Once again, SpaceX has audaciously attempted to land a rocket in the middle of the ocean, and once again, something went horribly wrong. Unlike the first two tries earlier this year, this one didn’t make it to the ground, not even close.
Rather, the rocket exploded quite spectacularly in mid-air, 2 minutes and 19 seconds after liftoff. Following 18 successful missions, this is the first Falcon 9 to have failed on its ascent.
Unfortunately, this means the rocket’s Dragon capsule, which was supposed to ferry roughly 4,000 pounds of supplies, 30 student projects and two HoloLens devices to the ISS, seems to have perished as well.
Elon Musk and SpaceX delivered the sad news on Twitter:
“It’s not clear exactly what happened yet, and even exactly at what point the vehicle failed,” Falcon 9 launch control said during livestream of the event moments ago. According to NASA, anomaly teams are putting together data right now using whatever their downrange instruments were able to see, and preparing for a press conference at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Meanwhile, astronaut Scott Kelly captured this view from the ISS:
Just remember, guys: Rockets are hard. We’ll update as soon as we learn more.
Update: At a joint press conference this afternoon, officials from NASA and SpaceX stated that the investigation into the failure is ongoing and the root cause remains uncertain. It’s believed that the failure wasn’t a first stage issue, but rather that it probably had to do with an overpressure event in the second stage oxygen tank, as Elon Musk tweeted earlier:
While the loss of the Dragon capsule’s payload—which included filtration beds for water processing and other important space station hardware, in addition to student research projects— is deeply disappointing, NASA reiterates that the astronauts on board the ISS still have plenty of food and water to tide them over until the next resupply run. Furthermore, the space agency says that the manned Soyuz rocket launch scheduled for June 22nd probably won’t be impacted by today’s events. Of course, NASA and SpaceX still have to figure out the root cause of today’s failure and ensure that it doesn’t bleed over into that crewed flight.
“This is a big loss,” said Mike Suffredini, NASA’s international program manager. “I don’t want to underplay that. But as a program, we’ve managed this in a way to keep ourselves healthy, and we’ll pick ourselves up and get on to the next flight.”