Recurrent SpaceX mission failures, should NASA take notice?
SpaceX, founded by former PayPal and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk in 2002, has become one of the most acclaimed private space companies owing its vision to develop reusable rockets that’ll revolutionize space exploration. SpaceX is by far the only non-government company that has managed to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, and successful attached a spacecraft (Dragon) to the International Space Station. Despite its numerous accomplishments, which include, contracts with NASA to get critical food and supplies to ISS and to develop crew-carrying space capsules; SpaceX has been under the scanner for a series of space program failures in the recent times.
Following a spree of failures, SpaceX is under enormous pressure to deliver successful flights to space. These failures have raised questions on NASA decision to outsource its cargo resupplies mission to ISS to the privately owned company. In wake of growing concerns, let’s read on to know about the failures that have transpired.
# SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explode
Recently, an unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was bound for the International Space Station. The rocket carrying 4,000 pounds of food and supplies for the ISS unexpectedly exploded only minutes after a successful liftoff.
Falcon 9 rocket that took off at 10:21am on June 28, 2015, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, exploded 2 minutes at 19 seconds into the flight. According to a Tweet from Elon Musk, giving early reasons for the mishap; “there was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank,” which triggered the explosion.
# Falcon 9 Test Vehicle Destroys
It was just back in August of 2014, when SpaceX was trying to launch its reusable rocket prototype. SpaceX was testing its reusable rocket technology using prototype of a Falcon 9 Reusable (or F9R) vehicle when following an anomaly in the system, the craft blew up in mid air over McGregor, Texas. Thankfully, there were no injuries in the accident.
The reusable rocket F9R-Dev was designed to deliver cargo capsule to the ISS. It was a three-engine craft with a retractable landing gear.
# Falcon 9 rocket delivered satellite burns in atmosphere
Back in October 2012, an experimental communications satellite OG2 of satellite operator Orbcomm carried aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fell out of orbit and burned up in the atmosphere. The experimental satellite was a prototype of some 17 new communication satellites that would be flown on Falcon 9 rockets in coming years.
Following the incident, Orbcomm declared complete loss of the satellite and filed for $10 million insurance.
SpaceX however called this experimental launch a success. It said the F9 rocket successfully carried the satellite to the orbit, but due to its first-stage engine shutdown, F9 was forced to leave OG2 in too-low orbit, which resulted in a blowup later. Falcon 9 rocket, powering itself with remaining eight engines, went on to complete its primary mission of delivering Dragon cargo capsule at ISS.
# Falcon 9 rocket crash landing
SpaceX is working on reusable rockets, which can be reused just like airplanes. The idea is to land a rocket on an unmanned ship after it has exploded cargo to the ISS. Earlier this year in January, in one such launch, SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket crash landed and burnt into flames on a barge after nearly pulling off first such landing on a drone ship.
The idea behind launch of Falcon 9 rocket that lifted Dragon cargo capsule to ISS with 5,000 pounds of supplies was that it would land on a specially designed barge on return. Sadly, it didn’t happen and the rocket blew up at the time of touchdown.