The slow motion video of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket take off, which was carrying the Dragon cargo capsule, last night seems to show a possible explosion in the engines, and a fair amount of debris flowing out of it.
Here’s the video:
No one knows what the explosion is or if it damaged the rocket in any way. YouTube poster Zephyrus271, who uploaded the video, notes: “We should wait for an official assessment and avoid too many speculations. Personally, I strongly discourage making conclusions from this video alone.”
During last night’s launch, an engine exploded — and yet the Falcon 9 rocket continued its climb into the stratosphere unabated. Believe it or not, Falcon 9 is designed for such “engine out” occurrences. When you’re burning RP-1 and liquid oxygen to produce 138,000 pounds of thrust, explosions happen. In this case, the Falcon 9′s on-board computers almost instantly register the engine failure, and then alter the output of the remaining eight engines to compensate.
Otherwise, the launch itself went smoothly. SpaceX spokesperson calling it “picture perfect.” The capsule’s solar arrays have been deployed successfully, so the first private space cargo shipment is now making its way to the International Space Station, where it will drop of 1,000 pounds of supplies and a little extra surprise for the astronauts. It should make it there on Wednesday.
(via Bad Astronomer)
UPDATE: SpaceX has released a statement about the anomaly, saying the “explosion” was an engine shutdown due to lost pressure. The engine was shut down automatically and the power and fuel from it was rerouted to the rocket’s 8 other engines. The chunks during the explosion seem to the the Engine’s Fairing, which protects it from the aerodynamic loads when the engine pressure was released.
The full statement, from Ars Technicas’s John Timmer:
Approximately one minute and 19 seconds into last night’s launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first stage engine. Initial data suggests that one of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued immediately. We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Our review indicates that the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads ruptured due to the engine pressure release, and that none of Falcon 9’s other eight engines were impacted by this event.
As designed, the flight computer then recomputed a new ascent profile in real time to ensure Dragon’s entry into orbit for subsequent rendezvous and berthing with the ISS. This was achieved, and there was no effect on Dragon or the cargo resupply mission.
Falcon 9 did exactly what it was designed to do. Like the Saturn V, which experienced engine loss on two flights, Falcon 9 is designed to handle an engine out situation and still complete its mission.
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