A SpaceX Falcon 9 static fire test went horribly wrong earlier this week -- what was supposed to be a routine test run before today's scheduled launch ended in a massive fireball. The explosion, which occurred while fueling the liquid oxygen tanks, resulted in the destruction of Facebook's first satellite for use with its Internet.org initiative. Luckily for SpaceX, it has a lot of data to pore over this weekend.
In a blog post, SpaceX says that the anomaly occurred eight minutes prior to the expected test fire at Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral. Fortunately, the launch pad was clear of all personnel, so while the craft was destroyed, there were absolutely no injuries to report.
As devastating as these losses are, they don't usually come as much of a surprise. Rockets are seriously complex devices, and there's always going to be a margin of error. Even if the design is what some would consider spot-on, there are a number of external conditions that could introduce faults. So when a complex device goes up in flames, it means that there's going to be an equally complex trail of data to wade through.
In this particular event, SpaceX says that it's currently going over 3,000 different channels of telemetry and video data to get to the root of the problem. If that doesn't sound impressive by itself, consider the fact that the entire timeframe that this data covers is a mere 35-55 milliseconds.
SpaceX says that the launchpad itself has suffered noticeable damage, but at the current time, it hasn't been able to determine the full extent of the damage. The company says that it will be evaluating all of the incident data carefully, as it vows to make its flights as secure, and safe as possible. That's a good thing, considering the company does eventually plan to shuttle humans to space.