A SpaceX rocket used to launch a NASA observatory that hunted planets two months ago re-fired on Saturday at Cape Canaveral, clearing a major inspection before takeoff on June 29 with a ship of supply of the space station.
After running the rocket through a simulated countdown, SpaceX engineers oversaw the brief ignition of the Merlin engines of the first stage of Falcon 9 at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) Saturday at the launching complex Complex 40 of Cabo Cañaveral.
Restraint restrictions on platform 40 kept the rocket firmly on the ground as all nine Merlin 1D engines accelerated to more than one million pounds of thrust.
A few seconds after switching on, the motors seemed to be disconnected as planned. A column of steam and rocket exhaust rose over platform 40 when SpaceX ensured that the Falcon 9 pbaded to a safe condition after the fire test, a milestone common to all SpaceX launch campaigns.
SpaceX confirmed the successful arrest in a tweet later on Saturday afternoon, confirming plans to launch the rocket at 5:42 a.m. (0942 GMT) on Friday, June 29.
The launch of Falcon 9 next week will use the same first stage that NASA's in-transit exoplanet study satellite took to orbit in a launch on April 18 from Cape Canaveral. The change of about 10 weeks between missions is established in the shortest time between the launches of the same Falcon 9 recycled booster.
The first stage was the last one manufactured by SpaceX using the discontinuous configuration of the company "Block 4". SpaceX debuted the improved "Block 5" version of the Falcon 9 rocket on May 11.
The Falcon 9 Block 5 design is optimized for the reuse of the first stage and SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk, said the improved Block 5 amplifiers could be launched, landed and flew again in just one 24 hours, requiring little more than the cost of new propellants and processing costs.
The configuration of Block 4 was not capable of such rapid re-flights, requiring the disbadembly of its landing legs, inspections, reconditioning and installation of new thermal protection material and grid fins used in the descent. The work took time and cost millions of dollars, but SpaceX officials said that the cost of restoring the drivers of Block 4 was less than the cost of making a completely new vehicle.
The first stage launched by the NASA TESS mission in April landed on the SpaceX drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, then returned to Port Canaveral, where the engineers removed it from the recovery boat and transported it to a hangar to begin the preparations for your next mission.
The launch of June 29 will be SpaceX's 12th mission of the year and the fifteenth flight under the company's multimillion-dollar cargo transportation contract with NASA.
The Dragon's supply ship to be mounted on the Falcon 9 rocket in orbit next week will also be reused on a previous flight in 2016. With the completion of the static fire test on Saturday, the teams at Cape Canaveral will lower the Falcon 9 rocket and return it to the hangar in field 40, where they will join the launcher with the Dragon's cargo capsule.
The commercially-managed refueling mission will deliver more than 5,900 pounds (about 2,700 kilograms) of research hardware, crew supplies and spare parts to the 56-person Expedition crew of the International Space Station.
The equipment to be launched at the space station next week includes a removable retainer effector made in Canada for the robotic arm of the research laboratory, plus an instrument developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to be mounted outside the Japanese laboratory Kibo module of the station to measure the temperature of the plants from space.
inform scientists about the health of plants, the amount of water they use and the resistance of crops to extreme conditions such as heat waves and droughts.
"When a plant is so stressed that it turns brown, it is often too late to recover," said Simon Hook, principal investigator of ECOSTRESS at JPL. "But measuring the temperature of the plant allows you to see that a plant is stressed before it reaches that point."
The Dragon's capsule is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Monday, July 2, to begin a stay of about one month. The ship will separate, de-orbit and splash in the Pacific Ocean at the end of its mission, carrying specimens of experiments and other payloads to Earth.