My question comes from a lot of research and curiosity. Do they stop the development process at 10-20 detonations/ explosions? Or do they keep continuining solving one problem after the other. Modern day rocket engineering is advanced because of advanced techniques. I am actually quite curious about the earlier days of liquid rocket engine development.

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    $\begingroup$ The same engine? Probably "1". :) $\endgroup$ Commented May 30 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Might be worth looking into the Rocketdyne F-1 (i.e., the Saturn V main engine). As I understand it, explosions during testing were such a big (and hard-to-replicate) problem that they ended up putting bombs inside the combustion chamber to induce combustion instability. They went through a number of different designs until they found one that could recover and keep running even after the bomb exploded. Source: youtu.be/KnhYEnqzfZg?si=vLN-Aw6tYRCdoTxW $\endgroup$ Commented May 30 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ Saturn V : zero. They put baffles in the engine bell, like the Russians had already learned to do, to solve the problem. It's easy to have a perfect track record when everything is bespoke and none of it has to fit on the lowest bidder's train car to cross the Rocky Mountains. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 1 at 1:57
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    $\begingroup$ thanks everyone for the helpful comments. @OrganicMarble strikes again. $\endgroup$
    – Irocket
    Commented Jun 17 at 11:48

1 Answer 1


Since my job at one point in my career was writing a real-time simulation of the Space Shuttle Main Engine so that the Nexus of Evil could fail it in creative ways, I've spend some time studying the failure history of that particular engine.

I do not know if it had the most failures during development testing (modern mass-produced engines may have had more), but it had a lot.

By my count there were 51 major failures of the SSME:

  • 6 failures of the fuel preburner
  • 9 turbine/blade failures
  • 6 failures of the liquid oxygen posts in the main injector
  • 9 valve failures
  • 4 failures of nozzle tubing
  • 17 "other" failures

20+ of these incidents are shown in the remarkable video here, probably one of the most expensive ever made

This graph from "SSME: The First Ten Years" shows a timeline of some of the major incidents.

enter image description here

And here's one from the "Aerospace Problems" book:

enter image description here

As far as I know, no one document lists all the failures. I have cobbled together my list from the following documents - there is a lot of overlap between them, but no one of them lists all the failures. It is possible that my count is off if I failed to identify multiple references as being to the same incident.


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