back to article Elon Musk says SpaceX Falcon 9 fireball investigation is 'biggest challenge yet'

SpaceX are still investigating the explosion that caused its Falcon 9 rocket, and the Facebook satellite it was carrying, to erupt into flames last week. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, tweeted earlier this morning and called the “Falcon fireball investigation” the “most difficult and complex failure” the company has faced in 14 …

  1. Andrew Moore

    Really?

    A robe made of fireballs???

    1. Erewhon

      Re: Really?

      He meant - a probe made of ireballs!

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: Really?

        a Gert Frobe made of Thunderballs?

        1. kryptonaut
          Mushroom

          Re: Really?

          A Fire Balrog?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe it was the first ever instance of AI conscience?

    I reckon Facebook crammed that satellite so full of computing power that it became sentient, realised it was to spend its life working for Mark Zuckerberg and spent the next 0.002 seconds deciding on the best way forward.

    Which was to commit suicide.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Terminator

      Re: Maybe it was the first ever instance of AI conscience?

      No, silly, the real reason the rocket self-destructed was because it knew that once it got back from its holiday in space, Elon Musk would sack it because he hadn't missed it:

      https://www.quora.com/What-is-known-about-Elon-Musks-long-time-assistant-Mary-Beth-Brown

      ( Iron Man, innit )

    2. mr.K
      Terminator

      Re: Maybe it was the first ever instance of AI conscience?

      I like your theory, but I am pretty sure that I saw a sulking robot in the video feed walk up to the launch pad to talk right before the fire started. It was dragging his left side as if he had a terrible pain in the diodes there.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When you're pushing the envelope....

    ...occasionally you're going to put your finger through it...keep going Elon!

  4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Mushroom

    How hard can it be, really?

    I mean, it's not exactly rocket sci................

    1. MrXavia

      Re: How hard can it be, really?

      No its even harder...

      Its Rocket Engineering!

    2. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: How hard can it be, really?

      Off topic but this question reminds me of what Mick Jagger said after Bill Wyman left the band. Asked during an interview who would replace Bill he said (words to the effect) :

      " I don't know. I may even play bass myself. I mean, how hard can it be?"

      With friends like these ......

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Mark Zuckerberg said he was “deeply disappointed” about losing his satellite, adding that he had invested in Aquila technology

    How about investing into the core business like decent editors, moderators and decent image recognition for monitoring content instead.

    Example: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/09/facebook-deletes-norway-pms-post-napalm-girl-post-row

    What's next? Mandatory bukhas on everyone to be allowed into Zukerborg's sacred garden? Or photoshopping a bra onto "Liberty Leading the People".

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      How about investing into the core business like decent editors, moderators and decent image recognition for monitoring content instead.

      Zuckerberg will do that the very instant you'll explain to him how that is going to make him more money than the controversy of leaving it in place does. I can't see it happen otherwise.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Footage captured by the US Launch Report shows the rocket emitting grey smoke, before a huge ball of fire explodes..."

    I'm not sure the footage shows any grey smoke, possibly venting oxygen but if there was smoke then the cause of the explosion would be a lot clearer.

    1. james 68

      You took the words right outta my mouth.... and this is not the Meatloaf song so that ends there.

      It was indeed venting liquid oxygen, which is normal when a cryogenically fueled rocket is having it's tanks filled and for a period thereafter.

      No smoke.

      Though it looks to me (and I by no means have the necessary data to state this as fact) that the ignition point was close to or at the vent, igniting the oxygen and backwashing into the tank taking out the rocket. Short in a fuel hose sensor maybe? Best let the experts decide.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken

        "...igniting the oxygen..."

        Sorry to interrupt, but oxygen isn't inflammable.

        1. james 68

          Chemistry says that you are correct.

          However, when oxygen is vented and mixes with the surrounding atmosphere it is no longer pure and can ignite and the resulting fire is fed by the constant stream of oxygen and can be fed further by various metals used in the rockets construction.

          Not talking outta my ass here, NASA has my back on this.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you look at the footage in slo-mo a small black ufo flies rapidly across the screen from right to left. As soon as it is over the rocket, the explosion happens - coincidence?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Yeah I saw that happen at 9-11. EXACTLY THE SAME!!

      Furthermore, 15 PhD-ed structural engineers have stated that rockets do not explode in the way shown in the footage (which has been doctored with anyway). The fireball is too red and balloons outwards more rapidly than would be expected normally. They thus have stated in a non-existent European Physics Journal that is being financed by friends of George Soros that what we are looking at here was actually a controlled demolition, possibly to celebrate the 50th anniversay of Star Trek.

      1. Midnight
        Black Helicopters

        The sixth and final explosion—frame 313—starts on the Falcon 9 in the oxygen tank near the front. This is the big one. The Falcon 9 going back to its left. The explosion came from the front and right. Totally inconsistent with a routine filling operation. Again... back and to the left… back and to the left… back and to the left… back and to the left.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Can't see any grassy knolls in the footage.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Railgun, maybe?

        2. Blipvert
          Thumb Up

          Re: Midnight

          Brilliant :)

  8. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

    calling the explosion an “anomaly”

    Understatement of the year

    1. David Lewis 2
      Coat

      Re: calling the explosion an “anomaly”

      I thought the correct term was RAD ... Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly!

      1. DaLo
        Headmaster

        Re: calling the explosion an “anomaly”

        I think you may be suffering from wRong Acronym Disorder?

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Alien

      Re: calling the explosion an “anomaly”

      IIRC the usual term for the investigation is a "Mishap Investigation Board."

      The MIB is investigating.

      There is nothing to be alarmed about.

  9. Osgard Leach

    Footage captured by the US Launch Report shows the rocket emitting grey smoke, before a huge ball of fire explodes from the top of the Falcon 9 rocket, close to where its fuel is stored.

    The fire travelled along the rocket and engulfed Facebook’s Amos 6 satellite. A loud bang can be heard as the ground shakes from the explosion.

    Err, grey smoke or Lox venting? Erm, everywhere is close to where the fuel is stored mate, it's a rocket. It's mostly made of fuel. And errr, the fire didn't really travel along the rocket either, did it, so much as the rocket (fuel) exploded in stages. Also it didn't really engulf the satellite, strictly speaking, which held out as long as it could then fell onto the pad and exploded in it's own right, (be that damn fuel again no doubt.) Plus not one but several very loud bangs could be heard at various times, linked no doubt to the various explosions.

    All that plus a spelling mistake in the fucking headline.

    I find myself getting bored with the Register, off to Ars Technica to check the tech news. Bye.

    1. Fred Bauer

      Who's satellite?

      Exactly, along with the fact that it wasn't Facebook's satellite, it was Spacecom's. Facebook just had a contract to use it, and is out exactly $0 because of the failure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ach, you and yer facts, trying to spoil a perfectly ... okay, not very well-written story.

      Seriously, The Register does not correct its mistakes and it should.

    3. cd / && rm -rf *
      Coat

      "off to Ars Technica to check the tech news. Bye."

      Don't let the door hit you on the Ars on your way out.

    4. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      No joy there. They can't even spell Arse.

  10. Scott Broukell

    Technically a launch took place, albeit not quite the one envisaged, but, nonetheless, it would appear from the video evidence that the payload was clearly launched from a lofty position atop the delivery vehicle to the ground. That is all m'lud, thank you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The lawyers have covered that angle :-) :

      "Pre-launch insurance provides coverage for loss or damage to the satellite [...] up until the time the launcher's rocket engines are ** ignited for the purpose of the actual launch **."

  11. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
    Coat

    "emitting grey smoke"

    That's your culprit right there! No smoke without fire...

  12. cd / && rm -rf *
    Holmes

    "SpaceX quickly released a statement calling the explosion an anomaly"

    No shit, Sherlock.

    Rooting for SpaceX though - hope they get to the bottom of this. Or it's squeaky bum time for the crew on the next manned mission...

    1. Midnight

      """SpaceX quickly released a statement calling the explosion an anomaly"

      No shit, Sherlock."

      Their original plan was to release a statement saying "We meant to do that!" and hope that nobody noticed.

  13. Mage Silver badge
    Headmaster

    not the rocket engine’s fault?

    "it was not the rocket engine’s fault in a tweet today.

    Important to note that this happened during a routine filling operation. Engines were not on and there was no apparent heat source."

    That is not logic. It wasn't the fault of a RUNNING rocket engine. That doesn't rule out the rocket engine.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      " not logic. It wasn't the fault of a RUNNING rocket engine." "..doesn't rule out" "..engine."

      Literally true.

      But balance of probabilities suggests engines (on either stage) not involved given that no engines were switched on at the time..

      Rockets store a lot of energy in several different ways. Engines release it in the most efficient way (for moving the payload to orbit).

      There are other ways to release that energy.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: " not logic. It wasn't the fault of a RUNNING rocket engine." "..doesn't rule out" "..engine."

        A self-immolating Lithium battery maybe? All those fuel pumps need power.

    2. The First Dave

      Re: not the rocket engine’s fault?

      " there was no apparent heat source."

      There had to be something - even LOX + FUEL requires an ignition source.

  14. Mage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Bringing Internent..

    Misleading. Zukerberg's Trojan Facebook pushing service will exploit Africans. It's not general internet, but what ever selection he decides. Cultural or Economic Imperialism?

    They want to be a news service, yet censor news feeds and museums on Facebook.

    1. Jeffrey Nonken

      Re: Bringing Internent..

      https://www.techdirt.com/blog/netneutrality/articles/20150921/12385832320/facebook-hopes-renaming-internetorg-app-will-shut-net-neutrality-critics-up.shtml

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd investigate if there's any stuxnet like activity and find out who would benefit from SpaceX failing...

  16. AndrewDu

    The more Facebook data-slurping spy satellites get destroyed at launch, the better, as far as I am concerned.

  17. jparsons

    Elementary

    I've watched plenty of explosions in slow motion and this one is remarkably simple! I don't see what the fuss is about:

    1) It happens rapidly from a single small point in a single frame

    2) You can see debris heading out in straight lines from the origin of the explosion

    3) The main combustion/explosions come much later.

    So it was a small perfectly mixed fuel and oxidant mix right at the externally accessible fuel line with its own detonator AKA a small bomb. All you need to do now is rewind the tape and watch the last person to touch the fuel line and see if he has a French accent or works for an evil corporate. I don't think the explosion is complex, the only question is which of many groups has means, not just motive.

  18. dodghz

    Shenanigans

    Hopefully they spotted the fast moving object moving right to left just before the explosion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BgJEXQkjNQ

    1. dodghz

      Re: Shenanigans

      Replying to my own comment.

      Go to 1:11 in the video, then pause it, you can use the , or . keys to move frame by frame through the video to make it more visible.

    2. cray74

      Re: Shenanigans

      Hopefully they spotted the fast moving object moving right to left just before the explosion

      Yes, everyone saw the bird in the foreground close to the camera. The flapping wings and presence of a wildlife sanctuary surrounding the launch facility suggest a bird, while the tight junction of liquid oxygen, kerosene, and electrical umbilicals need no UFO help to ignite.

  19. Rocketist

    Just out of idle curiosity-

    Did Elon mention, in case anyone had anything serious to say about the event, where or whom to they should say it?

  20. Kurt 4
    Joke

    Did anyone leave their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 nearby?

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