SpaceX and NASA have established a board to investigate the failure of a Falcon 9 rocket engine during Sunday’s launch from Cape Canaveral, the company announced today. One of the rocket’s nine first-stage Merlin engines suddenly lost pressure and was shut down about 79 seconds into the flight. SpaceX believes a release of trapped pressure ruptured a fairing protecting the engine from aerodynamic stress, blowing debris away from the rocket.
Though the mission to deliver cargo to the International Space Station was a complete success, the failure of the engine led to the loss of a subprime satellite payload that was left in a lower than desired orbit. The Merlin engines that power the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 rocket have a stellar track record and this anomaly should be figured out quickly.