Shotwell: Helium Tank “Let Go” in Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly

Gwynne Shotwell
Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceNews has a story on Gwynne Shotwell, who provided an update on the investigation into the Falcon 9 launch pad failure last month and other developments at the company. Here is a summary:

  • SpaceX believes Falcon 9 failure was caused when a composite over wrapped pressure vessel (COPv or helium bottle) “let go” in the liquid oxygen (LOX) tank;
  • Company is not sure what caused the explosion yet, but they don’t believe it was caused by ground support equipment;
  • Doesn’t believe it is a problem with helium bottle design but “probably is more focused on the operations”;
  • Accident in September was different from the one in June 2015 when a helium bottle broke loose due to strut failure;
  • Neither of the Falcon 9 failures have been associated with changes made to the booster;
  • Believes Falcon 9 can be put back into service this year;
  • Discount on reused Falcon 9 first stages is about 10 percent than the previously advertised 30 percent;
  • SpaceX wants to recover investments put into making Falcon 9 first stages reusable before reducing prices;
  • Company might reduce prices for reused first stages at a later date;
  • Does not think the company is trying to do too much at once, pointing to small percentages of the company working on Mars and the broadband constellation;
  • Top three priorities are getting Falcon 9 flying again, making sure Dragon gets “upgraded” to carry crew, and flying a Falcon Heavy booster that’s four years behind schedule;
  • The timeline for SpaceX’s broadband constellation of 4,000 satellites is still uncertain;
  • Will fly test satellites for the constellation next year;
  • Key issue with broadband constellation is a reliable and affordable ground antennae for users that’s easy to install.

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