Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX releases updates on Amos-6 Falcon 9 accident

SpaceX Falcon 9 Amos 6 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Image Credit: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX has released updates regarding the Sept. 1, 2016, accident that saw a Falcon 9 rocket and the Amos-6 satellite it carried destroyed. The NewSpace company has provided regular posts since the accident took place at 9:07 a.m. EDT (13:07 GMT) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s SLC-40.

The following posts have been issued SpaceX since yesterday’s incident:

September 2, 6:45 p.m. EDT


SpaceX has begun the careful and deliberate process of understanding the causes and fixes for yesterday’s incident.  We will continue to provide regular updates on our progress and findings, to the fullest extent we can share publicly.

We deeply regret the loss of AMOS-6, and safely and reliably returning to flight to meet the demands of our customers is our chief priority.  SpaceX’s business is robust, with approximately 70 missions on our manifest worth over $10 billion.  In the aftermath of yesterday’s events, we are grateful for the continued support and unwavering confidence that our commercial customers as well as NASA and the United States Air Force have placed in us.

Overview of the incident:

– Yesterday, at SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, an anomaly took place about eight minutes in advance of a scheduled test firing of a Falcon 9 rocket.

– The anomaly on the pad resulted in the loss of the vehicle.

– This was part of a standard pre-launch static fire to demonstrate the health of the vehicle prior to an eventual launch.

– At the time of the loss, the launch vehicle was vertical and in the process of being fueled for the test.  At this time, the data indicates the anomaly originated around the upper stage liquid oxygen tank.  Per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad.  There were no injuries.

To identify the root cause of the anomaly, SpaceX began its investigation immediately after the loss, consistent with accident investigation plans prepared for such a contingency.  These plans include the preservation of all possible evidence and the assembly of an Accident Investigation Team, with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration and participation by NASA, the United States Air Force and other industry experts.  We are currently in the early process of reviewing approximately 3000 channels of telemetry and video data covering a time period of just 35-55 milliseconds.

As for the Launch Pad itself, our teams are now investigating the status of SLC-40.  The pad clearly incurred damage, but the scope has yet to be fully determined.  We will share more data as it becomes available.  SpaceX currently operates 3 launch pads – 2 in Florida and 1 in California at Vandenberg Air Force Base.  SpaceX’s other launch sites were not affected by yesterday’s events.  Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base is in the final stages of an operational upgrade and Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center remains on schedule to be operational in November.  Both pads are capable of supporting Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches.  We are confident the two launch pads can support our return to flight and fulfill our upcoming manifest needs.

Again, our number one priority is to safely and reliably return to flight for our customers, as well as to take all the necessary steps to ensure the highest possible levels of safety for future crewed missions with the Falcon 9. We will carefully and thoroughly investigate and address this issue.

September 2, 9:00 a.m. EDT


Statement from SpaceX President and COO, Gwynne Shotwell:

“We deeply regret the loss of Amos-6.  Our number one priority is to safely and reliably return to flight for our customers, and we will carefully investigate and address this issue.  We are grateful for the continued support that our customers have expressed to us.”

September 1, 1:28 p.m. EDT 


At approximately 9:07 am ET, during a standard pre-launch static fire test for the AMOS-6 mission, there was an anomaly at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 resulting in loss of the vehicle.

The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle. Per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad and there were no injuries.

We are continuing to review the data to identify the root cause. Additional updates will be provided as they become available.

September 1, 10:22 a.m. EDT


SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.

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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.

Reader Comments

As in the Apollo 1 accident, the Apollo 13 accident, the Challenger accident and the Columbia accident, you are operating at the cutting edge of technology, and unfortunately our human minds don’t discover every possible problem that could occur as we design the vehicle, no matter how hard we all try. Those of us who worked on these programs mentioned above are confident that you, too, will find the root cause of this event, and correct it, so that you can carry on our journey into our next frontier, the exploration of our solar system and our universe.

about the origin of the explosion, I’m for a propellant leak at the port/hatch that refuels the rocket up to T-0

SX says that the explosion happened in a 35-55 milliseconds timeframe … a very short time to safely operate a LAS that usually needs around 1 second to drag the capsule away from the explosion to a safe place … so, I doubt the F9 is reliable enough to carry humans

SX said also that, both, the Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center are able to launch the F9 while, unfortunately, the $L$ will have one ONE launch pad at KSC, then, in case of damage at its single launch complex, there will be no way to launch another $L$ for months … e.g. in case of a resupply or rescue mission of a previously launched manned mission

“a very short time to safely operate a LAS that usually needs around 1 second to drag the capsule away from the explosion to a safe place … so, I doubt the F9 is reliable enough to carry humans”.
Except you forgot the part where the Payload was completely intact until it FELL and hit the ground. So CLEARLY a LAS WOULD have worked in this exact scenario

It would appear that the anomaly was likely due to some sort of static-electrical discharge. A fuel leak alone would not cause an explosion. There needed to be some form of ignition. In the chemical industry, everything is grounded during solvent transfers to alleviate spark discharges. I don’t place blame on the rocket’s safety or reliability, and having it crew rated shouldn’t be delayed. Rockets are big dangerous masses of highly reactive chemicals; accidents just waiting to happen. There was no loss of life–just a $100 million satellite system.

In the case of a Kerosene and Liquid Oxygen leak (simultaneous) you do not need a spark. The Liquid oxygen is essentially hypergolic with just about any fuel at that point. I suspect that the fueling umbilical released unexpectedly while fuel & oxidizer were still flowing.

Hi Casper,
No, it wasn’t. To our knowledge SpaceX has only mentioned using such a system in terms of either the cargo or crew Dragon.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

When and where was Elon quoted saying this was more of a ” fast fire” than an explosion ?

Careful re-examination of the footage provided, it seems the fire/explosion initiated at the base of the payload fairing. Is there any possibility of a Lithium battery explosion in the satellite?

This makes me wonder if these ground tests increase rather than decrease the risk of expensive damage and delays. A failure in flight at least wouldn’t wreck the launch site. A live launch can always be aborted right up to the moment of release, and a faultless ground test might as well proceed with the launch anyway.
It spoils my day when a SpaceX launch goes wrong, but as they say ‘(s)he who never made a mistake, never made anything’.

Jason Rhian – Editor.
Wondering if you were at the site for the test, and if you’re willing to share what your experience was.

Sept. 5, 2016

Hi Bruce,
SpaceX doesn’t announce the exact times of the static test fire nor does it allow the media to cover these events.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

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