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In the F9-029 Amos 6 mission failure at the launch pad, a "fast fire" happened near the 2nd stage of Falcon 9 FT. In F9-020 CRS-7 mission, an explosion happened in flight (again in the 2nd stage) a few moments before 1st stage cutoff. Failure of a strut was the cause of the 2nd stage explosion in CRS-7 mission.

According to Elon Musk, the Amos 6 mission case is considered the most difficult and complex failure they have ever had in 14 years. SpaceX has also requested support from the public with audio, photo or video materials if they have. This means that the investigation process could last longer and be more difficult than was thought previously.

What are the reasons that it is more difficult to find what caused the disintegration of the Falcon 9 FT rocket in the Amos 6 mission?

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    $\begingroup$ The fact that they've requested public footage for Amos 6 and not for CRS-7 may also be down to probable availability - publicly-generated footage for a ground explosion is likely to be available in large amounts, while footage for an explosion at ~45km is much less likely to be available or useful quality. I wouldn't read too much into them not asking for it in that case... $\endgroup$ – Andrew Sep 17 '16 at 13:25
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Several issues have been reported informally, mostly in Elon Musk tweets.

  • Not as many cameras turned on as usual
  • Storage on site was damaged, and not all data was uploaded during test

This fueling event, for a static fire, was a really routine thing by this point. They thought they had fueling down pat. The last fueling accident like this in the US was back in the 60's. Thus they were not paying quite as much attention with cameras as they might during a launch, or even 13 minutes later, during the test fire.

The problem may be in the fueling system, the Ground Support Equipment, the strongback, or any of the other surrounding equipment, which is obviously not as instrumented as the vehicle itself.

Additionally the data link off site is not as fast as they would like, so they buffer data at the site itself, and upload it later. But the storage devices were damaged to some unknown (at this time) degree.

Thus they have lots of data from cameras and telemetry, but it is not as much as they might have if they had been paying full attention as they would during a launch.

To be fair, tracking down the CRS-7 root cause to me, was quite impressive as that was a somewhat obscure thing to fail and detect.

I think when they report the real cause of this one, it should be very interesting.

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    $\begingroup$ The cause of the failure may well be in the fueling system, or at the interface of the fueling system and the rocket; the fueling system isn't instrumented as thoroughly as the rocket precisely because it's relatively uncomplicated. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Sep 16 '16 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove Will edit that in. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Sep 16 '16 at 14:12

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