SpaceX says tank breach may have caused blast

Image: SpaceX blast
A video stream from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida shows smoke rising from a SpaceX launch pad blast on Sept. 1. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX says an investigation into the launch pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload has turned up evidence of a “large breach” in the supercooled helium system for the oxygen tank on the rocket’s second stage.

Today’s update made clear that the root cause of the Sept. 1 blast at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida has not yet been identified. Nevertheless, SpaceX said it anticipated to return to flight as early as November, “pending the results of the investigation.”

SpaceX is leading the investigation, just as it did last year when a Falcon 9 broke apart shortly after liftoff. That mishap involved a component inside the second-stage oxygen tank, but today the company said it’s ruled out a connection between the two blasts.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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