Last September, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket suffered a malfunction resulting in an explosion of the rocket which ultimately put all missions by SpaceX on hold. The space-faring company finished the investigation regarding Falcon 9 and will soon launch a new mission.
The next mission, set for January 8, will launch 10 satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket for Iridium Communications. The satellites should provide mobile comms on land, and also on ships and airplanes The launch will take place at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, with SpaceX pending approval for the launch, which should be issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Spokeswoman For Iridium, Diane Hockenberry, stated that “Iridium is pleased with SpaceX’s announcement on the results of the September 1 anomaly as identified by their accident investigation team and their plans to target a return to flight.”
The company expected for the approval to come by November 2016, but since the investigation was still active, new mission launches had to wait a bit longer. The continuation of Falcon 9 missions is important for SpaceX since the company already has about 70 missions planned for the future, which have more than $10 billion in worth.
As for the investigation regarding the anomaly leading to the explosion, the probe team managed to analyze almost 3,000 channels of telemetry and video data in searching for the cause of the failure. They’ve discovered that a failure happened in a pressure vessel placed inside of the liquid oxygen tank.
The latest update dealing with the anomaly reads: “Although buckles were not shown to burst a COPV on their own, investigators concluded that super-chilled liquid oxygen can pool in these buckles under the overwrap. When pressurized, oxygen pooled in this buckle can become trapped; in turn, breaking fibers or friction can ignite the oxygen in the overwrap, causing the COPV to fail.”
Basically, liquid oxygen was trapped inside the composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs), and since liquid oxygen is extremely easy to ignite as soon COPVs started creating friction oxygen exploded, causing the explosion. The explosion happened on September 1 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida; it destroyed both the rocket and the $200 million communications satellite owned by Facebook intended to be used for providing internet access to the sub-Saharan Africa region. Not only the explosion set back SpaceX for a couple of months, it also damaged the LC-40, the primary launch site of SpaceX.
Following the findings, SpaceX will redesign fueling procedures used on the Falcon 9 in order to prevent liquid oxygen from building up between helium canisters. “In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether,” stated the company.