ESA, CSF Weigh in on Failed Falcon 9 launch

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain

Hearing the news of today’s loss of SpaceX CRS-7 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain stated: “We at the European Space Agency deeply regret this failure that shows that sending launchers into space is a very hard job. However a failure does not undermine all the previous successes. We wish our colleagues on the other side of the ocean all our best in fixing the problem and getting back into flight again soon”.

Commercial Spaceflight Federation

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation commends the hard work of the entire SpaceX and NASA teams in preparation for today’s launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the cargo to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft are celebrated for their historic and unprecedented track record within NASA’s Commercial Cargo Program, having previously completed six successful resupply missions. Today, the Falcon 9 rocket experienced an anomaly shortly before the first stage shutdown. SpaceX is conducting a full investigation.

“Failures are inevitable with new space launch systems,” reminded CSF President Eric Stallmer, “but what’s not inevitable is the amazing success of a track record that a commercial launch provider like SpaceX has and continues to enjoy. While today’s events remind us that there is still work to be done, we commend the team at SpaceX and NASA for their dedication to leveraging innovative commercial concepts designed to reduce the cost of access space. The private sector’s commitment to continually improving the capabilities and performance of their vehicles is undeniable, and I have no doubt that the team will resolve this issue in a timely manner.”

  • I keep hearing the mantra ‘space is hard’ from these idiots. What utter nonsense.

    Airlines crash all the time (fatally) and that doesn’t keep people from flying. These are teething pains not unlike that of the 50’s jet airliners or the 40’s fighter aircraft, or the 30’s, 20’s etc. Space is literally littered with the remains of successful space flights. Developing new hardware and pushing the envelope is dangerous, but not very hard.

    Expensive maybe, but that will change in time as long as the envelope is pushed.

    Hard. That’s precisely what SpaceX is doing.

  • newpapyrus

    The Space X failure could be good news for the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser and the ULA Atlas V combo for transporting cargo to the ISS.


  • waseem

    Well this time the only person who said “Space is hard” is an astronaut Terry Wirts himself! Do you call him an idiot ? Space travel is both hard and expensive keeping in view the preparation of the vehicle, astronaut training, launching, docking & return, the risks of failure are everywhere. Comparing it with airline travel is a naive idea.

  • windbourne

    Well, that comparison really is a good one. There were plenty of issues with the early jets. And even more so with early flights, even in the 30s.

  • ThomasLMatula

    One failure in 19 flights gives it a failure rate of 5.2 percent, about the same as other ELV. But the strength of SpaceX has been learning from failures.

    But this does throw out their launch schedule for the year, including their next three launches in August for commercial satellites.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    The only way to be free of any launch related accidents is to not launch at all. Or do like ESA and abandon/don’t build any more ISS resupply vehicles.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    To be honest, I sincerely hope that NASA contracts with 3 vehicles for CRS-2. And I’m still hoping that Dream Chaser will be able to make it to actually flying crews to LEO in a few years.

  • Sure, hurling yourself through the stratosphere at 45,000 feet in an aluminum tube at just below the speed of sound, across continents, for three hundred bucks is for dreamers. And in addition to that, airline passengers think it’s a God Given Right, and when you’re 20 minutes late and miss your connection, it’s your right to complain loudly, and obnoxiously.

    I think members of the NASA astronaut hero worship cult are idiots.

  • Saturn13

    If that is the capsule I wonder if there was an automatic detection of a problem and then separation. Or just a short launched it. I thought I saw shroud lines. If the chutes came out, at these speeds I think it would tear them apart. It may have survived the ocean landing without chutes if it hit on the heat shield. A capsule coming back from deep space survived with very little damage when the chutes did not deploy at all. A video shows it wobbling.The shape of Dragon should cause the heat shield to face down. NASA might get some of their cargo back. I remember that when Dragon was proposed, some commenters suggested with a capsule NASA ought to set it up to separate and save the cargo. But NASA and SpaceX rarely uses anyone’s suggestions.

  • therealdmt

    I’ve pretty much given up hope on DreamChaser. Still, it would be great if they could get going.

    Also, NASA always wanted 3 competing vehicles for commercial crew. With the somewhat unlikely (but not unprecedented) situation of two launch providers being down simultaneously, one can see why.

  • stoffer

    You know why space is hard? Because of the damned rocket equation. An Boeing 747 at a take-off for a trans Atlantic flight is almost 50% (by weight) structure, systems and engines. The remaining 50% are fuel and passengers, their luggage and occasional cargo.

    Now, enter rockets. Falcon 9 at launch weights ~506 metric tons. Fuel is ~487 metric tons. Payload to LEO is 10 metric tons. That leaves us some 10 tons left for structure. That is a mass ratio more hardcore than a coca cola can. So you make a 500 000 liters beverage can, machine away some of the metal, strap engines on engines and guidance. I am an engineer and it sounds pretty damn hard to me. There are no margins here. In airliner, if you want to make sure something will work you can add more weight. In a rocket – you can’t. Believe me – rockets are hard. I think we all go spoiled by the Moore’s law – we expect exponential technology development. It doesn’t happen with rockets. The Isp is not doubling every ten years. The Isp is given by the properties of propellants. Chemical propellants have 450s ceiling. Nothing can be done about that. The only solution is to use something else than chemical propellants, something with at least double the Isp and still lightweight engines (so no NERVA style monstrosities). The problems is that noone wants to put money into development of propulsion technologies which would give us more sane mass ratios.

  • mattmcc80

    Even getting two for CRS was an uphill battle with Congress. And it remains to be seen if Congress will allow two providers for commercial crew. Three for CRS2? I’m not sure there’s much chance of that in this political environment.

  • You’ll just have to excuse me for not reading the whole thing.

    What is so damn hard about reducing useable payload? My first guess on this failure is moisture and ice. I’m in Florida right now and it’s at the very height of summer here. It’s just about as hot and wet as I have ever seen it. Either there was a lack of redundancy or some moisture froze in a piece of hardware. But even if it was an outright structural failure you just beef up the structure and then reduce the useable payload of the vehicle.

    Space is totally polluted with hard. There is a lot of hard there.

  • stoffer

    “Beef up the structure”? And what? Get negative payload? We are living the bottom of a stinking gravitational potential well. Going to space with chemical propulsion is for us on the borderline of what is possible with the laws of physics we have. If we want to be serious about space we have to move beyond chemical rockets.

  • Good luck with that. Multi-stage launch vehicles using chemical reaction engines aren’t anywhere near negative payloads. Just look up into the sky at night. I do see many positive payloads.

    I also love the crackpot ideas of enthusiastic space cadets, though, so I’d also love to hear what you have in mind for that.

    Being a space cadet myself, I will steal your ideas without cite.

  • Hug Doug

    If the 2nd stage structurally failed, the Dragon would have been ripped off the top of the rocket. Which is very likely what happened. I suspect the EDL computers were not even on. So the possibility of parachute deployment is very low. It would have hit the water at terminal velocity, for the capsule that would be about 100 m/s (230 mph). Hard to imagine it not cracking open at that speed.

  • Aerospike

    SpaceX has a history of being pretty quick with finding causes and making fixes to prevent the problem from occurring again.
    There is a full month ’til August and while delays are quite possible, I think it is too early to take them as fact.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Not stoffer, you are the greatest crack-pot under the sun, fixed to your old ideas of parallel staged chemical launchers, whereas I never saw a detailed design from you which went behind a simple cross-section sketch composed from several

  • I’m a crackpot who hasn’t blown twenty billion dollars of taxpayer money on idiotic solid fueled expendable launch vehicles, by actually bending metal and welding infrastructure that is already headed for the scrap heap. That why I propose conceptual designs for simple cylinders whose only purpose is to punch through an atmosphere in less than three minutes, using existing propulsion assets. Once you verify which conceptual design works best and commit to the mass fraction numbers, then you start blowing money. Preferably not tax payer money. Or in your case, United States tax payer money. That puts me way ahead of people like Mike Griffin and Monster Bill Nelson, and internet pseudonyms like Snofru Chufu. I also admit that in 2015 parallel staging using existing propulsion assets has gone out of vogue, considering some recent events. Which is why I proposed an entirely new Delta 9 launch vehicle for the USAF. But I guess using Aerojet SRMs to attain core stage to orbit capability still makes it parallel staged, so nothing has changed.

  • windbourne

    Yes, but IIRC, they have always had information within 24 hours or so.
    Something is going on here that is quite different.

  • windbourne

    Not really.
    I seriously doubt that NASA will reconsider Commercial Space.
    However, the question is, will the house/senate neo-cons increase the funding for CCxDev? I seriously doubt it.

  • windbourne

    uh, that is the deal.
    Basically, both Boeing and SpaceX have some 3-5 deliveries to do.