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.
A SpaceX-owned commercial cargo craft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California late Sunday, closing out a 39-day mission that delivered 2.8 tons of supplies, experiments and holiday treats to the International Space Station, and returned home with research specimens and no-longer-needed hardware.
SpaceX kicked off its 2019 launch campaign with a mission Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying 10 more upgraded communications satellites into orbit to complete a refresh of Iridium’s voice and data relay network. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket occurred at 7:31 a.m. PST (10:31 a.m. EST; 1531 GMT).