Elon Musk’s SpaceX has recovered from its major launch fail in September 2016. The incident destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and a commercial communications satellite.
Following extensive investigations into the cause of the explosion, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. stated that January 8 would be the ideal date to resume rocket launches.
However, final test results are still pending. For Iridium Communications Inc to get a green signal on launching 10 of their next generation rockets, they would need an approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
What Caused The Explosion?
The investigation into the accident has been ongoing for four months now. The relaunch date was postponed from December last year to January 2017.
During the period, SpaceX has denied all allegations of the incident being a result of structural malfunction. Instead, they have claimed that it was caused by a problem in the fueling process.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a helium bottle inside the rocket over-pressurized and burst, causing it to explode. However, the correct source that caused the helium bottle to explode has not been identified yet.
Precautionary Measures Being Taken By SpaceX
Many precautionary measures are being taken by the company to ensure that such accident is never repeated again. One of the many measures is filling the helium into the rocket at a much slower pace than before.
The extra precaution is also the reason that SpaceX has delayed the reopening of the launch pad.
“Clearly, they’re being extra cautious,” said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst for the Teal Group, told the Los Angeles Times. “SpaceX usually pushes ahead a lot faster, so it seems like they’re not rushing ahead at this point, which is a good thing.”
However, it would continue with the new-age fuel filling process deemed dangerous by the U.S. and other countries. This process involves supercooled helium and oxygen to be filled into the rocket with the astronauts already inside, strapped above.
The California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base will be subjected to a final round of testing later this week. If the results are not in its favor, the relaunch date might be delayed even further.