During a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday, SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann explained what happened on October 2 and
Two of the rocket's nine first stage engines caught fire during a launch attempt in early October, causing them to automatically shut down.
SpaceX technicians filmed twoengine and sent them from Florida to the company's test site in McGregor, Texas, where they were able to reproduce the problem. They found that the safety valve in the gas generator - the tiny rocket in the engine that fires up and activates its mechanisms - had been clogged with masking polish that looked like nail polish. It has been found that removing the varnish from the air vent allows the engines to start normally.
This varnish is applied during the anodizing process to treat the aluminum components of the gasifier. A small amount of this material fell into a hole less than 2 mm in diameter.
After that SpaceX tested other engines inits fleet (the company only tested new boosters, since the first stages of Falcon 9, which have already been launched, are not affected by this problem) SpaceX has discovered that the two engines on the Falcon 9 rocket that will be used to launch the Crew-1 also have this problem. Specialists are replacing these two engines with new ones.
If all goes to plan, SpaceX will launch a missionGPS III on November 4th and Sentinel-6 mission for NASA on November 10th. If these launches go well, NASA will stick to November 14 as the date for the Crew-1 mission, which will send NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker to the International Space Station, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission specialist Soichi Noguchi. Their Crew Dragon will meet with the space station approximately 8.5 hours after launch at 00:49 UTC on November 15.
The problem with the varnish surprised the specialists. SpaceX has literally launched hundreds of new Merlin 1D rocket engines over the past decade and has yet to face the cloaking agent problem.
"Of course, it is possible that we have had such cases before, and they were so harmless that we missed them," said Koenigsmann.
The SpaceX spokesman seems confident that the problem will never happen again.
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