An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded around two and a half minutes after launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sunday, destroying over 5,200 pounds of cargo bound for the International Space Station. The rocket was traveling at around 2,900 mph some 27 miles up when it encountered what SpaceX referred to as an “anomaly on ascent,” ceased providing data to ground control, and was engulfed by a growing cloud of smoke before exploding and sending shards of the craft flying into the Atlantic Ocean.


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The failure of the Falcon 9 rocket is something of a blow to NASA. It is the third ISS resupply mission to fail in the last eight months, and its cargo contained over 1,500 pounds of food and provisions for the crew, in addition to a new docking port, spacesuit and water filtration system. This means the crew aboard the ISS now have just four months worth of supplies as opposed to the six that NASA prefers to have. On Friday, a Russian craft will attempt to reach the space station with new supplies.

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As for the SpaceX rocket failure, Elon Musk stated on Twitter that the Falcon 9 experienced a problem just before final stage shutdown, adding that “[t]here was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Data suggests counterintuitive cause.” In the very early hours of Sunday morning, he updated: “Cause still unknown after several thousand engineering-hours of review. Now parsing data with a hex editor to recover final milliseconds.”

It will be especially key for SpaceX to determine what went wrong with this particular mission—not solely to secure future supply missions, but also because the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule combination that failed is the same one SpaceX hopes to use for manned missions as soon as 2017. But, as SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told the New York Times, a “still being tested” abort system on the Dragon capsule would have whisked passengers away to safety had such an explosion occured.

Via New York Times

Images screengrab via YouTube, Twitter