SpaceX test-fired the Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday afternoon, and weather permitting, cleared a major obstacle before launch on Saturday night, when four people were on board to the International Space Station.
The 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket ignited its nine Merlin 1D main engines at 3:49 pm EST (2049 GMT) on Wednesday and throttled for a few seconds. The compression clamp secures the launcher to the ground, because the engine generates 1.7 million pounds of thrust when it starts.
Before the Falcon 9 was launched on Saturday (0049 GMT) Eastern Standard Time, the Falcon 9 completed a pre-flight test shot, and there was a rapid exhaust sound from the flame groove of pad 39A. ), of which three NASA astronauts and a Japanese space vehicle headed to the space station.
The mission will be SpaceX’s first use of a Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule for crew rotation flights, after successfully piloting the Crew Dragon to the space station earlier this year.
The static firepower test on Wednesday was a routine exercise by SpaceX before most missions were executed. The SpaceX launch team is located in the firing room of the launch control center near Kennedy’s iconic car assembly building. It is responsible for an automatic countdown, loading kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant into the new two-stage rocket on the 39A pad outside 3A.
After the engine ignited, the launch team emptied the propellant rocket to prepare for the next event – a “dry rehearsal” planned for Thursday, NASA Commander Mike Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, Mission expert Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Noguchi put on their pressure suits and climbed into the Crew Dragon “Resilience” capsule at pad 39A.
Hopkins and his crew will use exercises to complete the steps they will take on the launch pad, from dressing up the NASA crew to getting on the 39A pads in two Tesla X cars. After arriving in the space capsule, the astronauts will take the elevator into the service structure and enter the white room through the crew passage. The enclosed personnel of SpaceX will help them enter the spacecraft.
Thursday’s rehearsal will not involve filling the Falcon 9 rocket with propellant.
SpaceX and NASA officials plan to hold a “launch readiness review” on Friday to assess the readiness for the launch event on Saturday night. They will also discuss weather forecasts.
SpaceX confirmed the successful results of the static fire test in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon, saying that officials are monitoring weather conditions in order to take off from the Kennedy Space Center and along the rocket’s flight path to the northeast Atlantic.
Mission managers will track wind, wave conditions, lightning and precipitation in more than 50 locations on the east coast of the United States, east of the Canadian Maritime Province, and the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland. If the launch fails, the Crew Dragon capsule may stop and splash into these areas.
The first official weather forecast for the Falcon 9 launch Saturday night showed that the Florida Spaceport has 60% favorable conditions for liftoff. According to the 45th Meteorological Squadron of the US Space Force, the main weather problem is cumulus clouds.
The forecast does not take into account the wind and wave conditions of the ascending corridor of the Crew Dragon spacecraft crossing the Atlantic Ocean, nor does it take into account the higher wind direction standards of Falcon 9 through the atmosphere.
The backup start opportunity is available at 7:27 PM Eastern Standard Time on Sunday night (Monday 0027 GMT).
After the launch, the crew dragon will fly an automatic assembly point, connect with the space station, and send Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Noguchi into the orbital outpost for a six-month expedition. They will be with three other crew members currently living and working on the space station.
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.