Update: SpaceX launched the new Falcon 9 B1061 booster after loading the full-fledged two-stage missile with liquid oxygen and kerosene (RP-1), to verify the vehicle’s readiness to fly and – pending confirmation of a successful test – keeping the astronaut’s Crew Dragon operational debut on track For Saturday November 14th.
SpaceX has decided to postpone the impending steady-fire test of the Falcon 9 to replace a component in the rocket’s upper consumable stage, a 24-hour slip that is not expected to affect the launch date of the operational astronaut.
Previously expected at around 7:49 PM EST on Tuesday, November 10, SpaceX decided to push the first fixed fire of Falcon 9 B1061 no later than (NET) on the evening of Wednesday, November 11th. As usual, SpaceX would put the rocket (and the spacecraft) through a scenario all perfectly matched to the actual launch without takeoff, loading the Falcon 9 with fuel and igniting all nine Merlin 1D booster engines to validate the vehicle.
Unexpectedly, for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon missions the extremely valuable (i.e. payload) spacecraft remains attached to the rocket during launch of the Falcon 9 prior to static firing. In doing so, this static fire also serves as a complete in-ring hardware and software rehearsal for the missile and integrated spacecraft, to verify that the autonomous software responsible for identifying a failed missile and activating the Crew Dragon abort system is functioning as expected.
In the case that the Falcon 9 Act Failed at some point during a steady-fire test, the aborted Crew Dragon batches would instantly ignite, pulling the unmanned spacecraft to safety and minimizing the fallout from an already expensive bug.
Speaking during a media conference call on November 10, Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight programs, indicated that SpaceX had decided to replace a component of the upper stage of the Falcon 9 system and plans to make the rocket fully horizontal later that day. Despite a 24-hour fixed firing delay, the Crew-1 mission is still on its way to take off before (NET) 7:49 PM EST, Saturday November 14 – as long as the Falcon 9 completes its steady fire later today.
Regardless of the outcome of today’s steady shooting attempt, SpaceX will immediately face a potential tornado landing on Thursday and the latest V NROL-101 Atlas launch attempt from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) on Friday, raising once again the ever-seeming question which company You’ll get priority in the event of a ULA delay. Stay in touch to find out!