avatarby Nick HallNovember 5, 20161 comments

space x explosion

SpaceX has found the exact reason why its Falcon 9 rocket exploded in September and we just love Elon Musk’s explanation that it’s a “really surprising problem that’s never been encountered before in the history of rocketry.”

The rocket suffered a “fast fire”, on September 1st at Cape Canaveral in Florida. It was carrying Facebook’s Amos-6 satellite, which was also reportedly destroyed in the dramatic incident.

A breach in the helium system caused this

Shortly afterwards, Musk revealed a breach in the cryogenic helium system was the probable cause and this ties in with the latest explanation. It looks like the liquid oxygen fuel froze as it entered the second carbon-fiber tank. This caused a blockage in the system and set off a chain reaction of explosions.

“It basically involves a combination of liquid helium, advanced carbon fiber composites and solid oxygen,” Musk said. “Oxygen so cold that it actually enters solid phase.”

The New York times reported the reasons and Musk all but confirmed that this is what happened. Oxygen freezes at -362 degrees Fahrenheit and the Falcon 9 uses oxygen supercooled to -340 degrees during normal operation.

Super cooled helium got into the oxygen

That means SpaceX is running close to the limits and the helium inside its tanks runs at -452 degrees. So if the two get too close, due to a breach, then it can freeze the oxygen, block the system and cause an incident like this.

Musk clearly thinks that his company has solved the issue and should have another rocket ready to launch next month. So the SpaceX mission is back on track and Musk is looking to the future.

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