Spaceflight Insider

Falcon 9 static fire test performed at LC-39A

SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 SES-9 photo credit Michael Howard SpaceFlight Insider

An archive photo of a Falcon 9 rocket. On Feb. 12, 2017, SpaceX performed a static fire test of a Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Launch Complex 39A roared to life for the first time since the end of the Space Shuttle era, albeit for only a few seconds, as SpaceX conducted a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket.

Via a stream from Spaceflight Now, a plum of exhaust was seen on the north side of the pad indicating a successful test fire. SpaceX confirmed the test occurred minutes later via a tweet.

Falcon 9 vertical at Launch Complex 39A

The Falcon 9 rocket that will support the CRS-10 mission was moved to Launch Complex 39A and raised into the vertical position. A static fire test was performed on the rocket Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Elon Musk

At 4:30 p.m EST (21:30 GMT) Feb. 12, 2017, the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines ignited to ensure everything was operating as expected before the next week’s planned launch of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 10 mission to the International Space Station.

The test involved a full countdown and fueling of the rocket. When the engines ignited, they fired a short 3.5-second burst before the flight computer automatically commanded an abort. SpaceX engineers will now pore over the data over the coming days to ensure all is well on the booster.

Liftoff for the CRS-10 mission is scheduled for 10:01 a.m. EST (15:01 GMT) Feb. 18. This will be the first launch from the complex since the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135 in July 2011.

Once in orbit, the CRS-10 Dragon capsule will take about two days to reach the outpost. It will deliver 4,473 pounds (2,029 kilograms) of pressurized and 2,154 pounds (977 kilograms) of unpressurized cargo.

About nine minutes after liftoff, the first stage of the Falcon 9, after detaching from the second stage and its payload, will return back to nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1.

This will be the third time one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stages will attempt a ground landing, rather than on a drone ship at sea. It will also be the first ground landing during daylight hours.

When CRS-10 does get off the ground, it will be the first East Coast launch since the Sept. 1, 2016, explosion in the minutes before a static fire test. The explosion destroyed the rocket and Amos 6 satellite it was carrying. Additionally, it severely damaged Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), which is just south of LC-39A.

SpaceX has since resolved the issue that caused the accident and returned the Falcon 9 to flight. That launch, the Iridium-1 mission, took to the skies Jan. 14, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

After CRS-10, SpaceX will launch one of its last expendable Falcon 9 rockets when it sends the EchoStar 23 communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. That mission currently has a no-earlier-than launch date of Feb. 28.




Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

Reader Comments

Good news. Can’t wait to see the launch on Saturday. I was wondering, does SpaceX plan to use the Rotating Service Structure with Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy? It might be useful for payload integration.

“does SpaceX plan to use the Rotating Service Structure with Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy?

No, they plan to slowly knock it down for scrap. Not very useful unless you are trying to install a payload on the side of a vehicle, that ship has sailed.

Does anyone know when Space X is going to implement the raptor engines into the falcon 9 boosters? Will they come any earlier than the falcon 9 heavy?

SpaceX is not going to integrate Raptor engines into the Falcon 9. They are intended for a different rocket.

Maybe in the distant future but Raptor is years away from production operation let alone integration into redesigned Falcon from the ground up. Meanwhile the idea is to taper off development on F9 after block 5 and start earning money on it while working on BFR/MCT.

The only exception I could see is a FH upper stage as a pathfinder for flying Raptor and composite tanks. I doubt it though.

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