For the first time since last week's Falcon 9 explosion, Elon Musk has spoken in more detail about what the loss means for his spacefaring company. This morning he appeared on stage at the International Space Station R&D conference in Boston, saying "the accident was a huge blow to SpaceX."
Musk was speaking to the bigger picture, but his comment echoes the company's immediate future. Right now, the next Falcon 9 launch (and likely the subsequent launches) is postponed until SpaceX can resolve the issue that caused last week's failure. He didn't go into any more detail about the accident, though. "I know there’s media in the audience," he laughed. "I don’t want to say something that subsequently turns out to be a misunderstanding of the situation."
The SpaceX CEO seemed confounded by the Falcon 9 mishap, and he readily admitted how it's stumped him and his team. "The data does seem to be quite difficult to interpret," Musk said. "Whatever happened was not straightforward."
"Whatever happened was not straightforward"
The failed launch was not only supposed to resupply the space station, but was also supposed to serve as the third major test of the potentially reusable Falcon 9 rocket's ability to land. "The last launch we had the best chance of landing the vehicle on the drone ship in the Atlantic," Musk said. As for when the next test might be, Musk wouldn't say much more than it will happen "later this year."
Since the accident, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has publicly reaffirmed his support of SpaceX in both its cargo and human spaceflight efforts. According to Bolden, NASA believes the recent failure won't affect SpaceX's ability to bring NASA astronauts to space in 2017 as part of the commercial crew program. Musk echoed this sentiment on stage, and spoke a little about where SpaceX stands. "Things seem to be going fairly well in the commercial crew front," Musk said. "Overall, there are small disagreements here and there, but overall we very much agree with the way it’s being done. It’s pretty good."
While Musk did tweet shortly after the launch that it seems the rocket disintegrated because of an explosion in the upper stage's oxygen tanks, he said there's still "no clear theory that matches all the data" for why the Falcon failed.
Musk typically takes to Twitter to offer information and insight following launches, something interviewer and ISS manager Michael Suffredini praised him for. But in the wake of the Falcon 9 explosion he has remained rather tight-lipped on the social media service. One thing he has mentioned is that SpaceX would release more information later this week about the explosion, which he reiterated on stage at the conference today. "
International Space Station: A time lapse view of Earth from the ISS