A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sporting human-rating upgrades such as new composite pressurant tanks briefly ignited its nine Merlin engines Thursday afternoon on a launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and SpaceX later declared the pre-launch milestone complete in preparation for a critical test flight with a commercial crew capsule as soon as late February.
The Falcon 9 rocket set to launch the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on a test flight in February briefly ignited its Merlin main engines on pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday. The Crew Dragon test flight to the International Space Station is a precursor to the spaceship’s first mission with astronauts later this year.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said this weekend that the company is about one month away from launching the first Crew Dragon spacecraft on an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station, a precursor to a demonstration launch with astronauts later this year. He also warned that early test flights of the commercial crew capsule, built under contract to NASA, will be “especially dangerous.”
Rocket Lab’s commercial Electron booster fired into orbit from New Zealand on Sunday, carrying a flock of 13 CubeSats on the company’s first mission chartered by NASA, and closing out a landmark year for the new smallsat launch provider as Rocket Lab aims to grow its flight rate to at least one per month in 2019.