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SpaceX Planning Sunday Falcon 9 Launch After Test

Eleven Orbcomm spacecraft are attached to their dispenser prior to being encapsulated within the Falcon 9's payload fairing. Credit: Orbcomm

WASHINGTON — SpaceX has tentatively scheduled the launch of its first Falcon 9 mission since a June failure for Dec. 20 after completing a static-fire test of the vehicle on the launch pad late Dec. 18.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk reported on Twitter shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern that the company had completed a brief test fire of the rocket’s nine main engines on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

“Static fire test looks good,” Musk wrote. “Pending data review, will aim to launch Sunday.” If the Dec. 20 launch date is confirmed, the launch would take place during an instantaneous window at 8:29 p.m. Eastern. A backup launch date of Dec. 22 is also available.

The static fire test was originally scheduled for Dec. 16, followed by a launch Dec. 19. However, SpaceX rescheduled the test for Dec. 17, and then delayed it to Dec. 18 after problems Musk said were caused by the use of supercooled liquid oxygen propellant, one of a number of changes SpaceX has made to the upgraded Falcon 9. Musk also reported technical problems with static fire attempts earlier Dec. 18 prior to the successful test.

Orbcomm posted this photo Dec. 17 of the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry its 11 satellites to orbit perhaps as soon as this weekend. Credit: Orbcomm
Orbcomm posted this photo Dec. 17 of the Falcon 9 rocket poised to carry its 11 satellites to orbit. Credit: Orbcomm

The launch, carrying 11 Orbcomm satellites, will be the first for the upgraded Falcon 9. The launch will also be the first for SpaceX since the June 28 failure of a Falcon 9 version 1.1 carrying a Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. SpaceX later said a strut in the rocket’s upper stage broke during the vehicle’s ascent, setting off a chain of events that caused its destruction.

SpaceX may also use the launch to attempt a landing of the rocket’s first stage, part of the company’s efforts to develop a reusable version of the Falcon 9. That could involve a landing at a decommissioned launch site at Cape Canaveral that SpaceX has turned into a landing site, dubbed Launch Complex 1. Neither SpaceX nor the Federal Aviation Administration, which would have to approve the landing as part of a new or modified launch license, have confirmed plans for a landing attempt.

Source: Space News

SpaceX Planning Sunday Falcon 9 Launch After Test

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