In the minutes leading up to a routine test fire ahead of a rocket launch on September 1, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket suddenly burst into flames.
The explosion destroyed the rocket, as well as the Amos-6 satellite it was supposed to carry into space (part of a Facebook wireless internet project), and left behind a charred skeleton of a launch tower.
Now, more than a week after the incident, SpaceX appears to be having difficulty pinpointing the cause of the disaster. On Twitter this morning, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk called the explosion “the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years.” That includes the June 2015 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket just after liftoff, which destroyed a shipment to the International Space Station, and led SpaceX to ground its rockets for 6 months.
Both SpaceX and Musk himself tweeted calls for public assistance in unraveling the cause of last week’s “anomaly”.
SpaceX had a busy schedule of launches planned for this fall, including the maiden flight of its bigger, badder Falcon Heavy rocket.
At this point, it’s not clear when those launches will get off the ground, but a delay of 6 months or more seems reasonable. The investigation continues.