SpaceX explosion eyewitness: At first, ‘all appeared normal’

29 Jun 2015

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Irish eyewitness recounts launch and explosion of the SpaceX rocket lift-off at Cape Canaveral

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An Irish tech executive who was present at Cape Canaveral in Florida yesterday gave us his first-hand account of the moment the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded in the sky.

Donal McGuinness, managing director of the Irish operations of enterprise transactions firm Escher Group, was on holidays in Florida and on a beach near Cape Canaveral where he could see the rocket’s lift-off.

The rocket, which was carrying 4,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station, exploded in the sky just two minutes and 19 seconds after lifting off.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that there was an “overpressure event” in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank.

McGuinness said:

“We were standing on Playalinda Beach on the NASA complex, which is the closest point you can get (apart from the launchpad observatory tower).  

“All appeared normal and the Falcon arched towards the beach and out to sea after take off.  

“Everyone watched for the stage separation, as this first stage is a new reusable stage that was supposed to invert and land on a platform out at sea.  

“After what looked initially looked like the first-stage separation, everything disappeared, it was clear what happened.  

“At that stage it was about 15 miles out at sea, so no dramas.”

McGuinness took these two photographs:

spacex-lift-off

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off on 28 June 2015 at Cape Canaveral

spacex-rocket-explodes-smoke-plume

The Falcon 9 rocket disappears in a plume of smoke after exploding just two minutes, 19 seconds later

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com