Bad strut likely doomed SpaceX Falcon rocket, Musk says

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 20, 2015 4:42 PM

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A flawed steel strut holding a helium pressurization bottle likely gave way, dooming a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last month, company chief Elon Musk said on Monday.

The June 28 accident destroyed an unmanned Dragon cargo ship about two minutes after it lifted off from Florida for the International Space Station.

SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Musk said flights will not resume until September at the earliest. The company also plans to delay the debut flight of its heavy-lift Falcon rocket from this year to spring 2016.

The company plans to use different struts to hold the helium bottles and also test each unit prior to flight, rather than rely on materials certifications.

Future Dragon ships also will include new software to deploy parachutes in case of a launch failure, potentially saving the cargo. A similar system already had been planned for passenger versions of Dragon under development in partnership with NASA, Musk said.

The flawed strut, provided by a vendor Musk declined to name, held a bottle of helium needed to pressurize the rocket’s upper-stage liquid oxygen tank.

“It’s a really odd failure,” Musk said.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Tom Brown)