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SpaceX thinks it knows what caused the Falcon 9 explosion

by Jacob Kleinman | September 25, 2016September 25, 2016 10:00 am PST

Three weeks after a Space X rocket exploded during launchpad prep, the company says it may have figured out what caused the incident. An update published on Friday reveals that a breach in the helium system may be to blame, though SpaceX says it’s still investigating all plausible causes.

Specifically, the company believes that “a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank” caused the dramatic explosion, which destroyed both the rocket and its payload. The findings are based on recovered debris, along with video, audio and images of the incident.

The report also includes some good news, noting that many of the nearby structures survived unharmed despite the impressive fireball. That includes the Falcon Support Building, which was unoccupied at the time based on protocol, and a new super-chilled liquid oxygen farm. The kerosene fuel farm was “largely unaffected,” while the launchpad’s control systems are in “relatively good condition.”

SpaceX still doesn’t have an official explanation for the explosion, but it’s clearly closing in on an answer. The company previously said it hopes to resume regular launches as soon as November.


Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...