Elon Musk’s SpaceX Rocket launcher program suffered a major setback when one of their test rocket exploded. As the SpaceX and Tesla are both struggling, this came at a wrong time.  As per the official statement from SpaceX, no one suffered any physical injury due to the explosion.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX Rocket Engine Exploded during Test run
Elon Musk’s SpaceX Rocket Engine Exploded during Test run in 2014 for reference Credit SpaceX

SpaceX Rocket Failure: Primafacie report

The explosion occurred at McGregor facility in Texas, USA. The Merlin Engine, which exploded in Texas, is an engine type of SpaceX rocket Falcon-9.  The SpaceX rocket launch is a crucial part of the SpaceX space program. No Image or Video of the explosion has been shared by SpaceX so far.

Cause of the explosion is not known as of now. The Company is maintaining that they are in fact investigating the explosion. They also made it clear that this single launch failure is not a reflection of their capabilities.

Whether it’s about making Tesla successful or it’s about the weaponization of Artificial Intelligence Elon Musk stands for what he thinks is right. The Elon Musk’s SpaceX is indeed a fighter like Elon himself.

The company maintains that this particular launcher failure won’t affect their launch schedules. The news was first broken by The Verge. This, however, is the first failure in rocket launching spree of SpaceX in the year 2017.

SpaceX can call 2017 a very successful year with 16 Missions.  SpaceX rocket model Falcon 9 is a major success. It is clear by the fact that out of 13 out of 16 SpaceX rockets came back safely on Earth after launch. The company is planning to launch SpaceX rocket Falcon 9 by end of 2017.

SpaceX Rocket Falcon Heavy Merlin Engines
Credit SpaceX

A Timeline of SpaceX Rocket Falcon-9 Major Failures

  • 2015: Falcon 9 disintegrates post-launch. The Falcon 9 was on its way to ISS (International Space Station) when it exploded in midair.
  • 2016: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket explodes on the launchpad in last September. Hundreds of people witnessed the explosion at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Rocket was commissioned to orbit the satellites. The explosion occurred when it was en route to the International space station. There were no casualties.
  • 2017: 5th November 2017, the Falcon 9 Rocket’s engine explodes with no casualties. Engine Merline’s testing is suspended until further notice.

Aftermath of 2016 SpaceX Rocket explosion

After 2016 explosion, Elon Musk’s SpaceX administration ruled in favour of grounding its rockets for 150~160 days. After such incidences, the companies that conduct such tests need to report to FAA before commencing any new launches. The Federal Aviation Administration gave a green signal to SpaceX. SpaceX told FAA the cause of the launch failure & steps that it had taken to fix the issue.

Such failures bring down the reliability ratings of a company, especially a private enterprise. SpaceX is quantitatively more successful than NASA, in terms of rocket launches. The SpaceX is performing twice as good than it’s nearest rival, the United Launch Alliance.

But it needs to regain the confidence of NASA regardless of its market performance. SpaceX will move heaven and earth to establish their Merline engine. Each Falcon 9 has nine Merline engines designed for Falcon Heavy Rockets and Falcon 9 will carry cargo to ISS.

SpaceX has contracts for National Security Missions since early 2018. Now it goes without say NASA won’t risk ISS with SpaceX until they prove that Merline and Falcon 9 are in tip-top shape. Only a few months back, Elon Musk unveiled the flight suit for SpaceX flight crew, now it seems space travel is still very far.

On a lighter note here is a montage of failed attempts of SpaceX from Elon Musk himself.

 

Why is SpaceX business Model a Success?

Unlike government-run organizations, like NASA, SpaceX has to mind the costs of its operations. Government organization have a topmost priority of making things successful and secret. They can not afford embarrassments from rival countries, so failure is not an option.

SpaceX on the other hand, has a brilliant business model, unlike NASA they can reuse their rockets. So, minor features like this are SpaceX’s key to success. They can keep the costs down without interference of US Senate.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Rocket Engine Exploded during Test run

SpaceX Rocket returning after launching it’s Falcon 9  Credit SpaceX

If you notice that a standard SpaceX Rocket lands vertically, unlike Space Shuttle Discovery. As it turned out, landing rocket on its base is cheaper and efficient than using a shuttle. The shuttle itself cannot launch itself, it needs rockets to do that. SpaceX exploited this detail and implemented in their reusable rockets, reducing the overall costs multi-folds of time.

Why SpaceX Rocket Falcon 9 is Crucial to SpaceX?

SpaceX Rocket Falcon Heavy
SpaceX Rocket Falcon Heavy
Credit SpaceX

It is a known fact that SpaceX is not generating profits for its shareholder. For funding, the SpaceX is about to start SpaceX Internet, a satellite-based Internet Service Provider venture. Another venture, SpaceX Hyperloop is also a promising venture which will change the face of transportation.

SpaceX’s Rocket Falcon 9 is the most powerful operational rocket in the world. It weighs about 54 metric tons(121000 pounds), which according to SpaceX is equivalent to a fully loaded 737 Jetliner.

It can carry twice the payload of Delta IV Heavy, which is next in line to Falcon 9. Cost of Falcon 9 from earth to ISS is one third to that of Delta IV.

Falcon 9 has nine Merline Engine Cores, each core contains three engines, totalling 27 Merline Engines in a single rocket. These rockets can produce a thrust of 2230 Metric Tons ( 5 million pounds).

The Falcon 9 was originally designed for transporting humans to moon and Mars missions.Now SpaceX Rocket is indeed critical to SpaceX’s success because will be doing most of the heavy lifting from now on.

Issues from Falcon 9

The SpaceX uses Super Chilled Liquid Oxygen propellent (SCLOP) as fuel with -208 degree Celcius. The SpaceX uses a device called COPV ( Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel ). The COPV is important in Falcon 9’s propulsion system.

The problem with SCLOP is that it boils easily, even at -200 degree Celsius. To avoid boiling the COPV maintains the pressure, while the SCLOP is spent by the rockets. In 2016 these COPV had issues with their structure while pressure change in the vessel.

The Liquid oxygen reacted to the material of the COPV lining which caused the explosion. SpaceX fixed this issue and since then the Falcon 9 was working fine.

The Falcon heavy, on the other hand, is based on Falcon 9 which raises some concerns about the 2018 Mission. So it’s clear that Elon Musk has a lot of work in his hands in 2018.

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