At present there is no information available as to the cause of the explosion or what impact this will have on the aggressive launch schedule that SpaceX has. It can be assumed there will be some impact but will depend on a number of factors including:
How much damage was caused to the pad?
The visible damage to the pad doesn’t look too bad, however it is very likely that significant damage was caused to the infrastructure aroundthe pad which will take time to replace/repair.
How much damage was caused to the strongback part of the Transporter Erector Launcher?
The strongback took the brunt of the explosion and looks to be severe damaged and may not be salvageable. This would need to be replaced as it is unlikely that the spare at 39A will work on SLC-40.
What caused the explosion?
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the issue was internal to the 2nd stage of the rocket. Elon Musk tweeted that it originated around the Oxygen tank but no further details yet available.
We can be sure that SpaceX will recover from this just as they did after the CRS-7 launch in June 2015, they will determine what caused the issue, what needs to be done to address it and when they can resume operations. In the meantime they will need to do damage control with there customer especially those who were counting on launches this year that could be delayed now.
Once further information is available we will post it here.
Based on the amount of damage likely at SLC-40 it will be quite some time before SpaceX can launch from there again, however that may not be as significant an issue as it could have been because they have a second launch pad nearby a LC-39A. At present this pad is still be refurbished ready to support Falcon Heavy and Falcon crewed launches however it is likely this could be finished sooner than any repairs at SLC-40.
Following the two successful launches over the weekend the International Space Station now has two additional vehicles attached.
Monday evening the Progress MS-03/64P vehicle completed it’s mission with a picture perfect docking to the Pirs module.
And early this morning ISS Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Dr. Kate Rubins successfully captured the Dragon CRS-9 spacecraft.
Three hours later Dragon was berthed to the station completing the two day journey and allowing the crew to begin operations to access the cargo.
Now that Dragon is attached to the station the crew can begin preparations for a Spacewalk to attached the International Docking Adapter 2 (IDA-2) that was carried to the station in the trunk of the vehicle. This is critical to the future of the Commercial Crew program for SpaceX and Boeing as it will allow there new vehicles to automatically dock with the station.
Today’s countdown proceeded smoothly before the Falcon 9’s engines roared to life at 5:39 pm EDT, following a 2:35 minute burn the first stage completed it’s job and returned to the droneship “Of Course I Still Love You”, while the second stage propelled the satellite to orbit.
As with the previous two launches SpaceX returned the first stage to the droneship and again completed a successful landing. As with the JCSAT landing this was made more difficult due to the speed of the first stage during re-entry.
SpaceX successfully launched the JCSAT 14 satellite this week for SKY Perfect JSAT, and once again landed the Falcon 9 first stage on the ASDS “Of Course I Still Love You”.
Unlike the landing during the CRS-8 mission this was more complicated due to the speed of the first stage booster at separation. According to a SpaceX spokesperson during the live broadcast the stage was travelling twice as fast. This required that three of the engines be used for the landing burn instead of the one previously.
During the broadcast it almost looked like the first stage had crashed into OCISLY but once the smoke cleared and the lights on the drone ship came on it was clear that the stage was sitting almost in the center of the landing zone. This is the third landing of the Falcon 9 first stage and as Elon Musk tweeted they are going to need to find more space if they keep this going.
May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar
Ten months after the failed CRS-7 launch SpaceX resumed their servicing missions to the International Space Station today with the successful launch of their Dragon spacecraft.
Following a smooth countdown the Falcon 9 lifted off at 4:43 pm EDT to begin a 10 minute climb to orbit.
As with previous launches SpaceX also attempted to land the first stage on the Drone Ship after it had completed it’s job getting the 2nd stage and Dragon on their way. Unlike previous attempts to land on the Drone Ship this time they were successful.
Dragon is now in orbit and making it’s way towards a capture on Sunday.
Last night United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft towards the International Space Station (ISS). This is the second Cygnus that has launched on an Atlas V rocket and will be the heaviest payload the Atlas V has ever launched. Even with the heavier payload ULA didn’t require any Solid Rocket Boosters as Cygnus is only launching to Low Earth Orbit.
Continuing in the tradition of previous Cygnus launches Orbital ATK named this vehicle the S.S. Rick Husband in honor of Col. Rock Husband USAF.
Update: After the launch a number of people noticed that the burn time on the Centaur upper stage was almost a minute longer than originally planned. ULA has since announced that this was caused by the first stage RD-180 engine shutting down 5 seconds earlier than originally planned requiring the Centaur to compensate for the difference. They are investigating why the engine shutdown early and don’t currently know if this could impact the next Atlas V launch.
SpaceX continued it’s 2016 launch campaign today with the successful delivery of the SES-9 satellite to orbit. This was the third successful launch since the June 2015 failure and the second launch of the Falcon 9 Full Thrust version of the rocket.
SpaceX attempted the launch several times but had to scrub due to several reasons including LOX cooling/loading issues, wayward boats and severe wind sheer.
The vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 18:35 EST today following a smooth countdown. Once in orbit the second stage re-started to allow the payload to be delivered to the desired orbit.
To allow SES to make the SES-9 satellite operational as quickly as possible SpaceX forgo the chance to return the first stage to the Cape and instead elected to attempt another landing at sea on there Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I still Love You”.
While driving to work this morning I heard how SpaceX suffered another setback yesterday due to the destruction of the first stage after it landed.
It seems to me that people are focusing on the wrong thing here, yes the end result of the EXPERIMENTAL LANDING was a failure because they were not able to recover the first stage.
However SpaceX did achieve an important milestone yesterday, they were able to land the first stage on the Drone Ship which was floating in the pacific ocean, this in itself is an amazing achievement and further proves that they are moving in the right direction.
The reason the first stage was lost was due to the failure of one of the landing legs to log into place correct, as explained by Elon Musk himself.
Falcon lands on droneship, but the lockout collet doesn’t latch on one the four legs, causing it… https://t.co/DpXsRQWal9