Texas Toast: SpaceX's Latest Merlin Engine Explodes During Testing

Viernes, 10 Nov, 2017

SpaceX plans to launch its Falcon 9 rocket, which is equipped with nine Merlin engines on the first stage, at least three more times this year. SpaceX has already launched 16 missions, all of them successful, in 2017 - twice as many as its previous high in a calendar year. The engine in question is being developed for the Block 5 version of SpaceX's tried-and-true Falcon 9 craft.

"No one was injured and all safety protocols were followed during the time of this incident", a SpaceX spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement.

The new engine model is more powerful and meant to replace the engines on its current Falcon 9 rocket system.

SpaceX is no stranger to rocket accidents. This will allow the company to continue "acceptance" testing for its Block 4 Merlin engines, the penultimate test before a rocket is assembled, shipped to the launch site, and the entire booster undergoes a static fire test on the launch pad.

Some will undoubtedly use this explosion to point to other failures from SpaceX's past-a Falcon 9 exploded in 2015 and another in 2016; no one was hurt in those explosions either-but the company's track record as a whole remains formidable.

SpaceX said it is conducting an investigation into the cause of the explosion. "At SpaceX I don't think this incident will have any impact on the pace of launches".

A nearby testing bay, which is also used to qualify Merlin engines before flight, was also damaged from the explosion - perhaps by flying metal, concrete, or liquid-oxygen-fueled flames.

Musk has actually pulled several improvements, like uprated engines and the titanium grid fins into earlier generations of the Falcon 9 Block 4. The Merlin test stand has two bays, and while one bay may require as much as four weeks to fix, the other bay should be ready for use within a couple of days.

"This isn't going to have any impact on our launches this year or next year".

The 1st stage Merlin test stand at McGregor is composed of two test cells. Testing of this engine will be suspended until the company finds out what went wrong. Experts said that this engine was never used in flight.

Muck also said that the company is preparing to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket this year.