A gradual wearing away of the vehicle’s skin was expected because of extremely high temperatures, but an independent engineering review board concluded that the most probable cause was “unexpected aeroshell degradation, creating multiple upsets of increasing severity that ultimately activated the Flight Safety System,” the statement said.
Initial shockwaves created by the gaps in the skin were more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand, but it was still able to recover and return to controlled flight, said Kaigham J. Gabriel, DARPA’s acting director.
We covered the launch last August. Gaps in the skin make me think of the Shuttle tiles, where you have to allow for thermal expansion. Wonder if the gap fillers gave way or perhaps an adhesive did.