The explosion of SpaceX’s unmanned rocket after liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Sunday morning has been classified as a “mishap”, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pam Underwood said in an afternoon press conference.
The Falcon 9 rocket was on its seventh mission to deliver more than 4,000 pounds of supplies and materials to the crew at the International Space Station, when it experienced a “pressurization event” in the second stage of flight, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said.
SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk tweeted about the pressurization issue.
There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Data suggests counterintuitive cause.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 28, 2015
Shotwell cautioned that they could not yet speculate as to the cause of the incident that occurred 2 minutes and 19 seconds into flight. And said that the setback will likely ground rockets for “a number of months or so.”
As for the crew at the International Space Station that was awaiting delivery of food, water and a water filtration system this Tuesday, they are “safe and things are fine,” NASA’s William H. Gerstenmaier told reporters.
Gerstenmaier added that there was “no negligence” and that the event simply demonstrates the “challenges of engineering and space flight.”
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) June 28, 2015
This is the third such recent incident, since NASA began outsourcing cargo resupply missions to contractors, the Washington Post reported. In October, an Orbital Antares rocket exploded and then in April a Russian Progress 59 went into a dizzying spin after reaching orbit. NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011.
Lost in the Falcon 9 explosion was an International Docking Adapter on board the cargo craft. While the company does have another adapter in reserve, this equipment is vital for the space station docking of commercial crew spacecraft.
— Tony Rice (@rtphokie) June 28, 2015
Students had also created more than 30 experiments that were en route to the International Space Station when the Falcon 9 exploded.
SpaceX will be conducting an investigation into the incident, which will be overseen by the FAA and could take several months to complete.