Falcon 9 Rocket Engine Failure During Launch to Space Station

Image above: The Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft stand at Space Launch Complex 40  Image credit: NASA

Main payload will reach ISS but secondary Orbcomm satellite did not attain needed orbit

Yesterdays launch of the Falcon 9 rocket at first appeared picture perfect but you an clearly see what looks like an explosion and debris falling from the rocket just as it reaches max Q or maximum aerodynamic pressure one minute and nineteen seconds after launch. The Falcon is designed with a total of 9 engines on the first stage, on board computers can adjust for the loss of a single engine.

At about 1:31 into this video of the launch the explosion can be seen.

The payload to the station will arrive as planned but due to issues passing clear of a safety zone the Orbcomm satellite could not fire it’s own engine as planned. The Orbcomm satellite is now in a lower orbit than planed and the company is formulating contingency plans using the on board engine.

SpaceX claims the engine did not explode as they still were getting telemetry from it. Be your own judge by watching the video. Telemetry or not there was some serious failure of the number one engine.

About the author

Recipient of many prestigious NASA Awards including the Exceptional Public Service Medal and the Robert H. Goddard award. Experience includes working for NASA, as a contractor, in satellite design, construction and operations. Expert in the satellite operations concepts and ground systems including command, control, and science data processing.