Elon Musk talks CRS 7 disaster at ISSRDC
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ) CEO and Founder Elon Musk sat down for a “fireside chat” with NASA’s International Space Station Program Manager, Michael Suffredini, during the 2015 International Space Station Research Development Conference (ISSRDC 2015 ) to review various aspects of the NewSpace company’s efforts. During the roughly hour-long presentation, Musk discussed the June 28, 2015, accident which saw the complete loss of a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft that it carried.
“Obviously, it’s a huge blow to SpaceX; we take these missions incredibly seriously. Everyone that can be engaged in the investigation into the accident is focused on that. In this case, the data does appear to be quite difficult to interpret. What happened is not just a simple, straightforward sort of thing.
“We want to spend as much time as possible just reviewing the data, obviously going over it with NASA, the FAA, and our other customers and seeing what sort of feedback they have based on their prior experience. [We want] to see if we can get to what the root cause is. We’ll take a look at what most likely happened and anything that’s a close call and try to address all of those things to maximize the probability of success on future missions.”
Suffredini then asked Musk if there were any hints as to where the problem was. Musk noted that there were media in the audience (Musk has had issues with journalists in the past). He then stated that the company would be able to say something more definitively by the end of the week (the interview took place on July 8, and SpaceX has since announced that a teleconference will take place this coming week).
For staunch supporters of the firm, an array of potential causes for the accident have been submitted. Musk, however, deflated those attempts with the following statement:
“At this point, the only thing that is clear is that there was some sort of overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. The exact cause and the sequence of events […] there’s still no clear theory that fits with all of the data.
“We have to determine if some of the data is a measurement error of some kind or whether there’s a theory that matches what appear to be conflicting data points.”
Suffredini noted that Musk’s habit of commenting on Twitter had been useful and appreciated. Indeed, it was Musk’s tweets that gave the public their first hints as to what had gone wrong during last month’s flight. Musk also noted that when the exact cause of the accident has been determined, it will be announced.
“As soon as we have a good line on what has happened and we have crosschecked it with as many experts as we can, and we certainly appreciate the feedback from NASA on those fronts.”
In 2008, NASA signed a $1.6 billion agreement with SpaceX to have the firm use its Falcon 9 and Dragon combination to conduct 12 cargo flights to the orbiting laboratory. To date, SpaceX has launched different versions of the Falcon 9 booster 19 times – 18 of which successfully carried out their primary objectives.
Video courtesy of ISSCASIS
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.