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SpaceX Rocket Explosion Caused a Huge Headache for Musk

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Image: YouTube / US Launch Report

It looks like sending humans to Mars through a SpaceX mission by 2024 will be delayed. On the first week of September 2016, the world witnessed the explosion of a SpaceX rocket right before a test launch which carried a Facebook satellite. News agencies caught a video footage of this incident from Cape Canaveral in Florida and it was nothing short of shocking.

The footage showed the rocket in static mode for about a minute. Light white smoke was billowing out from the rockets creases, which appeared to be a normal part of the launch, until a sudden explosion occurred at the top end of the rocket which carried the satellite. Numerous explosions followed, transforming the launch pad into a total wreck. Hot fire flashed and black smoke enveloped the footage for a couple of minutes, until the fire died down leaving almost nothing from what was seen at the start of the video.

Impact of the Incident

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Image: YouTube / SpaceX

This tragic explosion sent shockwaves across the business world. Those who have enlisted themselves with SpaceX in launching their own devices into space are now put on hold until the matter is resolved. A few days after the incident, CEO Elon Musk, tweeted to the world a plea for help in solving the case. In his tweet, he said, “If you have audio, photos or videos of our anomaly last week, please send to report@spacex.com. Material may be useful for investigation,” He also sought help from NASA in figuring out what went wrong.

SpaceX rockets cost more than USD 800 million including its development. But the explosion did not only result to losing one of their multi-million dollar investments. Musk now had to contemplate if his idea of reusing the same rockets was feasible with today’s available technology. Although insurance will cover for the loss of their rocket and the payload, this was the first time that it happened to SpaceX, and the impact of this incident is still unknown.

On the side of the client, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, had nothing to say but this on a Facebook post:

“As I’m here in Africa, I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.

“Fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well. We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.”

Too hard, Too Fast

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Image courtesy of Khawaja Taha/Theodysseyonline.com

Musk, who’s leading as CEO for two other companies Tesla Motors and SolarCity, has willingly initiated an investigation on the matter. Some critics however, have already said that this was something to be expected. In a TIME article, Musk was revealed to have crashed a MacLaren F1 vehicle once with Peter Thiel, his PayPal co-founder. They emerged from the crash uninjured but it was quite telling on how Musk could have been dealing with the various programs under each company he leads.

It was just a few months ago when Musk’s Tesla Motors was under scrutiny after a driver died while auto-pilot was on. Tesla Motors is one of the companies developing self-driving technology for cars. Unfortunately, a casualty was reported while the technology was activated. Tesla and Musk disputed the incident as the company’s responsibility as there were claims that the driver was inappropriately using auto-pilot and was watching a movie in his car.

The case for SpaceX however, is a little different as the responsibility is directly on the shoulders of the company. Reusing the same rocket for launching and landing has been the ultimate challenge for rocket science. Some experts opine however, that the current technology has not yet allowed that kind of feat. Musk was said to be pushing too hard and too fast.

Regardless of the implications, Musk showed that he was undaunted by the incident. Some corporate analysts described that failure was really a part of his leadership. Because after every failure, he managed to bounce back higher than his last.