SpaceX Rocket Prototype Explodes In Texas; ‘Rockets Are Tricky’, Musk Says

No injuries are reported after a SpaceX rocket prototype detonated in Texas today (Aug. 22) after an anomaly was found in the rocket, the company said in a statement.

The  Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) — a successor to the Grasshopper vertical take-off and landing rocket — was completing the latest in a series of ambitious tests that previously saw the prototype successfully testing new steerable fins.

“Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test,” SpaceX said in a statement (which you can read in full below the jump.) “As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.”


The company said it would provide more updates as it found information. SpaceX founder Elon Musk issued a brief statement of his own on Twitter:

Screenshot of a June 2014 F9R test flight.
Screenshot of a June 2014 F9R test flight.

Below is SpaceX’s statement:

Earlier today, in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX conducted a test flight of a three-engine version of the F9R test vehicle (successor to Grasshopper.) During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.

Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times.

With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program. Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test. As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.

SpaceX will provide another update when the flight data has been fully analyzed.

Here are some recent Universe Today stories on the rocket:

Video: SpaceX Tests New Steerable ‘Fins’ on the Falcon 9R

Well, this is cool: A new video from SpaceX shows the Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) rocket during a 1,000 meter test flight at the SpaceX facility in McGregor, Texas. This was the first flight test of a set of steerable fins that provide control of the rocket during the fly-back portion of the return flight. The fins deploy approximately 1:15 into the test flight and return to their original locked position just prior to landing.

This seems like a truly smooth flight!

These types of fins are not new, but are new for human space flight. They’ve been used on missiles and bombs to aid in precision targeting, and likewise will help the F9R to land precisely on target.

SpaceX confirmed that during the early tests flights of F9R, the landing legs will be fixed in the down position, however soon they will transition to a liftoff with the legs stowed against the side of the rocket with the legs extending just before landing. The company also said that future test flights of F9R will be at SpaceX’s New Mexico facility which will allow them to test in higher altitude flights, give them the chance to prove unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are “more flight-like.”