Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is suggesting a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the Falcon 9’s second stage liquid oxygen tank was the cause of its early September explosion during pre-flight testing.
The company said Sept. 23 in a statement that through the fault tree and data review process SpaceX has exonerated any connection with the 2015 CRS-8 mishap. The majority of debris from the incident at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., has been recovered, photographed, labeled and catalogued and is now in a hangar for inspection and use during the investigation. All plausible causes are being tracked and carefully investigated.
The teams have continued inspection of Launch Complex-40 at the Cape and its surrounding facilities. While substantial areas of the pad systems were affected, the Falcon support building adjacent to the pad was unaffected, and per standard procedure, was unoccupied at the time of anomaly. The new liquid oxygen farm, also known as the tanks and plumbing that hold the super-chilled liquid oxygen, was unaffected and remains in good working order.
The RP-1 (kerosene) fuel farm was also largely unaffected. The pad’s control systems are also in relatively good condition. SpaceX’s other facilities, from the payload processing facility at the Cape, to the pad and hangar at Launch Complex-39A, are located several miles from LC-40 and were unaffected as well. Work continues at Pad 39A in preparation for bringing it online in November.
SpaceX said it will work to resume its manifest as quickly as responsible once the cause of the anomaly has been identified by the accident investigation team composed of SpaceX, the FAA, NASA, Air Force and industry experts. Pending the results of the investigation, SpaceX anticipates returning to flight as early as November.
SpaceX said other efforts, including work with NASA’s Commercial Crew program, continue to progress. Manufacturing and production at the company’s Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters continues as teams build engines, tanks and other systems as they are exonerated from the investigation.