May 16, 2021

Photos: Falcon 9 test-fired before Starlink launch


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SpaceX test-fired nine Merlin engines Saturday before the company’s next launch from Cape Canaveral, clearing a key readiness test before liftoff as soon as Sunday night with 60 more Starlink internet satellites.

The nine Merlin engines fired at 12:50 p.m. EST (1750 GMT) Saturday on pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, ramping up to 1.7 million pounds of thrust for several seconds as hold-down clamps firmly held the 1.2-million-pound rocket on the ground.

SpaceX confirmed a successful static fire test in a tweet later Saturday afternoon. The Falcon 9 is scheduled for launch at 11:21 p.m. EST Sunday (0421 GMT Monday), and will head northeast from Florida’s Space Coast, aiming for an orbit between 157 miles and 177 miles (254-by-286 kilometers) in altitude, with an inclination of 53 degrees to the equator.

The Starlink satellites will deploy from the rocket about 64 minutes after liftoff, unfurl their solar panels, and use ion thrusters to climb into a 341-mile-high (550-kilometer) orbit to begin providing internet service to customers.

With the launch Sunday night, the SpaceX will have launched 1,145 Starlink satellites to date.

These photos show the Falcon 9’s static fire test Saturday, just after thunderstorms and heavy rain moved through the spaceport.

Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


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