SpaceX says its next-generation Merlin rocket engine experienced a fiery anomaly during preparations for testing at its facility in McGregor, Texas, but the flare-up isn’t expected to have an effect on the company’s ambitious launch schedule.
No injuries were reported in the wake of the Nov. 4 explosion, which occurred while engineers were running liquid oxygen through an engine that’s designed to be used on the next iteration of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, known as Block 5.
Engineers use the procedure, which is called a LOX drop, to look for leaks in the engine’s supply lines. It serves as part of the setup for qualification tests of the Block 5 engine, which is destined to be more powerful than the current Block 4 version of the Falcon 9.
It’s not yet fully clear why the explosion occurred during the LOX drop. In a statement emailed to GeekWire today, SpaceX said “all safety protocols were followed during the time of this incident.”