An all-new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fires its engines Friday night on launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, the opening act in a busy weekend of SpaceX launch preps leading to a pair of blastoffs Sunday and Tuesday from California's Central Coast and Florida's Space Coast, respectively.
The two-stage Falcon 9 launcher test-fired at pad 40 Friday night is set to blast off Tuesday at 1:38 pm EST (1838 GMT) with an automated Dragon supply ship heading to the space station. The Dragon cargo craft is going to haul several tons of supplies and experiments to the station, including NASA-funded payloads being donated to the research complex Earth's forests and demonstrating in-orbit satellite refueling techniques.
A weather forecast issued by the US Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron at nearby Patrick Air Force Base suggests rain showers, thunderstorms and clouds might be a problem for Tuesday's instantaneous launch opportunity. Cape Canaveral wants to prevent liftoff, with the major concerns involving the thick cloud, cumulus cloud, and precipitation launch rules.
SpaceX's launch team loaded kerosene and liquid oxygen propelled into the Falcon 9 rocket Friday evening at pad 40, then the launcher through a mock countdown, then ignored the first stage's nine Merlin 1D engines for several seconds at 10:20 pm EST (0320 GMT Saturday), while hold-down restraints kept the vehicle fixed on the ground. Workers want to go down the rocket, return to SpaceX's nearby hangar, and install the Dragon spacecraft on the launcher this weekend before rolling the fully-assembled vehicle back to the pad.
but SpaceX aborted the engine firing and trying again Friday.
It wants to be SpaceX's 16th resupply launch to the space under a $ 3.04 billion NASA contract for 20 cargo transport flights through next year. SpaceX and NASA have a separate contract covering development and missions by SpaceX's crew Dragon spaceship for astronaut transport services.
The Falcon 9 rocket set to lift off Tuesday, weather permitting, fly with a new first stage booster. Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station a few miles south of pad 40, the first such rocket return to Florida's Space Coast since February.
The Dragon capsule was recovered in March 2017 following a previous resupply flight to the station, then refurbished and outfitted for a second flight. Assuming an on-time launch Tuesday, the Dragon wants to reach the space station Thursday, Dec.
Meanwhile, a SpaceX team at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is preparing to launch a different Falcon 9 rocket Sunday at 10:31 am PST (1:31 p.m. EST; 1831 GMT) on a business flight with 64 smallsats built and owned by companies, governments and institutions from 17 countries. The launch was set for Nov. 19, but SpaceX ordered a delay to conduct additional inspections, and the launch of what is now waiting for better weather.
Sunday's launch from California wants to set a record for the highest number of satellites ever launched on a US rocket. The rideshare mission, planned by Seattle-based Spaceflight, also wants to mark the first time SpaceX has flown the same Falcon 9
SpaceX has re-launched Falcon boosters 17 times since March 2017 – the fruits of a multi-year effort to recover the rocket and cut launch costs – but no Falcon 9 first stage has flown more than twice. That changes Sunday.
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