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Processing error doomed Falcon 1 launch
Posted: Fri, Apr 7, 2006, 8:38 AM ET (1238 GMT)
Falcon 1 test firing March 2006 (SpaceX) A procedural error during launch preparations, not a design flaw, is the likely cause of the loss of a Falcon 1 rocket on its maiden flight last month, the CEO of SpaceX said Wednesday. Elon Musk, speaking at the National Space Symposium in Colorado, said that a "pad processing error" the day before the launch caused the accident. While Musk did not provide further details, SPACE.com reported that a technician loosened a fuel pipe to work on the rocket's avionics, but failed to tighten it after competing the work. The rocket was lost March 24 when a fuel leak caught fire after liftoff, damaging the engine's helium pressurization system and causing the engine to shut down. An investigation, being performed with the government, is ongoing; the next Falcon 1 launch will not take place until later this year, once the investigation is complete. Musk did announce at the conference that SpaceX has signed a contract with Canadian company MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates to launch its CASSIOPE satellite on a Falcon 9 in 2008. The launch contract was completed after the Falcon 1 failure, Musk noted.
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