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Friday, 10 November 2017

Engine for upgraded Falcon 9 rocket explodes on test stand

A Merlin engine designed for the version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket that will carry astronauts into orbit for NASA failed during testing Saturday in Texas, but the company said its upcoming launches will not be affected by the mishap.

The test engine was set for a firing at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas, but it caught fire during a leak check before ignition. The engine was a modified version of the Merlin power plant that powers both stages of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

“SpaceX experienced an anomaly during a qualification test set up of a Merlin engine at our rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas,” said John Taylor, a company spokesperson, in a statement released to Spaceflight Now on Wednesday. “No one was injured and all safety protocols were following during the time of this incident.

“We are now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause,” Taylor said. “SpaceX is committed to our current manifest and we do not expect this to have any impact on our launch cadence.”

Nine Merlin engines are mounted to the base of the Falcon 9’s first stage, and a single Merlin engine powers the Falcon 9’s second stage.

SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 mission is set for launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida next Wednesday, Nov. 15, with a secretive payload named Zuma for the U.S. government.

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