During a preflight press conference Thursday afternoon, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell provided some new details about the previous Falcon 9 launch, of the CRS-1 mission, in October. That launch suffered a shutdown of one of its nine first stage engines; the Dragon spacecraft still reached orbit although a second payload, a demonstration satellite for commercial communications company ORBCOMM, was placed in a lower-than-planned orbit to comply with NASA mission rules, and deorbited a few days later. Back in December Shotwell said the investigation into the engine anomaly was wrapping up, but offered few details about the incident.
On Thursday, Shotwell went into a little more detail. “There was a material flaw that went undetected in the jacket of the Merlin engine, resulting in a breach during the flight, causing depressurization of the combustion chamber,” she said. “The flight computer recognized that depressurization and commanded a shutdown.”