After 2016 rocket explosion, elon musk’s spacex looked seriously at sabotage – the washington post electricity bill bihar electricity board


A week after the explosion in September 2016, with still no idea what caused the rocket to suddenly explode while being fueled ahead of an engine test, Musk vented on Twitter that the loss of the rocket was “turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years.”

On the Internet, where conspiracy theories were already percolating, some speculated that the “something else” was a projectile, maybe even a bullet or UFO. On Twitter, Musk was asked about the possibility of something hitting the rocket, and he fueled speculation even further by saying, “We have not ruled that out.”

“We literally thought someone had shot the rocket,” Musk said in an interview last summer at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. “We found things that looked like bullet holes, and we calculated that someone with a high-powered rifle, if they had shot the rocket in the right location, the exact same thing would have happened.”

If someone did shoot the rocket, SpaceX knew it needed to collect whatever evidence it could as fast as possible. “So for sure, we put pressure on the Air Force and the [Federal Aviation Administration] to go collect whatever forensic data was possible,” Shotwell said. “The first thing you do is think it’s some outside force, right. Because we couldn’t figure out how in the world this could have happened.”

Early indications were that something caused an upper-stage helium bottle to explode, and at the SpaceX test site in McGregor, Tex., engineers were trying to replicate the explosion. But “we were having a hard time blowing these bottles up,” she said.

So, instead, they got a rifle, “and we shot it,” Shotwell said. “And the signature on the bottle was just like the signature on the bottle that we recovered. That was an easy test to do. It’s Texas, right, everybody’s got a gun and you can blow stuff up.”

About two weeks after the explosion, a SpaceX employee suddenly appeared at a Cape Canaveral facility of one of the company’s chief rivals. For years, SpaceX had been battling the United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, over lucrative contracts, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to launch military satellites. At first, SpaceX was dismissed as an “ankle biter” and wasn’t taken seriously.

The reason, the employee explained, was that SpaceX had still images from a video that appeared to show a shadow, then a bright white spot, coming from the roof. ULA’s building was about a mile away from the launchpad and had a clear line of sight to it.

It took months for SpaceX to complete its investigation into the cause of the explosion. Ultimately, it concluded there was a problem with a pressure vessel in the second-stage liquid oxygen tank. The FAA ruled out sabotage — by rifle shot or any other means — as a cause, and granted SpaceX a launch license so that it could return to flight.

SpaceX returned to flight in early 2017. And then in February of that year, it had a triumphant launch in its first flight from the Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A, the site that sent the crew of Apollo 11 — Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins — to the moon.