After the disappointing SpaceX failure in September, the company have announced they are ready to get back to work.
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I have to admit that I was pretty devastated when the Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the Launchpad in September, causing both the loss of the craft and its payload. My first thought was one of hope; hoping that nobody got hurt in the accident. Knowing the extremely high levels of safety used by Elon Musk and his crew, I understood that was extremely unlikely. My next thought was one of disappointment; how long will it be until they get back up and running again? How far will this set them back? They were on course to making the reuse of rockets the norm and making spaceflight look easy.
I’ve watched for years now, as many space enthusiasts have, as SpaceX tore up the rulebook on how spaceflight is conducted and created a new vision of how mankind will advance its space programs. Whilst the heads of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the other corporations involved with NASA lined their pockets with the dreams of millions of budding young astronauts, SpaceX turned around and offered a different route. Rather than buy Russian rockets and rely on our comrades in the former Soviet Union, SpaceX said a metaphorical ‘Fuck it; we’ll do it ourselves.’ Whilst they haven’t quite passed the testing required to transport man into space, yet, they have been resupplying the ISS and launching commercial satellites at a pretty rapid rate.
So when the Israeli satellite due to be launched in September exploded on the Launchpad, I became a little disheartened. Finally though, the guys at SpaceX have declared that they are ready to start launching again. Whilst they haven’t pinpointed the exact cause of the September issue, well, explosion, they say that the investigation is pointing to the composite overwrapped pressure vessels inside the liquid oxygen tank. With the investigation being finalized and approved, Elon Musk hopes that SpaceX can get back to testing in the next few days and launching by the end of the year.
Moving forward, SpaceX has said that they will improve the helium loading conditions which would mean they could reliably service the rockets in future. Musk was quick to point out that whilst the payload was destroyed, the Dragon capsule was unscathed and would have withstood the explosion had it happened in midair.
“Efforts are now focused on two areas – finding the exact root cause, and developing improved helium loading conditions that allow SpaceX to reliably load Falcon 9. 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.”
Now comes the hard part; Hearts and Minds. They have to work hard now to regain the trust of both NASA who they can’t operate without, customers who pay the bills and would risk sending their satellites up with SpaceX, and then there is the public. Musk’s long term plan has always been to get us to Mars, but without public opinion behind the projects, there would be no real point. Musk cites the opportunity to become a multi planetary species as his main goal of a manned Mars mission, but there are other possible benefits available.
Keep your eyes peeled on SpaceX’s Facebook page for updates on their upcoming tests, missions and launches. And if you get a chance, stay up late for one of their launches as it is always a spectacle. My girlfriend and I actually had a date watching the launch and we both enjoyed it very much, especially when the first stage of the Falcon landed on the drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You.