The mysterious explosion of a SpaceX rocket last month took an odd turn with a “cordial” encounter between staff of Elon Musk’s firm and fierce rival United Launch Alliance over a mysterious glow on a ULA building nearby during the blast, The Washington Post reported.
The rocket carried Israel’s Amos-6 satellite, which was destroyed in the explosion.
No one was hurt in the September 1 blast, which came as the unmanned Falcon 9 rocket was being fueled ahead of a standard, pre-launch test in Cape Canaveral, Florida, two days ahead of its scheduled launch.
Musk is rushing to revolutionize the launch industry by making rocket components reusable.
And the accident — the second of its kind since SpaceX was founded in 2002 — came just over a year after a Falcon 9 rocket failed after liftoff on June 28, 2015, destroying a Dragon cargo capsule bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
Before that, SpaceX had logged 18 successful launches of the Falcon 9 — including six of 12 planned supply missions to the ISS carried out as part of a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.
During their investigation SpaceX officials found something suspicious they wanted to check out, the Post said, quoting three industry officials with knowledge of the episode.
SpaceX had still images from video that seemed to show a shadow, then a white spot on the roof of a nearby building belonging to ULA, the Post said.
ULA is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
So a SpaceX employee visited ULA facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida and asked for access to the roof at one ULA building that had a close line of sight to the SpaceX launch.
The visit was cordial, not accusatory. The ULA people denied access, but notified the Air Force, which inspected the roof and found nothing connected to the blast, the Post said.
Editor’s note …
An implosion of bubbles (“crumbling”, micro-combustion), eventually leading to the explosion, might have projected that flash of light (Sonoluminescence).
This may point to an acoustic instability during the fuel test, leading to the explosion, e.g. bubbling flow of fuel, perhaps inside vibrating pipes.
Some Aero-Hydro-Elasticity might have resulted with power resonance, thus energetic build-up, accompanied by quantum effects emitting that flash of light and eventually exploding that rocket. Increased occurrence (causes and build-up) and susceptibility
to vibrations might be a peril of reusing of the fuel-system, and even of weakening of the fuselage structure. It is like the rattling dashboard of a used car.