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NASA SpaceX CRS-7 unmanned mission to ISS ends in failure

29 June 2015

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon cargo capsule aboard experienced a major malfunction shortly before first stage shut down, minutes into its flight on Sunday.

Reproduced courtesy of NASA

The rocket and its payload, which was being delivered to the International Space Station (ISS), were destroyed in an ensuing explosion, the cause of which is now the subject of intensive investigation.

In a statement SpaceX said: "Following a nominal liftoff, Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown, resulting in loss of mission. Preliminary analysis suggests the vehicle experienced an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank approximately 139 seconds into flight. Telemetry indicates first stage flight was nominal and that Dragon remained healthy for some period of time following separation."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden expressed disappointment at the loss of the latest SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. He emphasised that the astronauts are safe aboard the station and have sufficient supplies for the next several months.

"We will work closely with SpaceX to understand what happened, fix the problem and return to flight," he said. "The commercial cargo programme was designed to accommodate loss of cargo vehicles. We will continue operation of the station in a safe and effective way as we continue to use it as our test bed for preparing for longer duration missions farther into the solar system.  

“A Progress vehicle is ready to launch July 3, followed in August by a Japanese HTV flight. Orbital ATK, our other commercial cargo partner, is moving ahead with plans for its next launch later this year. 

“SpaceX has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first six cargo resupply missions to the station, and we know they can replicate that success. We will work with and support SpaceX to assess what happened, understand the specifics of the failure and correct it to move forward.

"This is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but we learn from each success and each setback. Today's launch attempt will not deter us from our ambitious human spaceflight programme.” 

ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said: "We at the European Space Agency deeply regret this failure that shows that sending launchers into space is a very hard job. However a failure does not undermine all the previous successes. We wish our colleagues on the other side of the ocean all our best in fixing the problem and getting back into flight again soon".

SpaceX and NASA discuss the mission failure in this NASA YouTube video.

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