An investigation into an explosion which destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket owned by SpaceX Sept. 1 is considering the possibility that the accident was the result of sabotage.
The explosion damaged the launch pad and destroyed the rocket just days before it was supposed to transport a satellite into space, The Washington Post reported.
The incident appeared puzzling from the outset, because it occurred during routine testing and no engines were turned on. SpaceX believes it was caused by something breaching the rocket’s second-stage helium system.
The Post then revealed Sept. 30 that a SpaceX official had approached United Launch Alliance (ULA), a fierce industry rival, to ask to inspect the roof of one of ULA’s buildings. The building is located about a mile from the launch site and has a direct view of the area. SpaceX alleges that it saw a shadow coming from the building roof on stills taken from footage of the explosion, followed soon after by a white spot.
ULA refused to give access to SpaceX, but instead allowed the Air Force 45th Space Wing to examine the area.
“ULA cooperated with the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, and nothing associated with the SpaceX accident was found,” a ULA statement read, CNBC reported.
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, took to Twitter on Sept. 9 to describe the explosion as “the most difficult and complex failure we have had in 14 years.”
Musk indicated in another post that much remained unclear.
“Particularly trying to understand the quieter bang sound a few seconds before the fireball goes off,” Musk wrote. “May come from rocket or something else.”
“We’ve eliminated all of the obvious possibilities for what occurred there,” he said at a conference in Mexico, The Washington Post reports. “So what remains are the less probable answers.”
It is not known what the less probable answers being considered are.
SpaceX and ULA have been engaged in strong competition for national security contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. ULA is a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
“The accident investigation team has an obligation to consider all possible causes of the anomaly, and we aren’t commenting on any specific potential cause until the investigation is complete,” a SpaceX statement declared.
Despite last month’s setback, SpaceX has suggested it could start flying again as early as November.