommodate loss of cargo vehicles. We will continue operation of the station in a safe and effective way as we continue to use it as our test bed for preparing for longer duration missions farther into the solar system.”

“SpaceX has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first six cargo resupply missions to the station, and we know they can replicate that success. We will work with and support SpaceX to assess what happened, understand the specifics of the failure and correct it to move forward. This is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but we learn from each success and each setback. Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our ambitious human spaceflight program.”

This is the third cargo resupply mission lost in the last year. Earlier this year a Russian Progress rocket failed and last fall an Orbital ATK launch failed.

Related: SpaceX Falcon 9 Mishap: More Details Emerge

Launch Replay – Skip to 23:26 to see the explosion.

Story updated at 11:00 a.m. ET. June 30th.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.