Early Fireworks Show As ISS-Bound SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes With Microsoft HoloLens Payload

SpaceX was hoping that it’s third attempt at a controlled Falcon 9 landing on a floating barge would be a charm, but those hopes went up in smoke this morning. In fact, SpaceX didn’t even get a chance to get close to landing on the barge, as the Falcon 9 launch vehicle exploded during ascent.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploding in mid-air

The SpaceX Falcon 9, which lifted off from Cape Canaveral promptly at 10:21am EST for its seventh Commercial Resupply Services flight (CRS-7), broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean just minutes after liftoff. Onboard were over two and a half tons of supplies for the crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS), a much ballyhooed Boeing-built docking adapter that would “give Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon a place to park” when arriving at the ISS, and numerous experiments.

For the techies in the audience (which means all of you reading HotHardware), two of Microsoft’s fantastic HoloLens holographic wearables were also onboard as part of NASA’s Sidekick project. NASA was hoping to use HoloLens to help pare down training requirements and improve efficiencies when working in a weightless environment. 

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said ISS Program Director Sam Scimemi late last week. “This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars.”

This is definitely sad news for SpaceX, which had an exemplary launch “report card” up until today. Prior to today’s launch failure, the Falcon 9 rocket had completed 18 successful missions. SpaceX has had less success, however, with its efforts to make a controlled landing using its reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle. It’s first attempt in January resulted in the Falcon 9 rocket striking the barge at a high rate of speed before exploding. The second attempt was a much more valiant effort, with a controlled descent down to the barge platform that unlimitedly ended with the rocket tipping over and again exploding.

As for today’s launch, SpaceX had just this to say:

Elon Musk later tweeted the following:

SpaceX is scheduled to hold a press conference “No earlier than 12:30PM ET” to give further details on the mid-air mishap.