Video & Images Credit & Copyright: Video conference by NASA & rudimentary screen caps from the SpaceX feed. I will post the videos as soon as NASA and SpaceX post the official videos if they do at all.
June 28, 2015 is a birthday Elon Musk would probably like to forget as we all know by now that CRS-7; SpaceX’s Falcon 9 disintegrated after the 10:21 EDT (14:21 UTC) liftoff today en route to resupply the International Space Station (ISS).
Elon quickly went to Twitter stating that “There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Data suggests counterintuitive cause.” The anomaly occurred at 139 seconds into the flight according to SpaceX’s President & COO, Gwynne Shotwell. Data shows that it was at an altitude of 27 and traveling at 2,900 mph. This mishap will likely ground the Falcon 9 fleet and delay the commercial spaceflight endeavor for at least a few months as SpaceX corrects the issue.
This is the 6th major loss of a rocket in the space industry in the last few years. The others include Orbital Antares Orb-3 mission to resupply the ISS, 3 Russian Proton rockets and just recently the Russian Soyuz-Progress M-27M mission. I believe this is the first time that two consecutive ISS resupply missions have failed in a row making next week’s Soyuz-Progress M-28M ISS resupply flight even more critical. Fortunately, NASA and the ISS member nations factor in these sorts of problems to the crew isn’t in immediate danger but the loss of a third consecutive resupply ship would certainly be stressful to say the least. We’re actually fortunate that we only have a three man ISS crew at the moment.
One thing that’s important to remember here is that commercial spaceflight is a new endeavor and were having to literally create an industry from scratch. Failures cannot be the norm but failures in spaceflight do and will happen, especially in the incipient stages of a private, commercial venture into one of the world’s most extreme and most dangerous industries.
SpaceX will bounce back, Orbital-ATK will bounce back and as we watch new companies come into the fold we will see more failures as they grapple with spaceflight and come to terms with just how unforgiving it can be.
There’s no greater teacher than failure if you’re dedicated to learning all you can and making progress. The world space industry should act as a model to society as to how you should hold your heads high even in failure, learn from your mistakes and still take things to the next level. The personalities that work in the space industry are the most motivated, driven personalities on Earth. When these people fail, they don’t pack it in and quit; they learn from those mistakes and come back even stronger because of it. I expect no different in this situation and I’m proud to be even loosely affiliated with the greatest industry on Earth.
As Wernher von Braun famously stated; “One test is worth a thousand expert opinions.”