December 8, 2010 by USA Post 

Spacex, SpaceX engineers areanlyzing two small s in the rear end of the nozzle extension of the second stage engine. These s are in a region near the end of the nozzle extension where there is very little stress and not cause a failure in flight by themselves. However, further investigation to ensure that these s are not symptomatic of a more serious problem. A decision on whether or not to attempt to launch on Wednesday will be delivered this evening [Tuesday].

The extension bell-shaped vacuum nozzle Merlin is an alloy of niobium sheet, measuring 9 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter at the base and tapers to about twice the thickness of a can of soda the end. Although made of an alloy of refractory metals with exotic melting temperature high enough to boil the steel, this component is geometrically the simplest part of the engine.

It is important to note that the nozzle extension niobium increases the efficiency of the Merlin engine in a vacuum and is installed by default on all upper stage Merlin engines, but that increase efficiency is not necessary for this mission. The extension of the nozzle is most useful when launching heavy satellites or to maximize throw weight to distant destinations like Mars. The most likely route is before we cut the thinnest part of the nozzle extension, which are where the s are located, conduct thorough verification systems and resume preparation for launch.

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