“Block 5” Merlin engine will be used in a future generation of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets. Falcon 9 rockets that are currently in operation utilize the “Block 4” Merlin engine, so the incident will not require the company to halt any of its scheduled launches. The incident occurred during phase when the engine is filled with liquid oxygen fuel and tested for leaks. In this case, the liquid oxygen ignited; the company does not know if the engine itself exploded.
A “Block 5” Merlin engine is tested
SpaceX anticipates that a full investigation into the incident will take several weeks. This year, SpaceX has launched 16 missions, all of them successful. SpaceX has several more Falcon 9 missions on tap for 2017. Its next launch, a national security mission, is scheduled for next week from the Kennedy Space Center. The company will eventually launch its huge new Falcon Heavy booster for the first time before January 2018. “Block 5” version of the engines in the Falcon 9 tests will be suspended while the company looks into what went wrong. SpaceX is expected to start delivering astronauts next year. It is also deploying highly sensitive satellites for the Pentagon.