Elon Musk Returns First Rocket To Orbit Months After Explosion

(REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Billionaire CEO Elon Musk’s space company successfully launched a rocket into space Saturday for the first time in almost five months.

SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket sent 10 communications satellites for the company Iridium into low-Earth orbit from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. This is the first of seven planned SpaceX launches to put a total of 81 small satellites into orbit for Iridium. SpaceX successfully recovered the rocket booster on a droneship in the Pacific Ocean.

Musk’s business rivals at the defense contractor United Launch Alliance predicted it could take SpaceX up to a year to return to outer space after a devastating explosion on Sept. 1 destroyed a rocket on the launch pad.

SpaceX officials claim the explosion was caused by a complex process that involved broken carbon fibers, causing super cold oxygen to catch fire and explode. An independent physicist’s explanation of SpaceX’s technobabble is that the company used a risky fueling process, which can cause an explosion due to changing temperatures caused by warmer than expected weather.

NASA’s Space Station Advisory Committee has serious concerns about the company’s safety standards however, and suggested that SpaceX review its policies even before the explosion. The company appears to have declined reviewing its policies.

SpaceX rockets have previously exploded several times during landing attempts, which Musk called a “huge blow.”

The Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) estimated that SpaceX must spend $120 million to replace the lost rocket, factoring in future revenue from reusing the booster and the costs of repairing the launch pad. The company could also be hit with a $50 million lawsuit from the telecommunications company whose satellite was destroyed by the rocket explosion. SpaceX declined to tell Forbes if SFF estimates were accurate.

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