This latest mission – a key Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) flight for NASA – had entered the business end of the launch flow, with the Static Fire test an important requirement to allow SpaceX management to approve the launch.
Numerous requirements have to be successfully proven via such a test, such as the engine ignition and shut down commands, which have to operate as designed, and that the Merlin 1D engines perform properly during start-up.
Only a short burst of the Merlin 1D engines on the core stage of the F9 is required to allow for the validation data to be gained on the health of the vehicle and pad systems.
Attempts during the four hour test window on Tuesday did not result in a successfully conducted – or fully completed – Static Fire.
Although the company, which usually confirms a successful Static Fire shortly after it has been completed, did not immediately respond to inquires into the status of the flow, numerous sources began to note a slip was under consideration.
January 6 was a date provided to NASASpaceFlight.com on Wednesday afternoon, although this remained unofficial throughout the day.
However, the company did promise to provide more information to this site when “they have something to share.”
On Thursday morning, SpaceX followed through on that promise, confirming the slip and explaining the issue surrounding the Static Fire came after the ignition of the Merlin 1D engines – which explains why at least one outlet believed the test had been successful – but not for their full test duration, pointing to an early shutdown/abort.
“While the recent static fire test accomplished nearly all of our goals, the test did not run the full duration, ” noted SpaceX spokeman John Talyor to NASASpaceFlight.com.
“The data suggests we could push forward without a second attempt, but out of an abundance of caution, we are opting to execute a second static fire test prior to launch.”
During Wednesday, information noted the potential to conduct a second Static Fire on Thursday, before the conversations moved towards a slip to the New Year.
January 6 was a date provided to the site, given numerous factors – such as ISS constraints – come into play over the end of year period.
The slip to the new year has now been confirmed by SpaceX.
“Given the extra time needed for data review and testing, coupled with the limited launch date availability due to the holidays and other restrictions, our earliest launch opportunity is now Jan. 6 with Jan. 7 as a backup, ” added Mr. Talyor.
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