Any Publicity? ... Hooray for Space-X!
Having been an avid follower of the Space-X organization from its beginnings, and feeling much pride for them following last evenings successful (even historic) launch I was eager to add a post here to commemorate the event.
Thanks to the article featured on the Geekosystem RSS feed (recently added to BlogDogIt): SpaceX Launch Has Engine Explode During Ascent, Proves Importance of Redundancy
My heart sank as I discovered the little publicized problems with this launch. I sincerely hope these event do not tarnish the reputation of the Space-X organization rather they should bolster their image as a company with the ability to push forward their mission in spite of these difficulties.
"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."]
Although this looks scary, the engine nozzles are coated with Kevlar to protect them specifically in case something like this occurs, so the other engines continued working. Also, the onboard computer immediately shut down the failed engine, and then on the fly – literally – recalculated all the needed changes to the thrust of the other engines to compensate. In the end, the first stage boost lasted an extra thirty seconds to cover for the failed engine. It’s important again to note that the Dragon capsule was delivered on orbit and will rendezvous with ISS on Wednesday.
Having said that, there may have been another problem as well: my friend Jonathan McDowell of Jonathan’s Space Report is reporting the upper stage didn’t make its second burn, so an Orbcomm satellite that was carried as a secondary payload didn’t make the correct orbit. I don’t have any more information about that, but I’ll update this post when I hear more.
Elon Musk at SpaceX is expected to have an announcement later today about the launch. Again, I’ll update this post as info comes in.
Tip o’ the nose cone to AstroEngine for the alert about the video.