Author Topic: What if the Cause of the Falcon 9 AMOS-6 Pad Failure is Never Uncovered  (Read 19170 times)

Offline Rocket Science

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9310
  • NASA Educator Astronaut Candidate Applicant 2002
  • Liked: 3136
  • Likes Given: 8743
I thought we pretty much flogged the thread on possible causes, so what if we are left with no direct cause for the failure and only a suspected probable cause as was in CRS-7? How will it impact, if any on the upcoming Commercial Crew flights?
« Last Edit: 09/12/2016 10:36 pm by Rocket Science »
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob: Physics instructor, Aviator, Vintage auto racer

Offline MarekCyzio

I'm sure they will have a bunch of leading theories. And they will just fix root causes for each of them. Simple as that.

Offline Rocket Science

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9310
  • NASA Educator Astronaut Candidate Applicant 2002
  • Liked: 3136
  • Likes Given: 8743
I'm sure they will have a bunch of leading theories. And they will just fix root causes for each of them. Simple as that.
Yes, and that will take time. With the Boeing slip for the CST-100, does NASA need to start thinking of buying more Soyuz seats from Russia?
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob: Physics instructor, Aviator, Vintage auto racer

Offline ChrisWilson68

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3860
  • Sunnyvale, CA
  • Liked: 2569
  • Likes Given: 3314
I thought we pretty much flogged the thread on possible causes, so what if we are left with no direct cause for the failure and only a suspected probable cause as was in CRS-7? How will it impact, if any on the upcoming Commercial Crew flights?

SpaceX would disagree strongly with your "as was in CRS-7" bit.

Offline Rocket Science

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9310
  • NASA Educator Astronaut Candidate Applicant 2002
  • Liked: 3136
  • Likes Given: 8743
I thought we pretty much flogged the thread on possible causes, so what if we are left with no direct cause for the failure and only a suspected probable cause as was in CRS-7? How will it impact, if any on the upcoming Commercial Crew flights?

SpaceX would disagree strongly with your "as was in CRS-7" bit.
Yes, I can understand that. I didn't intend it as a dig at them...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob: Physics instructor, Aviator, Vintage auto racer

Offline robert_d

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 299
  • Liked: 52
  • Likes Given: 107
I thought we pretty much flogged the thread on possible causes, so what if we are left with no direct cause for the failure and only a suspected probable cause as was in CRS-7? How will it impact, if any on the upcoming Commercial Crew flights?

Yes, I think this is a good thread to start. To include how they could modify Vandenberg to run tests that would restore some confidence. Also how to bring 39-A into operation with far more sensors, cameras and microphones than originally planned. What set of tests could they run to validate each step of the launch process - from delivery to stage return?

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32569
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 11384
  • Likes Given: 336
It is not an easy thing to add more sensors to the launch vehicle.  And more microphones is not going to help

Offline robert_d

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 299
  • Liked: 52
  • Likes Given: 107
It is not an easy thing to add more sensors to the launch vehicle.  And more microphones is not going to help
Yes Jim,
I realize this wouldn't be easy.
Say 3 months down the road Vandenberg is ready and then they run the Standard static fire and everything seems fine. Would Iridium agree to launch?
How does SpaceX regain confidence if they have no known cause?
« Last Edit: 09/12/2016 11:59 pm by robert_d »

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32569
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 11384
  • Likes Given: 336
It is not an easy thing to add more sensors to the launch vehicle.  And more microphones is not going to help
Yes Jim,
I realize this wouldn't be easy.
1.  Say 3 months down the road Vandenberg is ready and then they run the Standard static fire and everything seems fine.

2.  Would Iridium agree to launch?
How does SpaceX regain confidence if they have no known cause?

1.  Adding more sensors would take much longer.

2.  depends on their insurance
« Last Edit: 09/13/2016 12:22 am by Jim »

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32569
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 11384
  • Likes Given: 336
To include how they could modify Vandenberg to run tests that would restore some confidence.

There is nothing short of finding the problem that can do this.

Online Rei

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 521
  • Iceland
  • Liked: 306
  • Likes Given: 130
I don't see how modifying Vandenberg or modified flight-intent hardware comes into play.    This wasn't a launch failure; attempts to reproduce don't have to be in the air  They need to find a way to find a potential initiation to the failure chain that matches the data from the AMOS-6 failure. If they can't find the answer from the wreckage/data in Florida, they need to find it in Texas via attempts to reproduce theories about what initiated the failure.

The concept that no theory can be reproduced... that's a concept I sincerely hope does not come to pass.

Offline Impaler

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1283
  • South Hill, Virgina
  • Liked: 363
  • Likes Given: 0
To include how they could modify Vandenberg to run tests that would restore some confidence.

There is nothing short of finding the problem that can do this.

Actually just having a series of successful launches would restore confidence, it's really the only thing which ever dose.  The question is if they and the customer are willing to go forward with launches without an identified cause.  If a cause is not found in some kind of time and money frame it seems SpaceX has no choice but to continue launching as that is their business and they have overhead to cover.

Offline watermod

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 423
  • Liked: 124
  • Likes Given: 126
No need to over-sensor the rocket.   Do it to the erector and the pad.
Look at the STTR research I mentioned in a previous post.
It was supposed to be a new critical infrastructure building std until politicians got involved at administration change.   
« Last Edit: 09/13/2016 04:56 am by watermod »

Offline sdsds

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5481
  • "With peace and hope for all mankind."
  • Seattle
  • Liked: 581
  • Likes Given: 679
How does SpaceX regain confidence if they have no known cause?

Bring the VAFB pad to readiness. Bring a supposedly identical vehicle to that pad. Static fire.

Success with that builds a little confidence.

Then bring another, different but supposedly identical vehicle to the pad. Static fire.

That builds a little more confidence.

Rinse and repeat until hair is once again glossy.
-- sdsds --

Offline jacqmans

  • Moderator
  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 18166
  • Houten, The Netherlands
  • Liked: 3778
  • Likes Given: 209
How does SpaceX regain confidence if they have no known cause?

Bring the VAFB pad to readiness. Bring a supposedly identical vehicle to that pad. Static fire.


Is that wise ?  what if the vehicle explodes on the pad at VAFB also, you would have two pads down... I think its wise to test fueling and static fire at the test stand than on the launch pad...

Offline john smith 19

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7871
  • Everyplaceelse
  • Liked: 1331
  • Likes Given: 8894
I thought we pretty much flogged the thread on possible causes, so what if we are left with no direct cause for the failure and only a suspected probable cause as was in CRS-7? How will it impact, if any on the upcoming Commercial Crew flights?
Obvious question how many launch failures (in the last say 30 years) have ended up this way?

I'm not sure that has ever happened but assuming it did to a design did they retire the design? Fix highest probability root causes and RTF? Increase instrumentation on pad? On LV?

Normally when an LV explodes it's in flight and over the ocean. In this case it was right on the pad. SX have the ability to identify and recover nearly (because I'm sure some parts will still be missing) all of the vehicle and where those parts came down. They should have excellent telemetry from the vehicle and lots of on site video from various angles, most of which I doubt they will ever release.

It seems very  unlikely to me SX won't have either a definite cause or a short list all with high probabilities of being the cause but which lack a deciding set of data to separate them.

As others have observed they will then likely fix all the probable causes. I would also expect they will install "tie breaker" sensors which will decide which one it is in the event it happens again. I would expect at this point it will need a small number of additional sensors to this because they will have simulated the various failure mode signatures and worked out what features can separate them from each other. 
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline Wigles

  • Member
  • Posts: 52
  • Liked: 12
  • Likes Given: 5
I thought we pretty much flogged the thread on possible causes, so what if we are left with no direct cause for the failure and only a suspected probable cause as was in CRS-7? How will it impact, if any on the upcoming Commercial Crew flights?
I'm not sure that has ever happened but assuming it did to a design did they retire the design? Fix highest probability root causes and RTF? Increase instrumentation on pad? On LV?

Why would they retire the design? Unknown causes of incidents is not entirely uncommon in commercial aviation,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unrecovered_flight_recorders this link has a list of a number of incidents where the data recorders were never recovered, leading most incidents to not have a determined cause, and yet they continued operations of the type.

I don't recall 777 operations being stopped, let alone design changes, coming out of the MH370 incident. I do concede that a 777 has a much higher proven safety record than the Falcon 9, but the loss of a 777 risks 350-400 people whereas a Falcon 9 risks zero (7 in the future).

Offline Kabloona

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4340
  • Velocitas Eradico
  • Fortress of Solitude
  • Liked: 2581
  • Likes Given: 531
Quote
It seems very  unlikely to me SX won't have either a definite cause or a short list all with high probabilities of being the cause but which lack a deciding set of data to separate them.

As others have observed they will then likely fix all the probable causes.

That's what happened after the first Taurus fairing anomaly, with bad results.

Offline pippin

  • Regular
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2566
  • Liked: 293
  • Likes Given: 39
IMHO if the real cause is not uncovered they will have to add additional monitoring and live with an increased insurance premium for the next 20-30 flights until they have a proven flight record again or find the real cause in a repetition of the incident.

It's a real problem for them, though, because that increased insurance premium can significantly increase their launch costs especially for expansive payloads.
Somewhere it was mentioned that AMOS-6 was insured at a cost of 6% (IIRC) of the contract value so something in the range of 15 mil $, if it significantly increases, e.g. Because it's being assumed that something in the range of every 10th flight might fail it could easily add up to 10s of millions of $$$ to their launch cost for more valuable payloads.

Offline robert_d

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 299
  • Liked: 52
  • Likes Given: 107


Is that wise ?  what if the vehicle explodes on the pad at VAFB also, you would have two pads down... I think its wise to test fueling and static fire at the test stand than on the launch pad...

But they don't use the strongback on the test stand, and there is at least some indication that the interface between it and the vehicle is part of the problem. I think they have to go to a static fire if they plan to launch anyway, so despite the risk they may have to try. 

Tags: