The much-watched launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket had one little setback that was overlooked by many in the excitement of the moment. It lost an engine during ascent.
Engine 1, one of nine engines on the rocket that was carrying the Dragon spacecraft into space, "lost pressure," SpaceX said. So it was shut down.
Rumor had it that the engine exploded -- news outlets pointed to video, saying it showed an explosion and debris. SpaceX said that "panels designed to relieve pressure within the engine bay" were what was jettisoned.
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SpaceX, which notably is a private company that has contracted with NASA to carry cargo to the International Space Station, had its spin on the situation.
"Falcon 9 did exactly what it was designed to do ... handle an engine out situation and still complete its mission. No other rocket currently flying has this ability."
In addition, the Hawthorne-based company said in a statement, the Falcon 9 shuts down two of its engines to limit acceleration to 5 Gs.
"The rocket could therefore have lost another engine and still completed its mission."
Its mission is to deliver 882 pounds of food, experiments and supplies to the space station. Docking is expected Wednesday morning.
As for NASA, agency spokesman Josh Byerly expressed confidence in its private partner.
"SpaceX will lead efforts to analyze the anomaly on its Falcon 9 rocket that launched last night," Byerly told the Los Angeles Times by email Monday afternoon. "NASA will provide any technical expertise or advice that we can, but we are confident that SpaceX will conduct a robust examination."
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