NASA has decided to postpone the first manned mission aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule until the investigation into what happened to the booster is completed, in an abundance of caution to ensure nothing about that failure is relevant to the mission.
“According to the CCtCap contracts, SpaceX is required to make available to NASA all data and resulting reports. SpaceX, with NASA’s concurrence, would need to implement any corrective actions found during the investigation related to its commercial crew work prior to its flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX are holding the current mid-to-late May launch timeframe, and would adjust the date based on review of the data, if appropriate.”The launch had been previously slated for No Earlier Than (NET) the first week of May. My take on that is you can push that date out for a month and possibly more.
Scene from the launch video stream immediately before and then at the moment of the engine failure. The yellowish-white plume to the exhaust is unusual.
On March 18th, less than three minutes after liftoff and shortly before stage separation was scheduled, Falcon 9 booster B1048 – on its historic fifth launch attempt – suffered an engine failure visible on SpaceX’s official webcast. By all appearances, Falcon 9’s autonomous flight computer accounted for the engine’s failure, shutdown, and the resultant loss of thrust by burning B1048’s eight remaining engines for several seconds longer than planned.With nine engines in the booster and the sheer number of flights SpaceX has conducted, that must put this in the parts per million defective range (I don't have enough data to fill in numbers). The reflexive reaction among readers on Teslarati news was that it must be from being an engine in its fifth flight, and that may be true but I don't think that they know that to any certainty. The practical problem is that if telemetry doesn't tell them what they need to know to be sure, SpaceX engineering may need to find and recover the booster from the bottom of the Atlantic offshore North Carolina to do failure analysis on the engine. That sounds like it could be extremely time consuming.
The anomaly was Merlin 1D engine’s first in-flight failure ever. The 2012 failure of one of an original Falcon 9 V1.0’s rocket’s nine Merlin 1C engines is SpaceX’s only other in-flight failure.
NASA requires all manned launches to be on new boosters, so if the anomaly really was caused by the age of the engine, it's irrelevant to the manned launch. If it was my ride, I'd want to be sure that the booster was as safe as reasonably can be made. NASA says that SpaceX will now have to complete its internal failure review and implement necessary hardware, software, or rule changes before it’s allowed to launch NASA astronauts.