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Rocket Explosion Destroys Spectrometer Headed for Space Station

Photonics.com
Jun 2015
WATERLOO, Ontario, Canada, June 30, 2015 — An unmanned rocket that exploded shortly after takeoff Sunday destroyed a spectrometer and other equipment headed for the International Space Station.

The visible to near-infrared spectrometer from P&P Optica Inc. was to play a role in educational experiments conducted by astronauts on the station.

SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) said its Falcon 9 rocket exploded about 139 seconds after takeoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla., possibly due to a pressure problem in its upper-stage liquid oxygen fuel tank.

Among other supplies for the space station crew, the rocket carried nine experiment kits prepared by the the Story Time from Space program. Coordinated by the nonprofit Global Space Education Foundation, the program aims to create videos for schoolchildren of space station crew members reading storybooks aloud and conducting experiments.

P&P's spectrometer was to have been used for analyzing atmospheric composition at various times and tiers in the atmosphere, said Kevin Turnbull, the company's vice president of sales.

"We're told there may be the opportunity to participate in a future mission, and although it's not a concrete plan yet, we will absolutely do it," Turnbull said by email Tuesday.

Each of the experiments was designed by retired Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason, who selected the P&P spectrometer personally, according to company CEO Olga Pawluczyk.

"We are still uncovering ways for spectrometry to be used creatively here on earth in applications ranging from mineral mapping to chemical detection, so who knows what it might uncover in space as part of the experiments," Pawluczyk said in a statement issued before the failed launch.

P&P Optica develops spectrometers for use in the food, recycling and oil industries.



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