Reducing risk via ground testing is a recipe for SpaceX success

November 8, 2017 – 08:53 am

no altSpaceX have noted they are happy with the technical progress being made on their new Falcon 9 v.1.1 (F 9-R) launch vehicle, as they prepare their next generation rocket for its role in upcoming launches and the future goal of creating a fully reusable launch system. UPDATE: SpaceX provided an update on Thursday evening, noting they have successfully completed the first stage’s development testing.

Next Generation Falcon 9:

Following its successful role, primarily in lofting SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on resupply missions, the Falcon 9 will next launch with additional capability.

That next launch, set to loft Canada’s CASSIOPE spacecraft from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, will debut the Falcon 9 v.1.1, in turn flight-qualifying the rocket’s improvements, not least the nine upgraded Merlin 1D engines on the core stage and the Merlin VacD on the Upper Stage.

Falcon 9 v1.1 stage firingThe focus has since switched to testing all nine Merlin 1Ds – together in their new octagonal placement on the core stage – on the test stand at SpaceX’s Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas.

Numerous firings have taken place at the test facility, resulting in varied levels of success. While some of the firings were cut short by aborts, the ability to gather data and iron out any issues whilst still on the ground is one of the basic fundamentals of rocket science, when the goal is to increase safety and reliability ahead of launching for real.

“There have been varied tests for Falcon 9-R, including several in the past few weeks. As we prepare to fly this next generation Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX will test everything possible on the ground, ” noted SpaceX spokesperson Christina Ra to

Falcon v1.1 first stage test firing“SpaceX’s testing program is very rigorous to wring out problems before we fly operational missions. We do more testing than other launch service providers, and we do significant system testing. We are happy with our technical progress and will continue to test to reduce risk, as getting our customers’ payloads to orbit safely is our top priority.”

UPDATE: Late on Thursday, SpaceX confirmed the latest firing of the stage on the test stand completed first stage development testing, allowing for the progression towards acceptance testing and flight preparations.

“SpaceX completed first-stage development testing on June 19 with a firing that achieved all verifications needed following earlier stage testing, ” Ms. Ra noted in an update to

“With this test, we have achieved the equivalent of nearly two full mission duty cycles on the integrated stage. We are now moving into the stage acceptance tests and final preparations for flight.”

Earlier, SpaceX noted they are ticking several boxes on their upgraded rocket’s report card, at both ends of the vehicle.

Falcon 9 Fairing SpaceX Falcon Heavy


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