Explosion and smoking debris over the SpaceX test facility in McGregor, Texas. (Image credit: Amanda Spence,)

Private Launcher SpaceX Rocket Explodes Mid-Air, Social Networks Abuzz with Photos, Videos

Explosion and smoking debris over the SpaceX test facility in McGregor, Texas. (Image credit: Amanda Spence,)

Explosion and smoking debris over the SpaceX test facility in McGregor, Texas. (Image credit: Amanda Spence,)

Private space vehicle launcher SpaceX’s test rocket exploded in mid-flight due to technical snags on Friday at the SpaceX Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas.

Due to some anomaly during the test flight, the rocket chose to self-detonate and exploded and no injuries are reported, giving shocking lessons to space engineers, who are secretive over the exact reasons in view of the strict US Federal laws.

The SpaceX rocket was undergoing tests at McGregor to replace the Grasshopper, a three-engine version of the Falcon 9 Reusable space vehicle. The new prototype, with more auto-terminated features proved futile necessitating total rework and overhaul of the development of the three engine F9R Dev1 vehicle.

SpaceX, in a statement, said “During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.”

However, the company said throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. It has reiterated that detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the main purpose of the program.

“Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test.” The company promised to provide an update when the flight data has been fully analyzed. “From videos of the ill-fated flight, it looks like the rocket starts to get a bit squirrely, tilting over just before the the detonation is initiated,” it said.

Hinting at possible overcry on possible rumors, SpaceX said, “in the meantime we can all speculate wildly. It could be anything from engine malfunctioning to control system divergence, or something far more obscure. As today’s tests are described as “complex” and “pushing the limits,” it could have been extreme diversion or recovery maneuvering that triggered a glitch.”

The residents of McGregor, who witness similar test almost daily, have flooded the social network sites with photographs and videos posted on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and the NASA Spaceflight Forum. Some residents said their houses were shaken when the explosion took place in mid-air.


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying AsiaSat 6 satellite, is scheduled to launch on Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, but the incident may delay or cancel the launch.

In fact, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden had earlier expressed his apprehensions over SpaceX pushing its capabilities farther, in his speech to the NASA Social during the Orbital Carbon Observatory launch: “Part of spaceflight is pushing the limits, testing things in the realm we don’t yet know and understand. If everything goes well every time, that’s because we’re not hitting the limits yet, and need to venture further into the unknown. We’re understandably risk-adverse in our space program, but we can’t be in our testing program if we don’t want to stagnate.”


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