By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - SpaceX said on Friday a fueling system problem is the most likely cause of a Sept. 1 launch pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket, a finding that takes the company a step closer to resuming flights that were grounded after the accident.
The space launch company led by billionaire Elon Musk said it has not confirmed the cause of a failure in the fueling system. However, the company said in a statement that testing at a facility in Texas had shown that a helium canister inside the rocket could burst depending on how it was filled.
SpaceX halted flights while it investigated the cause of the accident. The company, which has a backlog of more than 70 missions worth over $10 billion, said it was working on developing new techniques to load helium into its rockets and hoped to be back flying before the end of the year.
- PHOTOS: New art and old relics at Mickey Mouse's NYC gallery 25 Pictures
- PHOTOS: See Yes on 3 supporters react to historic transgender rights Question 3 win 11 Pictures
- PHOTOS: A look back at Queen performing in the 1970s and 1980s 22 Pictures
- All of these celebrities have had their nudes leaked 35 Pictures
- PHOTOS: A look at Idris Elba's style through the years 20 Pictures
- PHOTOS: Heidi Klum's annual Halloween party and other amazing celebrity costumes 17 Pictures
- These are the spookiest cities per capita in the U.S. 5 Pictures
- Food Network star talks pumpkin carving 1 Pictures
- Who is Alexander Edwards, Amber Rose's new boyfriend? 9 Pictures
- Is Cardi B pregnant again? This tweet has people guessing 6 Pictures
- Natural Museum's best wildlife photos of the year 5 Pictures
Helium is used to pressurize the liquid oxygen system. Accident investigators suspect that a canister of helium inside the liquid oxygen tank burst.
“These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded,” SpaceX said in a statement.
The Falcon 9 rocket was being filled with fuel at its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad for a routine, preflight engine test when a fireball burst out from around the booster’s upper-stage liquid oxygen tank. The blast destroyed a $200 million communications satellite owned by Israel’s Space Communication Ltd.
The investigation is continuing, led by SpaceX with oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration’s space transportation office. SpaceX said NASA, the US Air Force and industry experts are also working to "investigate all plausible causes."
(Reporting By Irene Klotz; Editing by Chris Reese and Andrew Hay)