Just a few minutes after launch, on Sunday, the SpaceXâ€™s Falcon 9 rocket broke, resulting in its first full mission failure. The incident happened nearly 30 miles above the Cape Canaveral. The rocket was on a mission to deliver about 4,000 pounds of supplies to the ISS.
Previously, the SpaceXâ€™s Falcon 9 rocket has successfully completed six resupply missions to the ISS. However, the good part is that there were no humanâ€™s on board and no casualties on the ground, the loss in the incident was about 4,000 pounds of food and water and scientific equipmentâ€™s for the crew on station. The NASA associated administrator for the human exploration, William Gerstenmaier said that; the ISS crew is fine and have sufficient supplies for the coming four months. After the incident, the next supply is scheduled to be launched on 3rd July, with the help of Russian 60P machines.
Still unknown is the exact cause of the SpaceXâ€™s Falcon 9 failure, however, Gwynne Shotwell replied to a question in the press briefing, held following the incident, that; â€œthere was nothing that stand out as being different for this particular flight and the operation was same like performed previouslyâ€. According to Shotwell, the SpaceX will now lead an investigation by using the telemetry from 3,000 channels that were involved in the transmission of information during the process of launch. He said; â€œIf thereâ€™s something there, weâ€™re going to find it,â€
This is the third failed mission to the resupply to ISS in the last 8 months. Previously, in October an orbital resupply mission failed, the causes of which are still not clear. In May, the Russian Resupply mission was placed in a wrong orbit that resulted in forcing the cargo to burn in the Earthâ€™s atmosphere.
Talking about the incident in detail; only after ten minutes of launch the SpaceX was supposed to detach the initial stage of Falcon 9 from the cargo and the upper stage. At the same time it was supposed to flip the first stage to 180 degrees and have it reenters on to the atmosphere of earth, with a speed more than sound and steer it to the floating barge in the sea. It is difficult, for no doubt. The previous two efforts of this strategy ended up on the target, impressively. However, both of them resulted in a violent explosion. Â The first attempt failed, because the rocket went out of hydraulic fluid that is used to steer the small fins of the rocket that help to control decent of the rocket. This resulted in forced landing and finally the explosion.
The second attempt that was supported with extra hydraulic fluid was the reason that the hydraulic descent was not an issue. However, this time the rocket engine fired just a few moments longer than I had to. These few seconds caused the rocket to lose control in the last moments before landing and hence, resulted in tripping over and exploded.
These issues were smartly spotted and overcome by SpaceX and major changes have been made to prevent any kind of similar issues for the next time. But the recent launch showed that a rocket launch is quite difficult without adding the complexity of reusability. So the question is; why SpaceX has spent more revenue and energy on focusing on this strategy?
Most of the rocket launches are expendable after one flight. It is pretty much same like is an airline throw away a jumbo jet after a one-way trip across the country. If it would be so, in reality, the airline companies would raise the ticket prices to the extent that only a few of the elite can afford to fly. SpaceX is in a try to change this strategy, besides, they are not the only one who are working to do so. The Blue Origin is also experimenting on the reusable suborbital rocket, named â€œNew Shepardâ€ that is supposed to be used for space tourism.
SpaceX and the Blue Origin are the only companies who are testing the reusable rockets. However, one of the biggest competitors of SpaceX announced to join the Rocket reusable team. ULA compete with SpaceX for large government contracts, released plan for a new rocket launch. For sure, it was a try to find a better match to the lower launch prices of SpaceX.
The Vulcan is early in the phase of design concept, but it is supposed that it will be used in an entirely different manner than the Falcon9. This will help to capture the most expensive parts of the rocket in the air, with the help of a helicopter. Though it sounds crazy, but actually, it was a technique used by the US air force in the 1960s, to recover the film canisters.Â The ULA, on the other hand is further behind the development of reusable rockets, the company, since 2006, has successfully launched 96mission with a sum of only two in partial failures. While on the other hand SpaceX falcon 9 has launched 19 times with only one partial failure and as of Sunday, in full failure since 2006. ULA now has an edge in the industry where reliability trumps everything else.
The competition of reliability and innovation in the space industry is continuing. As this incident was a setback for NASA as well as SpaceX. Both the parties have shown strong determination in exploring the root causes of the failure as well as to return back to the flight as soon as possible.