January 29, 2023
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SpaceX explosion jeopardizes VAFB launch


Less than three weeks before a SpaceX rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, a SpaceX rocket exploded during a test on the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla. Sept. 1.

The explosion happened during a test of the rocket’s engines known as a static fire test. In the ensuing blaze, a Facebook communications satellite designed to provide Internet access to underserved areas of Africa, the Middle East and Asia was destroyed.

A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg at 9:49 p.m. Sept. 19 and carry a 10 small Iridium Next commercial communications satellites into orbit. The launch has been delayed since May because of ongoing maintenance at Vandenberg to buildings that house equipment and computers used to launch rockets.

SpaceX said in a statement that the explosion occurred while propellant was being added to a fuel tank and that the explosion was around an upper oxygen tank.
“At approximately 9:07 a.m. ET during a standard pre-launch static fire test there was an anomaly at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 resulting in the loss of the vehicle,” the statement said. “We are continuing to review the data to review the cause.”

It’s unclear at this time how the upcoming Vandenberg launch may be affected. As of 4:19 p.m., the launch is still scheduled.

-Contact Philip Joens at pjoens@pacbiztimes.com