The Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX launched from Cape Canaveral this morning exploded 2 minutes and 19 seconds after liftoff. The rocket was supposed to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, and no humans were on board. It was the first Falcon 9 that has ever failed, following 18 successful missions.
The mission was also going to serve as the third test of SpaceX's plan to make a reusable rocket. The first stage of the Falcon 9 was supposed to separate three minutes after launch and land itself on a drone ship at sea. The next time SpaceX is scheduled to test the Falcon 9's reusability is on the August 9th launch of the Jason-3 satellite. SpaceX has said that landing will be attempted on land at Vandenburg Airforce Base, not at sea, but it is unclear if today's failure will affect the launch schedule.
There is no immediate threat to life of the astronauts aboard the space station
There is no immediate threat to life of the astronauts aboard the space station. Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has another resupply mission scheduled for July 3rd. Since NASA always plans ahead with its cargo deliveries, the astronauts are currently stocked through September with supplies.
Elon Musk says something ruptured the rocket's liquid oxygen tank, causing the explosion:
There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Data suggests counterintuitive cause.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 28, 2015
Musk says the team will conduct a thorough analysis to figure out what caused the rupture.
There was over 5,000 pounds of supplies, food, and science experiments inside the Dragon cargo ship that was affixed to the top of the rocket. Included with the experiments were two of Microsoft's HoloLens devices, which the astronauts were going to use to communicate with control room operators and to augment their tasks, all part of a test program called Sidekick.
Space is hard... @NASA we're with you and ready to try again!— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) June 28, 2015
It is unclear whether this cargo was lost or not, as it appears possible that the Dragon cargo ship blasted away from the explosion.
Still, this is the third space station resupply mission to fail in the last year, and the second in a row. Last October, Orbital ATK's Antares rocket exploded on the launchpad. And last month, Roscosmos sent a resupply ship to the station only to have it spin wildly out of control and eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Updated 11:55AM ET: Updated to add Musk's remarks about the rupture in the rocket's oxygen tank.