Despite the uncertainty regarding the fate of the Zuma launch, see the previous post, SpaceX continued their busy year with the first static fire test of their Falcon Heavy Rocket.
The rocket which consists of three Falcon 9 cores mated together giving a total of 27 engines and 5.1 million pounds of thrust was successfully fueled today and the brief static fire test completed. At present we are not sure if another test will be needed or if SpaceX will proceed to the actual launch later this month.
Once SpaceX has analyzed all the data from this test the next step will be defined and we will post an update here.
The following images were captures from Florida Today’s live stream of the test
SpaceX returned their Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) to operation today following a successful static fire test of the booster designated to take CRS-13 to the International Space Station next week.
The pad which was damaged during the AMOS 6 accident in September 2016 has been repaired and a new Transport Erector has been created to allow launches to return to the pad that first launched the Falcon 9.
While the accident caused a four-month delay in launches for SpaceX the loss of LC-40 wasn’t a damaging for the company as it could have been because they have a second launch pad in Florida thanks to the 20 year lease of Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) which they had been modifying for Falcon 9 crewed launches and Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX is currently targetting to launch the CRS-13 mission from LC-40 on 12th December.
This morning during their standard Static Fire test procedure the Falcon 9 tasked with launching the Spacecom Amos-6 satellite exploded during the countdown to the static fire.
SpaceX have confirmed that the Amos-6 payload was lost due to the explosion, however there were no personnel lost due to standard procedures during tanking operations.
At present there is no information available as to the cause of the explosion or what impact this will have on the aggressive launch schedule that SpaceX has. It can be assumed there will be some impact but will depend on a number of factors including:
- How much damage was caused to the pad?
- The visible damage to the pad doesn’t look too bad, however it is very likely that significant damage was caused to the infrastructure aroundthe pad which will take time to replace/repair.
- How much damage was caused to the strongback part of the Transporter Erector Launcher?
- The strongback took the brunt of the explosion and looks to be severe damaged and may not be salvageable. This would need to be replaced as it is unlikely that the spare at 39A will work on SLC-40.
- What caused the explosion?
- Unconfirmed reports indicate that the issue was internal to the 2nd stage of the rocket. Elon Musk tweeted that it originated around the Oxygen tank but no further details yet available.
We can be sure that SpaceX will recover from this just as they did after the CRS-7 launch in June 2015, they will determine what caused the issue, what needs to be done to address it and when they can resume operations. In the meantime they will need to do damage control with there customer especially those who were counting on launches this year that could be delayed now.
Once further information is available we will post it here.
Update 9/1/2016 @ 1:19pm EDT
Update 9/2/2016 @ 8:30am EDT
Based on the amount of damage likely at SLC-40 it will be quite some time before SpaceX can launch from there again, however that may not be as significant an issue as it could have been because they have a second launch pad nearby a LC-39A. At present this pad is still be refurbished ready to support Falcon Heavy and Falcon crewed launches however it is likely this could be finished sooner than any repairs at SLC-40.
SpaceX has completed the first static fire test of their enhanced Falcon 9 rocket as they move closer to return to flight. The upgraded rocket (name not yet known) uses Full Thrust Merlin 1D engines, previous flights the engines had only been run at 85% thrust.
This upgrade which was already in the works before the June accident that has grounded the Falcon 9 will allow larger payloads to be launched and still allow the company to attempt to land the first stage.
See video below of the test at SpaceX’s Mcgregor, Texas test site.