SpaceX is on track to launch another Falcon 9 v1.1, just 13 days after the ASIASAT-6 mission lifted off from SLC-40. The next launch – tasked with lofting the CRS-4/SpX-4 Dragon en route to the International Space Station (ISS) – remains on target for the early hours of September 20, after a Static Fire test was conducted on Wednesday night.
Path to the next launch:
However, with no major post-launch repairs required on the SLC-40 pad infrastructure, along with the next Falcon 9 and Dragon already in Florida, SpaceX made the decision to press ahead with a September 19 target – which has since slipped by just the one day.
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.
Observers confirmed the short burst of the engines, marking the completion of the Static Fire test at around midnight. While SpaceX stated it wasn’t able to talk about “testing schedules”, sources note a full duration firing, pointing to a good test.
Next up is a data review, which will be fed into the Launch Readiness Review (LRR) – a key meeting that will confirm the launch date.
The launch itself has the additional challenge of an instantaneous launch window, due to the mission targeting a path toward the International Space Station. As such, a plan for three consecutive attempts – should they be required – are being lined up.
“SpaceX CRS-4 Mission is currently scheduled for a 9/20, with an instantaneous T-0 of 02:14L (Local), noted L2’s CRS-4 flow information. “An alternate date of 9/21, at 01:52 is available. SpaceX is working toward a second alternative date of 9/22, at 01:29 – pending Range approval.”
The requirement to ship replacements to the ISS came after ground testing revealed an issue that resulted in a loss of confidence across the set of batteries currently being used in the operational EMUs.
The Dragon will also be lofting ISS-RapidScat, inside her unpressurized Trunk compartment.
The experiment will be attached to the Station’s Columbus laboratory, via the use of the Station’s robotic assets that are now well-versed in removing and installing hardware from the Dragon’s trunk.
ISS-RapidScat will study the Earth’s ocean surface wind speed and direction, returning a lost capability when the SeaWinds scatterometer aboard NASA’s then 10-year-old QuikScat satellite experienced an age-related antenna failure.
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