Launch Pad Explosion Destroys SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket, Satellite in Florida

Space.com – by Tariq Malik

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its commercial satellite payload were destroyed by an explosion at their launch pad in Florida early Thursday (Sept. 1) during typically routine test.

The explosion occurred shortly after 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), as SpaceX was preparing to launch the Amos 6 communications satellite for the Israeli company Spacecom on Saturday, Sept. 3. At the time, SpaceX was conducting a static fire engine test on the Falcon 9. Such tests, which typically precede each SpaceX launch, involve firing the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage engines while the booster remains secured to the launch pad.  

“SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload,” SpaceX representatives wrote in a statement. “Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.” [SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explained]

Black plumes of smoke billow over SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launch site at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 . This image was captured by a NASA Kennedy Space Center webcam.
Black plumes of smoke billow over SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch site at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 . This image was captured by a NASA Kennedy Space Center webcam.

Credit: NASA Kennedy Space Center

NASA webcam images of the SpaceX rocket’s launch site — Space Launch Complex 40 — at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – showed a massive plume of black smoke over the pad Thursday morning.

The Falcon 9 rocket is a two-stage booster designed to launch satellites andSpaceX’s Dragon space capsules into orbit. The rocket stands 229 feet tall (70 m) and is uses rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen for propellant.

The first stage of Falcon 9 is powered by nine Merlin rocket engines, while the second stage has a single engine to make the final push into orbit with payloads. It is the first stage of Falcon 9 that SpaceX would be testing during Thursday’s static fire operation.

SpaceX has had a long string of successful missions with the Falcon 9 rocket,with only one major failure. In June 2015, a Falcon 9 carrying a Dragon cargo ship for NASA exploded shortly after liftoff. SpaceX traced the problem to a faulty strut and made upgrades before resuming commercial and NASA flights.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

http://www.space.com/33929-spacex-falcon-9-rocket-explodes-on-launch-pad.html

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