A support strut on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which was designed to handle 10,000-pounds of force, failed at 2,000 pounds, increasing pressure on the upper stage liquid oxygen tank, causing the June 28 explosion, according to the company’s initial assessment, released July 20. The investigation, which is being led by SpaceX with oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, and the Air Force, is still ongoing. However, engineering teams already have spent “thousands of hours going through the painstaking process of matching up data across rocket systems down to the millisecond to understand that final 0.893 seconds prior to loss of telemetry,” states a company release. “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,” announced the company. “In addition, SpaceX will implement additional hardware quality audits throughout the vehicle to further ensure all parts received perform as expected.” The company expects to return to flight this fall. “While the CRS-7 loss is regrettable, this review process invariably will … yield a safer and more reliable launch vehicle for all of our customers,” including USAF, states the release.
As the U.S. continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution with Russia over its troop buildup on the Ukraine border, the Defense Department is looking into what capabilities it will need to reassure NATO allies if Russia does launch an invasion, its top spokesperson said Jan. 21.