SpaceX Rocket Breaks Up On Liftoff

Jun 29, 2015
Originally published on June 30, 2015 12:57 pm
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in other news, an unmanned supply rocket blasted off yesterday in Florida headed to the International Space Station.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCKET LAUNCH)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Three, two, one. Mission sequence start and lift off.

MONTAGNE: Everything looked good until it didn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCKET LAUNCH)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And we appear to have had a launch vehicle failure.

MONTAGNE: As the rocket became engulfed in white smoke and broke apart, valuable supplies and experiments were lost. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: The Falcon 9 rocket was built by the private company SpaceX. It's been a workhorse carrying supplies to and from the station. NASA hopes it might someday carry astronauts up there too, but those dreams will have to wait. At a news conference yesterday, Bill Gerstenmaier, the head of human space flight at NASA, sounded pretty bummed.

BILL GERSTENMAIER: This is a tough day. This is not where I really wanted to be on a Sunday afternoon.

BRUMFIEL: NASA's held a lot of these briefings lately. Last October, another private resupply mission to the station blew up on the launch pad. Then in April, a Russian resupply capsule began spinning out of control shortly after reaching orbit. Gerstenmaier says the three failures appear to be unrelated.

GERSTENMAIER: There's really no commonality across these three events other than the fact that it's space and it's difficult to go fly.

BRUMFIEL: But the losses are starting to add up. This latest mission carried filtration equipment astronauts need to keep their drinking water clean. The same filters were also on the October flight that blew up. Now, says space station manager Mike Suffredini, NASA's run out.

MIKE SUFFREDINI: Unfortunately for us, this was the second set that we lost, and we just don't have that fast of a pipeline.

BRUMFIEL: They're building more as fast as they can. Also lost were several student experiments that were re-dos of one's that also blew up during last fall's launch.

SUFFREDINI: These young people are learning a valuable lesson, I think, that you do have setbacks, but they can be recovered from. You just keep trying.

BRUMFIEL: And NASA is going to keep trying. Another Russian rocket will launch at the end of this week with more food and water for the orbiting astronauts. Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.