Spaceflight Insider

Hotfire test performed on next ‘flight-proven’ Falcon 9 booster

SpaceX performs a static fire test on "flight-proven" core 1029, paving the way for the BulgariaSat-1 mission to launch. Liftoff is targeted for June 19, 2017. Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX performs a static fire test on “flight-proven” core 1029, paving the way for the BulgariaSat-1 mission to launch. Liftoff is targeted for June 19, 2017. Photo Credit: SpaceX

White plumes and a brief flash of flame from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket announced another static fire test in advance of another upcoming launch by the NewSpace company, a mission that will send the BulgariaSat-1 communications satellite into space.

The test took place at 6:25 p.m. EDT (22:25 GMT) June 15, 2017, at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), some four days before the planned launch of the BulgariaSat-1 mission. When it does get off the ground, it will be the second “flight-proven” booster to be used by SpaceX. It will also be the fourth launch in about seven weeks from the same launch pad.

SpaceX performs a static fire test in the days before every Falcon 9 flight. It does this to ensure all is working well with the vehicle and ground support equipment. It involves fueling both the first and second stages of the vehicle, just like would be done on launch day.

Once the countdown neared zero, the nine Merlin-1D engines on the flight-proven first stage, core 1029, ignited, albeit for a brief few seconds. As soon as the engines spooled up to full power, an automatic abort was triggered as planned. The test was over.

Engineers will now verify all was indeed well with the rocket. It will be lowered back to a horizontal position and rolled into the nearby integration hanger to attach BulgariaSat-1.

There and back again

In the coming days, SpaceX will roll the flight-proven rocket, with the payload attached, back up the ramp at LC-39A. The 230-foot (70-meter) tall rocket will then be raised to the vertical position. Liftoff is slated for the beginning of a two-hour launch window opening at 2:10 p.m. EDT (18:10 GMT) June 19, 2017.

Core 1029 first flew during the Iridium-1 mission in January 2017. It took about four months to refurbish, which was about the same amount of time it took to refurbish the booster that flew as part of the SES-10 mission, the first “flight-proven” booster SpaceX had launched.

After core 1029 is done giving a boost to the second stage and payload, it will detach. The second stage will then take over the mission to send BulgariaSat-1 into space. Meanwhile, the first stage will perform a series of maneuvers to land on the company’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.

This will be the second landing in core 1029’s career. The first stage landed on Just Read The Instructions, the West Coast drone ship, back in January as that mission launched out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.



Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter. His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. 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 his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our content, eventually becoming our managing editor. @TheSpaceWriter

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