SpaceX says rocket engine test failure won't affect its launch schedule

Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

In an email, Justin Karl, a design engineer at Kennedy Space Center, said the company should "consider itself lucky that they got this failure data point on their test stand" and under controlled conditions instead of during a launch.

"Despite the fact that this indicates that the Merlin family of engines isn't perfect, SpaceX will be able to make good use of what they learn from the incident in improving their design and processes," he said in the email.

SpaceX uses nine Merlin engines to power the first stage of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. It plans to use 27 Merlin engines in the first stage of its upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket.

Though this particular incident is unlikely to scare away customers, Caceres said it may make some people a bit antsy, just because of SpaceX's role in NASA, military and commercial launches.

"Given that there is so much reliance on SpaceX, any little thing that doesn't go according to plan is going to make people a little nervous," he said. "But when they really stop and think about it, I don't think it'll have too much impact."

It will take SpaceX about two to four weeks to repair the damage done to one of the test bays that was used Saturday. The company has multiple test stands at that facility. Qualification testing on components for the newer version of the Falcon 9 will be halted during the investigation.

SpaceX has notified a number of government agencies about the incident, including NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Air Force, which said it had personnel observing the test.

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