Sunday, March 14, 2010
SpaceX successfully fired the Falcon 9 rocket's nine Merlin engines for 3.5 seconds, completing a key preflight test before the privately-developed booster is cleared for launch in April.
Ground test was one of the final steps before launch of the Falcon 9, which is scheduled for no earlier than April 12. The static fire verified all of the launch pad's ground systems are ready to support the mission. Between now and launch, engineers will install the rocket's flight termination system charges that would destroy the vehicle if it flew off course and threatened the public.
NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract to fly 12 operational Falcon 9 and Dragon missions to the International Space Station beginning in 2011.
SpaceX plans a flight of the Dragon in July, followed by a rendezvous demonstration with the space station in November. But those schedules hinge on a timely and successful Falcon 9 test flight in April.