A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle broke up shortly after launch from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station Sunday June 28, raising near-term questions about supplies for the crew on the orbiting outpost and longer term issues with the state of space launch in the U.S.
Carrying about 4,000 lb. of supplies and gear for the station, including an International Docking Adaptor designed to accommodate upcoming flights of the U.S. commercial crew vehicles in development, the launch vehicle appeared to break up about two minutes into the flight, before first-stage separation. NASA’s launch commentator said controllers stopped receiving data two minutes, 19 seconds into the flight, and were reviewing video and telemetry to get a better handle on what happened.
Although a Russian Progress resupply vehicle is scheduled for launch on Friday, the failure adds to concerns about station resupply that started with the failure last October of an Orbital ATK Antares launch vehicle en route to the station. SpaceX’s Falcon 9/Dragon vehicle is the only U.S. backup to the Antares/Cygnus stack under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program, and the last Progress sent to the station also failed to reach it after spinning out of control on ascent in April.
In addition to costing more supplies for the station crew, the failure thwarted another attempt by SpaceX to fly its first stage back to a tail-down landing on a barge off the Florida coast as part of an ongoing effort to develop a partially reusable launcher. And it complicates SpaceX’s efforts to begin launching national security payloads in competition with United Launch Alliance Atlas V and Delta IV launchers. aviationweek.com