SpaceX reporting tiny explosion in Dragon ISS launch [UPDATED with statement]

Oct 8, 2012
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SpaceX reporting tiny explosion in Dragon ISS launch [UPDATED with statement]

This morning we're hearing official word from SpaceX that their Dragon capsule launch to the International Space Station didn't go as perfect as it seemed in the live feed. What you're about to see is a bit of an explosion, some debris flying from the craft, and a burst of fire. Of course as the fire is surrounded by lots of fire from the rockets surrounding it, it'll be just a bit difficult to detect - good thing the video is in slow motion and you'll see it all in all of its glorious detail.

The situation we're seeing here is what SpaceX calls an "anomaly", assuring us that the ship is indeed in orbit around the Earth now and that the explosion wasn't something they were alarmed about as it happened nor now. What you can see looks a lot more serious than SpaceX is making it out to be, that being a burst of flame and a collection of debris falling from the rocket as it continues on its course.

UPDATE: SpaceX has released the following statement on the situation, assuring the public that the mission will continue as planned, and that there wasn't actually an explosion at all - all is well!

The Dragon spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station this morning and is performing nominally following the launch of the SpaceX CRS-1 official cargo resupply mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 8:35PM ET Sunday, October 7, 2012.

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.

We will continue to review all flight data in order to understand the cause of the anomaly, and will devote the resources necessary to identify the problem and apply those lessons to future flights. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Dragon is expected to begin its approach to the station on October 10, where it will be grappled and berthed by Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA. Over the following weeks, the crew will unload Dragon’s payload and reload it with cargo to be returned to Earth. Splashdown is targeted for October 28

This craft also works with the Falcon 9, projecting the Dragon capsule into space with nine engines. It's designed so that if any one of its nine engines should fail, the on-board computers will instantly detect it and act. When a failure occurs, the fuel supply will be cut and the unused propellant will be distributed to the remaining engines, this allowing them to burn longer.

Because these engines were also designed to minimize damage to one another should one of them fail, it appears that one one of the nine was knocked out in the anomaly. SpaceX has assured that they'd be providing more information on the exact situation as it unfolds throughout the day [SEE ABOVE]. We must assume at this point that the mission will continue without delay as SpaceX doesn't appear to have their feathers ruffled too much - stay tuned!


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