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

What is SpaceX and Where Did it go Wrong?

SpaceX, founded in 2002, designs, manufactures and launches space rockets and spacecraft, in the private sector to enable people transport to other planets in the future. The latest test flight of falco9r, (Falcon 9 Reusable Dev-1) had 3 engines and exploded.

SpaceX’s space vehicle Falcon 9 made history in 2012 when it delivered Dragon into the correct orbit for rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS), making SpaceX the first commercial company ever to dock with the space station. Since then, it has made three flights to the space station, delivering and returning cargo for NASA. Falcon 9, along with the Dragon spacecraft, was designed to ship humans into space.

Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket to transport satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. As the first rocket completely developed in the 21st century, Falcon 9 has simple two-stage configuration, which minimizes the number of separation events — and with nine first-stage engines, it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown.

Thier Falcon Heavy, still in R&D stage, with the world’s most powerful rocket is designed to be a huge launch vehicle with no parallels in similar class of vehicles. It will have the ability to lift into orbit over 53 metric tons (117,000 lb)– a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew and luggage.

The Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost and an immense improvement from its predecessors. Falcon Heavy’s first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate nearly 4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was meant for flying future missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.

Coming back to the falco9r that went bust on Frida, SpaceX sid it was due to a technical snag that would be analyzed soon. In a statement, SpaceX said “During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission,” but it remained within the designated flight area. “Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test.”

On rumors and outcry at the mission’s failure, the company said, “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.”

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