SpaceX Completes Accident Investigation, to Resume Rocket Launches

By S. Rina, | January 03, 2017

SpaceX is looking to restart its flight program from January 8. (Pixabay)

SpaceX is looking to restart its flight program from January 8. (Pixabay)

SpaceX has completed its investigation into an accident that occurred in September last year involving its Falcon 9 rocket. It is believed that the explosion was caused by a malfunctioning high-pressure helium tank. The rocket had three such helium tanks for pressurizing the second stage liquid oxygen.

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SpaceX stated that it is looking to restart its flight program from January 8, when it launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles. The launch will involve sending 10 Iridium NEXT satellite telephone relay stations into orbit.  The exact schedule of the flight has not been announced yet.

The space company had to ground its operations for four months following the accident. SpaceX said that it has investigated all the possible causes and has taken corrective actions to ensure that the same malfunction does not occur again.

The company said that its investigative team went through more than 3,000 channels of data. It also pursued physical debris, ground videos, and umbilical data.

"To validate investigation analysis and findings, SpaceX conducted a wide range of tests at its facilities in Hawthorne, California, and McGregor, Texas," SpaceX stated.

SpaceX only provided a general overview of the findings. The report suggested that the failure was caused by the accumulation of oxygen between the COPV liner. It also concluded that a buckle in the liner might have contributed to the accident as well.

SpaceX now plans to use warmer helium for pressure vessels. This will help in minimizing the risk of liquid oxygen turning solid. The company is also contemplating making structural changes to boost its helium vessels.

However, it is not clear yet when the company plans to start reusing Cape Canaveral. The Launch Complex 41 sustained serious damages due to the accident. The September accident was the second such mishap for SpaceX. Earlier, it suffered a similar setback in 2015.

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