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

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

File photograph of a Falcon 9 static hearth check at Cape Canaveral. Credit: Steven Young/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 significant pre-flight checkout earlier than blastoff June 29 with a space station provide ship.

After working the rocket via 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 Complex 40 launch pad.

Hold-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 check, 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 towards orbit on an April 18 launch from Cape Canaveral. The turnaround of some 10 weeks between missions is about to be the shortest span between launches of the identical recycled Falcon 9 booster.

The first stage was the ultimate one manufactured by SpaceX utilizing the corporate’s discontinued “Block 4” configuration. SpaceX debuted the upgraded “Block 5” model of the Falcon 9 rocket May 11.

The Falcon 9 Block 5 design is optimized for reusability of the primary stage, and SpaceX founder and chief government Elon Musk mentioned the upgraded Block 5 boosters might 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 latest warmth protect materials and grid fins used on descent. The work took time and value hundreds of thousands of , however SpaceX officers mentioned the expense of refurbishing Block four boosters was lower than the price of manufacturing an all-new automobile.

The first stage that launched NASA’s TESS mission in April landed on SpaceX’s drone ship in 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 will probably be SpaceX’s 12th mission of the yr, 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 check 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 components to the International Space Station’s six-person Expedition 56 crew.

The gear launching to the space 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 crops from space.

The temperature measurements will inform scientists concerning the well being of the crops, 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 stressed that it turns brown, it’s often too late for it to recover,” mentioned Simon Hook, ECOSTRESS principal investigator at JPL. “But measuring the temperature of the plant lets you see that a plant is stressed before it reaches that point.”

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

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