Author Topic: The Falcon 9 (Amos-6) Elon-Fuelled Wild and Wacky Root Cause Theory Thread  (Read 144812 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

Warning: This thread is not what we usually do here at NSF. If this is the first thread you've clicked on in this forum, be rest assured this is not the usual discussion for this site.

Reason for this thread is Elon "not ruling out" things in response to people asking if the F9 was "hit" (you know where that's going), etc. etc.

Because we have a strong discussion thread working on the technical, this thread is a relief valve for the splinter theories.

Anyway, people asked for it, and I live to serve ;)

List of tweets:
https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/774150065166229504
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Still working on the Falcon fireball investigation. Turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/774150289314029568
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Important to note that this happened during a routine filling operation. Engines were not on and there was no apparent heat source.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/774152037927792640
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Support & advice from @NASA, @FAA, @AFPAA & others much appreciated. Please email any recordings of the event to [email protected]

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/774153847371501569
Quote
Particularly trying to understand the quieter bang sound a few seconds before the fireball goes off. May come from rocket or something else.

« Last Edit: 09/09/2016 01:28 PM by Lar »

Offline GigaG

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IDK if it was this forum, but I seem to remember somebody bringing up the idea of "sabotage" for the CRS-7 failure and the forum threatened to ban people who were peddling conspiracy theories. This is a better approach :P.

Offline rsdavis9

I have always thought from the point like initial blast almost exactly on the surface of the tank was highly suspicious of a projectile. Mostly because other causes are not likely to cause such a point like initial blast right on the surface of the tank. Of course the video available is not a high enough frame rate to show the very first evidence as a very small initial blast. But given what musk just said we could guess that he has better frames to show that.

But I like to see the scientific details that analyze it.
« Last Edit: 09/09/2016 12:10 PM by Chris Bergin »
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Offline Lampyridae

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There is also a nonzero chance that the rocket was hit by a meteorite or space junk. Just to cover all bases.
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Offline Chris611

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A small drone perhaps some idiot trying to get a close up video, misjudges & slams it into the Falcon. Bang goes your launcher especially if it was one of the more pro models which are quite weighty.
I think even a small drone would be very clearly visible (and audible) on all the camera's around the launchpad. And a larger 'pro' model would even be easily visible on the USLaunchReport video from 4km away.
And besides, it's an secured air force base. I really think and hope they would spot a drone entering their area...
« Last Edit: 09/09/2016 12:12 PM by Chris611 »

Offline Brovane

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The theory around somebody shooting at the F9.

In theory a .50 caliber or something around in this category could reach out 2+miles and hit such a large target like a F9.  A external suppressor could mute the sound so much that it would not be audible at such a extreme range.  With a semi-automatic weapon multiple rounds could be fired. 
"Look at that! If anybody ever said, "you'll be sitting in a spacecraft naked with a 134-pound backpack on your knees charging it", I'd have said "Aw, get serious". - John Young - Apollo-16

Online Eerie

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Problems with the shooting theory:

1. Movement sensors should be able to pinpoint the impact exactly. I assume Falcon 9 have those.
2. Assuming the bullet pierced the tank, why wasn't any venting visible before the explosion?
« Last Edit: 09/09/2016 12:23 PM by Eerie »

Offline Cherokee43v6

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Everybody's looking for ignition sources...

How about lonely lightning bugs?

 ;D
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        ...I just pointed at it and laughed a little too loudly."

Offline xanmarus

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2. Assuming the bullet pierced the tank, why wasn't any venting visible before the explosion?
Something like this? http://tinyurl.com/h9k5xh7
And video
« Last Edit: 09/09/2016 12:30 PM by xanmarus »

Offline laszlo

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A chemist who spent decades working on the Shuttle Recovery Team analyzing the different chemicals used to process the returned orbiters told me in a personal correspondence that they were approached by SpaceX with questions about the required purity of the chemicals. In particular, they wanted to use a lower grade of liquid oxygen oxidizer than what NASA was using in the Shuttle. Eventually, in spite of the advice not to do it, SpaceX was supposed to have decided to accept the risk of the impurities because of the drastic price difference. So maybe the problem isn't in the rocket design/construction, but in the stuff that it's filled with. If so, it'd be an easy fix if Elon could bring himself to tell the world just how badly the decision was made.

I know that this "friend who said..." scenario is in the best tradition of urban legends, but the chemist has not given me permission to use his name, nor do I have access to the original/primary documentation. That is why I've said nothing about it on the other thread. However, since this thread has had the rules of evidence suspended, it's the perfect place to mention this possibility.

A final note - back when the terrorist hysteria was coming into full flow it was pointed out that the Vandenberg AFB Shuttle launch pad was within high-powered rifle range of the Amtrak line that passes through Vandenberg, as if someone would open a train window, fire a bullet from the moving train, hit the Shuttle and destroy it. If that kind of shooting is difficult on land, think of how much more difficult that would be from a boat small enough to evade detection. In any event, NASA proved perfectly capable of destroying its own Shuttles without any terrorist help being needed and I suspect that the same will be found true of SpaceX.

Everyone take a deep breath.

Online Eerie

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2. Assuming the bullet pierced the tank, why wasn't any venting visible before the explosion?
Something like this? http://tinyurl.com/h9k5xh7

Can't the second stage really explode like it did without kerosene and LOX mixing? Because I don't see how a piercing bullet can cause them to mix.

Offline jaufgang

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Well, now that the bullet theory has been brought up, you don't need someone on land lurking nearby. Might as well go full conspiracy: Do they close off boating traffic offshore for a static test?  If not, someone should check if any Russian trawlers or small pleasure craft were "fishing" just offshore. Just joking, but at this point...

Why would they need to use a firearm? Since we're playing full conspiracy, why not a small shaped charge with an incendiary mounted to an innocuous and easily missed spot on the strongback? The origin point of the explosion for this whole incident is perfectly positioned to shred the bulkhead separating the S2 fuel tanks and mix them.
Something like this would leave a chemical residue on the strongback and rocket near the site of the initial flash. This is a highly unlikely scenario but it's also one that would be fairly easy to rule in or out using chemical analysis of the debris, if it came to that.

Offline envy887

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Can't the second stage really explode like it did without kerosene and LOX mixing? Because I don't see how a piercing bullet can cause them to mix.

Bullets release a shower of hot shrapnel and a massive shockwave when they go through a metal wall, especially into liquid. Kinetic anti-tank penetrators don't contain any explosive, but the conversion of kinetic to mechanical/thermal energy is enough to cause a massive explosion.

Offline vanoord

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2. Assuming the bullet pierced the tank, why wasn't any venting visible before the explosion?
Something like this? http://tinyurl.com/h9k5xh7

Can't the second stage really explode like it did without kerosene and LOX mixing? Because I don't see how a piercing bullet can cause them to mix.

Presumably if it's venting enough oxygen and there was a release of RP-1 into that atmosphere, all you need then (probably) is an ignition source* and you have pretty much what was observed.

It does, of course, need someone to know what they're trying to achieve and shoot for the RP-1 tank, but I suppose if you've gone to the effort of getting onto CCAFS with the right rifle, hidden somewhere and got to the point where you are taking pot shots at big white rockets, then you've probably thought about which bit of the rocket to aim for.


The only problem with the theory of a shooter hiding in the undergrowth is that it's remarkably far-fetched and highly unlikely.



* edit: I guess the bullet entering the tank would probably give us sufficient sparking to cause an explosion.
« Last Edit: 09/09/2016 12:53 PM by vanoord »

Offline Jim

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Mythbusters and shooting a propane tank


Offline M.E.T.

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Since this is the wild and wacky thread, and since we are talking about a very high tech industry, any chance of some kind of directed energy weapon first being used to drill a small hole in a feeding hose or tank, letting it leak for a while, and then being used to ignite the cloud once it had spread out sufficiently?
« Last Edit: 09/09/2016 12:59 PM by M.E.T. »

Offline Jim

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Bullets release a shower of hot shrapnel and a massive shockwave when they go through a metal wall, especially into liquid. Kinetic anti-tank penetrators don't contain any explosive, but the conversion of kinetic to mechanical/thermal energy is enough to cause a massive explosion.

Not really, especially sheet metal

Offline TrevorMonty

The theory around somebody shooting at the F9.

In theory a .50 caliber or something around in this category could reach out 2+miles and hit such a large target like a F9.  A external suppressor could mute the sound so much that it would not be audible at such a extreme range.  With a semi-automatic weapon multiple rounds could be fired.
I see another Myst Buster episode here, to prove this theory.

Offline Johnnyhinbos

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Few thoughts:

- This thread was started because Elon himself has taken to Twitter asking for help. There is no way he would have done that unless they had run out of options and likely smoking guns (sorry!). This implies something stranger than normal is going on. He's even being specific about part of the mystery - the soft pop sound prior to the anomaly.

- as mentioned above, there are many (many) types of rifle fired munitions that are explosive, armor piercing, or incendiary. Or all three.

- we DO live in a world that is chaotic, dynamic and unpredictable. I experienced this twice in my life - when I lost a friend in one of the planes in 9/11 and when one of my marathon runners' mothers was caught in the explosion at the Boston Marathon. I am in no way saying that this was anything other than a terrible accident, but to ignore the possibility of malicious intent is to be naive.
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Offline Hobbes-22

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Since this is the wild and wacky thread, and since we are talking about a very high tech industry, any chance of some kind of directed energy weapon first being used to drill a small hole in a feeding hose or tank, letting it leak for a while, and then being used to ignite the cloud once it had spread out sufficiently?

Not likely. Ever seen a laser cutter at work? It melts the work surface. If you pointed that at a LOX tank, the second you penetrate the tank you get a LOX/aluminium fire not unlike a thermal lance.

Also, laser cutting at a distance of several miles is highly experimental. Not much chance NASA would have missed a 40' container with an exhaust stack (for the 500 kW truck engine powering the thing) sitting 2 miles from the launch pad. 

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