SpaceX noted that it has discovered a way to replicate the conditions of the helium tank when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded Sept. 1 as part of ongoing work to determine the root cause of the incident, Space News reported Friday.
Jeff Foust writes SpaceX looks to focus its investigation efforts on tanks made from fiber composite materials that store helium within a liquid oxygen propellant tank of the rocket.
“Through extensive testing in Texas, SpaceX has shown that it can re-create a [composite overwrapped pressure vessel] failure entirely through helium loading conditions,” SpaceX said in an update posted Friday.
“These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded.”
SpaceX said it will continue the investigation and stage tests in Texas to discover the exact root cause of the accident and develop helium-loading conditions that work to support Falcon 9 loading operations.
The company added its accident investigation team has worked with the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Air Force, NASA and industry experts to explore all plausible causes using an extensive fault tree.
“I remain hopeful that they’ll return to launching this year,” he said in an Oct. 27 conference call, according to the report.