Video: Falcon 9 rocket ignites for hold-down test at Cape Canaveral

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket ignited its main engines at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad Thursday night, clearing a major hurdle before liftoff May 31 with the SES 12 communications satellite.

The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D main engines ignited at 9:30 p.m. EDT Thursday (0130 GMT Friday) as clamps held the two-stage rocket firmly on the ground. A cloud of exhaust erupted from the base of the rocket before commands were issued to switch off the engines as planned.

The static fire test is a customary milestone in all SpaceX launch campaigns, and the next step ahead of next week’s launch will be the Falcon 9’s return to a nearby hangar for attachment of the SES 12 communications satellite.

Liftoff is scheduled for 12:29 a.m. EDT (0429 GMT) on Thursday, May 31.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.