SpaceX is presently one of the most successful rocket launch company with more than 31 successful launches in last two years. But two years back in 2015, SpaceX met with a disastrous fate when its Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies for the International Space Station that exploded midair. Although SpaceX and NASA had provided statements on the cause of the destruction of the rocket, it is the first time that NASA investigators have prompted that the crash was caused due to a ‘design error’.
The reports released by NASA investigators gives an insight on how and why SpaceX CRS-7 mission failed. SpaceX manufactures most of the components in-house, however, there are some components for which the brand has acquired subcontractors. When the tragedy happened, SpaceX blamed one of its subcontractors who supplied a steel strut incapable of withstanding the extreme pressure of the flight. After the rocket lifted off, the steel strut broke loose that shot helium bottle into the liquid oxygen tank. This reaction ignited the fire and thus, it destroyed the vehicle. This is when NASA blamed SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch as a ‘design error’.
The reports further elaborate that SpaceX used industrial grade cast part rather than choosing the more reliant aerospace grade material. Then again, the screening and testing of the material required to manufacture the rocket were not practiced as it must. After the incident, Elon Musk – CEO of SpaceX, released a statement to the reporters that an individual steel strut failed as it didn’t conform manufacturers standard. According to the firm, the strut was designed to withstand a pressure of 10,000 lbs of force, however, it failed to bear the 1/5th of the above-quoted stress.
NASA collected historical data on the launches before releasing the reports recently. The investigators found that SpaceX managed to mitigate all the problems and issues before it could take the next payload to the ISS in January 2016 which went successfully. Following an investigation conducted by NASA, SpaceX was subjected to a number of speculations in its assessment for which, NASA denied its validity. According to the speculations, SpaceX practices poor installations techniques and others that led to the Falcon 9 failure in 2015.
It was SpaceX which provided additional services to NASA in an attempt to fix the issue that resulted in a lot of money. SpaceX has become one of the major rocket launch company for NASA as it is used to launch resupply vehicle to the ISS once in every several months. SpaceX will be responsible to launch the upcoming TESS satellite in April. Presently, it is preparing to launch 10 satellites for the operator Iridium from Vandenberg Air Force Base schedule for March 29 launch at 7:14 a.m. pst.