Falcon 9 static fire test performed at LC-39A

 SpaceX signed a 20-year lease on Launch Complex 39A in 2014. Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX signed a 20-year lease on Launch Complex 39A in 2014. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A roared to life for the first time since the end of the Space Shuttle era, albeit for only a few seconds, as SpaceX conducted a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket.

Via a stream from Spaceflight Now, a plum of exhaust was seen on the north side of the pad indicating a successful test fire. SpaceX confirmed the test occurred minutes later via a tweet.

 The Falcon 9 rocket that will support the CRS-10 mission was moved to Launch Complex 39A and raised into the vertical position. A static fire test was performed on the rocket Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Elon Musk / SpaceX

The Falcon 9 rocket that will support the CRS-10 mission was moved to Launch Complex 39A and raised into the vertical position. A static fire test was performed on the rocket Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Elon Musk / SpaceX

At 4:30 p.m EST (21:30 GMT) Feb. 12, 2017, the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines ignited to ensure everything was operating as expected before the next week’s planned launch of the Commercial Resupply Services 10 mission to the International Space Station.

The test involved a full countdown and fueling of the rocket. When the engines ignited, they fired a short 3.5-second burst before the flight computer automatically commanded an abort. SpaceX engineers will now pore over the data over the coming days to ensure all is well on the booster.

Liftoff for the CRS-10 mission is scheduled for 10:01 a.m. EST (15:01 GMT) Feb. 18. This will be the first launch from the complex since the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135 in July 2011.

Once in orbit, the CRS-10 Dragon capsule will take about two days to reach the outpost. It will deliver 2,029 kilograms of pressurized and 977 kilograms of unpressurized cargo.

About nine minutes after liftoff, the first stage of the Falcon 9, after detaching from the second stage and its payload, will return back to nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1.

This will be the third time one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stages will attempt a ground landing, rather than on a drone ship at sea. It will also be the first ground landing during daylight hours.

When CRS-10 does get off the ground, it will be the first East Coast launch since the Sept. 1, 2016, explosion in the minutes before a static fire test. The explosion destroyed the rocket and Amos 6 satellite it was carrying. Additionally, it severely damaged Space Launch Complex 40, which is just south of LC-39A.

SpaceX has since resolved the issue that caused the accident and returned the Falcon 9 to flight. That launch, the Iridium-1 mission, took to the skies Jan. 14, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

After CRS-10, SpaceX will launch one of its last expendable Falcon 9 rockets when it sends the EchoStar 23 communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. That mission currently has a no-earlier-than launch date of Feb. 28.

NOTE: While this article was written by Derek Richardson, it was originally published at SpaceFlight Insider. Feel free to head over there to read all the stuff they write about!

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Derek Richardson

I am a space geek who loves to write about space.

My passion for space ignited when I watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on October 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, I soon realized that my true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

Currently, I am a senior at Washburn University studying Mass Media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism. In addition to running Orbital Velocity, I write for the Washburn Review and am the Managing Editor for SpaceFlight Insider.