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SpaceX crowdsources investigation of rocket explosion

13 September 2016

Following the launch pad explosion on September 1 of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, company CEO Elon Musk is asking NASA, other organisations and the public to help investigators figure out what went wrong. On September 9 he tweeted: ‘Support & advice from @NASA, @FAA, @AFPAA & others much appreciated. Please email any recordings of the event to report@spacex.com.’

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk

The government agencies referred to are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the US Air Force (AFPAA). It is unusual to crowdsource contributions to an investigation such as this on Twitter.

The company was conducting a test firing of the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 when the blast occurred, completely destroying the rocket and its payload, an Israeli communications satellite.

In a statement, SpaceX said the "anomaly" happened during a "standard pre-launch static fire test" ahead of the expected September 3 launch of the Amos-6 commercial communications satellite. SpaceX said the explosion "originated around the upper-stage oxygen tank" and happened while propellant was being loaded into the rocket.

There were no injuries and all workers were clear of the launch pad, in accordance with standard operating procedure, SpaceX said.

Musk said the incident was the "the most difficult and complex failure" in the company's 14-year history.

The SpaceX CEO’s outreach effort seems to back up reports that the company has few leads to follow in the investigation. In another tweet he said: “Important to note that this happened during a routine filling operation. Engines were not on and there was no apparent heat source.”


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