SpaceX Falcon 9 Explodes After Liftoff

Research equipment bound for International Space Station lost.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded shortly after takeoff from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sunday. While the Dragon spacecraft that was attached to Falcon 9 was only carrying cargo for delivery to the International Space Station, there is a Crew Dragon designed to bring astronauts into space. SpaceX is planning its first manned mission in 2017.

The Falcon 9 is powered through a two-stage process. SpaceX is investigating the cause of the failure but announced that there was a problem shortly before the first stage shutdown. “Preliminary analysis suggests the vehicle experienced an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank approximately 139 seconds into flight,” a statement from SpaceX said.

This was to be SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station and the Dragon was carrying more than 4,000 pounds of supplies.

While there was no loss of life and no risk to the public associated with the failure, NASA lost a lot of components, including important research equipment, a new docking adapter along with associated communications equipment, and a space suit. There were also supplies on board for the astronauts currently at the space station; however, according to William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for human exploration and operations for NASA, there are plenty of supplies available at the station at this time.

Pam Underwood, deputy division manager at the FAA Operations Integration Division, said the failure was classified as a mishap and, as such, the investigation will be lead by SpaceX with FAA oversight.

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