Jun 282015

Well, this isn’t so good. It’s not the usual sort of explosion, where there’s a very sudden fireball and the vehicle turns into confetti in a split second; this disaster seems to be stretched out over a few seconds. It kinda looks like there was a fuel or oxidizer dump from up front… perhaps the second stage. Also early on in the “anomaly” you can see something drop away from the vehicle. I wonder if perhaps that’s the Dragon capsule? The disaster was good and slow… *perhaps* the abort systems got the capsule away. But I’d imagine if that was the case the booster itself would have *promptly* turned into so much tinfoil.

UPDATE: A tweet from Elon Musk says that there was an “overpressure event” in the second stage LOX tank. Cause was “counterintuitive.”

Another angle:

 Posted by at 8:51 am
  • Bob

    It looked like the second stage blew up ant the first stage kept going just fine.

  • publiusr

    In other news, ULA welcomes its newest employee, Dr. No

    • sferrin

      Unlike a government program, this won’t go into a 2 year hiatus while politicians and managers restart their hearts.

    • se jones

      Ah yes, humor = tragedy + time.
      That was quick.

      • B-Sabre

        Seeing as there was no loss of life, nor of any critical, unique or irreplaceable hardware, I see the tragedy level as being relatively low.

        • Scottlowther

          Every space launch failure is a victory for the propaganda forces of the anti-space crowd. Every failure of a private enterprise effort is a victory for the forces of progressivism. Just the PR value of these victories is tragedy enough.

          • Paul451

            The Senator from Alabama is a progressive?

            (I guess that makes the Senator from Maryland a conservative?)

          • Scottlowther

            > The Senator from Alabama is a progressive?

            If the Senator from Alabama would see the government control rather than the free market… then, yes, effectively he’s a progressive.

          • Herp McDerp

            How about “Corporatist”?

          • publiusr

            There you go.
            It didn’t come apart as quickly as knife-edge ICBM based LVs did.
            Stout rocket, the Falcon.

        • se jones

          Roger that

  • se jones

    Sucks big time, but like sferrin says, it aint gonna take years of government ass covering and hand-wringing to move on.

    Better to have some failures early in the life of the vehicle, on cargo missions than later with a crew.

    I immediately thought of the Saturn V pogo issue being masked by ice on the fuel lines. Not that
    that would literally be Falcon 9’s problem, but I’ll bet it is some sort of resonant frequency surprise.

    I struggle with static analysis in my day job, I can only marvel at the dynamics of giant flying organ pipes filled with thousands of pounds of compostable fluids, all meeting stringent weight and cost constraints.

    As I recall, worse case scenario is: ISS crew commence cannibalism on or about Sept 15, or bail out.

    • Scottlowther

      > worse case scenario is: ISS crew commence cannibalism on or about Sept 15, or bail out.

      Since the government – NASA, USAF, FAA – are involved as regulator and customers, there will be months of investigations, at least. But the thing I wonder: if September is getting close and still no resolution, can Musk prove himself a badass and launch a Dragon filled with nachos and Spam to ISS on his own dime?

      • se jones

        >Musk prove himself a badass and launch a Dragon filled with nachos and Spam to ISS on his own dime

        As long as the FAA and Range Safety clear the launch, why not?

        That badass thing has been on my mind and in my memos a lot lately. As we come up on these NASA conferences devoted to choosing the optimal first crewed Martian landing site, there is much ‘behind closed doors’ discussion about – at what point does Musk just say “hell with it” and send a Red Dragon loaded with nachos and Spam THERE. How much power does Catharine Conley have? What’s she going to do, send Elon & Bob a sternly worded reprimand? Send in the UN blue hats with guns blazing?

      • Randino

        Overall, it’s unfortunate that the Dragon v2 wasn’t available for full-powered escape and recovery. Then instead of everyone scrambling to replace the contents of the capsule (the real long pole, apparently), it could have made a quick RTLS and allow a (relatively) “quick” turn to another booster (perhaps on a Musk-provided replacement). Certainly better than the Donner Pass option…though I’d have to assume the lifeboat option might see an operational test instead.

    • Namenlos

      > As I recall, worse case scenario is: ISS crew commence cannibalism on or about Sept 15, or bail out.

      It’s correct only for the US/European part of ISS. The Russian part will be supplied with a good amount of borscht in tubes as usual.



  • B-Sabre

    “counterintuitive” is engineering-speak for “WTF, over?”

  • B-Sabre

    I figured I might as well start the parade….

  • Madoc

    It’s gonna be real interesting to see what internal changes are wrought as a result of this for SpaceX.

    To date, they’ve not just been proud of the fact that they don’t do things like the “legacy” launch companies – they’ve been contemptuous of them for that. SpaceX is NOT a “process oriented” company and they look at all the meetings, and reports, and meetings, and documentation requirements, and organizational requirements, and processes and meeting and… and… and… that the legacy companies (ULA, Boeing, Lockheed, Arianespace, etc.,.) go through as being the reason why space launches cost too damn much and take too damn long.

    The RCCA stuff (Root Cause / Corrective Action) investigations here could well change the SpaceX culture deeply. Not because they’ll want to or it’ll change their minds on the subject but because their customers will demand it. Chief among those being the USofA customers. NASA, to date, seems pretty “chill” with how SpaceX has been handling the CRS launches. The big ticket missions though, those are NRO / USAF and those come with truly crushing paperwork / meeting / oversight burdens.

    To date, SpaceX has successfully fought those as they’re not being “best commercial practices” which would therefore cost the customer (i.e. the US Federal government) more than necessary. The paper pushers and bureaucrats however, view their domain’s primacy a bit more differently than Elon Musk does.

    We’ll have to see what comes out of this to see how much longer Elon’s “Silicon Valley Start-Up Model” can continue functioning at SpaceX.

    I will say that I am truly glad not to be involved in the actual fault investigation effort. From everything I’ve seen of similar such efforts (the Boeing Dreamliner battery fire investigation, for example) makes it clear how excruciating such investigations are – and how they have to be so.

    I’m happy to let the engineers involved expend their blood and souls in that effort, not me…

    • sferrin

      This will no doubt come as a massive shock to you but the private sector does RCCA too.

      • Madoc

        Um, hence my citing the Dreamliner RCCA effort as an example…