Rumors of potential sabotage are gathering around the investigation of the explosion during a recent SpaceX launch test.
SpaceX has been investigating the early September failure of a Falcon 9 rocket that caught fire and exploded on a Cape Canaveral launch pad just days before it was scheduled to launch.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that the inquiry has taken a "bizarre twist," suggesting SpaceX is considering sabotage a possible cause of the explosion. According to the Post, a SpaceX employee sought access to facilities belonging to SpaceX competitor United Launch Alliance — a partnership between Boeing (BA) and Lockheed Martin (LMT).
SpaceX investigators came across something suspicious when reviewing video of the failure—"an odd shadow and then a white spot" on the roof of a ULA building, according to the Post. A SpaceX employee seeking access to the building was turned away, but Air Force investigators later dispatched to the facility did not find anything on the roof.
SpaceX sent a statement CNBC saying that a "preliminary review of the data and debris suggests a breach in the second stage's helium system" on the Falcon 9, "but the cause of the breach is still unknown."
A ULA representative sent a statement to CNBC saying "ULA cooperated with the Air Force's 45th Space Wing, and nothing associated with the SpaceX accident was found."
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has also expressed puzzlement at what might have caused the breach. Earlier this month he tweeted "Particularly trying to understand the quieter bang sound a few seconds before the fireball goes off. May come from rocket or something else."
Musk has called this failure the "most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years," and that the explosion happened during a routine filling operation, when there were no engines on and no apparent heat source.
"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," the SpaceX statement noted.
The rocket was carrying a satellite for a partnership between Facebook and Eutelsat to provide internet access to Africa. The Amos-6 satellite was owned by Israeli company Spacecom and estimated to be worth around $285 million.
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