I wouldn’t normally cover a test firing of a Falcon 9 stage, but this one is kind of important – it marks the first use of Launch Complex 40 since the September 2016 explosion of a Falcon 9 booster destroyed the launch facility.
Going back to that explosion, it happened during the same kind of static test fire that happened today – a standard procedure where the booster is fueled, various aspects of the vehicle are tested, including a hold-down firing of the engines to ensure they are ready for the launch, currently scheduled for the 12th.
It’s worth noting the September 2016 explosion was not due to anything in the 1st stage, but instead was caused by a failure in the second stage which, of course, isn’t going to be fired in such a test scenario. The big mistake was that SpaceX was, until that test, firing engines with the payload mounted on the booster. This saved them time as it means they didn’t have to lower and then re-raise the booster to put the payload on – roll it all out at once, lift it, test fire, then launch. The loss of the AMOS-6 payload taught SpaceX a valuable lesson on slowing things down and being methodical, something we already learned back in the 50’s and 60’s when it comes to testing producers; something I feel SpaceX is already beginning to forget, again – that you don’t rush things or find shortcuts.
This article isn’t meant to harp on SpaceX, though – oh no, I am glad to see things are getting back to normal for them, and while I still have my strong opinions on the viability of their obsession with re-usability, and of course issues with the behaviors of fans, I do hope this launch goes well.
That being said, the launch, which I originally thought was the 8th, is scheduled for December 12th, 2017, after many months of prior delays. It will use the Dragon capsule from CRS-6 and the 1st sage Falcon 9 booster from CRS-11.
Of course, I’ll be here to give my thoughts on the mission when it happens. If anything odd happens, well, you know you’ll get my commentary on that too.