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SpaceX test-fires reused rocket in preparation for space station cargo mission

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File picture of a Falcon 9 static hearth take a look at at Cape Canaveral. Credit score: Steven Younger/Spaceflight Now

A rocket booster SpaceX used to launch a planet-hunting NASA observatory two months in the past fired once more Saturday at Cape Canaveral, clearing a serious pre-flight checkout earlier than blastoff June 29 with an area station provide ship.

After working the rocket by a mock launch countdown, SpaceX engineers oversaw the transient ignition of the Falcon 9’s first stage Merlin engines at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) Saturday on Cape Canaveral’s Advanced 40 launch pad.

Maintain-down restraints at pad 40 stored the rocket firmly on the bottom as the primary stage’s 9 Merlin 1D engines throttled as much as greater than 1,000,000 kilos of thrust.

A number of seconds after igniting, the engines appeared to modify off as deliberate. A plume of steam and rocket exhaust loomed over pad 40 as SpaceX ensured the Falcon 9 transitioned right into a secure situation after the hotfire take a look at, a customary milestone in all SpaceX launch campaigns.

SpaceX confirmed the profitable hold-down firing in a tweet later Saturday night, confirming plans to launch the rocket at 5:42 a.m. EDT (0942 GMT) on Friday, June 29.

The Falcon 9 launching subsequent week will use the identical first stage that carried NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite tv for pc towards orbit on an April 18 launch from Cape Canaveral. The turnaround of some 10 weeks between missions is ready to be the shortest span between launches of the identical recycled Falcon 9 booster.

The primary stage was the ultimate one manufactured by SpaceX utilizing the corporate’s discontinued “Block four” configuration. SpaceX debuted the upgraded “Block 5” model of the Falcon 9 rocket Could 11.

The Falcon 9 Block 5 design is optimized for reusability of the primary stage, and SpaceX founder and chief govt Elon Musk stated the upgraded Block 5 boosters could possibly be launched, landed and flown once more in as little as 24 hours, ultimately requiring little greater than the price of new propellants and processing prices.

The Block four configuration was not able to such speedy re-flights, requiring disassembly of its touchdown legs, inspections, refurbishment and the set up of recent warmth protect materials and grid fins used on descent. The work took time and value hundreds of thousands of , however SpaceX officers stated the expense of refurbishing Block four boosters was lower than the price of manufacturing an all-new automobile.

The primary stage that launched NASA’s TESS mission in April landed on SpaceX’s drone ship within the Atlantic Ocean, then returned to Port Canaveral, the place engineers eliminated it from the restoration vessel and transported it to a hangar to start preparations for its subsequent mission.

The June 29 launch can be SpaceX’s 12th mission of the 12 months, and the 15th flight below the corporate’s multibillion-dollar cargo transportation contract with NASA.

The Dragon provide ship set to experience the Falcon 9 rocket into orbit subsequent week can also be reused from a earlier flight in 2016. With the completion of the static hearth take a look at Saturday, groups at Cape Canaveral will decrease the Falcon 9 rocket and return it to the hangar at pad 40, the place they’ll mate the launcher with the Dragon cargo capsule.

The commercially-managed resupply mission will ship greater than 5,900 kilos (about 2,700 kilograms) of analysis , crew provides and spare elements to the Worldwide House Station’s six-person Expedition 56 crew.

The gear launching to the house station subsequent week features a spare Canadian-built latching finish effector for the analysis lab’s robotic arm, plus an instrument developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to be mounted exterior the station’s Japanese Kibo lab module to measure the temperature of vegetation from house.

The temperature measurements will inform scientists concerning the well being of the vegetation, how a lot water they’re utilizing, and the resiliency of crops to excessive circumstances like warmth waves and droughts.

“When a plant is so harassed that it turns brown, it’s usually too late for it to recuperate,” stated Simon Hook, ECOSTRESS principal investigator at JPL. “However measuring the temperature of the plant enables you to see plant is harassed earlier than it reaches that time.”

The Dragon capsule is scheduled to reach on the house station Monday, July 2, to start an roughly month-long keep. The craft will detach, de-orbit and splash down within the Pacific Ocean on the finish of its mission, bringing experiment specimens and different payloads again to Earth.

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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