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Elon Musk says complacency played a part in Falcon 9 failure

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posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 01:21 PM

Elon Musk points to the almost explosive growth of SpaceX and a years-long string of successful launches as perhaps a contributing factor in the failure of a resupply mission to the ISS. At almost 3 minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded, marking the first failure of a SpaceX rocket since the Falcon 1 failure in August 2008.
Initial telemetry indicated a 'rapid overpressure event' in the oxygen tank of the rocket's second stage. It is now believed that a metal strut holding a luquid helium tank broke, leading to the overpressure and untimate destruction of the launch vehicle. The strut in question was rated for a maximum load of 10,000 lbs, but data indicated that the load at the time it broke was only 1/5 of that. SpaceX has said they will now thoroughly examine every strut in the crafts, and possibly source future components from a new manufacturer.

I generally like Elon Musk. He's really quite an amazing person, even if you only look at his accomplishments. But he's also very human, in that he doesn't carry himself as being above the rest of us.
SpaceX could have just explained the failure of the strut, and explained what they planned moving forward. But for Musk to have not only realized and acknowledged a growing complacency in the company, but to also own it publicly and attribute part of the failure to it is simply amazing to me.
When the Colombia tragedy occurred, NASA tore apart every bit of information they had available to determine the cause. Which is what SpaceX did as well for the recent failure. When NASA finally determined the chain of events that led to the disintegration of the shuttle and the loss of her crew, they announced it publicly. As I'm sure most of us remember, it was a briefcase-sized chunk of the insulating foam from the luquid fuel tank which broke away and struck the starboard wing, damaging the heat protection along the leading edge. This allowed super-heated air to breach the skin of the orbiter during reentry, ultimately causing it to break apart.
NASA then implemented a strict new series of safety measures and design changes for the remaining shuttle missions. This is exactly what is occurring at SpaceX right now, too.
What NASA did not do is note the degree to which human error and complacency could have played a part in it. Not that I can recall, anyway. You see, this was not the first time that the foam insulation had been observed to break free during launch. It also wasn't the first time it was known to have struck the orbiter after doing so. It wasn't even the first time it involved a piece that size. It was simply the first time that it mattered. The heat protective tiles on the underside of the orbiter are very low density, and very soft. The spaces between them were basically stuffed with a woven ceramic material, similar in texture to that of a woven nylon strap. It is a fairly brittle material as well, and always required repair and replacement of sections after landing.
The Luquid Fuel Tank insulation is also light, and fairly soft, but not made to be particularly heat resistant since it does not leave the atmosphere. It is around the same hardness as the tiles on the orbiter, as I recall. NASA was obviously aware of the resilience of the extremely critical heat protection system to physical damage. And they were aware of past occurrences of insulation striking it. But it was decided that there was virtually no risk from this, so nothing was done. I would say that's human error, personally.
The Falcon 9 rocket was unmanned, and there were no injuries or close calls resulting from the explosion. But honesty won the day.

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 02:53 PM
a reply to: pfishy

You know, it was perhaps more important than some might realise, that Elon Musk came out and spoke of the possibility that complacency may have played a part in the Falcon 9 explosion. It shows that transparency with regard to safety is something he takes seriously, and that in and of itself, displays that Mr Musk is absolutely committed to space travel and doing it right.

The rocket may have exploded, but the program he is running will be more intact because of the lack of secrecy over the cause of the failure, and furthermore it will galvanise the people building these rockets to do a better, more thorough job of testing and controlling quality in the rocketry they produce!

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 03:06 PM
a reply to: TrueBrit

In the article, it mentions something I found surprising. I wish I didn't, but it seems unusual. Before ANY and EVERY launch, Musk sends an email to every employee asking if they have any reason at all to believe the launch shouldn't proceed. That also goes to make your point. And it's a big part of why I posted this. Musk founded the company to get to Mars. And he is very quickly and solidly wedging SpaceX into a market which was previously the exclusive domain of government and massive aerospace companies partnered with government. In the US, at least.
He is doing it well, and doing it right. And SpaceX will come back from this stronger and better for it.
Also, I cannot wait to see the Falcon 9 Heavy become reality. And then the Super Heavy, which is Musk's Mars Exploration launch vehicle, essentially.

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 04:10 PM
It is hard to travel in the right direction when the truth is withheld like NASA does.
Space X will continue down tyhe right path because they dont try to cover things up out of fear of money being taken away.

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 04:16 PM
a reply to: JHumm

Very true

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