SpaceX CEO Elon Muck announced today (Dec. 19) that his company plans to launch an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday night, Dec. 20, from Cape Canaveral, Florida – for the first time since it failed in flight six months ago on a mission for NASA to the space station – after successfully completing a crucial test of the rockets engines late Friday night.
Furthermore, SpaceX confirmed it will conduct a historic first ever attempt to recover the commercialrocket’s first stage by a soft landing on the ground at a special SpaceX site called Landing Zone 1 on the Cape’s Air Force Station.
“Currently looking good for a Sunday night attempted orbital launch and rocket landing at Cape Canaveral,” Musk tweeted today.
The path to Sunday’s ‘Return to Flight’ launch was cleared after SpaceX successfully conducted a static hot fire test of the Falcon 9 first stages engines at the Florida space coast launch pad last night.
“Static fire test looks good,” Musk confirmed via Twitter. “Pending data review, will aim to launch Sunday.”
Sunday’s launch of the 229 foot tall Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. is slated for 8:29 p.m. ET.
The primary mission of the liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 – in a newly enhanced upgraded configuration – is to carry a payload of eleven small commercial communications satellites for Orbcomm on the second OG2 mission. They are fueled and stacked on the satellite dispenser and encapsulated inside the payload fairing.
“The Falcon 9 will launch eleven next generation OG2 satellites as part of ORBCOMM’s second and final OG2 Mission at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida,” says Orbcomm.
A successful launch is critical to SpaceX which has a fully booked manifest of more than 50 launches waiting in line and worth billions of dollars in needed revenue to the firm.
The launch window lasts 60 seconds launch and opens at 8:29 p.m. ET.
A live webcast will be available at SpaceX.com/webcast beginning at approximately 8:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, Dec. 20.
If needed, SpaceX says a backup launch opportunity is available on Dec. 21.
Air Force meteorologists are predicting a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time.
After the Falcon 9 rocket was rolled out to pad 40 on Wednesday, Dec. 16, SpaceX engineers carried out a fueling and countdown test in anticipation of conducting the critical static fire test of the first stage Merlin engines.
But technicians soon encountered a variety of technical issues that postponed the test completion until Friday evening. This subsequently forced a 1 day launch delay from Saturday, Dec. 19 to Sunday Dec. 20.
The static fire test is a routine prelaunch check with a fully fueled Falcon 9 held down on the pad and conducted by SpaceX to confirm the readiness of the rocket. It simulates a a launch countdown.
All SpaceX launches ground to an immediate halt this past summer when the commercial two stage Falcon 9 booster carrying a SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft heading to the ISS on a critical resupply mission for NASA was unexpectedly destroyed by an overpressure event 139 seconds after a picture perfect blastoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 28 at 10:21 a.m. EDT.
The cause of the in-flight breakup was traced to the failure of a critical support strut inside the second stage liquid oxygen tank holding a high pressure helium tank in the Falcon 9 rocket, as the likely cause, revealed SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk during a briefing for reporters on July 20.
Musk said the Falcon 9 launch failure was a ‘huge blow’ to SpaceX.
At recent public forums, SpaceX managers have confirmed that a failure of the second stage strut is still the leading candidate for the launch mishap in June.
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