SpaceX rocket engine explodes during test at Texas facility


The company, which operates multiple test stands in McGregor, expects repairs at the damaged stand to last up to four weeks.

The company was testing a rocket engine on Sunday when the engine reportedly exploded at the McGregor, Texas facility, the Washington Post reported.

The mishap occurred during a "qualification test" of a Merlin engine meant to be used during a Falcon 9 launch in late 2018.

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SpaceX has experience investigating accidents.

The current generation of engines, known as Block IV, have not been impacted by the failure and will continue to fly payloads for SpaceX customers, meaning the incident will not affect this or next year's launches.

"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. After the incident, the project management took the decision to suspend testing until the end of the proceedings. The spacefaring giant has had a record run this year with as many as 16 successful missions, most ever done by the company in a year.

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SpaceX further added it don't see any change in its current launch schedule as a result of this explosion.

The company has three engine test stands at MacGregor: one for Merlin engines, one for the newer, more powerful Raptor engine, and another stand for upper-stage engines. Block 4 Merlin engine testing should resume within the coming days. In addition to launches that have exploded on the pad or in the air, SpaceX has had a number of rockets that have wiped out or exploded during attempted recoveries.

The uncertainty comes from whether SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will fly this year, the complexity of the launch vehicle, and the fact that it has 27 engines in its first stage alone has made its official launch date hard to pin down. Unofficially, there could be as many as 20 launches carried out by SpaceX in 2017.

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In terms of Sunday's accident, SpaceX has encountered anomalies before. And all but three of these missions also involved landings of the Falcon 9 first stage, for eventual refurbishment and reuse.