Friday, March 12, 2010

Falcon 9 Static Fire Abort

Photo credit: SpaceX

Tuesday’s Static Fire test for the Falcon 9 was counted down to T-2 seconds and aborted on Spin Start (the process that fires the engines). The following is the latest update from SpaceX sent out today:

“The problem was pretty simple: our auto start sequence didn't issue the command to actuate (trigger) the ground side isolation valve to open. The ground side isolation valve releases ground-supplied high pressure helium to start the first stage engine turbo pumps spinning at several thousand rpm. That generates enough pressure to start the gas generator, which is a small rocket engine that powers the turbo pump. There are no vehicle side valves actuated for spin start (just check valves), so it is an all engines or none situation. Ignition fluid (TEA-TEB) flowed nominally to all engines creating the green flame and the main valves opened, but no engines actually started and the system automatically aborted on lack of spin. The fire generated was from flushing the system of fuel and LOX from the open mains.

Photo credit: SpaceX

We tested everything on the vehicle side exhaustively in Texas, but didn't have this iso valve on our test stand there. Definitely a lesson learned to make sure that *everything* is the same between test stand and launch pad on the ground side, not just on the vehicle side.”

“Right now, we are holding due to extreme weather. It is raining sideways at 46 mph and tornados have been spotted just north of the Cape. If all goes well, we will try the static fire again in the next few days.”

The inaugural Falcon 9 rocket launching a Dragon test unit on a demonstration flight is currently scheduled for April 12th from launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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