Successful Dragon Launch – And Engine 1 Anomaly

SpaceX successfully place both the Dragon space capsule (on a resupply mission to the ISS) and the Orbcomm satellite into orbit this evening.

During the launch, however, there was an anomaly associated with the #1 engine (Merlin 1c). See this slow motion video posted by Zephyrus271:

Below is a series of still images from the video showing the anomaly. The first shows the 9 engines burning normally at 1:19 into the flight.

Anomaly 01
Falcon 9 Engine #1 Anomaly – 01
Image Credit: You Tube

The second shows an initial flash.

Anomaly 01
Falcon 9 Engine #1 Anomaly – 02
Image Credit: You Tube

The third shows a wider flame outside the normal stream.

Anomaly 03
Falcon 9 Engine #1 Anomaly – 03
Image Credit: You Tube

The fourth shows the initial wide flame dissipating.

Anomaly 04
Falcon 9 Engine #1 Anomaly – 04
Image Credit: You Tube

The fifth shows possible debris along the upper side of the plumes of the engines. At the very top, right is visible a large piece of debris.

Anomaly 05
Falcon 9 Engine #1 Anomaly – 05
Image Credit: You Tube

The sixth shows the large piece of debris (dark, triangular shape) in the engine plume, as well as other possible debris.

Anomaly 06
Falcon 9 Engine #1 Anomaly – 06
Image Credit: You Tube

The Falcon 9 was designed for engine out capability, as well as loss of an engine in an accident. It seems that this episode may be the proof of concept. Scary thought to have an engine fail in this manner. But both payloads were delivered.

Well done SpaceX.

SpaceX has released the following statement:

“Falcon 9 detected an anomaly on one of the nine engines and shut it down. As designed, the flight computer then recomputed a new ascent profile in realtime to reach the target orbit, which is why the burn times were a bit longer. Like Saturn V, which experienced engine loss on two flights, the Falcon 9 is designed to handle an engine flameout and still complete its mission. I believe F9 is the only rocket flying today that, like a modern airliner, is capable of completing a flight successfully even after losing an engine. There was no effect on Dragon or the Space Station resupply mission.”

This is not the first Merlin 1C engine anomaly. SpaceX acknowledged an “oxidizer-rich” condition that shut down an engine on the first Dragon flight in December 2010.

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