SpaceX CRS-7 breaks up post-launch

This morning, I joined the press and other NASASocial members to view the launch of SpaceX’s CRS–7 mission. The launch itself was stunning. We were about 4 miles away, right across the water from the pad.

My video (Forgive the shaky cam; I shot this with one hand with my iPhone as I was taking still photos from a tripod.) doesn’t do the experience of the thing justice.

A couple of minutes away from launch, a silent anticipation fell across the crowd. The voice marched on, marking off the seconds, and then it started.

Because sound travels slower than light, we felt and heard it a moment after we saw the steam and flame. It all felt much slower than I had guessed it would. Once the sound came, it was stunning. The power of thing was impressive, even miles away.

The rocket continued to climb, and was just about out of sight when it broke up. When the “anomaly” was announced, the excitement that had built up was instantly snuffed out. Many of us instantly thought of the programs lost, but were also relieved the flight was uncrewed.

That said, today is a reminder that space — even commercial travel — is hard. Up until today, SpaceX’s track record has been perfect, but even the best-engineered systems in the world aren’t immune to failure.

In the coming weeks, I’m sure SpaceX will have more to announce about what happened this morning, and NASA will have news on how to re-supply the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Until then, it’s a rough today for space nerds.