Elon Musk's SpaceX Rocket Exploded during Test

Pablo Tucker
November 9, 2017

However, testing of the Block 5 Merlin engine will be suspended until the cause of that ignition is found and fixed.

Private spaceflight company SpaceX sustained an explosion at its test site in McGregor, Texas, over the weekend when a "Block 5" Merlin rocket engine failed.

SpaceX has experience investigating accidents. No one was injured, but now the company founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk once again has to figure out what went wrong with its hardware, as it suspends engine testing during the investigation. The explosion is a seemingly minor setback in a very successful year for the company, which has flown 16 missions, all successful, so far this year. On Dec. 22, SpaceX has another Iridium flight, number 4, scheduled to take place.

The blast occurred in one of two bays the company uses to test Merlin rocket engines - nine of which line the bottom of every reusable Falcon 9 booster.

"All safety protocols were followed during the time of this incident", said a company spokesman, John Taylor. "We are now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause". In a statement provided to the Post, SpaceX representatives said they didn't expect the explosion to affect the company's launch schedule.

Sunday's explosion, which was first reported by The Washington Post, occurred before the engine was lit, a source told Ars.

Yet that fix job will take only "two or three days", according to the source, and block-four testing will soon resume. Two of the facility's test bays were damaged, but nobody was harmed according to SpaceX.

Recently, the company SpaceX has received official approval to reuse the first stages of their Falcon 9 rockets, which should greatly reduce the cost of production and the organization of launches for various space missions. Following the launch of the cargo from the NSA is planned for next week from Kennedy space center.

A Merlin rocket engine in a testing bay at SpaceX's development facility in McGregor, Texas.

Most launch vehicles encounter an anomaly within their first few flights - something the Falcon 9 avoided for its first five years and 18 missions. This consists of filling the engine with liquid oxygen to check the seal, kind of in the same way one might test a container for leaks by just filling it with water.

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