SpaceX set to resume rocket launches this month

"SpaceX is targeting return to flight from Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) with the Iridium NEXT launch on January 8", the company said in an update on the investigation into the September 1 "anomaly". Just 93 milliseconds elapsed from the first signs of trouble to the explosion.

The report stated that in each stage of the Falcon 9 probe, there is the storage of cold helium that serves to maintain the pressure in every one of the rocket's pressure vessels.

SpaceX is generally tight-lipped when it comes to technical details, and the statement posted Monday provided only a general overview of the team's findings.

The team concluded that the cause of the explosion was the failure of one of the three helium bottles set inside the second stage liquid oxygen tank.

Liquid oxygen has a temperature of around minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit, but SpaceX chills the propellant to around minus 340 degrees for use aboard the Falcon 9.

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The conclusion of the experts relies on the accumulation of oxygen located in the pressure vessels that ultimately overwrapped itself in a void or a buckle in the liner and led to the ignition and failure of the pressure vessel.

The end of the investigation is also likely to clear the way for the first flight of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, a heavy-lift rocket that's due to make its debut this year.

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SpaceX says the team found several possible causes of the helium bottle failure and fueling procedures have been altered to avoid a recurrence.

Corrective actions focus on making changes to avoid accumulations that likely caused the September 1 mishap.

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SpaceX's proposal, which will need regulatory sign-off before its next launch, is to reconfigure the COPVs to use helium at a warmer temperature during loading, "as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration based on operations used in over 700 successful COPV loads".

With its accident investigation over, SpaceX's next planned launch is less than a week away.

Additionally, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to eliminate buckles altogether, and allow for faster loading operations.

Last year, a Falcon rocket also kicked off a new year of launches from Vandenberg. "Although buckles were not shown to burst a COPV on their own, investigators concluded that super chilled liquid oxygen can pool in these buckles under the overwrap". Since the accident did not involve the rocket fuels themselves, Ars understands that the new procedures will not substantially affect the performance gains of the full thrust Falcon 9 for upcoming launches.

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