SpaceX successfully completes static test fire prior to launch of CRS-8 mission
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX successfully carried out a static test fire of the Hawthorne, California-based firm’s Falcon 9 FT rocket late in the evening on Tuesday, April 5, in preparation for the planned launch of the CRS-8 cargo resupply run to the International Space Station. With this final milestone complete, SpaceX is now ready to launch the Falcon 9 FT / Dragon combo on Friday, April 8, 2016.
At present, the CRS-8 mission is scheduled to get underway at 4:43 p.m. EDT (20:43 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. SpaceX mission managers will have one second to send the mission on its way before the close of the “instantaneous” launch window.
Florida Today reported that the static test fire had been carried out yesterday. The practice countdown includes a brief test-fire of the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines. Representatives with SpaceX told SpaceFlight Insider that the static test fire has been successfully completed.
The test fire, essentially, involves most of the steps that the rocket will encounter during an actual launch. The booster is fueled, it undergoes the countdown and ignition phases, and then the engines are activated. The Falcon 9 FT remains firmly fixed to the launch pad throughout the course of the test. Also activated is the “Niagara” sound suppression system.
This mission should see the cargo version of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft return to service after the June 28, 2015, loss of both the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and the CRS-7 Dragon spacecraft that it carried. That mission ended 139 seconds into the flight when a strut in the rocket’s second stage failed, releasing a helium tank and causing an explosion.
Friday’s flight will be the fourth for the Falcon 9 since the accident and the third of the new “Full Thrust” version of the rocket. It will also mark another important “first” for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program. It will be the first time that both participants in the space agency’s CRS initiative will have their spacecraft berthed to the orbiting lab.
Nearly 7,000 lbs (3,175 kg) of cargo, experiments, and crew supplies will ride with the Dragon as it arcs its way out of Earth’s atmosphere and into the black of space on Friday.
The CRS-8 Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Sunday, April 10. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams along with European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Tim Peake will use the station’s Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon before they berth it to the bottom of the station’s Harmony module.
Neither Dragon nor Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo vessels dock with the space station. Rather, they fly alongside the ISS and are then captured by the station’s robotic arm before being plugged into one of the station’s many ports. Once there, the station’s crew open the spacecraft and then unload the cargo. From there, Dragon will be refilled with finished experiments that will include biological samples from astronaut Scott Kelly’s one year on board the outpost.
This mission will be one among many that currently dot SpaceX’s 2016 launch manifest. The NewSpace firm is also looking to carry out an in-flight abort of the crewed version of Dragon, the inaugural test flight of the Falcon Heavy booster as well as the usual assortment of NASA and commercial missions.
Video courtesy of US Launch Report
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.