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Large Helium System Breach Caused SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Explosion

Sep 24, 2016 06:03 AM EDT
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Space X has finally unveiled the reason behind the controversial Falcon 9 explosion earlier this month. The company said on Friday that the explosion was caused by a large upper-stage helium system breach.

"At this stage of the investigation, 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 announced on a statement posted on the company's website. "All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated. Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection with last year’s CRS-7 mishap."

According to Reuters, on Sept. 1, the Elon Musk-owned space company launched a Falcon 9 rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida for a routine test when a sudden fire ball appeared during the rocket's upper stage. The company said the problem was from a faulty bracket holding a helium bottle in the rocket's oxygen tank. No casualty from the incident has been reported.

SpaceX spokesman Dex Torricke-Barton is quick to say that they are still investigating a range of plausible causes for the helium breach and will not quickly speculate. He further added that the destroyed Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will be repaired but did not give a target date of completion.

The Falcon 9 explosion on Sept. 1 destroyed an Israeli-made Facebook satellite, which is estimated to have cost $200 million. The California-based company is hoping to resume its flights by November, as per a previous Nature World News report.

"We're anticipating getting back to flight, being down for about three months, so getting back to flight in November, the November timeframe," said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, said during the World Satellite Business Week Conference on Sept. 13.

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