Since the Sept. 1 accident in which a Falcon 9 rocket blew up while being refueled on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX has issued multiple updates about its investigation into the incident. The last official update from the company came Oct. 28, in which it said it had identified the cause behind the explosion, and in an interview a week later, founder Elon Musk gave some more details about the nature of the problem, which involved “a combination of liquid helium, advanced carbon fiber composites and solid oxygen” in the refueling process.
The company also plans to resume flight operations before the year is over, which is to say, in the next one month. However, to do that, it needs to first submit an official report to federal authorities. And it plans to do that sometime early in December, according to a report Monday in the Wall Street Journal. It stands to reason the company would do that if it wants to actually start flying again in the timeframe it has laid out.
“The anticipated tight timeline only gives SpaceX roughly three weeks to finish the final report, persuade government officials to sign off on its major findings and then obtain approval for operational changes intended to prevent a repeat of the catastrophic accident,” the Journal report explains.
It also cited a SpaceX spokesman who said: “We’re finalizing the investigation and its accompanying report, and aim to return to flight in December.”
The report will need to be accepted by both the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA.
The explosion was a financial setback for the commercial space launch company. A Spacecom communications satellite, to be used by Facebook to deliver internet over Africa, was destroyed in the explosion and the launch schedule has been held up till the company submits its report to federal agencies. Some of its clients, like Inmarsat, while expressing faith in the company, have nonetheless said the delays may prompt them to look for other launch providers.
For its part, SpaceX seems to be doing quite well. Last week, it won a NASA contract to launch a global surface water survey satellite which is scheduled for 2021. Other than the plans for Mars that Musk keeps talking about, the company is also planning a network of 4,000 satellites to provide global internet coverage.