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Scott Powers

Colorado official describes wild west of law with marijuana

As Colorado became a medical marijuana state and then a recreational marijuana state the laws of the land became increasingly surreal, at least in the images drawn Friday by that state’s assistant attorney general for marijuana laws for the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida.

Law enforcement officers losing probable cause triggers for searches. Schools being told they cannot forbid marijuana on campus. Failing businesses unable to file for bankruptcy. Special laws considered to give pot shop robberies extra punishment, like bank robberies. Child endangerment issues clouded by lack of direct harm. Divorces clouded by lack of bank accounts. Organized crime getting harder to track because of all the loose cash floating around. Sheriffs refusing to confiscate marijuana.

New challenges like marijuana buses taking tourists to bud and breakfasts, increased homelessness with a in-migration of homeless, increased emergency room visits because people don’t understand dosages, and new niche insurance companies rising to write policies the big firms cannot touch.

“I am not here to tell you marijuana is good or marijuana is bad,” Colorado Assistant Attorney General Michael Song told the Tiger Bay Club. “I’m here to tell yo marijuana is here.”

In Florida it’s here only at a limited scale, but that’s likely only for a limited time. Florida’s Amendment 2 medical marijuana authorization will go into effect after the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Health and other state agencies fill in all the gaps of laws and regulations. There are fewer than 2,000 people currently authorized to obtain marijuana-extracts as medicine, but the same was true in Colorado when its medical marijuana amendment was first passed in 2000. Now there are over 113,000, Song said.

And that doesn’t account for the fact that in 2012 the state made recreational marijuana legal too.

Song cautioned that doctors have to be tightly regulated, with means to punish those abusing the ability to recommend medical marijuana.

“What do you think happens when you go to a doctor and say ‘I have a debilitating back injury?’ Do you think he says, ‘Here’s a referral to go get an MRI?’ No. He says, ‘Do you think marijuana will help?'”

He illustrated the dosage concern by showing a picture of a package of marijuana-medicine cookies, looking like any package of chocolate chip cookies. The fine print explained the dosage: one cookie equals six and a half servings. The fine print also explained a dose could take up to two hours to take effect. Song said problems are arising as people, for example, eat a whole cookie, or worse, several, while they wait for the effects to hit. Then they wind up in emergency rooms stoned way over the edge.

Backers of Florida’s Amendment 2 repeatedly expressed confidence that Colorado was the poster child for what Florida will not, with careful laws and regulations, become. But Song said many of the quirks of law and business emerging in Colorado have done so largely because of the awkward and complex fit between contradictory state and federal laws.

Because marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level, illegal in all ways, banks with federal insurance underwriting can’t get involved, so it’s virtually a cash business. Bankruptcies aren’t allowed. Insurance carriers often cannot get involved. Hospitals, colleges and universities that accept federal grants – almost all do – can’t get involved in research, not even to track patients using medical marijuana. Courts are denying search warrants or throwing out probable cause claims based on odors or dog alerts or other indications that could suggest illegal marijuana.

On the other hand, legitimate marijuana businesses are having to pay maximum federal tax rates – up to 60 percent – because they’re not allowed to deduct anything. They can’t declare bankruptcy because that’s a federal law. They have trouble hiring lawyers because lawyers advising marijuana businesses in state courts are being banned from practicing in federal courts. And they’ve become big targets of robberies, because everyone knows they have cash, Song said. One proposed suggestion is to give them extra protection under the law, with mandatory jail terms for marijuana shop robberies, much as there is for bank robberies.


Challenge to Orange County Charter amendments limited to Jerry Demings, Scott Randolph and Rick Singh

The statewide group that challenged Orange County’s charter amendments and obtained a court order staying their enactments appears to be entirely run by three Orange County officials who would be affected by the changes, Sheriff Jerry Demings, Tax Collector Scott Randolph, and Property Appraiser Rick Singh.

Paperwork at the Florida Division of Corporations shows that the Florida Association For Constitutional Officers was incorporated as a not-for-profit group on Dec. 13, with Demings as president, Singh as secretary and Randolph as treasurer.

On Dec. 22, the association sued Orange County to stop implementation of Orange County Charter Amendment Questions 2 and 3, which were approved by voters in the Nov. 8 election with about 70 percent yes votes on each. On Tuesday Judge Bob Leblanc of Florida’s 9th Circuit Court issued a temporary stay sought by the association. That order blocks any enactment of the amendments, which were to have gone into effect Wednesday, affecting the status of six elected constitutional posts in Orange County, including Deming’s, Singh’s and Randolph’s.

Orange County Charter Amendment Questions 2 and 3 were drawn up and submitted to voters with the intention of converting the county’s six Florida Constitution-authorized offices into Orange County Charter-authorized offices. The amendments also would term-limit the offices and make them non-partisan.

None of the three officials had signed onto the lawsuit individually, though Demings did submit an affidavit attesting to his belief that they would cause “significant and irreversible harm” to his office’s ability to carry out its duties.

The revelation that the challenge appears to be entirely from Demings, Singh and Randolph, rather than from a broad statewide organization on their behalf, reinforces the perception of a partisan political nature of the ongoing battle between the trio, sometimes joined by other Orange County constitutional officers, versus the county’s governing leadership of Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the board of county commissioners. Demings, Singh and Randolph all are Democrats, as are the lion’s share of Orange County voters, while Jacobs and the majority of the county commissioners are Republicans.

In an email, Demings described the association as something anticipated to grow bigger than just the trio of Orange County officers.

“The Florida Association of Constitutional Officers is a new statewide advocacy organization that was created to help its member effectively serve taxpayers they represent by preserving the independence of constitutional offices. The association is in its infancy and will identify common challenges facing county constitutional offices throughout Florida. There are many issues being advanced in the state legislature, local governments and by others which will likely be discussed as the governor convenes the Constitutional Revision Commission. These issues will impact the citizens of Florida and the various Constitutional Officers,” Demings wrote.

Such an organization could allow them to use tax dollars – paid to the association as professional dues – to prosecute the lawsuit. However, Demings said that’s not happening.

“At this point, we have not spent taxpayer dollars on the litigation filed in Orange County,” he added. “Membership in this organization and its dues structure will be no different than what is found in the many other associations serving elected and public officials. We anticipate that our membership will grow rapidly in the coming months.”

He declined to comment on the arguments within the lawsuit, as did Singh, Randolph, and Jacobs office.

Still, Demings’ characterization of the association’s desire to preserve “the independence of constitutional officers” is at the heart of the lawsuit, and of the dispute between Jacobs and the trio over what, exactly, the two charter amendments do, or would do. And that characterization is in dispute.

Throughout the past year the trio and other Orange County constitutional officers fought against moves to transform the offices into charter offices, arguing it would usurp their vital independence. Now retired Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie repeatedly implored county officials to not put the measures on the ballot because she was convinced they would taint the comptroller’s office’s ability to watchdog the rest of county government.

The Orange County mayor’s office and the county attorney’s office have vigorously denied the charter-authorized offices would lose any independence, pointing out that the charter amendments’ language explicitly calls for all powers, duties, rights and privileges of the offices to be maintained.

The question of independence is in fact one of the contested allegations of the lawsuit, which charges the charter amendments would “impugn upon and chip away at the independence of the Constitutional Officers.”

“It is my believe that that is something that is being threatened in many ways, and not just within Orange County,” Demings old Orlando-Rising.

Many of the same issues and questions raised in and about the lawsuit also are part of another lawsuit involving another voter-approved Orange County charter amendment the trio successfully challenged last year. That one, involving a 2014 case that would have imposed term limits and non-partisan status on the offices without transforming them into county charter-authorized offices, is being appealed in Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals.

Stephanie Murphy proposal for ACA amendment falls in Congress

Orlando’s freshman U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy took her first swings on the floor of Congress Thursday night, pushing an amendment she offered to protect one of the more popular provisions of Obamacare from repeal, but the amendment failed.

Murphy, the Winter Park Democrat, introduced a proposed amendment that would have shielded a rule that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until through the age of 26. The amendment was offered for House Resolution 26, known as the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017.

The amendment was defeated, but Murphy got her first stand in the limelight, and received some applause from fellow Democrats after introducing her amendment.

“The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. But I believe the responsible and moral course of action for this body is to strengthen the law, not repeal it,” she said.

“Just as in business, when your business plan runs into challenges, you make left and right adjustments along the way and keep moving forward toward your goals,” she added. “Health care is too central to the lives of our constituents to be rebooted every few years in a partisan, haphazard manner.”

Murphy’s was one of several swings that Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, took Thursday at trying to amend the Republican-led federal rules bill seen as a first step toward repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The rules bill was adopted late last night in a strongly partisan vote. 237 to 187.

Rick Scott’s counterterrorism proposal gets cities’, police chiefs’ backing

Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposal to spend $5.8 billion to beef up state counterterrorism drew a joint endorsement Thursday from the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

The two groups’ leaders signed a statement applauding Scott’s proposal and urging the Florida Legislature to approve it.

On Wednesday during stops in Orlando and Tampa, Scott and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen announced plans to seek $5.8 million in the next budget to add 38 special agents and eight intelligence analysts specializing in counterterrorism. The new agents and analysts would beef up existing FDLE units allowing them too coordinate with all federally-organized counterterrorism task forces in Florida.

Florida. League of Cities President Susan Haynie, who is mayor of Boca Raton, and Florida Police Chiefs Association President Albert “Butch” Arenal, police chief of Coconut Creek, issued a statement reading:

“The majority of Florida’s 20 million residents live in our cities, towns, and villages, and our municipalities face the constant threat of being targeted by terrorist acts. Governor Scott’s plan will institute a dedicated team of highly skilled, well-trained, and resolute experts whose sole mission will be to address the modern scourge of terrorism. This smart, forward-thinking, and unfortunately necessary proposal represents a cost-effective way to provide Floridians with a measure of assurance that their public servants are doing everything possible to protect them. We applaud the Governor’s leadership in advocating for these 46 agents and analysts, and we urge the Legislature to help protect the people of our state, not on the basis of what this costs but because of what it likely will save: lives.”

Panel: Amendment 2 firing up big bowl of who-knows-what

Medical marijuana champion John Morgan has said repeatedly recently that the “now-what?” questions regarding Amendment 2 are in the hands of lobbyists, lawyers, and legislators; but on Thursday a lobbyist, a lawyer and a legislator told told the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce they don’t really  know what’s next at this point.

Lobbyist Louis Rotundo who represents the Florida Medical Cannabis Association, lawyer Wade Vose who counsels several cities, and state Rep. Jason Bordeur, all agreed that the Florida Legislature, the Florida Department of Health, cities and counties, and businesses and entrepreneurs wanting to go into the medical marijuana industry, all have a lot of unanswered questions to sort through. And just saying no isn’t going to work in most cases.

In particular Brodeur, the Sanford Republican who has professional background in working with the Food and Drug Administration on drug approvals, outlined a long list of uncertainties from regulating where seeds can come from, to limitations on who can work in the industry, to disposal of unused parts of the plants, to how law enforcement deals with situations involving people with medical marijuana referrals.

All of that, he cautioned, is with a background of federal law that still make medical marijuana a Schedule 1 drug. That means if the federal government decided to enforce the laws, people could go to federal prisons for things authorized by the state legislature and Amendment 2.

“There are 100 decision points that we still need to do,” he said. “The answer is, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

The same may be true with how local governments might consider regulating local facilities, particularly retail outlets, known as dispensaries in state regulations and as pot shops in opponents’ language. Rotundo cautioned that cities ought not try to zone them into industrial areas only. He drew an image of a woman taking a child to a dispensary in an industrial area – a dark and creepy location. And she’s carrying cash, because marijuana medicines can only be purchased with cash. If she’s robbed or worse, the city is going to look really bad, he cautioned. Another alternative to tough zoning restrictions – which is happening right now – involves marijuana medicine being delivered to homes in unmarked delivery vans and cars, a method he suggested most neighborhoods would found unacceptable if they knew it was happening.

Vose conceded the points, but said cities and counties still must receive, from the legislature, direction and authority to regulate where the shops can go.

“It was a big wake-up call for cities and counties that they need to get in gear to get ready for these organizations, particularly for the retail,” Vose said of Amendment 2’s passage. “That’s where the big focus is for local government. Getting in gear and getting in place appropriate regulations… so they can adequately regulate where these products are going to be sold.”

Rotundo said the growth of the industry remains unpredictable. So far, it’s small, and he expressed doubts about the high estimates some have cited, that it could grow to a billion dollar industry in Florida. As long as it’s small, with seven licensed marijuana medicine producers and a handful of others that may win court challenges to join them,  there won’t be much to regulate.

“You can’t suspend the laws of economics,” he said. “The patient base is very limited right now.”


Orange County’s charter amendments falling silently; despite election, no changes in county offices

Wednesday is the day that Orange County’s voters figured they had turned their sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, clerk of courts, supervisor of elections and comptroller into non-partisan, term-limited county officials – but it’s not happening.

And it is unclear if it will ever happen.

Late Tuesday Judge Bob Leblanc of Florida’s 9th Circuit Court issued a temporary stay, blocking any enforcement for now of Orange County’s Charter Amendment Questions 2 and 3. Those ballot measures were approved by voters in the Nov. 8 general election.

Based on recommendations by the Orange County Charter Review Commission, those two amendment questions were placed on the general election ballot. Their intended purpose was to transform the county’s six state-controlled, constitutional offices into county-controlled, charter offices. That would have given the Orange County mayor and Board of Commissioners some direct power over their offices, their budgets and potentially over their operations. The measures also sought to make the offices non-partisan and term-limited.

Voters overwhelmingly said yes, voting in Charter Amendment Question 2 with 69 percent approval, and Question 3 with 70 percent approval.

The office holders themselves had mostly opposed the effort, and several spoke out against it last year during public hearings. They argued that their offices’ most vital attribute is independence from county control, and presumably from county political interference. Their statewide advocacy association, the Florida Association for Constitutional Officers, sued on Dec. 22 to keep the measures from going into effect after voters approved them.

“The challenged Charter Amendments conflict with and are in violation of Florida Law and the Orange County Charter;” the group asserted in its lawsuit, continuing with that the amendments, “impugn upon and chip away at the independence of the Constitutional Officers; deprive the Officers of their constitutionally protected property right to hold the office to which they were elected; conflict with Florida’s Election Code and Constitution, which provide for partisan elections; and are inherently inconsistent with one another in that one attempts to reaffirm their independent, non-Charter, County Constitutional status, while the other purports to make those same offices Charter Offices.”

None of Orange County’s six constitutional officers explicitly signed on as co-plaintiffs to the lawsuit. However, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings is president of the Florida Association for Constitutional Officers. And he filed his own affidavit last Friday, declaring that the charter amendments would cause “significant and irreversible harm” to his office’s ability to carry out its duties.

LeBlanc approved the stay sought by the association, and promised an expedited hearing to consider the full issue.

The suit was brought specifically against Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, for the legal technical reason that he’s in charge of all election-related matters for the county. He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who pushed hard for the charter amendments, said the county would not comment, pending the litigation.

The difference at stake is how the offices are authorized. Currently they are authorized by the Florida Constitution, making them untouchable by county officials. The county can, as some counties have done, replace each of them with county offices authorized by the county charter. Ad that was the effort.

All six of the Orange County constitutional officers who won on Nov. 8, Demings, Tax Collector Scott Randolph, Property Appraiser Rick Singh, Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell, Comptroller Phil Diamond, and Cowles, were sworn in and installed into their offices on Tuesday, as constitutional officers of the state of Florida. Today they could have been resworn in and installed as county charter officers, had the stay not been granted.

All but Diamond won re-elections. He is new in that office, succeeding the now-retired Comptroller Martha Haynie, who was among the most fervent critics of the effort to transform the offices from state-control to county-control.

Behind the amendments and the lawsuit is a long-running dispute pitting the Republican Jacobs together with the Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners and Republican-dominated Charter Review Commission, versus the six constitutional officers, five of whom are Democrats. Jacobs’ office and those of the commissioners are officially non-partisan. The county’s voter base is now solidly and increasingly Democratic, making it more and more difficult for Republicans to win county-wide elections unless political party affiliations are not listed on the ballots beside their names.

There already was a previous yet so-far failed effort to transform the constitutional offices into term-limited, non-partisan posts. A 2014 charter amendment, also approved by 70 percent of voters, was nullified last year when Circuit Judge Keith White agreed with the constitutional officers in a lawsuit brought by Demings, Randolph and Singh. He declared last spring that Orange County and the voters of Orange County had no authority under state law to change the status of those offices, at least not the way they tried. Orange County had promised to appeal that decision, but no appeal has yet been filed.

Last year’s Charter Amendment Questions 2 and 3 were crafted and placed before voters in part in an attempt to try a different strategy to seek that same result.

As the Charter Review Commission voted to send the two amendments toward the ballot, there was considerable discussion between the board members and the commission’s attorney, Wade Vose, about whether and how the county might yet gain control over the six offices. At that time Vose expressed legal uncertainty for the new strategy’s success, and cautioned it might be reliant on some future act of the Florida Legislature to clarify the routes of authority.

Rick Scott wants to hire counterterrorism agents

Vowing to do everything he can to prevent another terrorist attack like the June 12 Pulse nightclub massacre, Gov. Rick Scott pushed for nearly $6 million to create a new counter-terrorism and law enforcement intelligence task force in Florida.

“Terror, like we saw in the attack on the Pulse nightclub, is a threat to our state, our nation and each of us,” Scott said in announcing the proposal at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando Regional Operations Center Wednesday. “We need specialists who are solely dedicated to identify these terrorists and stopping them before they can attack.”

Joined by other law enforcement leaders including Orlando Police Chief John Mina, Scott and FDLE Commissioner Richard Swearingen outlined plans to seek $5.8 million in this year’s budget to hire 46 anti-terrorist specialists who would be divided into eight units and assigned to work with the eight joint anti-terrorism task forces coordinated in Florida by federal authorities.

The new positions would include 38 anti-terrorism special agents and eight crime intelligence analysts. He said the new positions would be in addition to anti-terrorism efforts the agency already has. But he said the current efforts sometimes require agents to be pulled off from other units on an ad-hoc basis and the new positions would better assure that full-time anti-terrorism officials are pursuing terrorists.

Swearingen said the current threat environment has “seen a vast expansion in terrorism relate threats in recent years and our federal law enforcement partners – who do a great job – have said they do not have sufficient resources to combat the spread of terrorism on their own,” he said. “This must be a collaborative effort of federal, state and local law enforcement.”

The budget request, of course, will have to survive in one form or another the Florida Legislature’s budget-writing. Two lawmakers present with Scott Wednesday, state Reps. Mike Miller of Orlando and Bob Cortes of Longwood, both spoke positively about the proposal Wednesday. Both are Republicans.

Miller, a member of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, said he looks forward to championing anti-terrorism money this spring. Cortes said a recent national anti-terrorism symposium he attended has him convinced of the need and said $5.8 million is “not a big ask.”

“We live in a very difficult time, and we’re going to do everything we can to help keep everyone safe,” Scott said.

On Thursday, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa said she shared Scott’s “commitment to ensuring that our law enforcement community has the resources necessary for counterterrorism to ensure that another tragedy like the massacre at Pulse nightclub never occurs again.”

“While this critical investment will allow the state to better monitor and prevent acts of terror, it is my hope this is one part of a conversation about passing meaningful reforms that keep weapons from falling into the hands of dangerous criminals and those suffering from mental illness who seek to inflict violence upon Floridians,” she said in a statement.

NASA hires SpaceX, Boeing for more astronaut flights, pushes first to May 2018

NASA has extended additional flight contracts to the two private companies hired to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station and reported that the first such flight now is expected no earlier than May, 2018.

In an announcement made Tuesday, NASA reported that Boeing and SpaceX now each will be hired to run up to six missions each. Previously, when the two companies were first selected to take over America’s dormant human space flight program in 2014, each was offered only two missions.

But NASA and SpaceX, the first expected to be ready, had long offered a timetable that would have the first such commercial crew transportation mission happen late this year, 2017. In the news release issued Tuesday, NASA noted that SpaceX’s first flight with people on board a Dragon capsule now is set for May of 2018, a delayed start that was first noted by the agency in December. SpaceX will do its first demonstration flight of the Dragon crew capsule in November of this year, NASA reported.

No specific anticipated date was reported for Boeing’s first manned mission. NASA reported Boeing’s first unmanned test of its astronaut capsule, the CST-100 Starliner, is expected in June, 2018.

The contracts now will provide astronaut taxi service through 2024, which is currently how long the space shuttle is supposed to stay in service.

Currently, astronauts go to and from the space station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. That’s been the case since NASA flew it’s last space shuttle, Atlantis, in July, 2011.

The original, 2014 contracts, Boeing’s contract was worth $4.2 billion and SpaceX’s $2.6 billion, and the additional flights will be part of those contract amounts.

“Awarding these missions now will provide greater stability for the future space station crew rotation schedule, as well as reduce schedule and financial uncertainty for our providers,” Phil McAlister, director, NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development Division, stated in the news release. “The ability to turn on missions as needed to meet the needs of the space station program is an important aspect of the Commercial Crew Program.”

SpaceX, of course, has had recent reliability problems with its Falcon 9 rockets, which will be used to carry the Dragon crew capsules into orbit. One blew up on the launchpad in September, and another blew up shortly after blastoff in June 2015. SpaceX resolved the 2015 issue and got back to launching unmanned rockets late that year. Earlier today it announced it has resolved the September issue and a will resume launching satellites and other equipment this weekend.

Boeing plans to launch its Starliner capsule atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

SpaceX has leased and has been rebuilding and modifying the old Apollo and space shuttle launchpad at NASA’s Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, and is expected to have it ready for the astronaut program.

Boeing has been modifying ULA’s leased Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a few miles south of Launch Complex 39A, for its astronaut program.

Marco Rubio picks up appropriations, aging panels; Nelson’s committees unchanged

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has picked up a seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee in the 115th Congress to go along with his appointments to the foreign relations and intelligence committees while Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s remained unchanged from the previous Congress.

Rubio also received a seat on the Special Committee on Aging. He also will continue on the Committee on Small Business ands Entrepreneurship.

Nelson will remain on the Armed Services, Finance, Aging and Commerce committees. He will remain as the ranking member on the Commerce Committee.

“With so many threats to America’s national security around the world, I look forward to continuing my work on the foreign relations and intelligence committees,” Rubio stated in a news release. “In the days and weeks ahead, we must reestablish America’s moral standing in the world, and make it absolutely clear that the United States will remain a true friend of Israel and a beacon of hope and freedom to oppressed people everywhere. The challenges posed by countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, China and North Korea will require decisive American leadership and resolve.”

SpaceX shooting to launch again on Sunday, in California

Declaring that the glitch that blew up its last rocket while sitting on the launch pad back in September has been identified and fixed, SpaceX announced it is ready to launch again – Sunday, from California.

SpaceX said it plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Station. to carry a French Iridium NEXT telecommunications satellite into orbit.

It will be the first launch of any SpaceX rocket since a Falcon 9 blew up during fueling on a Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad on Sept. 1. The company has had to postpone numerous contracted missions in the interim, including resupply missions for NASA to the International Space Station.

SpaceX declared its confidence in identifying and resolving the issue that led that rocket to blow up, and in getting Federal Aviation Administration go-ahead to launch again. However, it has not announced anything about when it will be launching again from Cape Canaveral AFS, where the SpaceX-leased Launch Complex 40 was heavily damaged by the rocket explosion.

Apparently super-chilled liquid oxygen entering the liquid oxygen storage tank in the rocket’s second stage managed to seep into and pool within buckles in a carbon overwrap on the tank’s aluminum inner liner. The liquid helium was loaded at temperatures that were so cold they created some solid oxygen. The pressure from the expanding oxygen on those buckles in the overwrap caused broke fibers, causing sparks, which ignited the oxygen.

The whole thing took 93 milliseconds from the first sign of “anomalous data to the loss of the second stage,” SpaceX reported Monday. That was followed by loss of the vehicle, as it exploded, burned, fell and exploded again in a stunning scene captured by launch complex video.

The company said the short-term solution will be to allow warmer helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight-proven configuration. Longterm, SpaceX plans design changes to prevent the overwrap from buckling.

SpaceX said the investigation was conducted with collaboration from the FAA< the U.S. Air Force, NASA, the National Transportation Safety Board and several industry experts, along a plan approved by the FAA.

Investigators scoured more than 3,000 channels of video and telemetry data. Because the explosion happened on the ground, they also were able to gather physical debris. To validate findings, SpaceX conducted a wide range of tests at its facilities in Hawthorne, Ca., and McGregor, Texas, the company stated.


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