SpaceX tested its next Falcon 9 rocket during a major countdown rehearsal Monday, loading propellant into the two-stage launcher and validating improvements made to the company's Cape Canaveral launch pad before liftoff as soon as Nov. 30.
The third Falcon 9 rocket sits on the launch pad. Credit: Kyle Cothern/SpaceX
The practice countdown, also known as a wet dress rehearsal, put the Falcon 9 rocket, the launch pad and control teams through drills to get ready for launch day.
The dress rehearsal included most countdown procedures before simulating an abort at T-minus 1 second.
The Falcon 9's first stage arrived at Cape Canaveral in April, followed by the launcher's second stage in July. Workers assembled the stages inside a hangar at Cape Canaveral's Complex 40 before rolling the booster out to the pad for Monday's countdown test.
SpaceX says engineers have upgraded the seaside launch pad since the Falcon 9's previous launch in December 2010, including adding new liquid oxygen pumps to reduce the fueling time from 90 minutes to less than 30 minutes. The improvement will streamline the Falcon 9 countdown for the next launch.
The mission's payload, the first full-up Dragon spacecraft, will be shipped to Cape Canaveral in early September, according to Kirstin Grantham, a company spokesperson.
The Dragon is currently undergoing final environmental testing and assembly at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.
Workers prepare the Dragon spacecraft for thermal vacuum testing. Credit: Roger Gilbertson/SpaceX
The 15-story Falcon 9 rocket is due to blast off Nov. 30 with the Dragon cargo capsule bound for the International Space Station. It will be the first launch to the complex in NASA's partnership with the commercial space industry to develop and test private spacecraft to deliver supplies to the million-pound laboratory.
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