The Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company has been cooperating with the Federal Aviation Administration NASA and the National Transportation Safety Board to establish the cause of a Sept. 1 launch pad explosion at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida that wiped out a Falcon 9 rocket and its payload for another SpaceX customer.
SpaceX said Jan. 2 that the probe has consistently pointed to some sort of anomaly involving the rocket’s fueling procedures.
“To validate investigation analysis and findings, SpaceX conducted a wide range of tests … and concluded that one of the three composite over-wrapped pressure vessels inside the second stage liquid oxygen tank failed,” the company said. “Specifically, the investigation team concluded the failure was likely due to the accumulation of oxygen between the COPV liner and over-wrap in a void or a buckle in the liner, leading to ignition and the subsequent failure of the COPV.”
The investigation team identified “several credible causes for the COPV failure, all of which involve accumulation of super-chilled LOX or SOX.”
The company said it will change the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded and eventually plans related design changes as well.
SpaceX is targeting a return-to-flight launch from Vandenburg Air Fore Station in California. It aims to lift into orbit 10 satellites that will become part of the next-gen mobile communications constellation that Iridium is building.