A newly tested rocket engine of Space X, the American aerospace manufacturer, and space transport service company, has exploded during a strategic "qualification test" in its facility in Texas earlier this week.
The company has officially confirmed on Wednesday that no one was injured in the mishap. According to reports, SpaceX has started an investigation to figure out what has gone wrong with its hardware.
The mishap had occurred during a stage when the company was developing and testing its technologies for its manned Mars mission which was scheduled in 2024.
The company's founder and CEO Elon Musk had earlier stated that it would start construction of its first spacecraft in the first half of 2018. He had also said that the company aimed to shrink the size of the rocket ships which are to be used in its Mars missions.
According to the reports, the company's next-generation Merlin engine which was under testing in its facility in Texas exploded on Wednesday and the company is "now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause." SpaceX further stated that it is "committed to our current manifest, and we do not expect this to have any impact on our launch cadence."
The company's spokesperson said that the Merlin engine has not yet been flown. Further testing on the engine would be suspended till the company knows what went wrong. Other engines which are currently in operation would be used again after repairing the testing stand, it said.
This is not the first setback for the aerospace company's rockets. An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket had exploded on Sept. 1, 2016, in its launch pad in Florida while it was fuelling. The explosion had destroyed the rocket as well as the $200 million Israeli communications satellite which it was to carry. The SpaceX officials said that the explosion was caused due to pressure buildup inside the rocket's upper stage while it was fuelled with helium.
In 2015, another Falcon 9 exploded minutes after it lifted off from the Cape Canaveral to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Nobody was injured during these incidents as NASA has given clear restrictions to private aerospace companies not to allow anyone to be aboard any missions or allow anyone to be near the launch pad during the launch.
The SpaceX had, however, requested NASA to allow astronauts on board while fuelling a space vehicle. NASA or any international space agencies have not approved it so far.
Meanwhile, NASA has also planned to develop a Capsule's launch abort system (LAS) which carries the astronauts to safety if a launch vehicle faces any problem during its ascent. NASA is developing its Orion capsule, which is planned to carry astronauts in its future mission, with the LAS system. The Exploration Mission-1, which aims to make the first integrated flight of Orion, has been scheduled for Dec. 2019.
NASA had hired the SpaceX and Boeing Co to fly its crew to the International Space Station after the retirement of its shuttles in 2011. Russia's Soyuz capsules are also being used to fly the astronauts to the space station after 2011.