SpaceX Wrapping Up Falcon 9 Failure Investigation

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — SpaceX expects to complete its final report on the June 28 failure of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle within a month, but does not yet have a firm timetable for resuming flights, a company official said Oct. 8.

Josh Brost, a business development executive with SpaceX, said at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight here that the final report on the failure should be delivered to the Federal Aviation Administration, which licensed the launch, “maybe in the next month.”

On that launch, of a Dragon cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station, the vehicle broke apart less than two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. In a July 20 briefing, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said a strut holding down a helium bottle inside a propellant tank in the rocket’s upper stage broke. That caused the tank to overpressurize and burst, destroying the vehicle.

That explanation has held up during later phases of the investigation, Brost said. “The early reports you saw in the press, where we talked about it being caused by a strut, those have born out,” he said.

The company has not offered a specific timetable for resuming Falcon 9 launches. “We’re hoping to return to flight in the next couple of months,” he said. That launch is expected to also be the first flight of an upgraded version of the rocket with increased thrust from its nine first-stage engines.

Once the Falcon 9 does return to flight, Brost said, the company will ramp up launch activities quickly. “We’ll start launching at a fairly high cadence next year,” he said.