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SpaceX launches investigation into rocket engine explosion on Wednesday

10 November 2017

SpaceX has launched investigation to determine cause of explosion of one of its rocket engines during a test earlier this week at the company's facility in Texas, the company confirmed Wednesday.

The explosion which involved the next generation of the company's Merlin engine, occurred Sunday during what the company called a ''qualification test.'' Though no one was injured, the company founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk said it would need to figure out what went wrong with its hardware.

In 2015, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded a few minutes after lift off from Cape Canaveral en route to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, but no one was on board and no one was injured (See: SpaceX supply mission to ISS explodes minutes after launch).

Another Falcon 9 blew up in September 2016, this time while on the launchpad as it was being fueled ahead of an engine test fire. No one was hurt in the accident (See: SpaceX rocket explodes during test firing; Musk, Facebook hurt).

In response to questions, the company said Wednesday that it is ''now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause'' of the explosion. ''SpaceX is committed to our current manifest, and we do not expect this to have any impact on our launch cadence.''

Later on Wednesday, a SpaceX spokesman said the engine that exploded was a new engine that had not flown yet.

The Merlin engine powering the first stage of Falcon 9 was developed and manufactured in-house by SpaceX. The engine burns liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene propellent and produces 845 kilonewtons (190,000 pounds) of thrust at liftoff, rising to 914 kilonewtons (205,500 pounds) as it climbs out of earth's atmosphere.

With its thrust-to-weight ratio exceeding 150, the Merlin engine is the most efficient booster engine ever built. It also maintains the structural and thermal safety margins needed to carry astronauts.

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