New Spacex Merlin Engine exploded during qualification testing

An explosion occurred on Saturday, Nov 4, 2017 during a test of a “Block 5” Merlin engine, which will be used in a future generation of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets.

It was a engine qualification test and no one was injured.

The block 5 Falcon 9 will have higher thrust on all of the engines and improvements on landing legs compared to the block 4 Falcon 9 Full Thrust. There are also a number of small changes to streamline recovery and re-usability of first-stage boosters. Alterations to the launch vehicle are primarily focused on increasing the speed of production and efficiency of re-usability. SpaceX aims to fly each Block 5 first stage ten times with only inspections in between, and up to 100 times with refurbishment.

Block 5 changes are mainly driven by upgrades needed for the Commercial Crew program and National Security Space Launch requirements. They include performance upgrades, manufacturing improvements, and “probably 100 or so changes” to increase the margin for demanding customers.

Block 5 will feature:

For increased payload:
* 7–8% more thrust by uprating the engines,
* an improved flight control system for an optimized angle of attack on descent, lowering landing fuel requirements.

For rapid reusability:
Forged, more temperature-resistant titanium grid fins,
a thermal protection coating on the first stage to limit reentry heating damage,
a set of retractable landing legs for rapid recovery and shipping,
a reusable heat shield protecting the engines and plumbing at the base of the rocket.

For reusability endurance:
Redesigned and requalified valves for higher levels and much longer duration.

9 thoughts on “New Spacex Merlin Engine exploded during qualification testing”

  1. Per news sources, a LOX drop test (checking for leaks?) was underway at the time of the explosion. That test usually applies a high surge pressure from an accumulator to the test item. Rubbing, friction, pneumatic impact sometimes results in a hot spot leading to spontaneous ignition of normally oxygen safe materials.

  2. Now, as much as I like to trash Musk’s vaporware BS…this is where I actually defend him by reminding people that we went through hundreds of redstone and other rockets before we got the things working reliably and robustly enough to go ahead and develop the rockets later used in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.

    So, I do give kudos where it is due and that is in this case SpaceX slugging it out like this.

  3. SpaceX is supposed to fly the Dragon-2 capsule on top of a Falcon 9 Block 5 (both on their first flight) in April 2018. They have always been pretty good at learning from their RUDs and hopefully this won’t push the Dragon-2/Block 5 demo flight back by more than a few weeks.

    • By the way the majority of up votes came from trolls trying to disprove my prior statement about trolls cooperation.

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