Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corporation is set to give federal authorities a preliminary investigative report as soon as possible in relation to the explosion of its unmanned rocket last September.
The report, according to people familiar with the issue, is part of the secretly held effort by the company to resume launching this month, following a fireball that ultimately destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and a commercial satellite during a ground test.
SpaceX, as the company is most commonly called, heads the probe with assistance from several government agencies. But the awaited tight timeline only gives SpaceX a mere three weeks to be able to finish the final report, convince government officials to sign off on its major findings, and then get an approval for operational changes that are intended to prevent a repeat of the tragic accident.
Investigators strongly believed that a complex interaction between super-cooled fuel and carbon composite material covered around the outside of helium containers resulted in a breakage in one of those pressurized bottles. Engineers promised to re-create the exact combination of variables which would include the right amounts of pressure, temperature and fill rates.
The investigation has also scrutinized both design and quality-control issues. But there appears to be a consensus that problematic operational factors were the primary reasons.
The anticipated timetable for the next operation to be official is similar to the one SpaceX followed in 2015 after another unmanned Falcon 9 exploded just two minutes after take-off for different reasons. That preliminary report was handed over to federal officials, and launches then resumed later December of that year.
But this time, investigators took weeks in order to focus on the probable cause. Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who founded and currently runs the company while serving as a chief technical officer, previously claimed that the latest investigation was struggling to make any reliable results.