On Sunday, one of SpaceX's Merlin engines exploded at a test facility in Mcgregor, Texas, damaging two of the company's test bays. No one was hurt in the incident.
SpaceX is no stranger to rocket accidents. Last year, one of their rockets exploded on the launchpad, destroying an expensive satellite and damaging the pad. The accident set the rocket company back months in its plans as it redesigned its rockets and repaired the launch pad.
Unlike the previous explosion at the launchpad, this accident is unlikely to affect SpaceX's short-term schedule. The engine being tested was one of SpaceX's Block 5 engines, the upcoming engine model to replace the current Block 4 design. The Block 4 engine has already been extensively tested and proven safe, so there should be no reason to postpone the rest of this year's launches.
The mishap could, however, delay the first SpaceX commercial crew launch to the International Space Station, which is scheduled for 2018 and will use the Block 5 engine to carry astronauts.
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. At some point during the testing process, something caused the liquid oxygen to ignite, destroying the engine and damaging the pads.
SpaceX says it will suspend testing of the Block 5 engine until it figures out what went wrong and how to correct it. Depending on how long this process takes, it could delay the implementation of the engine in mid- to late-2018.
Source: Ars Technica
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