The last time SpaceX had a big setback was in 2016 when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad during a fuelling procedure, destroying the vehicle and the satellite it was meant to carry. That led to the grounding of all rockets for the company for four and a half months as they carried out investigations.
The flights resumed in January and SpaceX launched 16 successful missions, the most it has done in a calendar year, before this failure. 13 of those rockets have already landed back on Earth and none were lost during the landing procedure. The failure occurred during a qualification test for the Merlin engine which was planned to be used in a late Falcon 9 flight towards the end of next year. No loss of personnel took place but it was a setback nonetheless.
“We are now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause,” SpaceX spokesperson John Taylor said in a statement to The Verge. “SpaceX is committed to our current manifest and we do not expect this to have any impact on our launch cadence.”
There are a couple of Falcon 9 missions coming up in the next week and the company plans to launch the Falcon Heavy Rocket before the year runs out. Even though it is said that this failure will not affect the launch of other missions, we will see if they proceed on time.
SpaceX has assured that it will continue testing of engines in the facility. However, block 5 engine testing will be on suspended for the moment. Investigations are being carried out and repairs are underway. The company believes that the repairs will not take more than a month and will be complete before the investigation has run its course. We will have more details once they are made public.
This video shows the explosion of an engine in SpaceX’s Falcon 9 back in 2012.