SpaceX Merlin rocket engine explodes in Texas; not expected to impact launches

SpaceX Merlin rocket engine explodes in Texas; not expected to impact launches

SpaceX Merlin rocket engine explodes in Texas; not expected to impact launches

On Sunday, one of SpaceX's rocket engines exploded during a test at the company's facility in McGregor, Texas - and now it's investigating what happened, The Washington Post reported.

The current generation of engines, known as Block IV, have not been impacted by the failure and will continue to fly payloads for SpaceX customers, meaning the incident will not affect this or next year's launches. But the fact that SpaceX is going to reexamine its engine design, specifically, could mean that the firm wanted to further increase available thrust with the Block 5 engine, or that the explosion is related to other changes to the base design.

SpaceX said it is conducting an investigation into the cause of the explosion.

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The Merlin engine used in the company's Falcon 9 rockets was undergoing a "qualification test" before being used for one of the rockets.

The following year, another rocket exploded but this time it blew up on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center and left Launch Pad 40 severely damaged.

According to Ars Technica, the explosion occurred before the engine was lit during a process called a LOX drop where liquid oxygen is added to the engine to determine if there are leaks. The tests are created to root out any cracks or leaks in the engines. At that point, something caused the fluids within the rocket engine to ignite. The spacefaring giant has had a record run this year with as many as 16 successful missions, most ever done by the company in a year.

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"No one was injured and all safety protocols were followed during the time of this incident", the company said in a statement. A first stage landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Landing Zone 1 is expected shortly after liftoff. Falcon 9 has previously delivered cargo to the International Space Station as well as sensitive USA government satellites into orbit.

SpaceX is also targeting before the end of this year for the premiere flight of the highly anticipated three-core, 27-engine Falcon Heavy from KSC, though no official date has been confirmed.

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