Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023

Landed Falcon 9 first stage test fire

On Thursday, SpaceX took another step toward rocket reuse when it fired up the nine engines on the first stage of a Falcon 9 booster it launched in May. The company released video of the full engine fire, which mimicked the length of a first-stage burn toward orbit, conducted at the MacGregor, Texas test site.

This particular booster, which launched a Japanese communications satellite to geostationary orbit on May 6, will not be flown again. According to Spaceflight Now, the company designated it as its reference vehicle because it endured extreme temperatures during its reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. The rocket will undergo additional tests as engineers determine whether flown boosters are ready for additional flights into space.

This test plan is part of SpaceX’s plans to fly again with the first booster it landed at sea, the rocket it used to launch a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station in April. That first stage had an easier ride back to the surface because it carried a payload to low-Earth orbit, rather than the much higher geostationary altitudes common for communications and spy satellites.

It’s not clear when the first reuse flight will take place, although SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said it will happen this year. At an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics propulsion meeting this week, former U.S. Air Force official Gary Payton said he believed SpaceX had found a customer for the first relaunch of an orbital rocket. “I understand a few days ago that they found a user for that first previously flown first stage,” he said. “So that’s part of the market test.”

Reusability has long been a goal of the aerospace community. But despite previous advances by NASA and some of its contractors, SpaceX and Blue Origin are only now beginning to deliver on the promise of a rapid and low-cost turnaround of rockets flown into space. Relaunching a rocket for a paying customer would validate both the idea of ​​reusability and its commercial viability.

Frame image by SpaceX

By akfire1

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