Image Credit: NASA

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes Shortly After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying cargo for the International Space Station exploded just after liftoff.

SpaceX’s seventh cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station exploded just minutes after liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sunday. It is the third cargo resupply mission to the space station to fail in the last year.

Little is known about the cause of the explosion at this point. According to SpaceX officials, all indications point to the anomaly being a second stage issue. “There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank,” Elon Musk said on Twitter. “That’s all we can say with confidence right now,” Musk added.

It is unclear at exactly what time the launch anomaly occurred, but the last communication received from the launch vehicle was at 2 minutes 19 seconds into the flight. SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell indicated in a press conference that they received telemetry data from their Dragon spacecraft for a short period of time following the event.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and dragon spacecraft seen disintegrating here after a launch failure on June 28, 2015. Image Credit: SpaceX / NASA

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and dragon spacecraft seen disintegrating here after a launch failure on June 28, 2015. Image Credit: SpaceX / NASA

The launch failure is being classified as a mishap by the FAA. As a result SpaceX will conduct an investigation into the launch failure with oversight provided by the FAA. This is the first failure of a Falcon 9 rocket that the company has experienced, following 18 successful launches in the last five years

This is the third resupply mission for the International Space Station to experience a catastrophic failure in the last year. Orbital Science’s Antares rocket exploded last October just seconds after liftoff, putting the company’s future launches on hold. Earlier this year, the Russian government lost control of a Progress cargo vessel shortly after launch, causing it to fall back to Earth.

Today’s launch was SpaceX’s seventh cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The company was about to deliver its Dragon spacecraft carrying over 4,000 pounds of food, supplies and scientific experiments to the orbiting space station. In addition, SpaceX was scheduled to perform the company’s third attempted landing of the Falcon 9 first stage, a test aimed at rocket reusability.

The loss of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will not pose a threat to the crew living and working aboard the International Space Station. The crew have consumables stored that should last them through October. Another cargo resupply mission is scheduled to launch on July 3, which would extend the crew’s food and water supplies by about a month.

“SpaceX has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first six cargo resupply missions to the station, and we know they can replicate that success,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “We will work with and support SpaceX to assess what happened, understand the specifics of the failure and correct it to move forward.”

Editor’s Note: This article will be updated as new information becomes available.