Elon Musk Updates Status of Satellite Launch, Falcon 9R Destruction

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

A message from SpaceX:

SpaceX has decided to postpone tomorrow’s flight of AsiaSat 6. We are not aware of any issue with Falcon 9, nor the interfaces with the Spacecraft, but have decided to review all potential failure modes and contingencies again. We expect to complete this process in one to two weeks.

The natural question is whether this is related to the test vehicle malfunction at our development facility in Texas last week. After a thorough review, we are confident that there is no direct link. Had the same blocked sensor port problem occurred with an operational Falcon 9, it would have been outvoted by several other sensors. That voting system was not present on the test vehicle.

What we do want to triple-check is whether even highly improbable corner case scenarios have the optimal fault detection and recovery logic. This has already been reviewed by SpaceX and multiple outside agencies, so the most likely outcome is no change. If any changes are made, we will provide as much detail as is allowed under US law.

— Elon Musk

SpaceX Postpones AsiaSat6 Launch

Falcon 9 launches AsiaSat8 into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launches AsiaSat8 into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has postponed a Falcon 9 launch planned for this evening. The rocket was to have launched the AsiaSat6 satellite.

Early reports are that engineers need more time to review data from a failed test flight last week of its Falcon 9R reusable test vehicle in McGregor, Texas. The vehicle was blown up in flight after it suffered an anomaly. The Falcon 9 launch could be rescheduled for sometime next week.

Update: NASASpaceflight.com reports that SpaceX has provided no official reason for the delay. However, it reports that “engineers had been working on a helium leak throughout the past 24 hours or so.” That problem had been resolved with the replacement of two valves, but Elon Musk apparently then called a scrub to allow engineers to check the health of the vehicle. It’s not clear why.

Falcon 9 launches have been dogged by helium leaks this year. Reliable reports say the company brought helium tank production in house earlier this year.


SpaceX Statement on McGregor Rocket Explosion

An official statement from SpaceX:

Earlier today, in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX conducted a test flight of a three engine version of the F9R test vehicle (successor to Grasshopper). During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.

Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times.

With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program. Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test. As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.

SpaceX will provide another update when the flight data has been fully analyzed.