Space Exploration Technologies Corp. blamed the recent failure of an unmanned rocket bound for the International Space Station on a faulty strut and pledged to better scrutinize its supply chain.
Those were among the details released Monday after Elon Musk, the billionaire head of the Hawthorne, California-based company known as SpaceX, discussed the mishap during an afternoon conference call with reporters.
A company statement detailed what went wrong some 139 seconds after liftoff:
“Preliminary analysis suggests the overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank was initiated by a flawed piece of support hardware (a “strut”) inside the second stage. Several hundred struts fly on every Falcon 9 vehicle, with a cumulative flight history of several thousand. The strut that we believe failed was designed and material certified to handle 10,000 lbs of force, but failed at 2,000 lbs, a five-fold difference. Detailed close-out photos of stage construction show no visible flaws or damage of any kind.”
During the conference call, Musk reportedly didn’t identify the firm that makes the part in question. But in its statement, SpaceX indicated it will no longer use that specific product. The company also pledged to more closely scrutinize its supply chain:
“Despite the fact that these struts have been used on all previous Falcon 9 flights and are certified to withstand well beyond the expected loads during flight, SpaceX will no longer use these particular struts for flight applications. In addition, SpaceX will implement additional hardware quality audits throughout the vehicle to further ensure all parts received perform as expected per their certification documentation.”
The explosion of the company’s Falcon 9 on June 28 over Cape Canaveral, Florida — more than two minutes into flight — came just a month after it was certified by the U.S. Air Force to carry military satellites.
SpaceX said it plans to resume flying the rocket sometime this fall and remains on pace to launch astronauts aboard the vehicle sometime in 2017 under a NASA contract.