Supplies for space station go up in smoke

A setback for NASA: A SpaceX supply ship headed for the space station exploded soon after takeoff. Image: NASA TV.
A setback for NASA: A SpaceX supply ship headed for the space station exploded soon after takeoff. Image: NASA TV.
An unmanned SpaceX supply ship loaded with a docking system and food for the International Space Station exploded approximately two minutes after takeoff June 28.

     SpaceX is one of the commercial companies charged with sending supplies to the space station. Beyond the loss of supplies and research headed for the station, the explosion is also a jolt to SpaceX's status as one of two companies chosen to transport astronauts to the station.
       In April, a supply flight operated by the Russian space agency experienced trouble and never made it to the space station.   
     During a press conference televised on NASA's website, William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA's human exploration and operations mission directorate, described the loss of the SpaceX vessel as a “blow.”
     He made clear that the space station crew still has food. The crew has “done a tremendous job of balancing all the consumables on orbit,” he said. “We’re in good shape from a food standpoint. From a water standpoint, we need to watch a multi-filtration bed that purifies water. There was a replacement bed on this flight, and we’ll have to watch the water levels.”
    NASA also lost research equipment, as well as a space suit and an International Docking Adapter. The docking adapter is part of the ongoing development of the commercial crew program, in which private companies are developing spacecraft to take astronauts to the station. The U.S. is currently dependent on Russia to get astronauts to the space station.
     “The good news is that we have a second docking adapter,” said Michael Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager.
    Immediately afterward, SpaceX began collecting data to analyze what went wrong, said Gwynne Shotwell, the company's president. In September, SpaceX and The Boeing Co. were awarded a total of $6.8 billion in contracts to transport astronauts to the space station.
     “This is a tough business,” Shotwell said, when asked how this loss might affect the company’s plans. “I don’t anticipate this to impact any program that we have ongoing. We must find the cause of the failure. We must fix it.”
     This is the third explosion in less than a year. In October, Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket was to carry 5,000 pounds of NASA cargo to the space station aboard the company’s Cygnus spacecraft. Immediately after takeoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia the rocket exploded.
     The Russian space agency will attempt to send another resupply ship on July 3.


     Boeing, SpaceX to fly astronauts to station

     Update: Cargo ship malfunctions

     In Brief: NASA to probe rocket explosion

    If you would like to comment, contact StudyHall.Rocks or like us on Facebook  and tell us what you think.