SpaceX and NASA react to parachute failure during Falcon 9 launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA and SpaceX had two parachutes go wildly off course just before a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. News of the May 18, 2017 mishap reportedly came to…

SpaceX and NASA react to parachute failure during Falcon 9 launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center

NASA and SpaceX had two parachutes go wildly off course just before a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.

News of the May 18, 2017 mishap reportedly came to light after the launch was broadcast live on the SpaceX website. Two of the three landing ports of the landing legs deployed, as per plan, and the third shot off course a bit too far, according to a NASA report.

The attempt to land the rocket on the SpaceX “Just Read the Instructions” ship and video imagery of the third port showing one of two first-stage engines down, set off alarm bells at NASA.

“Given the presence of a significantly higher risk and the relatively short time window of opportunity for achieving that objective, any uncertainty is expected to increase the likelihood of a blowout event,” the report said.

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SpaceX decided to abort the landing attempt and contact Lockheed Martin, which built the four hush-hush NASA space shuttle main engines that brought a Space Shuttle to the ground back in 1983.

Space shuttle engineers identified one engine on each stage and an engine in each main strut as the cause of the “significant fuel leak,” NASA officials said.

Engineers traced the fuel leak to a failure of the under-aft stability strut on each rocket engine, as evidenced by a red burn mark on the pressure vessel.

As a result, “about 75 percent of the first stage was expected to fail,” the report said.

NASA engineering was able to repair the problem, resulting in successful landing attempts on May 22 and May 26, 2017. But the May 18 launch was aborted due to another parachute failure.

In April 2016, it was determined that two of three main parachutes on a Falcon 9 were missing from its first stage, to the point that NASA engineers did not have enough money to go back and build them, The Washington Post reported at the time. SpaceX built the third extra-long parachute and it deployed with the test flight.

SpaceX maintains that everyone with the company knew that the landing legs would face some challenges on their first try.

“Communications were never relayed internally that a landing was occurring more than two minutes before the payload section fell off due to an apparent right fault break,” SpaceX’s 9th Falcon 9 launch webcast noted on May 18, 2017.

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Officials also brought in extra specialists to help NASA engineers fix the problem.

In the end, engineers decided they would accept chances of a second or third attempt because they had not learned all they needed to on a test flight, according to the NASA report.

While not considered a high-risk factor, the parachute problem could have resulted in a fair amount of damage, depending on the amount of ground spray the launch from the Caribbean coastal area.

NASA officials, however, said there was no impact to the SpaceX rocket and payload, and the issue was quickly fixed.

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