Why will SpaceX replace Falcon 9 engines ahead of next manned mission?

SpaceX changed faulty Merlin 1D engines owing to propulsion system problems

SpaceX has decided to replace two engines on its Falcon 9 rockets ahead of the mission. This decision was taken after the October Falcon takeoff was halted.

In early October, a Falcon takeoff was halted two seconds before takeoff as a reddish “masking lacquer” was found blocking the relief valve in the engines. The lacquer is used to treat surfaces and is likely to be leftover when the engines are built. Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Mission Assurance at SpaceX, announced on October, 2020 that the vendor treating the engines may not have removed all the lacquer afterwards.

After further analysis, SpaceX found this issue to in two engines of its Falcon 9 rockets, which are to carry four astronauts to the International Space Station, and one Merlin engine scheduled to be used for a Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich Satellite for NASA, on November 10, 2020.

SpaceX has now decided to swap these engines to mask lacquer free ones. The launch abortion on October 2 was not disastrous and the rocket faced a hard start, added Koenigsmann. The unplanned start could be because of igniter fluids, liquid oxygen, and kerosene combining in the wrong order.

“It (the hard start) is not necessarily bad. In most cases, it rattles the engine, and it may cause a little bit of damage to the engine. In extreme cases, it may cause more damage to the engine”, said Koenigsmann at Wednesday’s press meet.

The two Crew-1  Falcon 9 rockets are estimated to be ready for their planned launch on November 14. NASA insisted that the rockets will launch when they are ready and will not be constrained by an arbitrary timeline.

NASA also insisted to witness another Falcon 9 launch before the astronaut mission after the launch the October 2 one failed. NASA will conduct a flight readiness review for Crew 1 on October 30.

On October 2, one of the Falcon 9 rockets, responsible for launching a new GPS satellite for SpaceX’s Space Force shut down right before takeoff. The automatic halt was due to the early start of two of its nine Merlin engines.

The masking lacquer, now known as a cause of the halt, was found in all the engines of the rocket. The lacquer is present on recently built engines.

 

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