SpaceX test-fires rocket ahead of Crew-2 astronaut launch for NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX has fired up the rocket that may ferry its subsequent crew of astronauts to the International Space Station subsequent week. 

The non-public spaceflight firm carried out a static-fire check on Saturday (April 22) of its Falcon 9 rocket at Pad 39A right here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The check is one of the final main milestones ahead of a deliberate launch on Thursday (April 22).

The routine preflight check kicked off the countdown to the highly-anticipated flight of the corporate’s second operational mission of its Dragon crew capsule, called Crew-2. The spacecraft is sure for the International Space Station, carrying with it two NASA astronauts and one astronaut every from the Japanese and European space businesses. 

The check occurred as anticipated within the predawn hours on Saturday. Smoke and fireplace billowed briefly because the rocket’s 9 Merlin 1D engines have been lit. The temporary ignition, generally known as a static-fire check, is a normal half of prelaunch procedures and one of the final main milestones earlier than liftoff.

Live updates: SpaceX’s Crew-2 astronaut mission for NASA
SpaceX’s Crew-2 astronauts arrive at launch site

During the check, the Falcon 9 is held down on the pad whereas its 9 first-stage engines are briefly fired. This permits crews to make sure that all techniques are working correctly and that the rocket is able to fly. Shortly after the check, SpaceX tweeted that the static-fire test was a success and that the corporate deliberate to launch on Thursday at 6:11 a.m. EDT (1011 GMT).

The flight marks SpaceX’s eleventh mission of the year and the 2nd long-duration mission to launch from Florida. The rocket’s first stage is predicted to land on one of SpaceX’s drone ships, “Of Course I Still Love You”. Following a profitable liftoff, the crew capsule will spend slightly below 24 hours trailing the space station earlier than arriving on the orbital outpost early Friday (April 23).

In a shift from the corporate’s earlier two crewed missions, each the Dragon capsule and its launcher have flown earlier than. Following the success of the Demo-2 mission, which launched two NASA astronauts to the space station in May 2020, NASA gave SpaceX permission to reuse both the crew capsule and the rocket on future missions. 

For this mission, the primary stage is similar one which delivered the Crew-1 astronauts to space in November, and the Dragon capsule is similar one which Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew on final year. Its identify is Endeavour.

In images: SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station

With the Dragon capsule perched atop the rocket, the duo rolled out of the hangar and onto the launch pad at complicated 39A on Friday morning (April 16). Standing 256.3 toes (78.1 meters) tall, the pair have been lifted upright later that afternoon. 

Secured to the launch pad, groups have been up early Saturday morning, loading the rocket with super-chilled propellants — kerosene and liquid oxygen — after which briefly ignited the primary stage’s 9 Merlin 1D engines.

The engines briefly fired at 6:11 a.m. EDT (1011 GMT), producing 1.7 million kilos of thrust whereas the booster remained firmly on the bottom. Engineers reviewed the information earlier than confirming they’d proceed with the Falcon 9’s deliberate launch try Thursday morning. 

“Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete — targeting Thursday, April 22 at 6:11 a.m. EDT for launch of Dragon’s second operational mission to the @space_station,” SpaceX wrote of the test on Twitter

The static fireplace check comes on the heels of a flight readiness overview. On Thursday night (April 15), NASA gave SpaceX the green gentle to proceed with launch preparations, with one exception.

During the preflight inspections, engineers observed that extra liquid oxygen was being loaded into the Falcon 9 than anticipated — a discrepancy that has been occurring with out incident all through the automobile’s flight historical past. 

“There’s one item we still need to do a little more work on,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s former head of Human Spaceflight, and SpaceX’s present vice chairman of construct and flight reliability said Thursday during a media briefing. “In Texas, we discovered there was a potential loading error, where we actually may be adding a little extra oxygen in our tank than normal. We’ve been doing that throughout our flight history.”

With a profitable static fireplace check now beneath SpaceX’s belt, groups have seemingly cleared the problem and the rocket is able to fly. A closing launch readiness overview is deliberate for Tuesday (April 20) to debate any remaining unresolved points earlier than the launch. 

Following a profitable liftoff on Thursday morning, SpaceX plans to land its first-stage booster on a floating platform at sea. If profitable, it could mark the corporate’s eightieth booster restoration. 

Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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