SpaceX成立14年以来最复杂的事故终于有调查结果了

马斯克旗下太空探索公司SpaceX预计将在下月初向美国联邦政府提交一份初步调查报告,该报告指出燃料加注程序最有可能是导致9月份火箭爆炸的原因。调查人员认为,超低温燃料(supercooled fuel)与包裹在氦容器外部的碳复合材料之间的复杂相互作用导致其中一个加压瓶(pressurized bottle)破裂。 据了解细节的知情人士透露,调查人员还仔细检查了设计和质量控制问题,但似乎已经达成共识认为,有问题的操作因素是引发爆炸的主要原因。

SpaceX在多个政府部门的协助下展开了调查。不过,该公司的日程非常紧张,需要在约3周时间里完成最终报告,说服政府官员认可其调查结论,并批准运营方式的调整,防止再次发生同类事故。

SpaceX发言人在一份声明中称,正在敲定调查的最终结果及随附的报告,并表示,该公司争取12月重启发射火箭活动。

今年9月,SpaceX一枚“猎鹰9号”火箭在佛罗里达州卡纳维拉尔角空军基地发射台上爆炸,并意外摧毁了附近的Facebook通信卫星(造价约2亿美元)。

SpaceX随即展开调查。马斯克当时表示,此次爆炸是“过去14年中我们遭遇的最难以理解、也最为复杂的一次事故”。SpaceX成立于2002年。

http://www.wsj.com/articles/initial-report-about-spacex-september-rocket-explosion-imminent-1480329003

Initial Report About SpaceX September Rocket Explosion Imminent

Company said it hopes to be able to return to flight in December

Related Video: Investigators believe that the SpaceX Falcon 9 blast in September was likely caused by issues linked to fueling procedures rather than manufacturing flaws. However, they say it is too early for definitive answers. Photo: USLaunchReport.com

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is expected to give federal authorities by early next month a preliminary investigative report pinpointing fueling procedures as the most likely cause of a September unmanned rocket explosion.

The report, according to people familiar with the matter, is part of the closely held company’s effort to resume launching before the end of 2016, following a fireball that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and a commercial satellite during routine ground tests nearly three months ago.

SpaceX, as the Southern California company is called, heads the probe with assistance from various government agencies. But the anticipated tight timeline only gives SpaceX roughly three weeks to finish the final report, persuade government officials to sign off on its major findings and then obtain approval for operational changes intended to prevent a repeat of the catastrophic accident.

Investigators believe a complex interaction between supercooled fuel and carbon composite material wrapped around the outside of helium containers resulted in a breach in one of those pressurized bottles. Engineers have sought to re-create the exact combination of variables—including pressure, temperature and fill rate—suspected of causing the rupture.

The investigation also has scrutinized both design and quality-control issues, according to people familiar with the details, but there appears to be a consensus that problematic operational factors were the primary culprits.

In a statement over the weekend, a SpaceX spokesman said “we’re finalizing the investigation and its accompanying report, and aim to return to flight in December.”

The anticipated timetable is similar to the one SpaceX followed in 2015, after another unmanned Falcon 9 exploded two minutes after blastoff for different reasons. That preliminary report was handed over to federal officials in November of 2015, and launches resumed in late December of that year.

But this time, investigators took weeks longer to focus on the probable cause. Mr. Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who founded and runs the company while serving as chief technical officer, previously said the latest investigation was struggling to dissect “the most difficult and complex failure” in the company’s 14-year history.

In recent public statements and internal communications, however, SpaceX management seems confident that federal agencies are in sync with the preliminary findings—and are poised to go along with the company’s projected timetable.

Some industry officials, however, privately remain skeptical that the process will go quite as swiftly as Mr. Musk’s team envisions.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX.ENLARGE
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Before SpaceX can launch again, the Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for issuing launch licenses, has to accept the final report detailing the specific sequence of events that resulted in the Sept. 1 explosion.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which has long-term contracts with SpaceX to deliver cargo, and eventually astronauts, to the international space station, also needs to concur with the formal findings for flights to resume. Neither agency has commented on the precise status of the probe.

NASA officials previously said they were working with SpaceX and other partners “to identify a launch date that fits NASA’s traffic and cargo needs.” The agency also said it could easily wait until early 2017 for the next resupply trip to the orbiting laboratory.

The September 2016 event further disrupted the company’s already-delayed launch schedule for government and corporate customers, increasing pressure to start scheduling missions as rapidly as feasible.

The next launch, expected to be from Northern California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, is slated to carry satellites for Iridium Communications Inc. Much of the McLean, Va., company’s aging satellite fleet is operating without in-orbit backup satellites.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is close to completing work to be able to start launching from a leased complex at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. That pad is expected to handle the next SpaceX launch. A third pad, at an adjacent Air Force launch complex, is undergoing repairs stemming from September’s explosion.

SpaceX first projected launching again in November. But for at least the past few weeks, SpaceX officials have targeted December.

Despite what SpaceX describes as its roughly $10 billion backlog of international launch contracts, a number of commercial-satellite operators already have switched certain payloads to alternate boosters in response to years of cascading delays.

The makeup of the investigative team itself, led by Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president for flight reliability, has prompted controversy. In June, NASA’s inspector general criticized NASA’s handling of the first investigation --also headed by Mr. Koenigsmann—for opening the door to “questions about inherent conflicts of interest” because SpaceX ran that probe.

NASA’s leadership responded the agency was contractually obligated to let SpaceX take the lead, but agency officials pledged to improve communication and coordination with other federal agencies with jurisdiction over launch accidents.


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