SpaceX says helium system breach was most likely cause of rocket explosion

The rocket and its $200m satellite payload were destroyed in the blast earlier this month

SpaceX says helium system breach was most likely cause of rocket explosion

Smoke rises from a SpaceX launch site Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Image: Marcia Dunn / AP/Press Association Images

SpaceX has said a helium breach was the most likely cause of an 'anomaly' that led to the destruction of one of its rockets earlier this month.

Elon Musk's firm was carrying out a test firing of its unmanned Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station when the explosion happened on September 1st.

The rocket was destroyed in the incident, along with its $200m satellite payload.

In an update today, SpaceX says the accident investigation team is "scouring" through around 3,000 channels of engineering data, as well as video, audio and imagery.

"The timeline of the event is extremely short – from first signs of an anomaly to loss of data is about 93 milliseconds or less than 1/10th of a second," the company says.

SpaceX says a preliminary review of the data and debris "suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place".

"All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated," the firm says. "Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection with last year’s CRS-7 mishap."

The CRS-7 incident saw one of the company's Dragon rockets disintegrate after take-off, a few minutes into a planned resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

In today's update on the latest incident, SpaceX says "substantial areas of the pad systems were affected" by the explosion but other key facilities were largely undamaged.

They say they are also hoping to resume flights as early as November, pending the findings of the investigation.

"Other efforts, including the Commercial Crew Program with NASA, are continuing to progress," the company adds.

"Getting back to flight safely and reliably is our top priority, and the data gathered from the present investigation will result in an even safer and more reliable vehicle for our customers and partners."