Feeds

Elon Musk's Falcon 9 suffers rocketus interruptus in pad test

Backfires, blows cloud of soot, but won't start

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The Falcon 9 rocket made by famed tech hecamillionaire Elon Musk's company SpaceX has suffered a test-firing failure on the pad in Florida.

The Falcon 9 spits fire briefly during an aborted static test. Credit: SpaceX

Bloody thing must be flooded.

Flames and black smoke belched briefly from the bottom of the rocket as the test commenced earlier this week at Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral, but SpaceX says that in fact the engines never ignited. Rather, an automatic abort of the test was triggered by a failure in the starter system just two seconds before the short test firing was set to begin. The fire and smoke beneath the Falcon 9 resulted from automatic purging of un-burnt fuel and oxidiser.

According to a SpaceX statement:

Tanks pressed nominally and we passed all Terminal count, flight software, and ground software abort checks right down to T-2 seconds. We encountered a problem with the spin start system and aborted nominally.

As part of the abort, we close the pre-valves to isolate the engines from the propellant tank and purge the residual propellants. The brief flames seen are normal burn off of residual LOX [liquid oxygen] and kerosene ... no damage occurred to the vehicle.

The kerosene-fuelled Falcon 9 - so named because it uses 9 of SpaceX's proprietary Merlin rocket engines - is intended initially to lift substantial payloads into Earth orbit. The firm intends to send its Dragon capsule into space using Falcon 9s, both to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA commercial contracts and, perhaps, for other tasks.

In time, SpaceX hopes to certify the Falcon 9 and the Dragon for manned flight, and so compete also for the task of carrying crews to and from the station. Following the planned retirement of the US space shuttle fleet this year, the only way for astronauts and cosmonauts to get into space will be aboard Russian Soyuz craft.

The way ahead for NASA manned spaceflight is now somewhat unclear following the Obama administration's plan to deep-six the planned Constellation project, which would have seen Ares rockets and Orion capsules replace the shuttle. It's possible that private ventures like SpaceX may in future carry some or all NASA astronauts into orbit.

First, however, SpaceX needs to get the Falcon 9 flying. The firm appears unfazed by this week's test hiccup, and says: "We'll look to do the next static fire attempt in three or four days." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.