An unmanned SpaceX rocket exploded and then disintegrated a little more than two minutes after liftoff Sunday morning in Florida. NASA and SpaceX engineers are going over data from the launch to try and determine what happened and why.
SpaceX President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell said some of that data came after the explosion and the focus will be on figuring out what went wrong, then "fix it and get back to flight."
The Falcon 9 spacecraft was carrying supplies to the International Space Station and there were no indications of any problems the first couple of minutes of the flight. 19 seconds later, something went wrong.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the explosion, "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."
"There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank," he added in a second tweet. "Data suggests counterintuitive cause." The incident put a damper on Musk's 44th birthday Sunday.
It was the third space launch failure in recent months, but the first for SpaceX in seven missions. An Orbital Science rocket exploded last October while Cygnus also had a rocket explode last year.
Also, in April, Russia's Progress 59 spacecraft entered into an uncontrolled spin and ultimately disintegrated when it re-entered the atmosphere.
NASA officials admitted again Sunday they expected to lose some vehicles in cargo missions, but not three of them in one year.
NASA's Bill Gerstenmaier said there was no commonality across the trio of failed launches other than it's space and "space flight is not easy." He said the ISS is in good shape for food and water and the crew is in no danger, but they will have to be careful with water filtration. Part for the filtering system were part of the cargo destroyed Sunday, along with new docking equipment, a space suit and crew supplies.
Quite a few student experiments were also lost in the blast.
The FAA has classified the incident as a mishap, so SpaceX will lead the investigation into what happened, with oversight by the government agency.
Shotwell said in an afternoon media briefing that the cause of the incident has not been pinpointed, but "we'll find out rapidly." She suggested the failed launch shouldn't impact any ongoing programs, but the incident is a reminder how difficult space travel is.