SpaceX supply mission fails minutes after launch

Posted by Korey Haynes
on Monday, June 29, 2015

SpaceX attempted their seventh resupply mission to the International Space Station, only to have the unmanned ship break up shortly after launch. // NASA
On Sunday morning, SpaceX attempted what was to be the company's seventh resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), only to have the unmanned vehicle break up just over two minutes after launch. The first six missions were successes for the private space firm, and Sunday was to be their third — so far unsuccessful — attempt to land their Falcon 9 rocket on a drone barge after launching the Dragon supply ship into orbit. While the rocket hit its target accurately on both previous landing attempts, it had been unable to land gently or upright enough to avoid destruction. SpaceX is striving for reusable rockets in order to drastically cut costs on future space launch missions.

It’s perhaps tempting to think that even six previous victories in launching a capsule out of Earth’s atmosphere would be any kind of promise against future failure. Up to the minute of the launch, Dragon’s successful resupply run seemed a given, and most of the commentary from both professionals and spectators focused on whether Falcon 9 would nail the dismount. In fact, SpaceX released a post last Thursday explaining in detail their past landing troubles and the corrections they had made since, focusing on the secondary goal of bring Falcon 9 safely back down. There was even lighthearted discussion of the landing barges’ naming convention. The first was called “Just Read the Instructions,” while Sunday’s target bore the name “Of Course I Still Love You.” Both names are borrowed from ships in Iain M. Banks’ science-fiction series of novels and short stories.

Unfortunately, Sunday’s ISS resupply failure is the third such in eight months, starting with Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket malfunction last October and the Russian loss of their Progress capsule in April. The ISS still has supplies for several months, and further resupply missions are scheduled for July and August. Furthermore, several successful missions have made it to the ISS in between the recent failures, including several flights by SpaceX.

It is still not clear what caused Sunday’s malfunction, though Elon Musk, who owns SpaceX, tweeted shortly after the event that an overpressure event was to blame.

You can watch Sunday's launch below.

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