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SpaceX explosion casts doubt on future success

SpaceX, an aerospace company directed by Elon Musk, met disaster on Thursday, Sept. 1. That morning, the business was prepared to assess the strength of the rocket’s engines without actually launching it into the air. SpaceX anticipated to conduct this static test fire of the Falcon 9 rocket, towering at 229 feet, when it unexpectedly exploded after 9 a.m.

The explosion struck the launch area, located at the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral Air Station. It damaged the $60 million Falcon 9 rocket and the $200 million Facebook Amos-6 satellite. It shook nearby office buildings and the aftermath was so powerful that the smoke appeared on the neighborhood weather radar. No crew members were onboard and there were no injuries. SpaceX stated that this blast was not a danger to the public.

SpaceX disclosed on Twitter 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.” The “anomaly on the pad” occurred when employees were putting together the test rocket. Musk stated that the eruption stemmed from the upper stage oxygen tank and the explosion took place as the rocket was being replenished with propellant. SpaceX has now experienced two disastrous letdowns in one year, which may tarnish its image.

Established in 2002, SpaceX plans, produces and dispatches cutting-edge space shuttles. With three vehicles—Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon—and over 4,000 employees, the company is a pioneer of technology. Their aim is to make living on other planets possible, with a current fixation on Mars. SpaceX captured the world’s attention with their many achievements. In December 2010, it became the only independent organization to retrieve a satellite from low-Earth orbit. SpaceX was responsible for a groundbreaking number of 18 launches in 2016. When Falcon Heavy is finished manufacturing, it will be the world’s most dynamic rocket. With a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, SpaceX will oversee a multitude of shipping operations to the International Space Station.

Their recent setbacks will, nevertheless, affect the commercial spaceflight industry. The rocket was supposed to give internet access to the isolated regions of sub-Saharan Africa in a partnership with Facebook and Spacecom, the Israeli enterprise responsible for the Amos-6 satellite.

Xinwei Technology Group in Beijing was interested in buying Spacecom for $285 million as long as the Amos-6 satellite was successful. If Xinwei drops their proposal, Spacecom will have to find a different buyer or wait a painstaking three years to test a new shuttle. When the Amos-6 satellite was attached to the rocket, the launch insurance guidelines were not yet settled. As a result, there is a $285 million payout. SpaceX’s rivals — Arianespace, ILS and ULA  — may also postpone future missile orbits.

SpaceX’s future plans for their rocket launches will also be hindered. They will reschedule the launch of Iridium on Sept. 19 as they further investigate the Amos-6 collapse.

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