SpaceX Gives Amos 6 Launch Anomaly Update

Video screen shot from SpaceX's Falcon 9 explosion on Sept. 1, 2016 with the Amos 6 satellite on board USLaunchReport

Video screen shot from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 explosion on Sept. 1, 2016 with the Amos 6 satellite on board. Photo: USLaunchReport

[Via Satellite 09-26-2016] SpaceX, the U.S. launch provider that suffered a dramatic Falcon 9 failure three weeks ago, has given a further update as to the probable cause of the anomaly. According to a SpaceX statement issued on Sept. 23, a preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place. SpaceX says at this time the cause of the potential breach remains unknown. All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated. Through the fault tree and data review process, SpaceX says it “has exonerated” any connection with last year’s CRS 7 mishap.

Three weeks ago, SpaceX experienced an anomaly, which resulted in the loss of one of its Falcon 9 rockets and its payload, Spacecom’s Amos 6 satellite. The anomaly took place about eight minutes in advance of a scheduled test firing for the rocket. The Accident Investigation Team (AIT), composed of SpaceX, the FAA, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and industry experts, are currently scouring through approximately 3,000 channels of engineering data along with video, audio and imagery. The timeline of the event is extremely short — from first signs of an anomaly to loss of data is about 93 milliseconds or less than 1/10th of a second. The majority of debris from the incident has been recovered, photographed, labeled and catalogued, and is now in a hangar for inspection and use during the investigation.

Spacecom has since announced a post Amos 6 plan as it looks to deal with the fallout of the failure. The loss of Amos 6 is a huge blow to Spacecom, which was in process of being acquired by the Beijing Xinwei Technology Group; the deal was dependent on the successful launch of Amos 6. Spacecom said earlier this month that the two parties are working on an “amended” solution as a result of the loss of Amos 6.

  • Greg Gallacci

    OK, all I ever launched were I and K class model rockets.
    So of course that makes me a rocket expert!
    Seriously, I have looked at the footage of the malfunction, read the descriptions of what happened to which part, and I am confused.
    Helium does not burn. Cryogenic helium really doesn’t burn.
    In fact, helium could be used as a fire-extinguisher!
    So if the helium tank ruptured, why is there a fire-ball erupting from the helium-tank region?
    BTW, I think this was more likely a self-destruct device going off on its own. Blast looks a lot like a high-explosive detonation rather than a cracked open tank of super-cold inert gas.

    • VirtualGathis

      I think there is a lot of confusion regarding the He “tank”. From their previous launch failure it was a strut in the helium tank that supported the O2 tank which is suspended inside. My take is that this announcement may mean their re-engineering failed to properly address the brittleness caused by cryogenic temperatures. However if the He tank broke it would likely have either ruptured the O2 tank or freed it since the He is used to maintain the O2’s pressure while the tank empties it is bound to have a fairly intimate set of connections to the O2 tank.

      I’m trying to hold judgement myself, but that blast happened so fast, literally between one frame and the next on the high speed, that it would seem to have been an HE event rather than propellant leak.

      There are a number of conspiracy theories stating a number of actors could have had reason to sabotage the launch; everything from ULA trying to discredit competition to African Nations trying to prevent internet access becoming universal and nearly unstoppable. Like I said though, I am trying to hold judgement personally until I see a report from the actual investigation.

      I’d not considered the launch abort system may have been fired inadvertently. Thanks for the new theory.

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