With private aerospace company SpaceX still reeling from the loss of one of their Falcon 9 rockets at its Cape Canaveral launch pad last Thursday September 1 – along with its payload the Amos-6 satellite operated by Facebook, Eutelsat and Spacecom – CEO Elon Musk continues damage control over the accident by introducing another point of view: while the rocket explosion was frightening, had one of his firms manned space capsules been attached to the doomed rocket it would not have been wrecked and any astronauts inside it would have survived.
According to CNN, Musk replied to a Twitter post, explaining how the SpaceX Dragon manned capsule, scheduled for space launch sometime next year with an astronaut crew, would have been safe from such a disaster.
Around the Dragon’s hull would have been eight escape rocket thrusters, set to fire at the first sign of an emergency at the rocket assembly, pulling it out of harm’s way the moment the rocket it would have been attached to, decided to go boom. It had been successfully tested May of 2015, wherein the Dragon was hoisted off its rocket booster by the escape thrusters in seconds, parachuting to a splashdown in the ocean a mile away from the test site.
Musk posits that in the nine seconds it tool for the Falcon 9 rocket to be engulfed in flames during its fire test Thursday, the Dragon capsule’s escape system could eject it up to a hundred meters up from the assembly in only two seconds, then 500 meters away in only five more.
Still, some inquiring minds were curious as to why the capsule carrying the Amos-6 had been attached to the rocket booster when it was only being fueled for an engine test firing. The satellite was built and owned by Israeli firm Spacecom, and functions of the satellite were only set aside for rent to Facebook and European satellite operator Eutelsat. Apparently Spacecom’s engine test policy for its satellites did not prohibit attaching them to the rocket for a simple engine firing test, unlike Eutelsat does for their own. Other rocketry experts spoke of risks to performing test fires without the satellite payload attached. And frankly, the Thursday explosion was really more a once in a blue moon event.
The lost Amos-6 satellite would have been put to work by the Facebook-Eutelsat partnership in order to broadcast internet reception to remote places in the world and the millions of people living there. The two firms had agreed to jointly pay a grand total of $95 million in rent over five years to Spacecom for use of Amos-6. Had the explosion not occurred, the satellite would have been launched on Saturday September 3.
Photo Credit to www.theguardian.com