Exercise To Test Falcon 9 Rocket Engines

By  //  April 30, 2012

Systems getting ready for spaceflight

SpaceX became the first commerical company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and return it safely to earth on Dec. 8, 2010. Now the company is preparing for its second launch next Monday and possibly linking with the International Space Station. (Images courtesy of SpaceX)

BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – SpaceX will static test the Falcon 9 rocket’s nine Merlin engines at 2:30 p.m. today in preparation for the company’s launch targeted for next Monday.

The nine-engine test will be conducted at the Space Launch Complex at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – as part of a full launch dress rehearsal leading up to the second Commercial Orbital Transportation Services launch.

During today’s rehearsal, SpaceX engineers will run through all of the countdown processes as though it were launch day.

The exercise will end with all nine engines firing at full power for two seconds.

Following the test, SpaceX will conduct a thorough review of all data as engineers make final preparations for next Monday’s launch, when the company plans to launch its Dragon spacecraft into a low Earth orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

During the mission, Dragon’s sensors and flight systems will be subject to a series of tests to determine if the vehicle is ready to dock at the International Space Station.

Should NASA decide that Dragon is ready, the vehicle will attach to the station and astronauts will open Dragon’s hatch and unload cargo aboard the space station.

This will be the first attempt by a commercial company to send a spacecraft to the ISS, something only government-operated space agencies had accomplished previously.

SpaceX officials say that if any aspect of then mission is not successful, they will learn from the experience and try again.

This also will be the second demonstration flight under NASA’s program to develop commercial supply services to the ISS.

The first SpaceX flight in 2010 marked the first time in history that a commercial company sent a spacecraft into orbit and returned it safely to earth.

Once SpaceX demonstrates the ability to carry cargo to the space station, it will begin to fulfill its Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA for at least 12 missions to carry cargo to and from the space station.

The Falcon 9m rocket and Dragon spacecraft were designed to one day carry astronauts and both missions will yield valuable flight experience toward that goal.

A webcast of the today’s exercise will be streamed live at 2:30 p.m. at http://www.spacex.com/, with the actual static fire testing scheduled for 3 p.m.