SpaceX CRS-7 disintegrates during ascent.

The Falcon 9 rocket that launched the CRS-7 resupply mission to the International Space Station suffered an anomaly 2 minutes and 19 seconds into the flight. 

Air Force range safety officers destroyed the vehicle 2 minutes and 27 minutes into the flight. Currently, there is no known cause for the anomaly, though SpaceX, NASA, and Air Force officials are forming an investigation team.

UPDATE: Range Safety officers sent the destruct command to the vehicle 70 seconds after disintegration began. The Falcon 9′s own flight computer onboard activated the self-destruct command.

So, what now (bear with me)?

Since the failure of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 on June 28th, we’re all wondering what the next step is for this groundbreaking space travel company.

First off, it’s no secret that this is pretty disastrous. There’s a *LOT* of complicated politics at play with SpaceX, their competition, Congress and the President. The long story short is that a future of space exploration where the cost to get to space is accessible for people in the middle class depends almost entirely on SpaceX’s success (I’m talking in the near term –> our lifetimes).

So what’s going on behind the scenes right now?

SpaceX engineers and scientists are sifting through computer code, known as telemetry.

Telemetry is essentially just the wireless data sent by spacecraft that allow us to monitor things like location and status of the technical systems.

This data is coming back in the language of computers: binary.

The data the SpaceX engineers are sifting through must look like this:

01010011 01110000 01100001 01100011 01100101 01011000 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100011 01101011 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 01110011 00100000 01100011 01100001 01101110 00100000 01100111 01101111 00100000 01100110 01110101 01100011 01101011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 01101101 01110011 01100101 01101100 01110110 01100101 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 01111001 00100000 01110111 01101001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01100011 01101000 01100001 01101110 01100111 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110111 01101111 01110010 01101100 01100100 

Looks like a mess huh? It is. It’s the only language these systems speak though. The SpaceX engineers are decoding these last signals from the spacecraft using a program called a hex editor.

Basically, that huge mess you see above is being turned into something more readable to humans. Often binary gets separated every couple of digits so that it would turn this:

01010011 01110000 01100001 01100011 01100101 01011000

into this:


This is far more easy to read that having to sift through hundreds of millions of 0′s and 1′s. Embedded in each 0 and 1 though is crucial information, each representing a component within the spacecraft’s system.

There’s good news…

The silver lining in this event is that it’s been discovered that the explosion happened around 139 seconds into the flight.

They were still receiving telemetry from the Dragon capsule after the explosion.

The Dragon spacecraft survived the explosion.

Look at the gif above. You might notice the shadow of something flying away from the explosion after as the clock says 2:22 (the clock’s in the upper-right). This shadow is likely from the Dragon spacecraft.

If there had been astronauts aboard, they would’ve been safe. That’s right. The silver lining is that SpaceX’s engineering is so profoundly efficient that even amidst a launch explosion and a failure to eject from the rocket, the spacecraft (and therefore the astronauts) would be safe.

(Image credit: SpaceX)


Crew Dragon pad abort test - from the capsule’s perspective.

SpaceX has released incredible onboard footage from the crew Dragon pad abort test earlier this month.

Three cameras were used to compile the video; one mounted on the north-facing side of the capsule, just above a SuperDraco engine, one looking upwards just below the parachute compartment, and one looking sideways to the right of the trunk/capsule umbilical connector.

Of particular interest to see is the structure of the forward portion of the trunk compartment and the structural connections to the capsule.

Additionally, the cameras also recorded sound during the 90 second test. The full video can be seen here.

Click here for our pad abort coverage.


Now, few of my own illustrations to show the future of the ISS!  With the success of the Commercial Cargo program, bringing SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft to the station, the Commercial Crew program is set to bring the US back to manned spaceflight to the ISS.  To this end, in 2015, the station was reconfigured to allow for 2 berthed cargo vehicles, while converting the 2 Space Shuttle PMAs (Pressurized Mating Adapter) to NASA Docking Standard ports with support for autonomous docking.

With SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft servicing the station, station crew capacity will be extended to 7.  The International Space Station has proven to be an excellent place to validate and test new spacecraft, serving as the testbed for ATV, HTV, Dragon and Cygnus while looking to do the same for CST-100 and Crew Dragon in 2017.

Meanwhile, the orbiting outpost will play a role in validating new spaceflight technology.  In 2015, the Bigelow Aerospace BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) will be flown to the station.  This technology, based on the cancelled NASA Transhab, will be validated by astronauts on-orbit.  Using expandable modules, future space stations can be built for a fraction of the cost of ISS while gaining large amounts of living space.  Other experiments on orbit include micro satellite servicing and deployment and the testing of small reentry vehicles from a proposed small airlock.

As the station’s future has now been all but completely extended to 2024 (awaiting Japanese and European approval), and the possibility of use until 2028, the question arises of what will succeed it after the station’s lifetime is complete and it is de-orbited.  Current NASA dialog suggests a similar arrangement to the commercial programs whereby NASA would purchase space on a commercial space station as an “anchor client” while purchasing commercial rides to reach them.  

SpaceX Rocket Explodes Minutes After Launch

SpaceX’s latest mission to resupply the International Space Station ended in disaster earlier today, as the unmanned Falcon 9 rocket broke up just two minutes after launch.

The cause of the failure has yet to be established. The intitial take-off seemed to progress correctly and no obvious issues were detected by onlookers - until it started to break into pieces, of course.

This is SpaceX’s 19th launch, and its first failure.

Video of the explosion: 


Watch Just How Close SpaceX Came To A Landing A Rocket

Incredible video shows how close SpaceX came to achieving a historic rocket landing on Tuesday.

SpaceX came one step closer toward landing and recovering a rocket on Tuesday following the delivery of its Dragon spacecraft into orbit carrying cargo to the International Space Station. The company’s Falcon 9 first stage rocket successfully came in for landing, but didn’t remain standing.

“Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk reported via Twitter following shortly after the delivery of the company’s Dragon capsule into orbit. “Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing,” Musk added in a follow up.

SpaceX released footage captured from the company’s chase plane showing the rocket’s landing.

Watch it here: