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SpaceX Launch Has Engine Explode During Ascent, Proves Importance of Redundancy

For those not aware, SpaceX had a mostly smooth launch of their Falcon 9 rocket yesterday. The Dragon capsule is on its way to the International Space Station. We say “mostly smooth” because, as it turns out, the Falcon 9 actually lost an engine as it was climbing toward orbit. Engine 1, seen in the upper right corner in the image above, disappeared in a fiery explosion before bits of debris could be seen falling away. Always a confidence booster to see one of our only ways to space blow up on video.

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Bad Astronomy explains what happened after the explosion:

Although this looks scary, the engine nozzles are coated with Kevlar to protect them specifically in case something like this occurs, so the other engines continued working. Also, the onboard computer immediately shut down the failed engine, and then on the fly – literally – recalculated all the needed changes to the thrust of the other engines to compensate. In the end, the first stage boost lasted an extra thirty seconds to cover for the failed engine.

The whole thing can be seen in the following slow-motion video. About 28 seconds in, Engine 1 goes out in a blaze of glory.

The ultimate goal of getting the Dragon capsule to the ISS continued without a hitch, though. So at least we know that the redundant systems worked out well, even if the primary ones still need a little work.

(via Bad Astronomy)

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