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ISS Transportation

A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension 316

MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:19 into its flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links. Update: 06/28 15:06 GMT by T : See also stories at NBC News, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press (via ABC News). According to the Washington Post, what was a catastrophe for this morning's launch is only a setback for the ISS and its crew, rather than a disaster: A NASA slide from an April presentation said that with current food levels, the space station would reach what NASA calls “reserve level” on July 24 and run out by Sept. 5, according to SpaceNews. [NASA spokeswoman Stephanie] Schierholz said, however, that the supplies would last until the fall, although she could not provide a precise date. Even if something were to go wrong with the SpaceX flight, she said, there are eight more scheduled this year, including several this summer, “so there are plenty of ways to ensure the station continues to be well-supplied.” Of note: One bit of cargo that was aboard the SpaceX craft was a Microsoft Hololens; hopefully another will make it onto one of the upcoming supply runs instead.

Elon Musk has posted a note on the company's Twitter channel: "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."
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A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension

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  • by rasmusbr ( 2186518 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @10:55AM (#50006325)

    Here's a gif of the failure: http://imgur.com/SYwUIbI [imgur.com]

    Looks like:
    1. Second stage comes apart in a cloud of oxygen and fuel.
    2. Dragon spacecraft falls off / gets overtaken by first stage.
    3. First stage is destroyed.

  • by weilawei ( 897823 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @10:58AM (#50006333) Homepage

    I slept in and missed the launch, but here's a video of the CRS-7 launch and subsequent explosion [youtube.com].

  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Sunday June 28, 2015 @10:59AM (#50006337) Homepage
    Bummer to see this happen - was really hoping they could "stick the landing" on the 3rd try ... but obviously never got the chance.

    SpaceX has been very forthcoming with their telemetry data and analysis, so hopefully we'll hear what happened soon.

    • SpaceX has been very forthcoming with their telemetry data and analysis

      Huh? The most they've ever released is standard PR fluff/stuff - "we ran out of hydraulic fluid", "the valve failed", etc... No data, no analysis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 28, 2015 @11:07AM (#50006403)

    Funny how when Russian rockets fail it is because of those "no good drunken Russians", but when a US rocket fails, its because rocket science is complex and challenging.

  • See, *everyone* fails sometimes, even your hero Elon Musk.

    • I ragged on them for using inadequately tested components. Part of their secret sauce is their test program. It's not saucy enough.

      That doesn't mean the ol' Musketeer won't experience some setbacks on his path to Mars. What they're trying to do is also difficult. I think it's also more worthwhile. Time should tell.

  • better now then when crew is on board

  • Final Tally (Score:5, Informative)

    by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @11:56AM (#50006697)

    Ariane 1 - second and fifth launches failed
    Ariane 2 - only 6 launches, first failed
    Ariane 3 - fifth launch failed
    Ariane 4 - eighth launch failed
    Ariane 5 - first launch failed, two partial failures in first 11
    Atlas A - only 8 launches, 5 failed
    Atlas B - only 10 launches, 3 failed
    Atlas C - only 6 launches, 2 failed
    Delta - first launch failed
    Delta II - first nineteen successful, partial failure on the 42nd launch which substantially reduced the satellite's operational lifespan (55th was first total failure)
    Falcon 1 - only five launches, first three failed
    Falcon 9 - nineteenth launch failed (Secondary payload on the 4th launch aborted as a precaution)
    Long March 1 - only 2 launches, both successful
    Long March 2 - first launch failed
    Long March 3 - no complete failures in first 11, but 1 and 8 were partial failures
    N-1 - only four launches, all failed horribly
    Proton - third launch failed
    Proton-K - second, third, fourth and sixth launches failed
    Proton-M - eleventh launch failed
    Saturn I - only ten launches, all successful
    Saturn IB - only nine launches, all successful (unless you count Apollo 1 - it didn't launch but still killed three astronauts)
    Saturn V - second launch (Apollo 6) failed, Apollo 13 doesn't count because it was a payload, not launcher, failure
    Soyuz - third launch failed, with fatalities
    Soyuz-U - seventh launch failed
    Soyuz-FG - first nineteen launches successful (all 49 to date completely successful, including lots and lots of astronauts delivered to ISS)
    Space Shuttle - nineteenth launch a partial failure (ATO) (25th was first total failure)
    Titan I - fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth launches failed
    Titan II - ninth and eleventh launches failed
    Titan III - first and sixth launches failed
    Titan IV - seventh launch failed
    Zenit-2 - first and second launches failed

    It was a good run, but the game is over. Falcon 9 slots in to the rankings as fourth in the history of rocket development, with a success record exceeded only by Shuttle, Soyuz-FG, and Delta II.

    Maybe Falcon 9 Heavy will have better luck.

    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

      Depending on how you measure "success record". The ones that have no failures (Saturn I, Long March 1) would seem to have an unbeatable success record by at least one metric. :)

    • Re:Final Tally (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @12:45PM (#50006935) Homepage

      That's an awesome list. It dramatically demonstrates that getting a booster into space is anything but easy.

      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        once you're in space, you're halfway to anywhere.

        (Heinlein?)

      • Re:Final Tally (Score:4, Informative)

        by ilguido ( 1704434 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @04:18PM (#50007743)

        It dramatically demonstrates that getting a booster into space is anything but easy.

        Or at least it was in the '50s and '60s.

        Falcon 9 track record is nothing exceptional for a current design like Delta II and IV, Vega, H-IIB, Soyuz-FG, Minotaur... Even Ariane 5 now is at 65 straight successful launches.

    • by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @01:10PM (#50007045)

      Where's the Ariane Vega, or the Japanese H2 launchers or the PSLV in that list?

      Vega - five launches, five successful.

      H2 (A and B variants) - thirty-two launches, one failure.

      PSLV - twenty-nine launches, one total failure (the first), one partial where the final stage underperformed but the payload satellite used its own propulsion system to get to the correct orbit.

      That moves the Falcon 9 down the listings a bit, I think.

    • The Soyuz-FG has an incredible record given the difficulty of rocket science. I wonder if its successor will fare so well.

    • Re:Final Tally (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @06:46PM (#50008291)

      Oh hey, thanks for updating the one I posted in a past article [slashdot.org]. I was wondering why it seemed so familiar.

      • Oh hey, thanks for updating the one I posted in a past article.

        You're welcome. I've updated it once before, and gave you credit for that one. You didn't notice, so I left it off this time.

  • Cause (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Musk tweeted: There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Data suggests counterintuitive cause.

  • by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @12:05PM (#50006739)

    There is a listing and pics of the lost cargo here. [spaceflight101.com]

    The Dragon SpX-7 mission was to deliver supplies to the International Space Station and return cargo to Earth. Dragon remains the only visiting vehicle of ISS that can return a significant mass of cargo to the ground, aside from the crewed Soyuz spacecraft that can ferry a few dozen Kilograms of return items back to Earth along with its three crew members. The SpX-7 mission will carry 1,952 Kilograms of cargo to the Space Station and return 675 Kilograms to Earth at the conclusion of its five-week mission.

    Crew Supplies - 676kg
    Systems Hardware - 461kg
    Science Cargo - 529kg
    Computer Resources - 35kg
    EVA Equipment - 166kg
    External Payloads - 526kg

    Interesting to note that part of the science cargo was the Meteor study. The Meteor study, going by the full name of ‘Meteor Composition Determination,’ was to be the first of its kind to be deployed in space, solely focused on the analysis of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere and pin-pointing their composition through their optical emissions when burning up in the atmosphere. The original Meteor hardware was expected to arrive aboard the International Space Station in October 2014 on the Cygnus Orb-3 [spaceflight101.com] resupply craft that unfortunately was lost in a launch failure of its Antares launch vehicle just seconds after lifting off. Coincidence or someone really does not want this study to go ahead.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      I guess the Illuminati really don't want us to know what meteors are made of.

    • by oobayly ( 1056050 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @02:13PM (#50007257)

      I was thinking on starting off a conspiracy theory about a shady group sabotaging the ISS resupply missions. Alas I don't really have the imagination to come up with a suitably ridiculous hypothesis.

      According to this list [wikipedia.org] they're going backwards:
      * The first 51 missions were successful - Progress M
      * The following 25 missions succeeded - Cygnus
      * The next 4 missions were successful, followed by two successive failures (Progress M & Falcon 9)

      On a serious note - the NASA press conference mentioned that the Progress M 3rd stage has been reverted to an older configuration, so the failures we're seeing are possibly due to multiple launch systems being continuously developed.

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @12:26PM (#50006837)

    This guy has to do everything big

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @01:59PM (#50007187) Homepage Journal

    if you're gonna have a launch failure with total loss of all stages, at least this seems to be one of the better outcomes. First stage is very expensive and complex, fixing a major flaw there could take a long time and lots of money. But it looks like the first stage was working fine all the way to the (fiery) end, and it was a ruptured tank on the 2nd stage that caused the failure. Much better than the first stage exploding soon after liftoff.

  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @02:04PM (#50007217)

    Musk has discovered the path to silicon-based spiritual enlightenment?

    Perhaps OP meant ascent?

  • Did this Dragon have SpaceX's new SuperDraco thrusters to allow emergency escape? It's disappointing that the rocket blew up, but it's really too bad they couldn't use this to demonstrate that their escape system works. That could have turned this from a big setback to a minor step forward in approving this thing to carry people.

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