SpaceX reviewing mountains of data to figure out why its rocket exploded

SpaceX reviewing mountains of data to figure out why its rocket exploded
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said investigators are using software to recover data from the "final milliseconds" before Sunday's explosion. Above, Musk in 2014. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

SpaceX officials say they will be holding daily meetings with NASA and the Air Force in hopes of quickly determining what caused an unmanned rocket carrying cargo for the International Space Station to explode in midair just minutes after liftoff Sunday.

Teams of engineers have been deployed to review thousands of sources of data transmitted by the rocket before the explosion occurred, including video, company officials said.


SpaceX said that it is reviewing "every frame of video" and that its teams are putting together detailed timelines to determine exactly what happened.

Investigators still don't know what caused SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which had flown successfully 18 previous times, to disintegrate and fall back to Earth, despite good weather and a smooth countdown.

As of early Monday morning, founder Elon Musk tweeted, no cause had been determined after ”several thousand engineering-hours” of review, meaning more than 100 engineers were working to investigate the problem. Investigators were using software to recover the "final milliseconds" before the explosion, he tweeted.

Officials have said that all nine of the rocket's engines had fired normally and that the rocket's trajectory was "right on target."

The Dragon capsule, which contained the cargo, was "healthy" and sending data back for "some time" after the incident, officials said.

The rocket was about 28 miles above Earth when it broke up.

Shortly after the crash Sunday, Musk tweeted that there had been an "overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank."

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said at a news conference Sunday that the company is in an "extraordinary position" to identify the problem and fix it quickly, since SpaceX owns all of the rocket's components.

Experts say SpaceX will need to complete the investigation and remedy the issues as soon as possible so that it can begin flying again and keep contracts for more than 50 upcoming launches.

Company officials said Monday that it's too early to tell whether the rocket failure will affect future launches.

SpaceX said that it has deployed recovery boats to collect debris more than 100 miles offshore and that it's working with the Coast Guard to find pieces of the rocket.

Times staff writer Melody Petersen contributed to this report.

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