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SpaceX Launch Not So Perfect After All

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the we-have-a-problem dept.

Space 272

First time accepted submitter drichan writes "Those of us who watched the live feed of last night's Falcon 9 launch could be forgiven for assuming that everything went according to plan. All the reports that came through over the audio were heavy on the word "nominal," and the craft successfully entered an orbit that has it on schedule to dock with the International Space Station on Wednesday. But over night, SpaceX released a slow-motion video of what they're calling an 'anomaly.'"

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272 comments

An (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589677)

An anomaly? That's strange.

Re:An (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589779)

It may work. It may won't. Too early to say, though.

What I don't like is the fact that space is becoming increasingly privatised.

At first the government did the work, and quickly.

Then it contracted out some work to a few agile aerospace businesses, and things worked OK for a short while. (*)

Then contract costs shot up, progress slowed, and it became another corporate welfare scheme.

Then Musk came along and said, "Hey, I've got rich from founding the world's worst consumer bank, how about I give you the first few hits for free?" and hired a few experienced people.

Libertarians rode the back of this and shouted about how much better it would be to privatise space. But in fact we're just right (*) here again, with SpaceX substituted for Boeing.

Re:An (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590009)

Quickly? They took a decade!

Re:An (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590055)

Right, because if you want something done quickly and cheaply you turn to the government! Wait...

Re:An (5, Insightful)

the gnat (153162) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590125)

Libertarians rode the back of this and shouted about how much better it would be to privatise space. But in fact we're just right (*) here again, with SpaceX substituted for Boeing.

I think you'll find it's not just libertarians cheering for this - after all, privatizing the launch infrastructure has been a key element of Obama's space plans. The difference from the previous situation, where NASA relied on bloated defense contractors, is that SpaceX and its competitors will have to enter fixed-price bids, instead of the old cost-plus contracts which gave the contractors zero incentive for efficiency. Whether this will actually work in the long run remains to be seen, but it's hard to see how this is worse than the old system, and putting the federal government into the launch vehicle business sounds like a spectacularly awful idea.

Re:An (4, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590243)

I don't think you know how these so-called fixed-price bids work for governments. They're not fixed at all as the contract or language implies. They are just starting points for negotiations on more contracts as the scopes and costs change on both ends of the contract.

Basically a government fixed-price request is a very vague description of an idea. The fixed-price bid is a very vague description of a project and associated budget. Whether or not the budget then balloons to eclipse the specified price is irrelevant to the bureaucracy on either side.

Fist Post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589703)

Pmm
    | |
    | |

Rocket Man!

Whats the problem? (5, Informative)

ZiakII (829432) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589723)

The Falcon 9, as its name implies, has nine engines, and is designed to go to orbit if one of them fails. On-board computers will detect engine failure, cut the fuel supply, and then distribute the unused propellant to the remaining engines, allowing them to burn longer. This seems to be the case where that was required, and the computers came through. The engines are also built with protection to limit the damage in cases where a neighboring engine explodes, which appears to be the case here.

Sounds like it did exactly what it was supposed to do.

Re:Whats the problem? (5, Insightful)

residieu (577863) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589753)

Just because you have a backup plan, and it works, doesn't mean the launch was perfect.

It was a good launch (5, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589807)

Pilots say any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.

In space, any launch that accomplishes its goals is a good launch. If good costs 10% of perfect, go for good.

Re:It was a good launch (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589841)

What is the failure rate of good? What is the cost of failure? These questions need answers before you can draw that conclusion.

Re:It was a good launch (5, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590083)

Obviously SpaceX wants to achieve man-rating so that they can launch and return personnel in addition to the cargo runs they're currently beginning. I'm curious as to how this moderate malfunction will impact the rest of the program.

Bearing in mind, of course, the deaths of Chaffee, Grissom, and White in the Apollo 1 accident, the launch-time engine failure and later unrelated catastrophic failure for Apollo 13, the Challenger disaster, and the Columbia disaster, it's difficult to call SpaceX's anomaly as being any worse than those. If SpaceX manages a series of cargo deliveries without any loss of the capsule or with complete success on delivery then even with this anomaly they're arguably no worse off than any of the previous space programs were, as far as reliability and safety goes.

Re:It was a good launch (5, Insightful)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590337)

Obviously SpaceX wants to achieve man-rating so that they can launch and return personnel in addition to the cargo runs they're currently beginning. I'm curious as to how this moderate malfunction will impact the rest of the program.

Bearing in mind, of course, the deaths of Chaffee, Grissom, and White in the Apollo 1 accident, the launch-time engine failure and later unrelated catastrophic failure for Apollo 13, the Challenger disaster, and the Columbia disaster, it's difficult to call SpaceX's anomaly as being any worse than those. If SpaceX manages a series of cargo deliveries without any loss of the capsule or with complete success on delivery then even with this anomaly they're arguably no worse off than any of the previous space programs were, as far as reliability and safety goes.

The important thing is whether they can successfully determine what actually happened, and why it happened (i.e. replicate the malfunction on a test bed engine). This was the thing Feynman was most critical of NASA for post-Challenger - that the whole disaster was caused by this faulty assumption about engineering risks on the O-Ring seals (i.e. the seals were getting eroded by exhaust during launch, but the question posed was "is this dangerous" not "why is this happening" - the former being foolish since the system was not designed to cope with this, and it's true cause was unknown).

It's a triumph that the launch still succeeded, but having averted an unforeseen consequence the only safe thing to do is make sure it's both forseen and mitigated in the future.

Re:Whats the problem? (1)

infidel_heathen (2652993) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589879)

From TFA:

Falcon 9 did exactly what it was designed to do. Like the Saturn V, which experienced engine loss on two flights, Falcon 9 is designed to handle an engine out situation and still complete its mission.

Looks like even the good old Saturn V rockets had problems with engine loss once in a while.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590015)

When the Saturn V lost an engine, that engine just turned off. This engine exploded.

Re:Whats the problem? (5, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590213)

No, the engine did not explode. The fairing around the nozzle was crush by the sudden loss of interior pressure when the engine shut down -- the external pressure was then much higher than the nozzle's interior pressure (no more rocket exhaust) and it got crushed and fell away, harming nothing. The engine is still there, intact, and it did, in fact, just turn off.

Re:Whats the problem? (5, Insightful)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590433)

If that's accurate, then SpaceX is looking into a shutdown event, a LOT different than a destructive failure. The fairing imploding will either be the anticipated result, or a new issue to understand and resolve/document.

Shutdown may be accompanied by data, and there is a fix. Valves, pumps, all kinds of fairly well understood stuff to analyze and resolve. Destructive catastrophic failure would be much more disturbing.

So far, they seem to be doing at least as well as NASA did in the early days. Mercury was a real crap shoot, and early Saturn development was exciting to say the least. I filled a few scrapbooks with notes on those faiures. Fun times...

Re:Whats the problem? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590231)

Re-read their reply. It didn't explode (they still received telemetry from the engine).
The debris seemed to be something else, maybe a small part being the engine, but the engine as a whole is more or less fine.

Re:Whats the problem? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590249)

When the Saturn V lost an engine, that engine just turned off. This engine exploded.

1. As far as is known, this engine did not explode.
2. Apollo 13 pogo was within a few seconds of causing structural breakup of the Saturn V when the affected engine shut down.

Re:Whats the problem? (3, Informative)

astrodoom (1396409) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590285)

Actually, according to SpaceX engineers, it did not explode as they were able to continue to communicate with it. The current theory is the outer covering blew off because of the change in pressure.

From TFA: "We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Our review indicates that the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads ruptured due to the engine pressure release, and that none of Falcon 9’s other eight engines were impacted by this event."

Re:Whats the problem? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590461)

Actually, according to SpaceX engineers, it did not explode as they were able to continue to communicate with it. The current theory is the outer covering blew off because of the change in pressure.
From TFA:
"We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Our review indicates that the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads ruptured due to the engine pressure release, and that none of Falcon 9’s other eight engines were impacted by this event."

Al that "receiving data" means is that the sensors were still intact after the engine exploded. This isn't the first time Space X has covered up a failure.
http://www.spacenews.com/civil/110802-spacex-agrees-drop-lawsuit.html

Re:Whats the problem? (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590047)

The first outage was during an earlier Apollo with a dummy payload - they actually failed to achieve their planned orbit and had it been a moon launch, they would have had to scrub. But since it was just a test, and since they thought they knew the solution - they called it a success and did not delay the program.

The second outage was, ominously, on Apollo 13.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589763)

Which is neither 'smooth' nor 'nominal', though still successful. None of the engines are supposed to fail.

Also nice that they (and we) know about this this soon.

Re:Whats the problem? (2, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589777)

The fact that the rocket had enough redundancy built in doesn't mean that the cause of the failure should not be investigated.

Re:Whats the problem? (4, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589843)

Who is saying it shouldn't be investigated? Every launch should be measured and checked.

If you can recover the engines, the unburned parts tell you where they're too heavy, and the burnt through parts tell you where you need more strength.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590281)

All launches, regardless of outcome, are thoroughly analysed.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589801)

A nominal launch, then. Anomalynal even, I might say.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

beltsbear (2489652) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589811)

While it is great that the engine out capability worked as planned, this is something you do not want happening often. A failure without an explosion once in 20 flights might be acceptable but the explosion with fragments greatly changes the equation. SpaceX is doing great things and I congratulate them on another success.

Re:Whats the problem? (4, Informative)

afidel (530433) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589977)

It wasn't an engine explosion, the protective fairing around the engine shattered when the engine cutoff caused a major change in pressure. SpaceX said that they continued to receive telemetry data from the engine which means it did not explode, and in fact was physically intact though not functioning correctly.

A statistical analysis: (5, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590505)

They've launched 4 Falcon 9 rockets. One engine has failed, so that's an observed failure rate of 1/36 or about 3%. The means the odds of 0 or 1 engine failing (a successful launch) is 97.6% and the odds of more than one failing is 2.4% assuming the currently observed rate is representative of the actual rate. 2.4% would be an excellent failure rate for any rocket launch system. In fact, no one has achieved a failure rate that low. And bear in mind this rate includes 3 experimental launches and only one production launch. Of course, a launch failure can be brought about by more than just engine failures, so 2.4% is really a minimum and other factors which haven't yet manifested themselves would add to it.

Space X is saying that this is probably a failure in the aerodynamic structure of the rocket, not the rocket engine itself. If that's the case, the above statistical analysis is invalid because it assumes no interdependency in engine failures. A structural failure could lead to more than one engine failing. It would also be problematic in assessing the future failure rate because the engine configuration is going to change in their 1.1 version. The outer engines will be circularly arranged in future versions while in current versions they're arranged in a square.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589821)

You really don't want to be having engine burn-throughs, which is what it looks like happened to me. Having one engine of 9 shut down is no big deal, but having one blow is a big deal, even if it didn't take the rest of the system with it.

Re:Whats the problem? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589903)

As the update to the article from SpaceX points out - the engine didn't blow.

Approximately one minute and 19 seconds into last night’s launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first stage engine. Initial data suggests that one of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued immediately. We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Our review indicates that the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads ruptured due to the engine pressure release, and that none of Falcon 9’s other eight engines were impacted by this event.

As designed, the flight computer then recomputed a new ascent profile in real time to ensure Dragon’s entry into orbit for subsequent rendezvous and berthing with the ISS. This was achieved, and there was no effect on Dragon or the cargo resupply mission.

Falcon 9 did exactly what it was designed to do. Like the Saturn V, which experienced engine loss on two flights, Falcon 9 is designed to handle an engine out situation and still complete its mission.

Re:Whats the problem? (5, Informative)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590063)

As designed, the flight computer then recomputed a new ascent profile in real time to ensure Dragon’s entry into orbit for subsequent rendezvous and berthing with the ISS. This was achieved, and there was no effect on Dragon or the cargo resupply mission.

IIRC, there was no way to recompute a Saturn 5 flight profile on the fly. Remember, kids, that was back in the days when we hunted dinosaurs from the backs of our '57 Chevys. Kudos to SpaceX for having enough out of the box thinking to have the needed software routines in the can already and ready to go. Falcon 9 is more than just another Big Dumb Booster, AAMOF, from everything I'm reading and seeing of its operation, it's pretty goddamned smart. Remember the test flight to the ISS? The first launch attempt, the onboard computers detected a glitch that might have taken out the bird and shut down and aborted the launch right at T -0, even after the humans tapped the buttons authorising the computers to do the launch. Like I say, some serious onboard smarts programmed by some seriously smart people.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590153)

We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it.

That in no way means the engine didn't explode. It means all the sensors remained intact after the engine blew up.

Re:Whats the problem? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590293)

Clearly, they need to build the next engine entirely out of sensors.

Re:Whats the problem? (1)

astrodoom (1396409) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590335)

*facepalm* the sensors are integrated with the engine. That's like saying your oven blew up but the broiler is fine.

Re:Whats the problem? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590501)

One of those sensors is most likely a a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermocouple">thermocouple. You know that is? It's two dissimilar wires spot welded together. That can easily remain intact while the thing it used to be attached to is destroyed.

This isn't the first time Space X has tried to white wash over the flaws of their flying death trap.
http://www.spacenews.com/civil/110802-spacex-agrees-drop-lawsuit.html

Re:Whats the problem? (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590377)

From what can be read between the lines, the engine didn't explode but rather imploded. It shut off at "maximum dynamic pressure", sometimes called simply "Max-Q", when the atmospheric pressure pushing against the vehicle due to its velocity is at the highest it can be at that point in the flight. Between the pressure from outside of the spacecraft and from the nearby engines, the nozzle apparently collapsed in on itself and tore loose, hence the debris.

The engine itself was still there, just missing the nozzle. That is why data was continuing to be sent from the engine and respond to system queries about its status. Had it exploded, those sensors and microcontrollers running the engine would not be in place.

Technically you are correct that all that could be said from the telemetry is that the sensors were still in place, but those sensors would not be registering if it was an outright explosion.

Re:Whats the problem? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589831)

I don't think it's the fact that there was a failure, or the fact that the system proved resilient, it's the manner in which the failure manifested itself - an engine cutout, a fuel pump failure, or a vibration issue would be cause for a post launch investigation and a pat on the back, while a wholesale engine disintegration will trigger quite a significant inquiry and a heck of a lot of furrowed brows.

It's the difference in magnitude of failure which is the thing to note here.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590159)

You have two feet, and can survive shooting yourself in one. That's great! It shows the usefulness of redundancy and systems that can redirect fuel away from damaged components to prevent further leakage.

Shooting yourself in the foot is, none the less, not exactly what you're supposed to do.

Re:Whats the problem? (5, Funny)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590523)

Shooting yourself in the foot is, none the less, not exactly what you're supposed to do.

I'm a C++ developer, you insensitive clod!

not really a bad thing (5, Insightful)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589755)

The engine failure of the falcon 9 engine #1 is not really a bad thing. It served to prove the reliability of the shutoff system, and flight control hardware.

Considering the horrendous failure rate of NASA's early engines, (the kind that explode spectacularly), this managed failure situation is very promising.

Rest assured, there will likely be a strong inquiry concerning the manufacture and design of the engine fairing that failed, causing the pressure drop, and engine shutdown.

Managed failures like this one don't speak poorly of spacex. On the contrary. They show spacex planned ahead, and the failsafes they built actually work.

Re:not really a bad thing (2)

Captain.Abrecan (1926372) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589911)

"Considering the horrendous failure rate of NASA's early engines, (the kind that explode spectacularly), this managed failure situation is very promising." frigging spectacular you mean. Damn good work.

Re:not really a bad thing (3, Insightful)

EvanED (569694) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590141)

Not to take anything away from SpaceX, but to the extent that you mean to suggest "SpaceX did a better job than NASA did early on" (which may be none at all), it's of course not really fair to compare considering that SpaceX didn't exactly throw out the knowledge that NASA and others built up because of those failures.

Re:not really a bad thing (4, Informative)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590199)

This is very true, but if you've ever worked in aerospace, you surely know about "tribal knowledge."

SpaceX would have started with a clean slate in that department, and without NASA's tribal knowledge... let's just say that I am very pleased with their performance.

Re:not really a bad thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589933)

I agree, it's not really a bad thing. However..

Quote: "...the failsafes they built actually work."

Technically, are these safety systems on the rocket considered fail safe? Can a rocket fail-safe? Fail-safe refers to things like train brakes or elevators that won't move without power. A mechanism continuously applies the brakes whether the power off or on (like a spring) and it takes a continuous counter force to release the brake (releasing the brake pedal). So if the power fails the elevator or train will return to a safe mode, aka braked.

Re:not really a bad thing (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590071)

I don't have access to the falcon 9's engineering data, so I can't comment definitively; take with copious salt.

A rocket engine is basically a fuel supply line coming from some fuel tanks, being injected under pressure into the reaction chamber, nestled inside the burn cone.

A failsafe system would clamp down fuel and oxidizer supplies at multiple points along the supply to ensure that neither reaches the reaction vessel in the event of a flow, pressure, or reaction anomaly. Such systems would need to be very robust, as a catastrophic failure of the reaction chamber wuld tend to destroy hydraulic lines and cause all manner of hell in there.

As such, I would expect such a system to be very "spring loaded" and "unpowered", if not activated by anomalous conditions directly. (Pressure drops, failsafe system deploys from pressure change as a purely mechanical safegard.)

Re:not really a bad thing (2)

TWX (665546) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590133)

No, failsafes refer to a designed-in failure method that is not catastrophic to the whole assembly.

Some engines, like turboshaft engines, have an intentional narrow point in the driveshaft designed to fail under the right circumstances. If something's got to give, make it something that fails without either destroying the machine outright or else killing the occupants.

A rocket design that manages to avoid destroying the vehicle when an engine explodes definitely qualifies as fail-safe.

Re:not really a bad thing (4, Insightful)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590017)

Not just Early Engines..

Let's see, there was the Titan IV which took out a facility at Edwards AFB on April Fools Day in 1991. [nytimes.com] Now that was an Air Force engine, but fairly modern. There was another Titan IV which exploded in more spectacular fashion. [nytimes.com]

Recently, we have the NASA Morpheus Lander Explosion. [csmonitor.com]

Then there's the Delta II, which is a newer launch system which has exploded at least twice that I'm aware of. Once in 1995 [youtube.com] and another in 1997 [nasa.gov].

The point is that NASA and the Air Force and their various subcontractors, SpaceX not included, don't have a perfect record on launch vehicle malfunctions. You can't have lots of propellant with oxidizer burning without some sort of malfunction. While still rare, these events can and do happen and it's good to see SpaceX plan for these kinds of things unlike the Soviets did when their Moon Rocket went "boom" when they were testing in the 60s [youtube.com] In Fact, all four launches of the N-1 were failures. [starbase1.co.uk]

Re:not really a bad thing (2)

Teancum (67324) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590321)

The interesting thing is what may be a failure of the orbital insertion of the Orbcom satellite that was supposed to use the 2nd stage of the Falcon 9 for an additional burn after separation of the Dragon. Apparently either due to this engine loss of the 1st stage or some other problem, that satellite didn't get to the desired orbit.

It will be interesting to see if SpaceX will refund Orbcom their money or do something extra to help them out.

Re:not really a bad thing (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590443)

If the ascent vector isn't correct, (which it wasn't, due to the failure), then the entry vector for the capsule will be different from the one planned. This is the likely cause of the orbcom deployment snafu.

It's basic geometry. The angle changed, so the insertion point changed. (The tangent intersection of the satelite orbit relative to the ascent vector) That's why the sat isn't in the proper place.

Re:not really a bad thing (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590359)

I think that highly depends on whether there's any more engine failures on the next flights. If it seems like an odd case and SpaceX can say that "and even such a thing were to happen again, we'd catch it" then all is well. If another one fails and it smells more like "our engines aren't exactly 100% reliable, but we're betting on statistics that two of them won't fail on the same flight" then that's not good.

Re:not really a bad thing (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590463)

Rest assured, there will likely be a strong inquiry concerning the manufacture and design of the engine fairing that failed, causing the pressure drop, and engine shutdown.

You've got the chain of events backwards.
A loss of fuel(?) pressure forced an engine shutdown, which caused a pressure drop at the engine's nozzle, which caused the engine fairing to fail.

Re:not really a bad thing (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590535)

That makes sense...

I'd hold off on speculation until after forensic evaluation of the failed component (if it doesn't burn up in re-entry), and failure data sent from the vehicle. All we know for sure is that the safety kicked in, and the engine shut down.

I would expect a full inquiry as to why this happened. That's all.

*shrug*

Perfectly unperfect. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589759)

If you sell your system as being fail safe you can market it two ways.

1. Trust us it's fail safe.

2. Told you so.

Yeah, they had a engine fail, but the system shut it down and the other engines compensated. You've got data from the failed engine and you've got the assurance that your system works sans 1 engine. This outcome only makes SpaceX better.

Not all the info (4, Informative)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589765)

TFA only tells half the story. MSNBC [nbcnews.com] has more. Dragon is fine, but it's possible that the launch's secondary objective, which was to put the first of an 18-satellite telecom array into a tricky high-inclination orbit, went a little screwy as well, and the sat isn't in the proper orbit at the moment. Details are still being dug out.

Re:Not all the info (1)

zrbyte (1666979) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589813)

Well apparently the SpaceX update in TFA says otherwise:

there was no effect on Dragon or the cargo resupply mission

Re:Not all the info (2, Informative)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589927)

Dragon is fine, but...

Did you miss that part of my post? The telecom satellite is separate from the resupply mission.

The importtant things (4, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589783)

– Both Saturn V and the shuttle launch system were designed to handle failure of at least one engine
– The entire engine didn't actually explode, as some sources have reported; the onboard computers were still sending data from it (SpaceX believes it was just the aerodynamic casing (fairing) that exploded, due to the pressure release of the engine)
– This doesn't mean the Falcon 9 system is necessarily less safe than NASA systems; on two occasions, Saturn V rockets experienced a similar loss, with similar (i.e., nil) impact to the mission's success

So, y'know. Rejoice nerdily about the fact that the failsafes worked, rather than worrying about commercial technology being inferior.

Re:The importtant things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589849)

"Pressure release" is as much an explosion as an "uncontained failure" of a turbofan.

Re:The importtant things (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590361)

"Pressure release" is as much an explosion as an "uncontained failure" of a turbofan.

I've always been partial to "spontaneous disassembly".

Re:The importtant things (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590411)

Not really. An explosion - i.e. a detonation - is a very specific type of event with very specific and disasterous consequences. A pressure release is not necessarily a detonation.

Re:The importtant things (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589901)

Both Saturn V and the shuttle launch system were designed to handle failure of at least one engine...

The shuttle can get to orbit with just two of the liquid fueled engines, but was designed to return with just one. Turns out, you can deorbit a shuttle with just the maneuvering jets.

Unfortunately, a failure of the solid fueled boosters, is mostly fatal.

Re:The importtant things (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590151)

The shuttle can get to orbit with just two of the liquid fueled engines, but was designed to return with just one. Turns out, you can deorbit a shuttle with just the maneuvering jets.

Unfortunately, a failure of the solid fueled boosters, is mostly fatal.

I'm thinking that's because the orbiter was bolted onto the side of the launch vehicle. I'm thinking, if it would have been mounted on top like a normal capsule, it probably wouldn't have killed that crew. But hey, IANARS, so my opinion means shit.

Re:The importtant things (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590341)

I'm thinking that's because the orbiter was bolted onto the side of the launch vehicle.

To a large extent it's because it had wings. If you need wings to land and they fall off, you die.

Surviving a launch accident in a winged rocket is very hard, because you have to get from flying vertically to flying horizontally at supersonic speed without anything falling off. Normally the best you can do is fit ejection seats and cross your fingers as you pull the handle.

The X-20 with an escape rocket below the spacecraft was probably the closest to being survivable and the tests for that looked pretty hairy.

Re:The importtant things (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590543)

due to the pressure release of the engine

I read this in the official statement too - I'm guessing it makes perfect sense to rocket scientists.

My best guestimate: because of the sudden lack of exhaust gasses from the engine, the pressure inside the fairing changed extremely significantly and quickly, and the fairing couldn't take the pressure delta, so it ripped apart.

Somebody correct me.

This is good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589787)

I am actually very glad to see this. The ship is designed to have redundancy with nine engines allowing for at least one failure (I thought I had read it could handle 2 losses somewhere but I cannot find a source). So the fact that it actually continued its mission with one lost engine proves the engineering is sound.

Over time, they'll figure out what causes the failures and correct the problems. But in the meantime, it is nice to know it can survive losing an engine.

-MyLongNickName

Re:This is good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590497)

Yeah, you look at it one way and they just had a massive real-world test of their capabilities and they passed.

One of their neighbors fell apart with shrapnel flying everywhere and the rest of the engines were like:
LIKE I CARE, WE'RE GOING TO SPACE MOTHERFUCKER!

Redudant and not TBTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41589835)

Almost looks like a private company that doesn't depend on the government to bail them out. Something is wrong here.

Statement from SpaceX (0)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589917)

Approximately one minute and 19 seconds into last night’s launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first stage engine. Initial data suggests that one of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued immediately. We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Our review indicates that the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads ruptured due to the engine pressure release, and that none of Falcon 9’s other eight engines were impacted by this event.

As designed, the flight computer then recomputed a new ascent profile in real time to ensure Dragon’s entry into orbit for subsequent rendezvous and berthing with the ISS. This was achieved, and there was no effect on Dragon or the cargo resupply mission.

Falcon 9 did exactly what it was designed to do. Like the Saturn V, which experienced engine loss on two flights, Falcon 9 is designed to handle an engine out situation and still complete its mission.

Re:Statement from SpaceX (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590217)

none of Falcon 9â(TM)s other eight engines were impacted by this event.

God I hate this wording.

Don't use "impact" when you mean to say "affected", as I suspect they mean here, especially when the sentence could (if slightly tortuously) be read as "none of Falcon 9's other eight engines were hit [impacted] by debris from the fairing."

[I know that's not you, jkflying, I'm just ranting.]

I am curious. (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589971)

How many of those nine engines can fail before the system cannot compensate?

Re:I am curious. (1)

manoweb (1993306) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590013)

I guess it depends on "where" (when?) they fail. In fact, at some point two engines are shut down to avoid too much g - probably at that point three failing engines could still be OK?

Re:I am curious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590021)

According to the article, just one. Protection against more than one would be likely a waste of mass...something catastrophic enough to take out two engines isn't likely to stop there.

Re:I am curious. (1)

goodmanj (234846) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590513)

For the first stage, one at launch, two later on. From a strict physics perspective, you could probably have three or four out in the last few seconds of the burn, but I don't know if their software is that clever. The second stage has only one engine.

9 engines. All together now! (5, Funny)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year and a half ago | (#41589989)

9 engines of LOX on the rocket, 9 engines of LOX
drop one down, blow it around
8 engines of LOX on the rocket....

If this was built by NASA.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590025)

The rocket would not have made it as it was an over-budget poor design.

These private rockets are designed with true redundancy and this proves that this what we should have done after the design of the Shuttle.

Catpcha: Obsolete

so fitting.

Dear SpaceX, Thanks For The Offer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590039)

However, I'll launch my cargo to the ISS with A. P. Korolev RSC Energia [energia.ru], more reliable company.

Yours In Akademgorodok,
Kilogre Trout, Scientist

Re:Dear SpaceX, Thanks For The Offer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590347)

We can copy :)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2083556/Meet-girl-blogger-sneaked-inside-Russian-missile-factory--security.html

We don't have this situation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buran_programme#Buran_hangar_collapse

Re:Dear SpaceX, Thanks For The Offer (1)

VIPERsssss (907375) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590379)

And don't ride in anything with a Capissen 38 engine, they fall right out of the sky.

Transparency ? (2)

m0s3m8n (1335861) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590301)

Did anyone here a call of engine cut-off in the NASA TV feed? I did not. Or a call for a longer burn? Seems the SpaceX team would have made those calls. Of course, they could have on private channels. Seems NASA was more transparent. Also, when I fly I like my pilots to be well dressed and professional. The SpaceX team did not. Maybe that is the SpaceX culture, but I am an old fart and I prefer a much more orderly look.

Re:Transparency ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590541)

Did anyone here a call of engine cut-off in the NASA TV feed? I did not. Or a call for a longer burn? Seems the SpaceX team would have made those calls. Of course, they could have on private channels. Seems NASA was more transparent.

Also, when I fly I like my pilots to be well dressed and professional. The SpaceX team did not. Maybe that is the SpaceX culture, but I am an old fart and I prefer a much more orderly look.

I understand where your coming from. As a former USAF airman I like sharp uniforms and haircuts also but in the end I don't want that for space flight. I want it so safe and routine that its just a normal blue jean, blue collar affair. That would indicate that we are really getting somewhere and I may be able to afford a ride.

Re:Transparency ? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590551)

Time to let go of the white shirt/thin tie/pocket protector/black rimmed glasses look. T-shirts are the new uniform. Hair length is not a factor.

I know, I hate it too, but we are not far from everyone on the launch team Skyping in and being avatars on a plasma screen in front of the media videoconferencing system.

Fantastic Failure Design! (1)

Tim12s (209786) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590323)

This is a fantastic launch and goes to show the safety design.

Dont be too foolish to assume, however, that NASA doesnt also have such designs or such safety mechanisms. Just because their launch has media hype does not discredit NASA.

Great engineering.

Saturn V engine loss? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41590325)

"Like the Saturn V, which experienced engine loss on two flights,"

News to me. Details anyone?

Re:Saturn V engine loss? (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#41590403)

News to me. Details anyone?

Apollo 6 lost two engines and, AFAIR, suffered partial breakup of the SLA panels covering the lunar module due to pogo.
Apollo 13 lost one engine, which was fortunate because pogo had grown so bad that the Saturn V was on the verge of structural failure. If the engine hadn't failed, they'd have been parachuting back to Earth soon after.

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