Helium tank failure caused explosion that destroyed $300 million Israeli satellite


(JTA) — The failure of one of three helium tanks caused the September launchpad explosion in Florida that destroyed a $300 million Israeli communications satellite, Elon Musk’s SpaceX company said.

A statement posted Monday on the SpaceX website said the explosion at Cape Canaveral was caused by the failure in the composite overwrapped pressure vessels, or COPVs, inside the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s second stage. The loose liquid oxygen triggered a fuel explosion.

The investigation was overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Air Force, NASA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket was in the midst of a routine fueling test for its scheduled launch on Sept. 1 when it exploded. The explosion was felt throughout Cape Canaveral and for several miles around.

The rocket was scheduled to hoist into orbit the Amos 6 satellite built by Israel Aerospace Industries and owned by Spacecom Ltd. in partnership with Eutelsat Communications of France. The satellite was expected to operate for 16 years in part on behalf of Facebook, and bring internet connectivity to sub-Saharan Africa and television service to providers in Europe and the Middle East. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the project in June 2015.

SpaceX Falcon rockets have been grounded since the explosion. SpaceX said in a statement that it expects to return to flight on Jan. 8.

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