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Fuel leak likely cause of Falcon 1 failure
Posted: Sun, Mar 26, 2006, 9:21 AM ET (1421 GMT)
Liftoff of Falcon 1 on first flight (SpaceX) A fuel leak in the vicinity of the first stage engine appears to be the likely cause of the failure of SpaceX's Falcon 1 booster on its inaugural flight Friday, according to company reports. In a statement posted on the SpaceX web site Saturday, company CEO Elon Musk said a fuel leak "of currently unknown origin" caused a fire that cut into the first stage helium pneumatic system 25 seconds after launch. That caused pressure in the pneumatic system to drop below a critical level, resulting in the engine's shutdown four seconds later. The fire itself appears to have started around liftoff, according to launch imagery released by SpaceX. No other problems were reported with the rocket prior to shutdown, and the vehicle was on its nominal trajectory up until engine shutdown. The booster crashed on a "dead reef" less than 100 meters from the launch pad on Omelek Island, according to a post on a blog run by Elon Musk's brother. Most of the rocket is recoverable for analysis, and the rocket's payload, the Falconsat 2 satellite, was thrown clear of the rocket on impact, landing "mostly intact" on the floor of a machine shop on the island. Elon Musk said that the timing of the next launch will depend on when a government-led anomaly investigation is completed, but said he hopes that another attempt can be made within the next six months.
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