SpaceX powered up a Falcon 9 first stage accelerator reused on the Complex 40 launch platform at Cape Canaveral before a scheduled launch of the space station's refueling on December 12, an important step to restore the repaired installation a catastrophic explosion interrupted operations there last year.
Nine Merlin 1D engines in the first stage of Falcon 9 came on at 3 p. m. EST (2000 GMT) on Wednesday, sending an escape plume out of the flame trench on platform 40. It was the first time a rocket fired on platform 40, a former Titan rocket launch facility now operated by SpaceX, since a rocket exploded during fuel supply before a static fire test before the flight September 1, 2016.
SpaceX confirmed the completion of the static fire test prior to the usual launch on Twitter.
The Falcon 9 will be returned to the SpaceX hangar on the platform 40 accessory of a Dragon cargo capsule loaded with several tons of supplies and experiments that are directed to the International Space Station.
The fully assembled launcher will return to platform 40 next week for takeoff, which is currently scheduled for Tuesday, December 12. at 11:46 a.m. EST (1646 GMT).
The launch slipped four days from its previous objective to complete the preparations in block 40, among other concerns.
"This new release date takes into account the availability of the pads, the requirements for science payloads, space station c" NASA said in a statement.
SpaceX will have a backup day on December 13 to start if the countdown of December 12 is deleted.
Mission managers will have to work on SpaceX's cargo launch around traffic from other space stations.
Space station commander Randy Bresnik and his comrades Sergey Ryazanskiy and Paolo Nespoli will depart from the station on their Soyuz MS-05 at the beginning of December 14. The trio will land in Kazakhstan several hours later to conclude a 139-day flight, leaving behind the new station commander Alexander Misurkin and the astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba.
Three new crew members will depart from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December 17 and will reach complex orbital research two days later.
NASA and its space station partners prohibit cargo and crew ships arriving and departing from the station on the same day, leaving limited launching opportunities for the SpaceX refueling mission in mid-D December .
Assuming the Dragon cargo capsule is launched on December 12, it will arrive at the space station on December 15 for a one-month stay.
The next cargo launch is the 13th refueling mission mounted by SpaceX under contract with NASA, and the first in which the space agency agreed to fly its equipment in a previously used Falcon 9 first stage. The reinforcement assigned to next week's mission flew for the first time on June 3 at the refueling launch of another space station.
The pressurized module of the Dragon capsule is also reused. SpaceX renewed the spacecraft after a return flight to the station in April and May 2015.
The return of Pad 40 to the service frees the nearby platform 39A, where SpaceX has based all its launches on the east coast so far this year, for final updates and modifications to accommodate the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket, a huge triple-body launcher formed by three first stages of Falcon 9 together.
Falcon Heavy's first test launch could happen next month, a few weeks after its launch. own static fire test on platform 39A.
SpaceX also confirmed on Wednesday that the release of a mysterious payload from the US government. UU called Zuma is scheduled to occur from platform 40 in early January, after cargo delivery on December 12. Zuma's launch was postponed since mid-November to study a technical concern with the Falcon 9 payload fairing, a structure that protects satellites during takeoff.
It was originally assumed that the Zuma mission would be launched from pad 39A, but the reactivation of Pad 40 would move it there, clearing the old Apollo launch pad and shuttle for the Heavy Hawk.
The Dragon's cargo capsule does not use a fairing like other Falcon 9 payloads, allowing the refueling flight to advance.
the last SpaceX launch of the year is scheduled for December 22 from the Vandenberg Air Base in California with 10 Iridium voice and data transmission satellites.
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