SpaceX is replacing two engines for its Falcon 9 rocket, which will soon carry four astronauts to the International Space Station. After SpaceX discovered something in its engines that could cause them to start earlier than planned, they made changes.
Before launching in October, SpaceX discovered the substance after a SpaceX launch was suspended. One of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets is tasked with launching new GPS satellites for space forces, which will shut itself down two seconds before takeoff. “This is a very good failure,” Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of construction and flight reliability, said at a press conference. “It fully meets our programming requirements.”
Today, SpaceX revealed that the rocket has automatically stopped its own launch after 2 of its 9 main Merlin engines tried to start prematurely. Starting too early may cause a hard start, causing the various propellants and liquids of the engine to mix in the wrong order. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 had been shut down before then, but such a difficult start may damage the hardware. Konigsman said: “It is not necessarily bad, but in most cases, it will make the engine rattle.” “Moreover, it may cause a little damage to the engine. In extreme cases, it may cause damage to the engine. Cause more damage.”
After the suspension, SpaceX inspected the engine and found that the red paint in each model blocked the safety valve. The lacquer is similar to nail polish and is used to treat surfaces that may be left over from the engine’s manufacturing. Koenigsmann pointed out that it came from a SpaceX supplier that uses the engine, although he did not disclose the company name. “It may be that the person is now more generous with cleaning liquid or anything else,” Koenigsman said. “It’s hard to figure this out.”
SpaceX said it is working with suppliers to implement corrective measures, and the company will inspect all hardware more closely in the short term. After the suspension, SpaceX also inspected the engines in the fleet, which will be used for the upcoming launch. They looked for anything that exhibited this early starting behavior, and selected five different engines on three different rockets. Two Falcon 9 rockets will launch three NASA astronauts and one Japanese astronaut in November for the Crew-1 mission.
After the test, SpaceX turned on all the engines and found the same paint inside. SpaceX also pointed out that the paint was mainly found on a new type of engine manufactured recently, not an engine that has already flown into space and returned. Now, the company is replacing the Crew-1 engine, which is tentatively scheduled to be carried out at 7:49 pm Eastern Time on November 14. “Two or three days is roughly the time you need to take it out,” Konigsman said of the engine replacement. “Then put it back in two or three days.”
Ultimately, SpaceX will not launch Crew-1 until the company launches a joint European and American satellite called Sentinel-6, which is designed to map the world’s oceans. SpaceX found an affected engine on the Falcon 9 rocket during that flight and had to replace it. NASA hopes to understand the launch process before making a final decision to take its astronauts on SpaceX’s Falcon9. The Sentinel-6 launch is scheduled to depart from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 10.
At the same time, the four astronauts assigned to Crew 1 have already started the quarantine process, mainly staying with their families, and then entered a stricter quarantine two weeks before the flight. NASA has also been keeping them informed about the engine replacement and all the details that led to the launch. Steve Stich, the project manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said at a press conference: “They have entered a lot of telecommunications industries and are listening to the operation of the vehicles.” “We need the engine and Do more work on offline engines… but I think we see a good way to fly, and we will fly when we are ready.”