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Falcon 9 explosion: has SpaceX found cause?

The explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on a launchpad earlier this year has resulted in SpaceX coming under increased scrutiny.

However, the company has been hard at work investigating the cause of the accident, having announced a major update late last week.

“Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank,” SpaceX wrote on its website.

It appears that the SpaceX procedure for loading helium may have contributed to the explosion

The company explained that the helium loading process was in the spotlight.

“Through extensive testing in Texas, SpaceX has shown that it can re-create a COPV failure entirely through helium loading conditions. These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded.”

SpaceX wrote that it would be working to find the exact cause and is developing “improved helium loading conditions” for the Falcon 9 rocket.

“With the advanced state of the investigation, we also plan to resume stage testing in Texas in the coming days, while continuing to focus on completion of the investigation. This is an important milestone on the path to returning to flight,” it added.

Author | Hadlee Simons

Hadlee Simons
Terrible puns make Hadlee Simons difficult to work with, but he brings over seven years of tech journalism experience to the table. When he's not at work or watching motorsport, he's in the foetal position on a jiu jitsu mat. More