An unmanned SpaceX rocket has exploded just minutes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral in Florida, marking a major setback for the fast-charging company headed by internet tycoon Elon Musk.
The accident was the third in less than a year involving US and Russian supply ships bound for the International Space Station, and raised new concerns about the flow of food and equipment to the astronauts living in orbit.
Skies were sunny and clear for the 10:21am (local time) launch of the Falcon 9 rocket that was meant to propel the Dragon cargo ship on a routine supply mission, the seventh for SpaceX so far.
However, after 2 minutes and 19 seconds into the flight, contact was lost.
Live in television, images from SpaceX’s webcast and NASA television showed a huge puff of smoke billowing outward for several seconds, and then tiny bits of the rocket falling like confetti against a backdrop of blue sky.
The vehicle has broken up,” according to NASA commentator George Diller.
SpaceX’s live webcast of the launch went silent as the rocket exploded. Moments later, a SpaceX commentator said, “there was some kind of anomaly” and noted that the rocket had ignited its nine Merlin engines and reached supersonic speed.
Musk , then announced on Twitter that the Falcon 9 “Experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown,” referring to the phase of flight before the cargo ship would have been able to separate from the first stage of the rocket and reach orbit.
Musk added that the problem appeared to be linked to an excessive pressure in the liquid oxygen tank, a lifelong space enthusiast who also heads Tesla Motors.
An investigation into the cause is still ongoing. The probe into the explosion will ground the Falcon 9 rockets for “a number of months or so, but less than a yeear, ” according to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.
This is by far SpaceX’s 19th launch and its 1st failure!