It’s back to the drawing board for SpaceX.
On Friday, August 22, private spaceflight company SpaceX launched the latest reusable rocket prototype at its testing facilities, only to watch it explode and fall out of the sky over MacGregor, Texas.
The detonation occurred when the unmanned rocket’s systems detected an anomaly and triggered its own auto-destruct button. The three-engine vehicle F9R Dev1 is based on the operational Falcon 9 rocket, a vehicle which uses a nine-engine first stage.
SpaceX has issued a statement about the explosion.
“Earlier today, in MacGregor, Texas, SpaceX conducted a test flight of a three engine version of the F9R test vehicle (successor to Grasshopper). During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.
“Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times.
“With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program. Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test. As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.
“SpaceX will provide another update when the flight data has been fully analyzed.”
Engineers will review the test results to better understand what happened to the rocket. In the aftermath of the explosion, SpaceX’s billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, has acknowledged the problems in designing and building the types of technology which can send humanity beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
“Rockets are tricky.”
Elon Musk, the mastermind behind Tesla Motors and PayPal, believes that mankind could be colonizing Mars in ten years. Previously, in May of this year, SpaceX rockets delivered supplies to the International Space Station using a SpaceX Dragon capsule which then returned to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.
The MacGregor proving site employs 250 people who work at developing the reusable prototypes which are intended to pave the way for rockets that can return to Earth after being sent into space.
As reported by Space.com, reusable rockets are considered to be the next step in space exploration. California-based SpaceX believes that a reusable technology will cut the cost of reaching space by a factor of 100.
SpaceX has launchpads in several locations such as Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. Recently, the company leased Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
For more information on SpaceX and its rocket program, you can read an Inquisitr article about the reusable Falcon 9 which successfully delivered the AsiaSat 8 satellite into orbit for the Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company.
[Image Courtesy of Amanda Spence]