SpaceX Acknowledges Falcon 9 Engine Anomaly


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This is not good if true: SpaceX has admitted that in its December 2010 test flight of Falcon 9 there was a problem with its first stage.

During the August meeting, held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, SpaceX told to the two advisory bodies that there had been an engine anomaly during the most recent Falcon 9 launch, according Charles Daniel, a shuttle and space station safety expert at Herndon, Va.-based Valador Inc., and a member of the ISS Advisory Committee. “There was no explanation or root cause analysis or corrective action for this particular anomaly,” Daniel said Sept. 9 during the public meeting. “This is a relatively troublesome statement not to recognize that a premature engine shutdown was a significant event.”

14 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    They also previously admitted some com or control issues on the last one to?

    Actually – have any of their launches not had a serious anomaly?

  • I’d imagine that anyone on the pointy end of a Falcon would consider a premature engine shutdown a ‘serious event’.

  • Kelly Starks

    Given their high rate of crashs — I would not want anyone on the pointy end!!

    This willlikely further sour thegov apatite to underwrite them.

  • Ralph Buttigieg

    G’day,

    Kelly, what are you talking about. There have been exactly two Falcon 9 launches both of which have been successful.

    ta

    Ralph

  • Joe2

    This interesting:
    “Valador Inc., was sued in June by SpaceX in Virginia’s Fairfax County Circuit Court. SpaceX brought the suit forward after another Valador vice president, Joseph Fragola, made what SpaceX said were defamatory statements about the safety and reliability of the Falcon 9.
    …..

    According to SpaceX’s complain, Fragola on June 8 emailed Bryan O’Connor, then NASA’s chief of safety and mission assurance, saying he was trying to verify a rumor that the Falcon 9’s first stage experienced a significant anomaly during its Dec. 8 mission.”

    Space X sued Valador Inc. for making “defamatory statements about the safety and reliability of the Falcon 9” that they now seem to admit were true.

    That inspires confidence.

  • Kelly Starks

    The 9’s adn 1’s use the same systms, so the crasof the1s count.

    And the 2 9 launches both had serious problems.

  • Kelly Starks

    They have been more into attacking those who question, rather then answer questions.

    Not something that inspires confidence.

  • Chris Kirkendall

    Hey, let’s put this in perspective – the Falcon 9 booster still achieved its objectives & successfully launched the Dragon into orbit despite the problem.This a lot better than the old Atlas boosters used to launch John Glenn & other Mercury astronauts into orbit – that booster had several catastrophic failures, including huge explosions right after launch prior to the first manned mission, but ultimately, we never lost a life on any Atlas/Mercury flight. And recall that one of the Saturn V/Apollo Moon launches had an engine failure during launch, yet still achieved successful orbit prior to TLI. That’s a sign of good, robust design, reliability & redundancy, and the same could be argued for Falcon 9. This program is still relatively new & anomolies are not unexpected. On the other hand, if Falcon/Dragon is to be human-rated, it needs to exhibit a good safety record, and it’s not comforting if SpaceX in any way tried to minimize this. But let’s not panic just yet – I think what they’ve done so far is extraordinary & I’m sure they’ll iron out these problems…

  • Joe2

    I am not saying that problems like this early in a new booster’s development should be considered a ‘show stopper’.

    I am saying that the apparent problem was potentially very serious and it is even more significant the way Space X handled it. They did not publically acknowledge it for months and when someone asked questions they tried to intimidate them with a defamation law suit.

    That is not a good way of doing business and with the (in my opinion) over reliance on Space X in the Administrations current plans should make everyone wonder – What else about Space X do we not know?

  • Kelly Starks

    >…. This a lot better than the old Atlas boosters …

    Ah that was half a century ago, while they were first learing the science of the engineering, of rockets. SpaceX is treading on very well traveled ground, with far more advanced infrastructure. Its like comparing issues during Aviation in the ’10’s, to commercial dev programs in the ’60’s with problems.

  • Chris Kirkendall

    Sure – but the systems are much more complex today & EVERY development program has multiple starts & stops, it’s never just a straight-line progression forward with no setbcaks. Every new fighter jet design in recent years has experienced this. Look how long it took Boeing to finally get their new 787 off the ground – and that was partly because they are using tons of new technology – everything from carbon fiber structures to the most advanced electronics & avionics. So the bottom line is, it’s not unexpected EVER in development of any new system to see problems. Now it’s up to SpaceX to to fix them & assure everyone it won’t happen again. I agree this was probably not handled well & yes, that is a concern. But I think they’ve come farther, faster, than anyone expected. There are numerous unmanned cargo flights to the ISS before any manned missions are planned & we should have plenty of time to see if they either fix the problem or continue to have them. NASA probably was right not to put all their eggs in one basket, so if SpaceX doesn’t come thru, one the others may pan out, but as of now, they appear to be well ahead of the others. We’ll see how it all shakes out…

  • Kelly Starks

    > Sure – but the systems are much more complex today & EVERY development program has multiple
    > starts & stops, it’s never just a straight-line progression forward with no setbcaks. ….

    Actually the systems for boosters are simpler now, and other booster dev programs of late like Atlas-V and Delta-IV did go sraight forward to production and operation with no failures – or even any test flights. No ones seen failure rates like this for generations, in any significant booster program.

    This isn’t the ’50’s or WW-II booster dev eras.

  • bazookazuz

    It is nice how this post only prints the controversial portion of the article. If you go read the full article, you’ll see that this was in regards to an anomaly in engine shutdown that ONLY effected engine re-usability. This didn’t put the mission in danger. This has nothing to do with “premature shutdown” as this happened after the engine shutdown was already initiated.

    My guess is that this is due to engine-stage interactions, as they are hard to simulate on the ground since you lack G-forces. Makes sense they would still have issues here since this only the second flight and second time to get real data on this event.

    In the end, SpaceX comes off looking professional while Valador sticks their foot farther into their mouth.

  • Kelly Starks

    Actually its the 7th flight (2nd of the Falcon 9, but all the Falcons use common systems) and it is a serious issue. SpaceX’s dismising it, and attacking the group reporting it, harms their credibility.

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