SpaceX to Scrutinize Supply Chain After Rocket Failure


Space Exploration Technologies Corp. blamed the recent failure of an unmanned rocket bound for the International Space Station on a faulty strut and pledged to better scrutinize its supply chain.

Those were among the details released Monday after Elon Musk, the billionaire head of the Hawthorne, California-based company known as SpaceX, discussed the mishap during an afternoon conference call with reporters.

A company statement detailed what went wrong some 139 seconds after liftoff:

“Preliminary analysis suggests the overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank was initiated by a flawed piece of support hardware (a “strut”) inside the second stage. Several hundred struts fly on every Falcon 9 vehicle, with a cumulative flight history of several thousand. The strut that we believe failed was designed and material certified to handle 10,000 lbs of force, but failed at 2,000 lbs, a five-fold difference. Detailed close-out photos of stage construction show no visible flaws or damage of any kind.”

During the conference call, Musk reportedly didn’t identify the firm that makes the part in question. But in its statement, SpaceX indicated it will no longer use that specific product. The company also pledged to more closely scrutinize its supply chain:

“Despite the fact that these struts have been used on all previous Falcon 9 flights and are certified to withstand well beyond the expected loads during flight, SpaceX will no longer use these particular struts for flight applications. In addition, SpaceX will implement additional hardware quality audits throughout the vehicle to further ensure all parts received perform as expected per their certification documentation.”

The explosion of the company’s Falcon 9 on June 28 over Cape Canaveral, Florida — more than two minutes into flight — came just a month after it was certified by the U.S. Air Force to carry military satellites.

SpaceX said it plans to resume flying the rocket sometime this fall and remains on pace to launch astronauts aboard the vehicle sometime in 2017 under a NASA contract.

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Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Wyguy

    Did you see that, someone just got thrown under a bus. All words and no supporting data?

    • Guest

      Just like Orbital’s claim on the Anteres failure!

    • David

      I guess you can’t read.

  • Rocket Nut

    I would like the see the on-board video.

  • anomyous coward

    That is why they call it rocket science…. zero room for failier

    • Fatman

      And here I thought it was because they were launching rockets.

      • spartan

        perhaps you mean ” they were laughing rockets. ”

        All rockets are laughing rockets - some laugh louder than others and end up exploding mid-air. Can’t really blame the rockets for laughing when the current generation of US rocket engineers are some of the biggest jokes on the planet.

  • Bob

    AMAZING! No hardware, components, or structures are ever expected to fail in our “perfect” society! For all those who believe that every test, launch, or flight should be 100% flawless, here’s a reality check: Crap happens! And it happens even after all the safety checks and certifications have been initiated. We live in a real world! Let’s the correct the problems and get on with resuming rocket flights.

    • Dfens

      It happens a lot more on rockets. They have a pretty miserable failure rate, far worse than other vehicles at this stage in their development.

  • t1oracle

    Never trust 3rd party suppliers. Whatever they give you must be QA’d in house. Order a few extras just to break them in testing.

    • blight_

      One of the old Golden Rules at Skunk Works was to avoid duplication of testing…which only happens when you find a supplier you can trust won’t bone you.

      Since that isn’t happening ever again, gotta test everything…AGAIN!

  • Dfens

    Probably the finest Chinese aluminum. It couldn’t be American aluminum, since we don’t make shit here anymore, and specifically not that shit.

    • Mike c

      Us production of aluminum was 4.5 billion dollars. (2012) . In that year 20 % of total use was from foreign sources. Canada supplied over 62 % Russia in the teens China about 7 % of the imported amount

      • Dfens

        We have 10 plants left clinging to life. China has 120.

  • Ricki Boyle

    Let’s not lose sight of the fact that what we are trying to do is highly complex and open to risk. While every effort is made to mitigate risk, the complexities overwhelm the mission or effort. Consider Apolo 1, Hubble, A380 delays, space shuttle and for those who can remember, the Concorde program. With the route cause identified, and a commitment to implementing corrective actions is the right thing to do. What is challenging is to instill continuous internal vigilance in all areas of development and operations and ensure complacency does not take hold.