The pace of activity of SpaceX is frantic, its plans both in terms of space exploration and the deployment of its global Internet service via satellite, StarLink seem to develop faster every day, to the point that Elon Musk seems to wish to colonize space. short term. Maybe the Tesla Roadster he launched into space was a way to mark territory, and now he is taking care of fulfilling that promise.
The problem is that such a fast pace inevitably increases the risks associated with launches. We have normalized the launches, and that is understandable and good, but we must not forget that, in each of them, there are many adverse circumstances that can occur, and that therefore it is essential that you act with as much caution as possible. . Something that, at times, SpaceX seems to have neglected a bit.
I say this not because of the incident that addresses this news, but because one of the test launches of the prototypes of Starship, the large spacecraft with which SpaceX intends to open the way for the first manned mission to Mars, it did not have the approval of the federal authorities of the United States, and the reason was precisely that, security. The rain of fragments and debris from a failed launch on urban environments is something that worries the authorities a lot, and with good reason.
And we are not talking about a hypothetical risk, but a real threat that, as we can read on Space.com, has recently materialized in that a fragment of a Falcon 9, the spacecraft used by SpaceX for the launching of StarLink satellites, crashed a few days ago on a farm in Washington state, in the United States, in an incident in which, fortunately, there is no human damage to be regretted.
The piece that fell on the agricultural property is a COPV (Composite overwrapped pressure vessel), a container that stores some type of gas or fluid at high pressure, in this case helium at pressures of nearly 6,000 psi. This gas is used to pressurize the large propellant tanks of the second stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch, and should have been orbiting Earth for years.
However, the COPV, which is part of the non-reusable elements of this Falcon 9 I did not end up orbiting, nor destroyed in its subsequent reentry attempt. Instead, he ended his journey on a farm in Grant County, Washington, last weekend, to the surprise of the landowner, who after the find contacted the county sheriff’s office, who in turn, and after inspecting the artifact, he contacted SpaceX.
SpaceX, upon receiving the notice, quickly dispatched a team to collect the COPV, although they did not provide explanations to either the farmer or the sheriff’s office. The container is about 1.5 meters in size and, when hitting the ground, it caused a gouge of about 12 centimeters. You only have to spend a few seconds thinking about it to imagine the effects it could have had if it fell on people, a house or any other inhabited place.