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SpaceX gets ready to launch

January 3, 2017

By Chris Forrester

Elon Musk-owned rocket business SpaceX has identified the cause of a catastrophic $285 million (€273m) September 1st explosion and is getting ready to restart launches.

A statement, posted on the SpaceX website, said the explosion was caused by the failure of one of three helium tanks, known as composite overwrapped pressure vessels or COPVs, inside the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s second stage. The loose liquid oxygen triggered a massive fuel explosion which destroyed an Israel-owned satellite, AMOS-6.

The investigation into the explosion was overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US Air Force, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board.  The investigation board had to determine the cause, and this delayed the FAA permitting new launches to take place.

SpaceX is now ready to re-start work. Its first cargo is a suite of 10 small satellites for speciality telco Iridium. They are expected to launch next Sunday, January 8. However, Musk and his engineering teams have now made modifications to the rocket, and the way helium is transferred onto the rocket.  This particular launch will happen from SpaceX’s Vandenberg Air Force Base facility. The normal Cape Canaveral launch site, where the explosion happened, was badly damaged on September 1 and is not yet ready for use.

The near four months of delay has been expensive for SpaceX, and equally costly for its clients. Those clients include Echostar (E-23), SES of Luxembourg (SES-10), Koreasat 5A, Qatar’s Es’Hail 2, Hispasat’s Amazonas 5, all of which are scheduled for launching during the first quarter of 2017.

“SpaceX greatly appreciates the support of our customers and partners throughout this process, and we look forward to fulfilling our manifest in 2017 and beyond,” the company said.

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